FLIGHT 77 TIMELINE

By Paul Thompson

Other Sections of the Timeline:

The Complete Timeline parts 1 and 2 (excluding Day of 9/11)
The Abridged Timeline (a good place to start)
Introduction and credits, help needed, and links
The latest update

Articles
The Two Ziad Jarrahs
Sept. 11's Smoking Gun: The Many Faces of Saeed Sheikh
Alhazmi & Almihdhar: The Hijackers Who Should Have Been Caught
They Tried to Warn Us
Is There More to the Capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Than Meets the Eye?
An Interesting Day: George Bush Jr. on 9/11
The Failure to Defend the Skies on 9/11

Summaries

9/11 Paymaster Saeed Sheikh
9/11 Mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
ISI Director Mahmood Ahmed
Nabil al-Marabh
Would Be Hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui
Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar
Escape from Afghanistan
Foreign Intelligence Warnings
Randy Glass

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Subdivisions
Part 1: 1979 - 2000
Part 2: Jan. 2001 - 9/11
Part 3: Day of 9/11
Part 4: 9/11 - Dec. 2001
Part 5: Jan. 2002 - present
Day of 9/11
Flight 11
Flight 175
Flight 77
Flight 93
Bush on 9/11

 
Colored categories:
American Airlines Flight 11. Boeing 767 flying from Boston to Los Angeles. 81 passengers, nine flight attendants, two pilots, Hijackers:
Waleed Alshehri (Seat 2B), Wail Alshehri (Seat 2A), Mohamed Atta (Seat 8D, the likely pilot), Abdulaziz Alomari (Seat 8G) and Satam Al Suqami (Seat 10B).
United Airlines Flight 93. Flying from Newark to San Francisco. 38 passengers (out of 182 seats), five flight attendants, two pilots. Hijackers: Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Ziad Jarrah (the likely pilot) and Saeed Alghamdi (had flight training).
United Airlines Flight 175. Boeing 767 flying from Boston to Los Angeles. 56 passengers, seven flight attendants, two pilots. Hijackers:
Marwan Alshehhi (the likely pilot), Fayez Ahmed Banihammad (Alshehri) (had flight training), Mohand Alshehri (had flight training), Hamza Alghamdi and Ahmed Alghamdi.
American Airlines Flight 77. Boeing 757 flying from Dulles Airport outside Washington to Los Angeles. 58 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots. Hijackers: Khalid Almihdhar (Seat 12B), Majed Moqed (Seat 12A), Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi (Seat 5F), and Hani Hanjour (the likely pilot).
George Bush's movements and sayings.
All other events.

Organization abbreviations:
FAA: US Federal Aviation Administration
NORAD: US North American Aerospace Defense Command
NEADS: Northeast Air Defense Sector, the part of NORAD covering Boston, New York and Washington

All times are Eastern Standard time zone
Flight 77

Approximate times are marked in parentheses.



People flee the WTC smoke
and debris. [Reuters]

Points to keep in mind when you read the below:

The scrambling (sending into the air) of fighter aircraft at the first sign of trouble is a routine phenomenon. During the year 2000, there are 425 "unknowns" - pilots who didn't file or diverted from flight plans or used the wrong frequency. Fighters are scrambled in response 129 times in cases where problems are not immediately resolved. After 9/11, such scrambles go from about twice a week to three or four times a day. [Calgary Herald, 10/13/01] Between September 2000 and June 2001, fighters are scrambled 67 times. [AP, 8/13/02] General Ralph E. Eberhart, NORAD Commander in Chief, says that before 9/11, "Normally, our units fly 4-6 sorties a month in support of the NORAD air defense mission." [FNS, 10/25/01] Statistics on how many minutes fighters take to scramble before 9/11 apparently are not released.

"Consider that an aircraft emergency exists... when: ... There is unexpected loss of radar contact and radio communications with any... aircraft." [FAA regulations]

"If... you are in doubt that a situation constitutes an emergency or potential emergency, handle it as though it were an emergency." [FAA regulations]

"Pilots are supposed to hit each fix with pinpoint accuracy. If a plane deviates by 15 degrees, or two miles from that course, the flight controllers will hit the panic button. They’ll call the plane, saying 'American 11, you’re deviating from course.' It’s considered a real emergency, like a police car screeching down a highway at 100 miles an hour. When golfer Payne Stewart’s incapacitated Learjet missed a turn at a fix, heading north instead of west to Texas, F-16 interceptors were quickly dispatched." [MSNBC, 9/12/01]

"A NORAD spokesman says its fighters routinely intercept aircraft. When planes are intercepted, they typically are handled with a graduated response. The approaching fighter may rock its wingtips to attract the pilot's attention, or make a pass in front of the aircraft. Eventually, it can fire tracer rounds in the airplane's path, or, under certain circumstances, down it with a missile." [Boston Globe, 9/15/01]

"In October [2002], Gen. Eberhart told Congress that 'now it takes about one minute' from the time that the FAA senses something is amiss before it notifies NORAD. And around the same time, a NORAD spokesofficer told the Associated Press that the military can now scramble fighters 'within a matter of minutes to anywhere in the United States.'" [Slate, 1/16/02]

The commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Anatoli Kornukov, says the day after 9/11: "Generally it is impossible to carry out an act of terror on the scenario which was used in the USA yesterday.... As soon as something like that happens here, I am reported about that right away and in a minute we are all up." [Pravda, 9/12/01]

Supposedly, on 9/11, there are only four fighters on ready status in the Northeastern US, and only 14 fighters on permanent ready status in the entire US. [BBC, 8/29/02] However, any number of additional fighters could be in the air or ready to fly at the time the 9/11 attacks begin, but exact numbers are not known.

Additionally, the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC), an office designed to facilitate communications between the FAA and the military, had just been given a secure Internet (Siprnet) terminal and other hardware six weeks earlier, "greatly enhancing the movement of vital information." [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/02]

 

(8:13 a.m.) Flight 11 is hijacked around this time. One flight controller says the plane is hijacked over Gardner, Massachusetts, less than 50 miles west of Boston. [Nashua Telegraph, 9/13/01]


Flight 77's intended and actual routes. [USA Today] Note the strange loop off course about halfway along the route to the west. This loop doesn't show on most flight route maps.

(8:20 a.m.) Flight 77 departs Dulles International Airport near Washington, ten minutes after the scheduled departure time. [8:20, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:20, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:20, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:21, AP, 8/19/02]

8:25 a.m. Boston flight controllers notify other flight control centers of the Flight 11 hijacking, but supposedly they don't notify (NORAD for another 6 or 15 minutes (see 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.). [8:25:00, Guardian, 10/17/01] Why isn't NORAD also notified at this time? Note that this means the controllers working Flights 77 and Flight 93 would have been aware of Flight 11's hijacking from this time. [Village Voice, 9/13/01]

8:31 a.m. NORAD employee Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins later says that Boston flight control notifies NORAD of Flight 77's hijacking at this time, not at 8:40 as has been widely reported, even by Deskins previously (see 8:40 a.m.). [ABC News, 9/11/02] Another later report states, "Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD." [ABC News, 9/14/02] If Deskins' most recent account is right, Boston flight controllers wait about 10 minutes after they are sure Flight 11 was hijacked before notifying NORAD. Otherwise, Boston waits about 20 minutes.

(8:40 a.m.) Boston flight control supposedly notifies NORAD that Flight 11 has been hijacked (another account says it happens earlier (see 8:31 a.m.). [8:38, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:38, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:40, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:40, AP, 8/19/02, 8:40, Newsday, 9/10/02] This is about 20 minutes after traffic control noticed the plane had its transponder beacon and radio turned off. Such a delay in notification would be in strict violation of regulations.

8:43 a.m.  NORAD is notified that Flight 175 has been hijacked. [8:43, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:43, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:43, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:43, AP, 8/19/02, 8:43, Newsday, 9/10/02] Apparently NORAD doesn't need to be notified, because by this time NEADS technicians have their headsets linked to the FAA in Boston to hear about Flight 11, and so NORAD learns instantly about Flight 175. [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Note that this means the controllers working Flight 77 and Flight 93 would have been aware of both Flight 175 and Flight 11's hijacking from this time.


Flight 11 hits the WTC North Tower at 8:46. [Gamma Press] Note that few images exist of this hit.

8:46 a.m.  Flight 11 slams into the north tower, 1 World Trade Center. Investigators believe it still had about 10,000 gallons of fuel and was traveling 470 mph. [New York Times, 9/11/02] Approximately 2662 people are killed on the ground between this crash and the crash of Flight 175. [AP, 8/19/02] [8:45, CNN, 9/12/01, 8:45, New York Times, 9/12/01, 8:46 (based on seismic data), New York Times, 9/12/01, 8:46, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:46, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:46, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:46, AP, 8/19/02, 8:46, USA Today, 9/3/02, 8:46, USA Today, 8/13/02, 8:46, Newsday, 9/10/02, 8:47:00, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:48, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 8:46:26, New York Times, 9/11/02, 8:46:26, seismic records]

8:46 a.m. At the time of the first WTC crash, three F-16s assigned to Andrews Air Force Base 10 miles from Washington are flying an air-to-ground training mission on a range in North Carolina, 207 miles away. Eventually they are recalled to Andrews and land there at some point after Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] F-16s can travel a maximum speed of 1500 mph. Traveling even at 1100 mph, the speed NORAD Major General Larry Arnold says two fighters from Massachusetts travel toward Flight 175, at least one of the F-16s could have returned to Washington within 10 minutes and started patrolling the skies well before 9:00 a.m. Why are they recalled so late, and then ordered back to base (and then to take off again) instead of being sent straight to Washington?


American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757.

(8:46 a.m.) Flight 77 from Washington goes severely off course. It heads due north for a while, then flies due south and gets back on course. It is off course by around 15 miles, and stays off course for about five minutes, judging from flight path maps. [See USA Today's Flight 77 flight path] According to regulations a fighter should have scrambled to see what was going on, regardless of any excuses from the pilot.

(After 8:46 a.m.) Shortly after the WTC is hit, the FAA has an open telephone line with the Secret Service, keeping them informed of all events. [Cheney: "The Secret Service has an arrangement with the FAA. They had open lines after the World Trade Center was... " - he stops himself before finishing the sentence, NBC, 9/16/01]

(After 8:46 a.m.) Brigadier General Montague Winfield is in command of the National Military Command Center (NMCC), "the military's worldwide nerve center." [CNN, 9/4/02] According to NORAD command director Captain Michael Jellinek, at some point not long after the WTC hit, telephone links are established with the National Military Command Center (NMCC) located inside the Pentagon (but on the opposite side from where the Pentagon explosion will happen), Canada's equivalent command center, Strategic Command, theater commanders, and federal emergency-response agencies. An Air Threat Conference Call is initiated. At one time or another, Bush, Cheney, key military officers, leaders of the FAA and NORAD, the White House, and Air Force One are heard on the open line. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, CNN, 9/4/02, ABC News, 9/11/02] Says Winfield, "All of the governmental agencies there that, that were involved in any activity that was going on in the United States at that point, were in that conference." [ABC News, 9/11/02] The call continues right through the Pentagon explosion, as the NMCC doesn't even feel the impact. [CNN, 9/4/02] However, despite being in the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld doesn't join the NMCC or the call until 10:30 (see 10:30 a.m.).

8:48 a.m. The first news reports appear on TV and radio that a plane may have crashed into the WTC. [New York Times, 9/15/01, CNN, 9/11/01] Many others don't come until a few minutes later. For instance ABC first breaks into regular programming with the story at 8:52. [ABC, 9/14/02]


Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Richard Myers (left) [Reuters] fills in for Chairman Harry Shelton (right), who is out of contact.

(After 8:48 a.m.) Air Force General Richard Myers, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sees the first WTC crash on television. Myers will be acting Chairman of the US military during the 9/11 crisis because Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Henry Shelton is flying in a plane across the Atlantic. He sees the TV in an outer office of Senator Max Cleland, but he says, "They thought it was a small plane or something like that," so he goes ahead and meets with Cleland. He says "nobody informed us" about the second WTC crash, and remains oblivious that there is an emergency, only leaving the meeting with Cleland right as the Pentagon explosion takes place at 9:38. [AFPS, 10/23/01, ABC News, 9/11/02] Yet, in testimony on September 13, 2001, he states, "after the second tower was hit, I spoke to the commander of NORAD, General Eberhart. And at that point, I think the decision was at that point to start launching aircraft." [Myers Confirmation Testimony, 9/13/01] NORAD claims the first fighters are scrambled even before the first WTC hit. [NORAD, 9/18/01] Which of Myers' statements is the lie, or are both of them lies?

8:50 a.m. The last radio contact with Flight 77 is made when the pilots ask for clearance to fly higher. But then they fail to respond to a routine instruction. [Guardian, 10/17/01, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, 8:50:51, New York Times, 10/16/01] Note that normal communication continues with Flight 77 about four minutes after the plane had gone significantly off course, suggesting the original pilot continues to fly the plane for at least a while after it was hijacked. More evidence that a hijacker is already in the cockpit at the start of the hijacking?

(After 8:50 a.m.) "During the hour or so that American Airlines Flight 77 [is] under the control of hijackers, up to the moment it struck the west side of the Pentagon, military officials in [the Pentagon's National Military Command Center (see After 8:46 a.m.)] [are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do." [New York Times, 9/15/01] Since the Pentagon is struck around 9:38, this means that shortly after the first signs of trouble, clearly by at least 8:50, the military knows that Flight 77 is hijacked, even though, supposedly, NORAD is not officially notified until 9:24.


Booker Elementary principal Gwen Tose-Rigell. [A still from Booker video]

(Between 8:55 - 9:00 a.m.) Just after Bush arrives at Booker Elementary School and is briefly told of the WTC crash, he is whisked into a holding room and updated on the situation via telephone by National Security Advisor Rice. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/17/01, Time, 9/12/01] Rice later claims, "He said, what a terrible, it sounds like a terrible accident. Keep me informed." [ABC News, 9/11/02] School principal Gwen Tose-Rigell is then summoned to a room to talk with the President: "He said a commercial plane has hit the World Trade Center, and we're going to go ahead and go on, we're going on to do the reading thing anyway." [AP, 8/19/02 (D)] One local reporter notes that at this point, "He could and arguably should have left Emma E. Booker Elementary School immediately, gotten onto Air Force One and left Sarasota without a moment's delay." [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/12/01 (B)] Why doesn't he? Note that CIA Director Tenet has already been told it was terrorism (see (After 8:46)) and Bush certainly should have been told by Rice of the three known hijackings at this time, if he hasn't been told already. How could Bush continue to think there is only a single-plane accident?

(8:56 a.m.)  Flight 77's transponder signal is turned off. [8:56, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:56, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, "six minutes before" Flight 175 hits WTC, Newsday, 9/23/01] Just prior to this, Flight 77 turns around over northeastern Kentucky, and starts heading back toward Washington. [Washington Post, 9/12/01, Newsday, 9/23/01] For some minutes the plane is missing because flight controllers are looking for the radar signal toward the west and don't realize the plane is headed east. Rumors circulate that the plane might have exploded in midair. [Newsday, 9/23/01] Since the plane had already started turning east before the transponder is turned off, why don't flight controllers look in that direction?

(8:56 a.m.) The New York Times later writes, "'American 77, Indy,' the controller said, over and over. 'American 77, Indy, radio check. How do you read?' By 8:56 a.m., it was evident that Flight 77 was lost." Yet the same newspaper then points out NORAD is not notified about it for another 28 minutes and doesn't find that strange! [New York Times, 10/16/01] Another New York Times article points out that flight controllers learn Flight 77 has been hijacked "within a few minutes" of 8:48. [New York Times, 9/15/01 (C)] Why are fighters not scrambled now to find Flight 77?

9:00 a.m. The Pentagon moves its alert status up one notch from normal to Alpha. It stays on Alpha until after Flight 77 hits, and then goes up two more notches to Charlie later on in the day. [USA Today, 9/16/01]


Flight 175 an instant before it hits the WTC south tower. [AP]

(9:03 a.m.)  Flight 175 hits the south tower, 2 World Trade Center. Millions watch the crash live on television. Approximately 2662 people are killed on the ground between this crash and the crash of Flight 11. [AP, 8/19/02] F-15 fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base are still 71 miles or eight minutes away. [9:02, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:02, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:02, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:03, New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:03 (based on seismic data), New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:03, Guardian, 10/17/01, 9:03, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:03, AP, 8/19/02, 9:03, Newsday, 9/10/02, 9:03, USA Today, 9/3/02, 9:03, USA Today, 8/13/02, 9:05, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:05, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 9:02:54, New York Times, 9/11/02, 9:02:54, seismic records] The Otis Air National Guard Base is 188 miles from New York City. According to NORAD's timeline, fighters left Otis 11 minutes earlier. If they were still 70 miles away, then that means they must have been traveling about 650 mph, when the top speed for an F-15 is 1875 mph!

(9:03 - 9:08 a.m.) In a series of stages, flight control managers ban aircraft from flying near the cities used by the hijackers. First, takeoffs and landings in New York City are stopped within a minute of the Flight 175 crash, without asking for permission from Washington. Boston and Newark follow suit in the next few minutes. Around 9:08, departures nationwide heading to or through New York and Boston airspace are canceled. [AP, 8/12/02, Newsday, 9/10/02, AP, 8/19/02, USA Today, 8/13/02] Also "a few minutes" after the Flight 175 crash into the WTC at 9:03, all takeoffs from Washington are stopped. [USA Today, 8/12/02, USA Today, 8/13/02] Why is the emergency considered important enough to stop all takeoffs from Washington at this time, but not important enough to scramble even a single plane to defend Washington?

(After 9:03 a.m.) Controllers at the New York traffic center are briefed by their supervisors to watch for airplanes whose speed indicated that they are jets, but which either are not responding to commands or have disabled their transponders. "Controllers in Washington [get] a similar briefing, which [help] them pick out hijacked planes more quickly." [New York Times, 9/13/01 (F)]


Vice President Cheney (pointing finger) with Rice and others in the underground bunker Cheney was carried into. This facility is called the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. [White House]

(After 9:03 a.m.) Secret Service agents burst into Vice President Cheney's White House office. They carry him under his arms - nearly lifting him off the ground - and propel him down the steps into the White House basement and through a long tunnel toward an underground bunker. ["Just after 9:00," ABC, 9/14/02 (B), around 9:06 when Bush is being told of the second WTC hit, New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), same time Bush is being told, Telegraph, 12/16/01, shortly after Bush's speech at 9:30, CBS, 9/11/02, 9:32, Washington Post, 1/27/02] At about the same time, National Security Adviser Rice is told to go to the bunker as well. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Accounts of when this happens vary widely, from around 9:03 to 9:32. But since ABC News claims Cheney is in the bunker when he is told Flight 77 is 50 miles away from Washington, accounts of this taking place after 9:27 appear to be incorrect (see (9:27 a.m.)). The one eyewitness account, David Bohrer, a White House photographer, says it takes place just after 9:00. [ABC, 9/14/02 (B)] Why doesn't this happen to Bush at the same time? Are reports of this happening to Cheney later spin meant to make Bush remaining in public seem less strange?


NEADS commander Robert Marr. [BBC]

(After 9:03 a.m.) Shortly after the second WTC crash, calls from fighter units start "pouring into NORAD and sector operations centers, asking, 'What can we do to help?' At Syracuse, New York, an ANG commander [tells Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) commander Robert] Marr, 'Give me 10 min. and I can give you hot guns. Give me 30 min. and I'll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers [Amraams].'" Marr replies, "I want it all." [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Supposedly, Marr says, "Get to the phones. Call every Air National Guard unit in the land. Prepare to put jets in the air. The nation is under attack." [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Canadian Major General Eric Findley, based in Colorado and in charge of NORAD that day, supposedly has his staff immediately order as many fighters in the air as possible. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/02] Yet another account says those calls don't take place until about an hour later: "By 10:01 a.m., the command center began calling several bases across the country for help." In fact, it appears the first fighters don't take off from Syracuse until 10:44. This is over an hour and a half after Syracuse's initial offer to help, and not long after a general ban on all flights, including military ones, is lifted (see (9:26 a.m.) and (10:31 a.m.)). These are apparently the first fighters scrambled from the ground aside from three at Langley, two at Otis, an unknown number of fighters from Andrews near Washington, and two fighters that take off from Toledo at 10:16. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01] What happened to all these volunteer fighters? Armed fighters could be in the air from Syracuse by 9:20 a.m. or so, yet supposedly, when NORAD needs fighters to go after Flight 93 at least 20 minutes after that, the only ones they send are two completely unarmed fighters on a training mission near Detroit! [ABC News, 8/30/02] The only likely explanation is that these fighters are prohibited from taking off. Aircraft cannon (the "hot guns" mentioned) would have been all that was needed in such a situation, since any fighter would presumably follow procedure and intercept visually first, tip their wings from a very short distance away, fire a warning shot, and so on, before firing on the plane.

(After 9:03 a.m.) Brigadier General Montague Winfield, commander of the NMCC, the Pentagon's emergency response center, later says, "When the second aircraft flew into the second tower, it was at that point that we realized that the seemingly unrelated hijackings that the FAA was dealing with were in fact a part of a coordinated terrorist attack on the United States." [ABC, 9/14/02] It is plausible that three planes have been hijacked and one has crashed into the WTC, and the military still thinks its all coincidence?

(After 9:03 a.m.) A few minutes after 9:03 a.m., the Secret Service calls Andrews Air Force Base, located 10 miles from Washington. They are notified to get F-16s armed and ready to fly. Missiles are still being loaded onto the F-16s when the Pentagon is hit over half an hour later. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] The problem with this account is that prior to 9/11, the District of Columbia Air National Guard (located at Andrews) had a publicly stated mission "to provide combat units in the highest possible state of readiness." Shortly after 9/11 this mission statement on its website is changed, so it merely has a "vision" to "provide peacetime command and control and administrative mission oversight to support customers, DCANG units, and NGB in achieving the highest levels of readiness." [DCANG Home Page (before and after the change)] Either Andrews fails in its stated mission, or fighters are not ordered to scramble so early.

(9:05 a.m.) West Virginia flight control notices a new eastbound plane entering its radar with no radio contact and no transponder identification. They are not sure it is Flight 77. Supposedly they wait another 19 minutes before notifying NORAD about it. ["About 9:05", Newsday, 9/23/01]

9:06 a.m.  All air traffic facilities nationwide are notified that the Flight 11 crash into the WTC was probably a hijacking. [House Committee, 9/21/01, Newsday, 9/23/01]


Bush listens to the Pet Goat story.

(9:06 - 9:16 a.m.) Bush, having just been told of the second WTC crash (see (9:06 a.m.)), does not leave the Sarasota, Florida, classroom he entered around 9:03. Rather, he stays and listens as 16 Booker Elementary School second-graders take turns reading a story called Pet Goat, about a girl's pet goat. [AFP, 9/7/02] They are just about to begin reading when Bush is warned of the attack. One account says that the classroom is then silent for about 30 seconds, maybe more. Bush then picks up the book and reads with the children "for eight or nine minutes." [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02] In unison, the children read out loud, "The - Pet - Goat. A - girl - got - a - pet - goat. But - the - goat - did - some - things - that - made - the - girl's - dad - mad." And so on. Bush mostly listens, but does ask the children a few questions to encourage them. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] At one point he says, "Really good readers, whew! ... These must be sixth-graders!" [Time, 9/12/01] In the back of the room, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer catches Bush's eye and holds up a pad of paper for him to read, with "DON'T SAY ANYTHING YET" written on it in big block letters. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] Otherwise, Bush is completely cut off from outside developments. CNN reported in 1999, "Only the president has the authority to order a civilian aircraft shot down." [CNN, 10/26/99] The pilot of one of the planes flying to catch Flight 175 notes that it wouldn't have mattered if he caught up with it, because only Bush could order a shootdown, and Bush is at a public event at the time. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] If that fighter had caught up to Flight 175, or if a fighter had a chance to shoot down Flight 77, would many have needlessly died because Bush didn't leave this classroom? (Note that three articles claim that Bush leaves the classroom at 9:12 [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), Telegraph, 12/16/01, Daily Mail, 9/8/02], but the video of Bush in the room lasts longer than that. That video also has edits and ends before Bush leaves. The above time is a rough guess based mostly on the Tampa Tribune estimate).

9:09 a.m. Supposedly, NORAD orders F-16s at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, on battle stations alert. Yet the order to scramble won't come till 9:27 or so, and they won't take off until 9:30. Around this time, the FAA command center reports 11 aircraft either not in communication with FAA facilities, or flying unexpected routes. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] So why aren't planes scrambled immediately, at 9:09 or even before, to find out what's going on? One of the pilots who actually takes off from Langley later says the battle stations alert isn't sounded until 9:24. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 64-65]

9:15 a.m. American Airlines orders no new takeoffs in the US; United Airlines follows suit five minutes later. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01]

9:16 a.m.  The FAA informs NORAD that Flight 93 may have been hijacked. No fighters are scrambled in specific response, now or later (there is the possibility some fighters sent after Flight 77 later head toward Flight 93). Although this is what CNN is told by NORAD, its not clear why NORAD claims the flight is hijacked at this time (and NORAD's own timeline inexplicably fails to say when the FAA told them about the hijack, the only flight for which they fail to provide this data). [CNN, 9/17/01, NORAD, 9/18/01] However, there may be one explanation: Fox News later reports, "Investigators believe that on at least one flight, one of the hijackers was already inside the cockpit before takeoff." Cockpit voice recordings indicate that the pilots believed their guest was a colleague "and was thereby extended the typical airline courtesy of allowing any pilot from any airline to join a flight by sitting in the jumpseat, the folded over extra seat located inside the cockpit." [Fox News, 9/24/01] Note that all witnesses on the plane later report seeing only three hijackers, not four. So perhaps one hijacker tenuously held control of the cockpit as the original pilots still flew it, while waiting for reinforcements? Could this have happened before 9:00, when Flight 93 got a warning to beware of cockpit intrusions (see (After 9:00 a.m.))? F-16 fighters from the far-off Langley Air Force Base could reach Washington in seven minutes if they travel at 1100 mph, the speed NORAD commander Larry Arnold says fighters traveled to reach New York City earlier in the day. Note that the crash of Flight 77 is still 22 minutes away, so fighters scrambled to protect Washington from Flight 93 would protect it from Flight 77 as well, but none are sent at this time.

9:17 a.m. The FAA shuts down all New York City area airports. [CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01]

9:24 a.m. The FAA notifies NORAD that Flight 77 "may" have been hijacked and appears to be headed toward Washington. [9:24, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:24, AP, 8/19/02, 9:25, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:25, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:25, Guardian, 10/17/01] This notification is 34 MINUTES after flight control lost contact with the plane and well after two planes have crashed, and even then the FAA only says "may"? Is such a long delay believable, or has that information been doctored to cover the lack of any scrambling of fighters? CNN notes that "after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned the military's air defense command that a hijacked airliner appeared to be headed toward Washington, the federal government failed to make any move to evacuate the White House, Capitol, State Department or the Pentagon." [CNN, 9/16/01] A Pentagon spokesman says, "The Pentagon was simply not aware that this aircraft was coming our way." Even Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his top aides in the Pentagon remain unaware of any danger up to the moment of impact 14 minutes later. [Newsday, 9/23/01] Most senators and congresspeople are in the Capitol building, which is not evacuated until 9:48 (see 9:48 a.m.). Only Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Rice and possibly a few others, are evacuated to safety a few minutes after 9:03 (see (After 9:03 a.m.)). Yet, since at least the Flight 11 crash, "military officials in a command center [the National Military Command Center] on the east side of the [Pentagon] [are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do." [New York Times, 9/15/01] Is it believable that everyone in the Pentagon outside of that command center, even the Secretary of Defense, would remain uninformed?

9:24 a.m. A fighter pilot codenamed Honey who flew one of the F-16s from Langley offers a different story than the official one. He claims that at this time a battle stations alert sounds, and two other pilots are given the order to climb into their F-16s and await further instructions. Then, Honey, who is the supervisor, goes and talks to the two other pilots. Then, "five or ten minutes later," a person from NORAD calls, and Honey speaks to him at the nearby administrative office. He is told that all three of them are ordered to scramble. Honey goes to his living quarters, grabs his flight gear, puts it on, runs to his plane, and takes off. It's hard to know exactly how long all of this takes, but clearly his recollection doesn't jibe with the official timeline, that NORAD orders the fighters scrambled at 9:27 and they take off at 9:30. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 64-65] Is NORAD fudging the numbers to hide its inexplicable behavior?


Ted Olson. [Salon] Since 9/11 he has been trying to prevent the release of Vice President Cheney's energy task force papers. [Telegraph, 3/5/02]

(9:25 a.m.) A passenger on Flight 77, Barbara Olson, calls her husband, Theodore (Ted) Olson, who is Solicitor General at the Justice Department. Ted Olson is in his Justice Department office watching WTC news on television when his wife calls. A few days later, he says, "She told me that she had been herded to the back of the plane. She mentioned that they had used knives and box cutters to hijack the plane. She mentioned that the pilot had announced that the plane had been hijacked." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] He tells her that two planes have hit the WTC. [Telegraph, 3/5/02] She feels nobody is taking charge. [CNN, 9/12/01] He doesn't know if she was near the pilots, but at one point she asks, "What shall I tell the pilot? What can I tell the pilot to do?" [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Then she gets cut off without warning. [Newsweek, 9/29/01] Ted Olson' recollection of the call's timing is extremely vague, saying it "must have been 9:15 or 9:30. Someone would have to reconstruct the time for me." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Other accounts place it around 9:25. [About 9:25, Miami Herald, 9/14/01, about 9:25, New York Times, 9/15/01 (C), "by 9:25," Washington Post, 9/21/01] The call is said to have lasted about a minute. [Washington Post, 9/12/01 (B)] By some accounts, his warning of that planes have hit the WTC comes later in a second phone call (see (After 9:30 a.m.)). [Washington Post, 9/21/01] In one account, Barbara Olson calls from inside a bathroom. [Evening Standard, 9/12/01] In another account, she is near a pilot, and in yet another she is near two pilots. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Ted Olson's account of how the call is made is also strange and conflicting. Three days after 9/11, he says, "I found out later that she was having, for some reason, to call collect and was having trouble getting through. You know how it is to get through to a government institution when you're calling collect." He says he doesn't know what kind of phone she used, but he has "assumed that it must have been on the airplane phone, and that she somehow didn't have access to her credit cards. Otherwise, she would have used her cell phone and called me." [Fox News, 9/14/01] But in another interview on the same day, he says that she used a cell phone and that she may have gotten cut off "because the signals from cell phones coming from airplanes don't work that well." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Six months later, he claims she called collect "using the phone in the passengers' seats." [Telegraph, 3/5/02] But it isn't possible to call on seatback phones without a credit card, which would render making a collect call moot. Many other details are conflicting, and Olson faults his memory and says that he "tends to mix the two [calls] up because of the emotion of the events." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] The couple liked to joke that they were at the heart of what Hillary Clinton famously called a "vast, right-wing conspiracy." Ted Olson was a controversial choice as Solicitor General, since he argued on behalf of Bush before the Supreme Court in the 2000 presidential election controversy before being chosen. Barbara Olson was known for her extremely partisan attacks on President Clinton. For instance, a few weeks before 9/11 she had called Clinton's mother a "barfly" who let herself be used by men. [Telegraph, 3/5/02] Some have questioned if Ted Olson can be trusted in his account of the call, since he has stated that lying to the public is justifiable. [Sydney Morning Herald, 3/20/02] Between his memory and his approval of lying for partisan ends, can Ted Olson's account be trusted? This is the only call from Flight 77, and the only call to mention box cutters.

(After 9:25 a.m.) Theodore (Ted) Olson, the Justice Department's Solicitor General, calls the Justice Department's control center to tell about his wife's call from Flight 77 (see (9:25 a.m.)). Accounts vary whether the Justice Department already knows of the hijack or not. [Washington Post, 9/12/01 (B), Channel 4 News, 9/13/01, New York Times, 9/15/01 (C)] Olson merely says, "They just absorbed the information. And they promised to send someone down right away." He assumes they then "pass the information on to the appropriate people." [Fox News, 9/14/01]


FAA National Operations Manager Ben Sliney [USA Today]

(9:26 a.m.) Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, "almost certainly after getting an okay from the White House, initiate[s] a national ground stop, which forbids takeoffs and requires planes in the air to get down as soon as reasonable. The order, which has never been implemented since flying was invented in 1903, applie[s] to virtually every single kind of machine that can takeoff — civilian, military, or law enforcement." Military and law enforcement flights are allowed to resume at 10:31 a.m. A limited number of military flights - the FAA won't reveal details - are allowed to fly during this ban. [Time, 9/14/01] Garvey later calls it "a national ground stop ... that prevented any aircraft from taking off." [House Committee, 9/21/01] Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta also later says, "As soon as I was aware of the nature and scale of the attack, I called from the White House to order the air traffic system to land all aircraft, immediately and without exception." [State Department, 9/20/01] 4,452 planes are flying in the continental US at the time. A later account says Ben Sliney, the FAA's National Operations Manager, makes the decision without consulting his superiors, like Jane Garvey, first. It would be remarkable if Sliney was the one to make the decision, because 9/11 is Sliney's first day on the job as National Operations Manager, "the chess master of the air traffic system." [USA Today, 8/13/02] When he had accepted the job a couple of months earlier, he had asked, "What is the limit of my authority?" The man who had promoted him replied, "Unlimited." [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)] About 500 planes land in the next 20 minutes, and then much more urgent orders to land are issued at 9:45 a.m. [USA Today, 8/13/02] [9:25, Time, 9/14/01, 9:25, USA Today, 8/13/02, 9:26, House Committee, 9/21/01, 9:26, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, 9:26, Newsday, 9/23/01, 9:26, AP, 8/19/02, 9:26, Newsday, 9/10/02] How could the military respond if military takeoffs are prohibited?


Flight controller Danielle O'Brien. [ABC]

(9:27 a.m.) Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Rice, in their bunker below the White House, are told by an aide that an airplane is 50 miles outside Washington and headed toward it. The plane is Flight 77. Federal Aviation Deputy Chief Monty Belger says, "Well we're watching this target on the radar, but the transponder's been turned off. So we, have no identification." They are given further notices when the plane is 30 miles away, then 10 miles away, until it disappears from radar (time unknown, but the plane is said to be traveling about 500 mph and was 30 miles away at 9:30, so 50 miles would be about 3 minutes before that). [ABC News, 9/11/02] The Dulles tower flight controller who is said to first spot Flight 77's appearance near Washington, Danielle O'Brien, previously claims she doesn't find its radar blip until it is around 12 and 14 miles from Washington, and that Cheney is notified only after that. [ABC, 10/24/01, ABC, 10/24/01 (B)] O'Brien's account does not jibe with the fact that the FAA warned that the plane was headed toward Washington at 9:24 (see 9:24 a.m.).

(9:27 a.m.)  NORAD orders three F-16 fighters scrambled from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia to intercept Flight 77. Langley is 129 miles from Washington. Ready aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base, 15 miles away, are not scrambled. [Newsday, 9/23/01] [9:24, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:27, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:25, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:35, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:35, Washington Post, 9/15/01] One of the three pilots, Major Dean Eckmann, later says he is told before scrambling that the WTC has been hit by a plane. [AP, 8/19/02 (C)] Note that according to the official NORAD timeline, they ordered the F-16s scrambled the same minute they were told about the hijacking. A rare example of competence. But earlier, according to their own timeline, they waited six minutes before scrambling fighters after Flight 11. Why? Flight 77 had supposedly been missing from the radar screen since 8:56. Why wait 31 minutes to send a plane and find out where it is?

9:30 a.m. United begins landing all of its flights inside the US. American Airlines follows suit five minutes later. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01] Note all planes nationwide have been ordered down already (see (9:26 a.m.)) but the urgency has not been specified - this apparently increases the urgency.


A typical F-16.

9:30 a.m. Radar tracks Flight 77 as it closes to within 30 miles of Washington. [CBS News, 9/21/01]

9:30 a.m. The three F-16s scrambled toward Flight 77 get airborne. [9:30, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:30, ABC News, 9/11/02, 9:35, Washington Post, 9/12/01] The pilots' names are Major Brad Derrig, Captain Craig Borgstrom, and Major Dean Eckmann, all from the North Dakota Air National Guard's 119th Fighter Wing but stationed at Langley. [AP, 8/19/02 (C), ABC News, 9/11/02] If the NORAD departure time is correct, the F-16s would have to travel slightly over 700 mph to reach Washington before Flight 77 does. The maximum speed of an F-16 is 1500 mph. [AP, 6/16/00] Even at traveling 1300 mph, these planes could have reached Washington in six minutes - well before any claim of when Flight 77 crashed. Yet they obviously don't.

(9:30 a.m.) The FAA's emergency operations center gets up and running, five minutes after the FAA issued an order grounding all civilian, military, and law enforcement aircraft. [Time, 9/14/01]

(9:30 a.m.) Chris Stephenson, the flight controller in charge of the Washington airport tower, says that he is called by the Secret Service around this time. He is told an unidentified aircraft is speeding toward Washington. Stephenson looks at the radarscope and sees Flight 77 about five miles to the west. He looks out the tower window and sees the plane turning to the right and descending. He follows it until it disappears behind a building in nearby Crystal City, Virginia. [USA Today, 8/12/02] However, according to another account, just before 9:30 a.m., a controller in the same tower has an unidentified plane on radar, "heading toward Washington and without a transponder signal to identify it. It's flying fast, she says: almost 500 mph. And it's heading straight for the heart of the city. Could it be American Flight 77? The FAA warns the Secret Service." [USA Today, 8/13/02] So does the Secret Service warn the FAA, or vice versa?

(9:30 a.m.) The hijackers make an announcement to the passengers on Flight 77, telling them to phone their families as they are "all going to die". They also tell the passengers that they are going to hit the White House. ["When they took over the controls," Sunday Herald, 9/16/01, "around 9:30," Cox News, 10/21/01] Given this announcement, why are there no phone calls from this flight except for Barbara Olson's?


Right wing author and political commentator Barbara Olson. [CNN]

(After 9:30 a.m.) About five minutes after Barbara Olson called her husband Ted Olson, the Justice Department's Solicitor General, she calls again (note the timing of both calls is extremely vague.) [About 9:30, five minutes after first call, Miami Herald, 9/14/01] A few days later, Ted Olson describes the conversation: "She said the plane had been high hijacked shortly after takeoff and they had been circling around, I think were the words she used. She reported to me that she could see houses. I asked her which direction the plane was going. She paused -- there was a pause there. I think she must have asked someone else. She said I think it's going northeast.... She told me that [the hijackers] did not know she was making this phone call." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] She doesn't mention the nationality, number, or other details of the hijackers. Then the phone goes dead, he doesn't know why. [CNN, 9/14/01 (C), Washington Post, 9/12/01 (B)] He also says that she said, "The pilot had announced that the plane had been hijacked. She said it had been hijacked shortly after takeoff." [Fox News, 9/14/01] Her last words before she was cut off were, "What do I tell the pilots to do?" [BBC, 9/13/01] She had asked this already in her first phone call. [Washington Post, 9/12/01 (B)] Then the phone goes dead supposedly "moments before" the plane crashes [Newsweek, 9/29/01], but actually Ted Olson's timing recall is so vague that it isn't clear if this is when the call happens, and he says he doesn't know why the call ends (see [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)]). The call is originally said to last about a minute [Washington Post, 9/12/01 (B)], but Olson later says it could have lasted up to four minutes. [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Note that there is some reason to doubt the contents of this call, since the only source appears to be Ted Olson, who has given vague and contradictory accounts, and has stated a willingness to lie to the public (see (9:25 a.m.)).

9:33 a.m. According to the New York Times, Flight 77 becomes lost at 8:56 when it turns off its transponder, and stays lost until now. Washington flight controllers see a fast moving blip on their radar at this time and send a warning to Dulles Airport in Washington. [New York Times, 10/16/01] However, at 9:24 the FAA notifies NORAD Flight 77 is headed toward Washington (see 9:24 a.m.), and Vice President Cheney is told around 9:27 that radar is tracking Flight 77 heading toward Washington (see (9:27 a.m.)). Is it conceivable that an airplane could be lost inside US air space for 37 minutes?

(9:33 - 9:38 a.m.) Radar data shows Flight 77 crossing the Capitol Beltway and headed toward the Pentagon. But the plane, flying more than 400 mph, is too high when it nears the Pentagon at 9:35, crossing the Pentagon at about 7,000 feet up. [CBS News, 9/21/01, Boston Globe, 11/23/01] The plane then makes a difficult high-speed descending turn. It makes a "downward spiral, turning almost a complete circle and dropping the last 7,000 feet in two-and-a-half minutes. The steep turn is so smooth, the sources say, it's clear there [is] no fight for control going on." [CBS News, 9/21/01] It gets very near the White House during this turn. "Sources say the hijacked jet ... [flies] several miles south of the restricted airspace around the White House." [CBS News, 9/21/01] The Telegraph later writes, "If the airliner had approached much nearer to the White House it might have been shot down by the Secret Service, who are believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles ready to defend the president's home. The Pentagon is not similarly defended." [Telegraph, 9/16/01]White House spokesman Ari Fleischer suggests the plane goes even closer to the White House, saying, "That is not the radar data that we have seen. The plane was headed toward the White House." [CBS News, 9/21/01]If Flight 77 passed within a few miles of the White House, why couldn't it have been shot down by the weapons on the White House?


A typical C-130.

9.36 a.m. The national airport instructs a military C-130 (Golfer 06) that has just departed Andrews Air Force Base to intercept Flight 77 and identify it. [Guardian, 10/17/01, New York Times, 10/16/01] Remarkably, this C-130 is the same C-130 that is 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/11/02, Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/01] The pilot, Lt. Col. Steve O'Brien, claims he took off around 9:30, planning to return to Minnesota after dropping supplies off in the Caribbean. He later describes his close encounter: "When air traffic control asked me if we had him [Flight 77] in sight, I told him that was an understatement - by then, he had pretty much filled our windscreen. Then he made a pretty aggressive turn so he was moving right in front of us, a mile and a half, two miles away. I said we had him in sight, then the controller asked me what kind of plane it was. That caught us up, because normally they have all that information. The controller didn't seem to know anything." O'Brien reports that the plane is either a 757 or 767 and its silver fuselage means it is probably an American Airlines plane. "They told us to turn and follow that aircraft - in 20-plus years of flying, I've never been asked to do something like that." [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/11/02]

(9:37 a.m.) The blip representing Flight 77 that radar technicians have been watching on their screens disappears. Its last known position is six miles from the Pentagon and four miles from the White House. [CBS News, 9/21/01, Newhouse News, 1/25/02, ABC News, 9/11/02, USA Today, 8/13/02] Supposedly, just before radar contact is lost, FAA headquarters is told, "The aircraft is circling. It's turning away from the White House." The plane is said to be traveling 500 mph, or a mile every seven seconds. [USA Today, 8/13/02]


This picture of Rumsfeld (center), taken from the US Army website, is captioned, "Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld returns to Pentagon inner offices Tuesday morning after surveying the damage from the hijacked plane which crashed into the building moments before." This contradicts his claim that he was helping victims for nearly an hour after the attack. [US Army]

(9:38 a.m.) Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is in the Pentagon meeting with Representative Cox (R), and is apparently completely oblivious of the approaching Flight 77. As he watches TV coverage of the WTC, he says, "Believe me, this isn't over yet. There's going to be another attack, and it could be us." Supposedly, "moments later, the plane hit." [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Rumsfeld is apparently psychic, because two minutes before the first WTC crash and supposedly completely ignorant of the hijackings, he predicted a terrorist attack upon the US (see 8:44 a.m.). Rumsfeld's office is on the fourth floor of the Pentagon, relatively near the impact. He later says that just after the explosion, "I went downstairs and went outside. And around the corner and of course, there it was." He claims he immediately began helping the wounded: "There was a, a young woman bleeding, sitting on the ground, and I think she said to me, she didn't know who I was, she said, she could see people holding, drips going into people, IV of some kind, and she said, something to the effect, if people would, if someone could bring that person over, I could hold it." [ABC News, 9/11/02] He helps load the wounded into ambulances until 10:30 (see 10:30 a.m.). [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/12/01]


Internet researchers have put together this image showing how an object the size of a jumbo jet clips a number of light poles and then destroys columns inside the Pentagon. [From this website]

(9:38 a.m.) As fireman Alan Wallace is walking in front of the Pentagon, he looks up and sees Flight 77 coming straight at him. It is about 25 feet off the ground, no landing wheels visible, a few hundred yards away, and closing fast. He runs about 30 feet and dives under a nearby van. ["About 9:40," Washington Post, 9/21/01] The plane is traveling at about 460 mph, and flying so low that it clips the tops of street lights. [CBS News, 9/21/01]

9:38 a.m.  Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon.  Approximately 125 on the ground are later determined killed or missing. [9:37, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:37, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:38, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:38, Guardian, 10/17/01, 9:38, USA Today, 8/13/02, 9:38, ABC News, 9/11/02, 9:38, CBS, 9/11/02 (B), 9:39, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 9:40, AP, 8/19/02, 9:43, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:43, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:43, MSNBC, 9/3/02, 9:43, New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:45, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, At 9:39:02 on NBC News, reporter Jim Miklaszewski states that, "Moments ago, I felt an explosion here at the Pentagon," Television Archive, WDCN 9:30] Flight 77 strikes the only portion of the Pentagon that had been recently renovated. "It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars to withstand bomb blasts. The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows - 2 inches thick and 2,500 pounds each - that stayed intact during the crash and fire. While perhaps 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas, because of the renovation work only about 800 were there...." More than 25,000 people work at the Pentagon. [Los Angeles Times, 9/16/01]


This photo was taken mere moments after the Pentagon crash. [SIPA]

9:38 a.m. NORAD states the fighters scrambled after Flight 77 took off from Langley at 9:30, 129 miles away, yet when Flight 77 crashes they are still 105 miles away. [Newsday, 9/23/01, NORAD, 9/18/01] If so, that means they must have flown north 24 miles in 8 minutes - an average of about 180 mph! The F-16 pilot codenamed Honey later offers a different explanation of where the F-16s are at 9:38. He says they are flying toward New York, when they see a black column of smoke coming from Washington, about 30 or 40 miles to the west. He is then asked over the radio by the North East Air Defense Sector of NORAD if he can confirm the Pentagon is burning. He confirms it. The F-16s are then ordered to set up a defensive perimeter above Washington. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 76] One of the three pilots, Major Brad Derrig later claims their target destination all along is Reagan National Airport, in Washington near the Pentagon. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Another pilot, Major Dean Eckmann, also later claims their destination all along was Washington. [AP, 8/13/02 (C)] That means either that Honey is the third pilot, Captain Craig Borgstrom, or one of the other two have an inconsistent account. NORAD officer Major James Fox says he dispatches the jets without targets. "That would come later." [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] But when and where is not clarified. If Honey's account is true, it shows that the F-16s would have been over Washington in time to shoot down Flight 77 if they had been given orders to fly directly to Washington, and not to New York, which was already defended by two F-15s! (Additionally, subtract 8-10 miles (Sidewinder missile) or 12-20 miles (Sparrow missile) from the flight distance required for the fighters. [Slate, 1/16/02]) If Honey's account is true, it also would explain eyewitness claims of fighters over Washington only a couple of minutes after the Pentagon explosion, not at 9:56 when they supposedly arrive.


The Pentagon explosion.

9:38 a.m. A C-130 transport plane that has been sent to follow Flight 77 flies a short distance from Flight 77 as it crashes. This curious C-130 is the same C-130 that is 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/11/02, Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/01] A number of people see this plane fly remarkably close to Flight 77:
1) Kelly Knowles says that seconds after seeing Flight 77 pass, she sees a "second plane that seemed to be chasing the first [pass] over at a slightly different angle." [Daily Press, 9/15/01]
2) Keith Wheelhouse says the second plane was a C-130, two others aren't certain. [Daily Press, 9/15/01] Wheelhouse "believes it flew directly above the American Airlines jet, as if to prevent two planes from appearing on radar while at the same time guiding the jet toward the Pentagon." As Flight 77 descends toward the Pentagon, the second plane veers off west. [Daily Press, 9/14/01]
3) USA Today reporter Vin Narayanan, who saw the Pentagon explosion, says, "I hopped out of my car after the jet exploded, nearly oblivious to a second jet hovering in the skies." [USA Today, 9/17/01]
4) USA Today Editor Joel Sucherman sees a second plane. [eWeek, 9/13/01]
5) Brian Kennedy, press secretary for a congressman, and others also see a second plane. [Sacramento Bee, 9/15/01]
6) An unnamed worker at Arlington national cemetery "said a mysterious second plane was circling the area when the first one attacked the Pentagon." [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/20/01]
7) John O'Keefe is driving a car when he sees the Pentagon crash. "The first thing I did was pull over onto the shoulder, and when I got out of the car I saw another plane flying over my head.... Then the plane -- it looked like a C-130 cargo plane -- started turning away from the Pentagon, it did a complete turnaround." [New York Law Journal, 9/12/01]
The pilot of the C-130, Lt. Col. Steve O'Brien, is later interviewed, but his account differs from the on-the-ground eyewitnesses. He claims that just before the explosion, "With all of the East Coast haze, I had a hard time picking him out," implying he is not nearby. He also says that just after the explosion, "I could see the outline of the Pentagon," again implying he is not nearby. He then asks "the controller whether [I] should set up a low orbit around the building," but he is told "to get out of the area as quickly as possible. 'I took the plane once through the plume of smoke and thought if this was a terrorist attack, it probably wasn't a good idea to be flying through that plume.'" [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/11/02] Why does this C-130 get so close to Flight 77?

(After 9:38 a.m.) A few minutes after Flight 77 crashes, the Secret Service commands fighters from Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles from Washington, to "Get in the air now!" [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] Why weren't these fighters ordered into the air earlier - Vice President has been aware that a plane was headed towards Washington for at least ten minutes before the crash (see (9:27 a.m.)) so presumably the Secret Service would have been aware as well. Andrews planes were told to be prepared to scramble a few minutes after 9:03 (see (After 9:03 a.m.)), so they could have made the 10 mile distance to the Pentagon very quickly. Almost simultaneously, a call from someone else in the White House declares the Washington area "a free-fire zone." Says one pilot, "That meant we were given authority to use force, if the situation required it, in defense of the nation's capital, its property and people." Lt. Col. Marc H. (Sass) Sasseville and a pilot only known by the codename Lucky sprint to their waiting F-16s armed only with "hot" guns and 511 rounds of "TP" -- nonexplosive training rounds. The pilots later say that, had all else failed, they would have rammed into Flight 93. Meanwhile, the three F-16s flying on a training mission 207 miles away return to their home at Andrews Air Force Base. Major Billy Hutchison's fighter still has enough gas to take off again immediately; the other two need to refuel. He supposedly takes off with no weapons. "Hutchison was probably airborne shortly after the alert F-16s from Langley arrive over Washington, although 121st FS pilots admit their timeline-recall 'is fuzzy.'" This would mean Hutchison doesn't even leave Andrews until after 9:49 (see (9:49 a.m.)). His is said to be the first fighter to reach Washington. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] Could the pilot's recall of times be "fuzzy" because they don't like lying? There are multiple reports of Andrews fighters at the Pentagon before and of the above fighters were reported to have taken off. For instance, "Within minutes of the [Pentagon] attack ... F-16s from Andrews Air Force Base were in the air over Washington DC." [Telegraph, 9/16/01] "A few moments [after the Pentagon attack] ... overhead, fighter jets scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base and other installations." [Denver Post, 9/11/01] A year later, ABC News reports, "High overhead [the Pentagon], jet fighters arrive. Just moments too late." [ABC News, 9/11/02] Yet other newspaper accounts deny fighters from Andrews were deployed [USA Today, 9/16/01], and some deny Andrews even had fighters at all! [USA Today, 9/16/01 (B)] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold has said, "We [didn't] have any aircraft on alert at Andrews." [MSNBC, 9/23/01 (C)]


Secret Service with automatic weapons directing people away from the White House. [AP]

(9:45 a.m.) The White House begins a general evacuation. This is 21 minutes after the FAA warned a hijacked plane appeared to be headed toward Washington (see 9:24 a.m.) and about 40 minutes after Vice President Cheney has been evacuated from the White House (see (After 9:03 a.m.)). [9:43, New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:45, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:45, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 9:45, Telegraph, 12/16/01, 9:45, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:48, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:48, AP, 8/19/02] Initially the evacuation is orderly, but soon the Secret Service agents are yelling that everyone should run. [ABC, 9/11/02]


Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. [BBC]

(9:45 a.m.) Ben Sliney, FAA's National Operations Manager, orders the entire nationwide air traffic system shut down. All flights at US airports are stopped. 3,949 flights are still in the air at the time. Sliney makes the decision without consulting FAA head Jane Garvey, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, or other bosses, but they quickly approve. [USA Today, 8/13/02, USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)] [9:40, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:40, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:40, New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:45, AP, 8/12/02, 9:45, AP, 8/19/02, 9:45, Newsday, 9/10/02, 9:45, USA Today, 8/13/02, 9:49, Washington Post, 9/12/01] 75 percent of the planes land within one hour of the order. [USA Today, 8/12/02 (C)] The Washington Post has reported that it was Mineta who told Monte Belger at the FAA: "Monte, bring all the planes down," even adding, "[Expletive] pilot discretion." [Washington Post, 1/27/02] However, it is later reported by a different Post reporter that Mineta didn't even know of the order until 15 minutes later. This reporter "says FAA officials had begged him to maintain the fiction." [Slate, 4/2/02]

9:48 a.m. The Capitol building in Washington begins evacuation, 24 minutes after the FAA has warned a hijacked plane appeared to be headed toward Washington (see 9:24 a.m.). [AP, 8/19/02] Senator Tom Daschle, majority leader of the Senate, later states, "Some capitol policemen broke into the room and said, we're under attack. I've got to take you out right away." Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, third in line of succession to the presidency behind Vice President Cheney, is in the Capitol building with other congresspeople. Only after this time are Hastert and others in the line of succession moved to secure locations. Some point after this, Hastert and other leaders are flown by helicopter to secret bunkers. [ABC News, 9/11/02] It is later reported that the target for Flight 93 was the Capitol building, so had that flight not been delayed 40 minutes before takeoff, it is possible most senators and congresspeople would have been killed.

(9:49 a.m.)  Three F-16s scrambled from Langley 129 miles away at 9:30 reach the Pentagon. The planes, armed with heat-seeking, Sidewinder missiles, are authorized to knock down civilian aircraft. According to NORAD, they were flying at 650 mph. The official maximum speed for F-16s is 1500 mph. [9:49, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:49, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:56: "15 minutes after Flight 77 hit the Pentagon," New York Times, 9/15/01, "just before 10:00," CBS, 9/14/01] Using NORAD's official arrival time of 9:49, the journey takes 19 minutes, or a speed of only about 410 mph! Using the New York Times arrival time of 9:56, the journey takes 26 minutes, or a speed of only about 300 mph!

(After 9:56 a.m.)  After flying off in Air Force One, Bush talks to Vice President Cheney on the phone. Cheney recommends that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any plane under control of the hijackers. "I said, 'You bet,'" Bush later recalls. "We had a little discussion, but not much." ["After Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon," Newsday, 9/23/01, time unknown, USA Today, 9/16/01, "Once airborne, Bush spoke again to Cheney," Washington Post, 1/27/02, after Bush is airborne, CBS, 9/11/02] Flight 93 is still in the air, and fighters are given orders to intercept it and possibly shoot it down. [ABC News, 9/11/02] If this decision was so easy to make, why wasn't it given earlier? Bush was available to make this decision at any time after leaving the Booker Elementary classroom around 9:16. Why hasn't he okayed the shooting down of any aircraft during that time, when it's been known there is a hijacked plane (Flight 77) headed toward Washington since at least 9:24?


A fighter and helicopter both fly directly above the Pentagon on 9/11. [AFP]

(Before 10:00 a.m.) Defense officials initially say, "There were no military planes in the skies over Washington until 15 to 20 minutes after the Pentagon was hit" - 9:53 to 9:58. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/14/01] But several sources later report that fighters were above Washington within "minutes" or "moments" of the Pentagon explosion. [Denver Post, 9/11/01, Telegraph, 9/16/01, ABC News, 9/11/02] ABC News later reports that by 10:00, "Dozens of fighters are buzzing in the sky. F-16s scrambled at Andrews Air Force Base in nearby Maryland" (the exact time is not given, but the account is placed between 9:45 and 10:00 in a later ABC News chronology of 9/11). [ABC News, 9/11/02] Another account says the first two F-16s from Andrews that are armed with missiles arrive ten minutes after the three F-16s from Andrews arrived at 9:49 (see (9:49 a.m.)). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] In contradiction to this, a few days after 9/11, the New York Times reports, "In the White House Situation Room and at the Pentagon, the response seemed agonizingly slow. One military official recalls hearing 'words to the effect of, "Where are the planes?"' The Pentagon insists it had air cover over its own building by 10 a.m., 15 minutes after the building was hit. But witnesses, including a reporter for The New York Times who was headed toward the building, did not see any until closer to 11." [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B)]

10:08 a.m.  Armed agents deploy around the White House. [CNN, 9/12/01]

10:13 a.m.  Federal buildings in Washington begin evacuation. The UN building evacuates first; others follow later. [CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01]


The wall where the Pentagon was hit after it has collapsed at 10:15.

10:15 a.m. The section of the Pentagon reportedly hit by the crash of Flight 77 collapses. [10:10, CNN, 9/12/01, 10:10, New York Times, 9/12/01, recorded live on WDCC-TV at 10:15, Television Archive, WDCC 10:00] A few minutes prior to its collapse, firefighters saw warning signs and sounded a general evacuation tone. No firefighters were injured. [NFPA Journal, 11/1/01]

10:30 a.m. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld finally enters the Pentagon's National Military Command Center (NMCC), where the military's response to the 9/11 attacks is being coordinated. [CNN, 9/4/02] Rumsfeld was supposedly in the Pentagon meeting with Representative Cox (R) about missile defense and terrorism until the Pentagon explosion. [AP, 9/16/01, Rep. Cox Statement, 9/11/01] He then went outside to help the wounded of the attack until this time (see (9:38 a.m.)). Brigadier General Montague Winfield later says, "For 30 minutes we couldn't find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the National Military Command Center." [ABC News, 9/11/02] Shouldn't Rumsfeld have reported to the NMCC long before? For nearly an hour, apparently no one knew if he was killed in the Pentagon explosion or not.

10:31 a.m. "The FAA [allows] military, and law enforcement flights to resume (and some flights that the FAA can't reveal that were already airborne)." All civilian, military and law enforcement flights were ordered to land as soon as reasonably possible about one hour earlier (see (9:26 a.m.)). [Time, 9/14/01]

1:27 p.m.  A state of emergency is declared in Washington. [CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01]