September 11, 2006
According to one account given by NEADS Commander Robert Marr, some time before around 9:36 when it changes direction, while it is still flying west, Flight 93 is being monitored by NEADS. Marr describes how, “We don’t have fighters that way and we think [Flight 93 is] headed toward Detroit or Chicago.” He says he contacts a base in the area “so they [can] head off 93 at the pass.” Not only does NORAD know about the flight, but also, according to NORAD Commander Larry Arnold, “We watched the 93 track as it meandered around the Ohio-Pennsylvania area and started to turn south toward DC.” (This change of direction occurs around 9:36 a.m.) [Filson, 2004] This account completely contradicts the 9/11 Commission’s later claim that NEADS is first notified about Flight 93 at 10:07 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
An unnamed senior Air Force officer tells a CNN reporter minutes later that, just prior to the Pentagon being hit, he is outside the building and sees what appears to be a US military helicopter circling the Pentagon. He says it disappears behind the building where the helicopter landing pad is, and then he sees an explosion. [CNN, 9/11/2001] The Guardian reports one witness claiming that the explosion occurring when the Pentagon is hit blows up a helicopter circling overhead. [Guardian, 9/12/2001] No other witnesses are known to report seeing this helicopter. However, Dick Cheney will later tell NBC’s Meet the Press that “the first reports on the Pentagon attack suggested a helicopter” hit it. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] Interestingly, New York Times columnist William Safire will report that, at approximately this time, Dick Cheney is told that either another plane or “a helicopter loaded with explosives” is heading for the White House. [New York Times, 9/13/2001 ]
Reagan Airport flight control instructs a military C-130 (Golfer 06) that has just departed Andrews Air Force Base to intercept Flight 77 and identify it. [Guardian, 10/17/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001] Remarkably, this C-130 is the same C-130 that is 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside (see 10:08 a.m.). [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002; Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001] The pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Steve O’Brien, claims he took off around 9:30 a.m., 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.” [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002] The 9/11 Commission Reports that it is a C-130H and the pilot specifically identifies the hijacked plane as a 757. Seconds after impact, he reports, “Looks like that aircraft crashed into the Pentagon, sir.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Flight 93 files a new flight plan with a final destination of Washington, reverses course and heads toward Washington. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; MSNBC, 9/3/2002; Longman, 2002, pp. 219] Radar shows the plane turning 180 degrees. [CNN, 9/13/2001] The new flight plan schedules the plane to arrive in Washington at 10:28 a.m. [Longman, 2002, pp. 78]
According to the 9/11 Commission, at about this time Cleveland flight control specifically asks the FAA Command Center whether someone has requested the military to launch fighters toward Flight 93. Cleveland offers to contact a nearby military base. The Command Center replies that FAA personnel well above them in the chain of command have to make that decision and are working on the issue. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Cleveland overheard a hijacker say there was a “bomb on board” at 9:32 a.m. and passed the message to FAA higher ups.
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