The 9/11 Stand Down of the Air Force

9/11 Timeline: key to understanding why the Air Force did not defend its headquarters

"The power to see to it that regular government operations don't occur is one of the greatest controls over power you can wield in a government."
-- Colonel Fletcher Prouty, Pentagon liaison to CIA
, discussing the stand down of the Secret Service protection of the President in Dallas on November 22, 1963
interview with Joseph Spieler, (archived on the CD-ROM available from

General Anatoly Kornukov
Commander in Chief of the Russian Air Force
"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."


explaining the "failure" of the Trillion Dollar Air Force to defend its headquarters

One of the first anomalies that many people noticed immediately after 9/11 was the inexplicable non-reaction of the military air defense system to the hijackings.

It has been standard operating procedures for decades to immediately intercept off course planes that do not respond to communications from air traffic controllers. When the Air Force "scrambles" a fighter plane to intercept, they usually reach the plane in question in minutes. The Air Force plane will then fly next to the non-responsive plane, and rock their wings -- a way to say "follow me" to a nearby airport (if the plane merely has lost its radio equipment). If the intercepted plane refuses to respond, there is a graduated series of actions the Air Force can use -- firing tracer bullets in front of the plane, even shooting it down if it is a threat. This is analogous to police pulling motorists over for having their lights out - every driver in the US knows that when a police car behind them turns on their siren, they are supposed to pull over, just like every pilot knows that when an Air Force fighter plane pulls beside them, they are supposed to follow their orders, too. If the light bulb has merely burned out, the motorist will get a warning, but the police have a graduated series of responses they can employ if the driver is not merely having a mechanical problem (ie. they have just robbed a bank and are driving with the lights off to avoid being seen).

The airspace over the northeastern US is among the busiest on the planet. It is home to the nation's political, military and financial headquarters, the largest population concentrations, and key strategic facilities. A jumbo jet in this area suddenly changing direction and altitude, and refusing to respond to air traffic controllers would be as dangerous as a truck on a busy rush-hour freeway driving the wrong way at full speed. When planes go off course in this busy environment, instant reactions make the difference between life and death -- which is why NORAD (North American Air Defense) practices these kinds of scenarios, and instantly scrambles fighters when there is any hint of a problem.


For critics of the official story of 9/11, the smokiest of the smoking guns is the "failure" of NORAD to intercept the planes. Even if one ignores the abundant evidence that allied intelligence services in other countries provided warnings that the attacks were about to happen, the information from the "insider trading " just before 9/11 that indicated which airline companies would be used, and other clues that clearly show complete official foreknowledge -- there is still enormous evidence that does not fit the official paradigm of "incompetence responding to a surprise attack."

The "timeline" of 9/11 was the first, and most important indicator of a massive discrepancy with the official story. NORAD's fighter interceptors can travel at supersonic speed, yet even the most basic calculations suggested that they had to fly far below even normal subsonic flight speeds to avoid reaching their destination (New York and Washington) in time. (See the "timeline" information lower on this webpage). Apologists for the Bush regime state that since they were not expecting the 9/11 scenario, and thought that the hijacking would be a "traditional" type hijack, but this avoids the question of why the off-course planes were not intercepted (a procedure that does not require Presidential authorization, unlike the order to shoot down the plane).

Even if one is willing to grant exceptional deference to the Bush / Cheney administration, and pretend that they had no idea 9/11 was about to happen, there is no excuse for this ignorance at 9:03 am, when the second (South) tower was hit. At that point, the entire military's air defense system had no doubt that the hijackings were intentional, multiple attacks, and that additional hijacked planes would be used as weapons. This is the time when "President" Bush was content to continue to read to second graders, instead of assuming his duties as Commander-in-Chief.

When the second tower was struck, Flight 77 was near the Ohio - West Virginia border. Around this time, that plane made an unscheduled 180 degree turn, and stopped communicating with air traffic control -- a big clue that this was also one of the hijacked planes. Nevertheless, no serious efforts were made to intercept this plane between 9:03 am and 9:38 am, when it hit the west side of the Pentagon. Planes were scrambled from an air base in the Norfolk, Virginia area during this time, but inexplicably were sent east over the ocean, instead of northwest toward the Washington area. (The weather that morning was perfectly clear, and there is no innocent explanation for why these interceptor planes were sent over the water, away from DC, instead of toward the National Capitol Area.)

Ultimately, Flight 93 was shot down around 10:06 am near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, although this was kept concealed from the public. It's probable that most citizens would have accepted the "need" to keep this plane from reaching the DC area (assuming that is where it was headed), a loss of life that would have ensured that a worse disaster was prevented. However, acknowledging this action might inspire further questions about 9/11 -- such as why the plane that hit the Pentagon also was not shot down, especially since most of the time it was hijacked it was flying over sparsely populated forest in West Virginia and western Virginia. There are a variety of theories why Flight 93 was probably shot down, but perhaps a key issue is the fact the plane left Newark (NJ) airport almost an hour late, and therefore it had to be stopped since enough havoc had already been created, and an additional attack, another half-hour after the Pentagon crash, would have been even harder to explain as "incompetence." It is possible, too, that the "heroic passengers" story was always part of the script, but that is, of course, speculation.


In the three years since 9/11, many writers have suggested that the Air Force was on "stand down orders" that morning, directed not to "scramble" planes and let the events happen. More recent analysis suggests a different explanation that explains why it appeared there was a stand down.

If 9/11 was indeed an "inside job," either allowed to happen, run by the Bush cabal, or some scenario in-between, relying on "stand down" orders would be incredibly risky for the perpetrators. September Eleven initiated a series of events that have transformed the world, with many trillions of dollars being shifted in response. Would Dick Cheney and his cohorts really assume that the Air Force fighter jocks would obey orders not to intercept planes, even after the World Trade Center towers had been hit? If any of these pilots had the keys to their planes, they might decide to ignore orders and fly their planes and seek to protect the capitol from further havoc.

An analogy that clarifies this logic:

Imagine if a Chief of a City's fire department was seeking to profit from the burning of a building (perhaps by being part of an insurance scam). Would a logical way to ensure the success of the arson be to order the rest of the firefighters not to respond to the distress calls that would come into the fire station? How would the Fire Chief guarantee that the fire fighters would obey the "stand down" orders, especially since they are trained to automatically respond, and would be especially attentive to the screams for help from people trapped in the building.

If the Fire Chief sent in a series of false alarms at the exact same moment that the building was set on fire, it would be more difficult for the fire crews to determine which building was really on fire. And if the City also conducted a "Fire Drill" to evacuate the City's main center for controlling surveillance cameras around the city (that could locate the smoke and determine where the fire is), it would be even more difficult for the honest City employees to be able to respond appropriately.

On 9/11, the multiple "war games" scheduled at the same time as the attacks resulted in numerous false alarms that temporarily confused the air defense system, making it more difficult to respond effectively. One of these "war games" was essentially a "fire drill" type exercise at the National Reconnaissance Office headquarters near Dulles Airport, Virginia, which simulated the emergency response procedures needed if a plane hit their compound while on the landing approach at Dulles. (This exercise ensured the evacuation of most of the people in the NRO at the same time that 9/11 began -- which probably made it more difficult for them to use the spy satellites to track the hijackings.)
The Complete Timeline of 9/11
The Failure to Defend the Skies on 9/11 by Paul Thompson

How They Get Away With It
by Michael Green
Version 1.2: June 28, 2006
Originally published: June 18, 2006


after the SECOND tower was hit (9:03 am), the plane that took off from Dulles Airport (near Washington) was at the Ohio / West Virginia border -- plenty of time to scramble an interceptor from Andrews AFB to protect the Nation's Capitol. Simple incompetence cannot explain this "failure"


Thursday, July 01, 2004

The number of unexplained and officially unacknowledged 'training exercises' in and around all aspects of 9-11 are starting to pile up. If you anticipated that two huge buildings in New York City were to be knocked down on September 11, it would be prudent to have a presence in New York City on September 10. The best way to cover up such an unexplained presence is by calling it a training exercise. It is quite likely that the NORAD standdown was accomplished in the same way, with both the air traffic controllers and the local NORAD commanders under the assumption that anomalies in flight routes and behavior of the 9-11 attack planes were part of a training exercise, and thus were ignored until it was too late.

I sat here in DC and listened to warnings that the plane was coming here, saw the buildings being evacuated, including the Pentagon, and then watched Flight 77 enter the most restricted air space in the world 40 minutes after Tower Two was hit, and fly unchallenged by intercept jet or surface-to-air missile, into the heart of our so-called Defense Department, which apparently cannot even defend itself. ....

... despite a "shoot down" order given by Bush and Cheney, nothing was done to intercept the plane headed for DC for forty minutes but to evacuate the Capitol, White House and Pentagon, much less to shoot it down on arrival into the most restricted air space in the country.

June 22, 2004
Clues Poking Through
From John Judge
This article in today's Washington Post reveals some things I have been talking about for some time in relation to the air defenses on 9/11/2001. In addition to the NORAD/FAA defenses, there is a special air defense perimiter around Washington, DC and the Capitol and White House. The area is called P-56, and while the center is a small space inside DC, it is clear from the article that the DC Air Defense Identification Zone extends to 50 miles outside DC to the west, and presumably at least as far in each direction. Unidentified craft entering this space set off alarms with what used to be called the National Capital Region Coordination Center (now?) located in Herndon, Virginia, which uses Internet-based air control display to identify potentially hostile targets. The FAA failed to communicate with them about a plane they had cleared for landing at Reagan airport which had a faulty transponder, which was carrying the Governor of Kentucky. The incident set off alarms at the (former) NCRCC (which now includes Secret Service, Pentagon, Customs and Immigration), and with National Capitol Police, and initiated a massive evacuation during the Reagan funeral proceedings. Note that the interception was handled by a Blackhawk helicopter from Customs and a Cessna plane. Having seen interceptions in the air space here during my life, I have often seen helicopters and jets respond to the incoming craft approaching the restricted air space over DC. During an incident, years earlier, when a small plane crashed on the White House lawn, radar surveillance was being handled from National Airport. I am not sure if they are a separate operation from or replaced by the Herndon Center. The most significant thing to me is that this NCRCC with its one-minute response time was not ever mentioned during the two public hearings of the 9/11 Commission on the FAA/NORAD response to 9/11. What disabled them that day? And what of the Pentagon itself, which has its own defensive surveillance radar? Layer after layer of possible responses and standard operating procedures to air emergencies and threats had to be simultaneously inoperable for the already anticipated attack plane to get to its target without any interference. -- John Judge

On a newsgroup a former Pentagon Air Force Traffic controller writes:
"All those years ago when I was in the Pentagon, this wouldn't have happened. ATC Radar images were (and are) available in the understructures of the Pentagon, and any commercial flight within 300 miles of DC that made an abrupt course change toward Washington, turned off their transponder, and refused to communicate with ATC, would have been intercepted at supersonic speeds within a max of 9 minutes by a Fighter out of Andrews. Period. Why these planes weren't, baffles me. If we could get fighters off the ground in 2 minutes then, we could now."
July 1, 2003
Fiddling Around While New York Burns
The Memory Hole has made available a copy of the video taken of Bush on September 11 the moment he was allegedly informed of the second crash at the World Trade Center. It is an eery, strange thing to see. It's reminiscent of the Zapruder film, a grainy, unclear, wobbly image of a unique, horrific moment, the moment the "president of the United States" is informed that the country is under attack. And he just sits there, like a bag. Inert. It's soooo weird! It's hard to see his facial expressions clearly, to try to ascertain what is going on in his head. What was he thinking while he is sitting there? What can he be thinking? He's the president of the United States. Why doesn't he act? Why doesn't he do something? How can he just sit there? He's the one person who has the power to do something and of all the people in the whole country who knew what was happening, he was probably the most inert. This is something you have to see just for its colossal bizarreness.

Retired career Special Forces Master Sergeant Stan Goff
"Four planes get hijacked and deviate from their flight plans, all the while on FAA radar. The planes are all hijacked between 7:45 and 8:10 AM Eastern Daylight Time.
Who is notified?
This is an event already that is unprecedented. But the President is not notified and going to a Florida elementary school to hear children read.
By around 8:15 AM, it should be very apparent that something is terribly wrong. The President is glad-handing teachers.
By 8:45, when American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into the World Trade Center, Bush is settling in with children for his photo ops at Booker Elementary. Four planes have obviously been hijacked simultaneously, an event never before seen in history, and one has just dived into the worlds best know twin towers, and still no one notifies the nominal Commander in Chief.
No one has apparently scrambled any Air Force interceptors either.
At 9:03, United Flight 175 crashes into the remaining World Trade Center building. At 9:05, Andrew Card, the Presidential Chief of Staff whispers to George W. Bush. Bush "briefly turns somber" according to reporters.
Does he cancel the school visit and convene an emergency meeting? No.
He resumes listening to second graders read about a little girl's pet fucking goat, and continues this banality even as American Airlines Flight 77 conducts an unscheduled point turn over Ohio and heads in the direction of Washington DC.
Has he instructed Chief of Staff Card to scramble the Air Force? No.
An excruciating 25 minutes later, he finally deigns to give a public statement telling the United States what they already have figured out; that there's been an attack by hijacked planes on the World Trade Center.
There's a hijacked plane bee-lining to Washington, but has the Air Force been scrambled to defend anything yet? No.
At 9:30, when he makes his announcement, American Flight 77 is still ten minutes from its target, the Pentagon.
The Administration will later claim they had no way of knowing that the Pentagon might be a target, and that they thought Flight 77 was headed to the White House, but the fact is that the plane has already flown South and past the White House no-fly zone, and is in fact tearing through the sky at over 400 nauts.
At 9:35, this plane conducts another turn, 360 degrees over the Pentagon, all the while being tracked by radar, and the Pentagon is not evacuated, and there are still no fast-movers from the Air Force in the sky over Alexandria and DC.
Now, the real kicker: A pilot they want us to believe was trained at a Florida puddle-jumper school for Piper Cubs and Cessnas, conducts a well-controlled downward spiral, descending the last 7,000 feet in two-and-a-half minutes, brings the plane in so low and flat that it clips the electrical wires across the street from the Pentagon, and flies it with pinpoint accuracy into the side of this building at 460 nauts.
When the theory about learning to fly this well at the puddle-jumper school began to lose ground, it was added that they received further training on a flight simulator.
This is like saying you prepared your teenager for her first drive on I-40 at rush hour by buying her a video driving game. It's horse shit!

Cheryl's Daily Diatribe: Monday, June 10, 2002 -- SMOKING GUN feedback:
Where Was G.W. Bush on the Morning of Sept. 11?

To get caught up into the "he said she said" (what Dan Rather said Myers said Bush said etc.) is to get involved in chasing your tail -- and everyone else's! History tells us that in a crisis like this, the scramble to cover butts, even when there HASN'T been a conspiracy involved, ususally results in contradictory, every-changing stories. This is true from sorting out who broke the cookie jar in the kitchen to who was caught with their hand in the till at Enron...everyone will scramble to hit on a story that plays well. So, to avoid this quagmire, the best approach is to go with the most concrete evidence and know facts.. Known fact: NORAD called by the FAA because it is the established protocol in such a case (and, as one of my readers suggested, NORAD would probably have known of the planes even before then, based on their radar data). In keeping with protocol, NORAD would have required a response from Bush. Now just applying common sense (another unglamorous habit of mine), here's what you get:
1. If this was indeed a conspiracy involving those in high places, then the details of NORAD's response, which would become a matter of public record, now or in the future, would have been accounted for in advance by the conspirators.
2. When the stakes are as high as the ones involved on 9/11, a conspirator would take NO CHANCES on doing anything that might seem to implicate themselves. By NOT CALLING ANY PLANES, Bush et al would be implicating themselves big time. However, by delaying the call for a scramble and not calling for evacuations, they would easily be able to plead later their decisions were based on not having any idea the danger was of the scope it proved to be. This is, in fact, what the Bush folks have tried to do. If NO PLANES had been called in at all, there are too many "peripheral" people in the chain of communications, from the FAA to NORAD to Bush that would have been outraged and spoken out. A delayed call on the other hand would have been initially seen as "tragic bad luck" and later as too ambiguous to base an accusation on.

"Yet as America was suffering its worst assault in history, the president of the United States remained largely in the dark, knowing far less than the average couch potato watching Diane Sawyer.
At the time, George W. Bush was sitting on a stool in Sarasota, Florida, listening to a small class of second graders read him a story about a girl's pet goat. It was the day's routine photo-op, prepackaged propaganda for the press designed to demonstrate his concern for education. Just before entering the class, Condoleeza Rice, the national security advisor, informed the president of the devastating jet plane crash into Tower One. Nevertheless, Bush decided to stay on message and go forward with the publicity event. Florida, after all, had been the most crucial battleground of the last election, and could be in the next.
About 9:06, four minutes after the attack on Tower Two, White House Chief of Staff Andy Card leaned over and whispered the brief message in the president's right ear. "A second plane has hit the World Trade Center," he said. "America is under attack." Almost immediately an expression of befuddlement passed across the president's face.
Then, having just been told that the country was under attack, the commander in chief appeared uninterested in further details. He never asked if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks, or what was the current status of NORAD or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Nor did he call for an immediate return to Washington. Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turned back to the matter at hand: the day's photo op. Precious minutes were ticking by, and many more lives were still at risk. "Really good readers, whew!" he told the class as the electronic flashes once again began to blink and the video cameras rolled. "These must be sixth graders!"
-- from "Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency," by James Bamford, (2002 edition), p 632-3 military "stand down" on 9/11

one of the first sites on the internet to point out the discrepancies of the 9/11 timelines
(marred by some unusual political perspectives)

US military did not defend the Pentagon on 9/11

This article, published on MS NBC's website, was probably the first mainstream news deconstruction of the "9/11 timeline," pointing out flaws in the official story. The author died in a scuba diving accident a few months after writing this important analysis - hopefully, that is merely a coincidence.


Military publication covers up with bogus "timeline"

Aviation Week & Space Technology:
June 3, 2002 Exercise Jump-Starts Response to Attacks

The Aviation Week article doesn't match the known facts of the apparent "stand down" of the Air Force on 911 -- if there was a readiness exercise underway, why weren't interceptors deployed in a timely manner, at least to prevent the attack on the Pentagon (hit nearly an hour and a half after the first plane went off course)? Aviation Week's "timeline" of 911 is extremely deceptive - it suggests that orders to intercept each plane were only given a few minutes before each hit their target, omitting the fact that already scrambled fighters could have intercepted subsequent planes.

Back at the NEADS Operations Center, identification technicians were sorting thousands of green dots on their radar scopes, looking for American Flight 11. Since terrorists had turned off the Boeing 767's transponder, FAA controllers could only tell NEADS technicians where the flight had last been seen. The NEADS radar screens showed "primary" or "skin-paint" returns, the raw radar pulses reflected from an aircraft's surface.
Ironically, FAA officials only a few months earlier had tried to dispense with "primary" radars altogether, opting to rely solely on transponder returns as a way to save money. Norad had emphatically rejected the proposal. Still, on Sept. 11, Norad's radars were spread around the periphery of the U.S., looking outward for potential invaders. Inside U.S. borders, very few radars were feeding NEADS scopes.
In essence, technicians were half-blind, trying to separate hijacked airliners from thousands of skin-paint returns. At the time, more than 4,000 aircraft were airborne over the nation, most in the northeast sector, which monitors half a million square miles of airspace.
"We were trying to determine which [radar return] was him. But we couldn't get what we needed just from our scopes," said MSgt. Maureen Dooley, a noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of NEADS' identification technicians. She and other troops were constantly on the phone with the FAA, airlines and others, looking for clues. "If we could get good last-known-positions and tail numbers, that would help the fighters pick out the right aircraft."
"The biggest task was maintaining track continuity," echoed Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Lamarche, NCOIC of the air surveillance section. Later, his team thought they had spotted a fifth hijacked aircraft. "This fifth guy made an abrupt turn toward a major city--but it was OK. He was told to land there. It sure had our hearts going and adrenaline pumping. We didn't know what he was doing."

This claim, from a publication that is essentially a Pentagon press outlet, argues that the world's most sophisticated military surveillance system was unable to properly track the off course jets, that NORAD isn't tied into domestic radars, and lacks computers capable of keeping track of planes. None of these claims seem to be true.


Aviation Week "timeline" that suggests the
Air Force could not intercept "hijacked" planes


Note that the official timeline pretends that warplanes scrambled to intercept the planes that went to New York somehow could not be used to intercept the planes that went to Washington. (At supersonic speeds, New York and Washington are not far apart.)



from Mike Ruppert, author of "Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil"

I prepared more than 160 index cards creating a minute by minute and second by second timeline of events and then juxtaposing them with known and cited FAA/USAF regulations to prepare my spreadsheet. I also dispel many false beliefs such as the one that NORAD Radar only looks outward. Actually NORAD radar INCLUDES all FAA civil radar in the country and has added passive tracking abilities and the ability to determine altitude. The two systems are and were plugged in together on 9/11. Fighter aircraft were successfully scrambled on 56 occasions in the calendar year prior to 9/11 -- within minutes. ....

I have no doubt that the "piggybacked" exercises were used as distraction and chaff on 9/11 to provide plausible deniability for the inexcusable fighter response. But a thorough look leads all roads back to one place, the FAA Hijack Coordinator who is the guy who is obligated to pull the trigger for DoD response when certain conditions are met.


This timeline also subtly suggests that warplanes scrambled to protect New York (and failed to do so) somehow could not be used to intercept Flight 77 after the second tower was hit but before the Pentagon crash.

No government official has yet explained the inexcusable nearly half-hour delay for the FAA to tell NORAD that the planes were off course (standard protocol is to notify the Air Force immediately - and NORAD has its own radar systems that track commercial flights).

Does anyone really believe that the FAA waited nearly a half hour to tell the Air Force that Flight 77 had turned around in the direction of the national capital, especially after the World Trade Center buildings had been hit?


Another Lie about 9/11 fighter jets from the Washington Post


No "Stand Down" at Andrews AFB any more ...

Secret Service Hides Cheney as Plane Enters Restricted Area
Published: November 11, 2003

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 — The Secret Service hustled Vice President Dick Cheney into a secure site on Monday morning after a small plane flew into restricted airspace around Washington, government officials said.
The plane was intercepted by two Air Force F-16 fighters, whose pilots determined that it was not a threat and escorted it out of the area.
President Bush was on his way to a fund-raiser in Little Rock, Ark., at the time, and Laura Bush was in Maine.
Mr. Cheney returned to work in the White House after a short time, said a Secret Service spokesman, Tom Mazur.
Mr. Mazur said Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, was also taken to the undisclosed secure spot while the Air Force sought to determine whether the small plane presented any danger.
Officials said the plane, a single-engine Mooney M20, entered the restricted zone, within 17.5 miles of the Washington Monument, about 11:15 a.m. Mr. Mazur said the pilot of the small plane cooperated with the instructions of the fighter pilots and was allowed to go on his way.
The restricted airspace was established after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to help protect the White House and other government buildings in Washington.
Officials said the plane proceeded on to Siler City, N.C., where an airport official said it landed about noon.
The Secret Service later said it had searched the plane and not found any weapons.
Jean Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the Secret Service, said the pilot had thought he was abiding by the flight restrictions around Washington, not realizing they had been changed after the terrorist attacks. Ms. Mitchell said the pilot, whom she would identify only as a white male, was flying to Florida from Pennsylvania. She said the Secret Service was satisfied that he had not intended harm to Mr. Bush or the White House.
The incident was the second security scare for the administration in a little more than a week. On Nov. 1, a woman drove a car through a security cordon outside an arena in Mississippi where Mr. Bush had just finished speaking. She crashed her car near where the president had just gotten into his limousine, but the Secret Service later determined that she had not intended to try to hurt Mr. Bush.
A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, William A. Shumann, said the Mooney M20, a four-seat, low-wing plane with retractable landing gear, was, "by general aviation standards, a fairly hot airplane."
Mr. Shumann said the punishment for violating the restricted airspace could range from a letter of reprimand to a temporary suspension of a pilot's license to revocation of the license.


Jets Intercept Plane Close to White House
by Terence Hunt
AP Nov 10, 8:02 PM ET 13 November 2003
The URL of this article is:

WASHINGTON - Air Force fighter jets were scrambled Monday to intercept a privately owned plane that flew too close to the White House, prompting Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) and President Bush (news - web sites)'s chief of staff to be moved to a secure location.
The plane was determined not to be a threat. The president was away at the time, on a trip to Arkansas and South Carolina, and his wife, Laura, had a speaking engagement in Maine.
Cheney and White House chief of staff Andrew Card were moved temporarily to a secure location as a precautionary measure, said presidential spokesman Scott McClellan. They resumed their normal routine soon thereafter, said McClellan, who was with Bush in Little Rock, Ark.
The privately owned plane was detected flying in a southwest direction, coming down the Potomac River, when it entered restricted airspace, said Secret Service spokeswoman Jean Mitchell.
The fighters were scrambled from nearby Andrews Air Force in Maryland and they intercepted the plane, escorting it out of the area, she said.
"He was within eight miles" of the White House, she said. "It's enough to affect our emergency response plan." Armed officers took up positions on the White House lawn during the incident.
"Anytime we have an airspace violation, we take it very seriously," Mitchell said.
Maj. Douglas Martin, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, said it was determined that the plane did not represent a threat.
"From the NORAD perspective, he's not a threat, and that's the main thing for us," Martin said.
The plane apparently strayed within the Air Defense Identification Zone, roughly a 23-mile radius around Washington, according to Les Dorr, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration .


Nothing Urgent
by George Szamuely 
New York Press, Vol. 15, No. 2 
Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG), ,   15  February 2002

 Let’s revisit the curious lack of military action on the morning of Sept. 11. 
That morning, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, was having a routine meeting on Capitol Hill with Sen. Max Cleland. While the two men chatted away, a hijacked jet plowed into the World Trade Center’s north tower, another one plowed into the south tower and a third one into the Pentagon. And still they went on with their meeting. "[W]hen we came out," Myers recounted to American Forces Radio and Television Service, "somebody said the Pentagon had been hit." Myers claims no one had bothered to inform him about the attacks on the World Trade Center. Meanwhile, in Florida, just as President Bush was about to leave his hotel he was told about the attack on the first WTC tower. He was asked by a reporter if he knew what was going on in New York. He said he did, and then went to an elementary school in Sarasota to read to children.
No urgency. Why should there be? Who could possibly have realized then the calamitous nature of the events of that day? Besides, the hijackers had switched the transponders off. So how could anyone know what was going on?
Passenger jet hijackings are not uncommon and the U.S. government has prepared detailed plans to handle them. On Sept. 11 these plans were ignored in their entirety. According to The New York Times, air traffic controllers knew at 8:20 a.m. "that American Airlines Flight 11, bound from Boston to Los Angeles, had probably been hijacked. When the first news report was made at 8:48 a.m. that a plane might have hit the World Trade Center, they knew it was Flight 11." There was little ambiguity on the matter. The pilot had pushed a button on the aircraft yoke that allowed controllers to hear the hijacker giving orders. Here are the FAA regulations concerning hijackings: "The FAA hijack coordinator…on duty at Washington headquarters will request the military to provide an escort aircraft for a confirmed hijacked aircraft… The escort service will be requested by the FAA hijack coordinator by direct contact with the National Military Command Center (NMCC)." Here are the instructions issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on June 1, 2001: "In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA. The NMCC will…forward requests for DOD assistance to the Secretary of Defense for approval."
In addition, as Vice President Cheney explained on Meet the Press on Sept. 16, only the president has the authority to order the shooting down of a civilian airliner.
The U.S. is supposed to scramble military aircraft the moment a hijacking is confirmed. Myers’ revelation to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 13 that no fighter planes had been launched until after the Pentagon was hit was therefore surprising. Senators and even some tv commentators were a little incredulous. Dan Rather asked: "These hijacked aircraft were in the air for quite a while… Why doesn’t the Pentagon have the kind of protection that they can get a fighter-interceptor aircraft up, and if someone is going to plow an aircraft into the Pentagon, that we have at least some…line of defense?"
Good question. Clearly another, more comforting, story was needed, and on the evening of Sept. 14 CBS launched it by revealing that the FAA had indeed alerted U.S. air defense units of a possible hijacking at 8:38 a.m. on Tuesday, that six minutes later two F-15s received a scramble order at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod and that by 8:56 the F-15s were racing toward New York. Unfortunately, the fighters were still 70 miles away when the second jet hit the south tower. Meanwhile, at 9:30 a.m., three F-16s were launched from Langley Air Force base, 150 miles south of Washington. But just seven minutes later, at 9:37 a.m., Flight 77 smashed into the Pentagon. The F-16s arrived in Washington just before 10 a.m.
This story, which has now become the "official" version, raises more questions than it answers. F-15s can travel at speeds of 1875 mph while F-16s can travel at 1500 mph. If it took the F-16s half an hour to cover 150 miles, they could not have been traveling at more than 300 mph–at 20 percent capability. Boeing 767s and 757s have cruising speeds of 530 mph. Talk about a lack of urgency! Assuming Otis Air National Guard Base is about 180 miles away from Manhattan it should have taken the F-15s less than six minutes to get here. Moreover, since Washington, DC, is little more than 200 miles from New York, the two F-15 fighters would have had time to get to DC, intercept Flight 77 and grab breakfast on the way.
Ah, but of course the transponders were turned off. So no one could keep track of the planes. If it were true that the moment a transponder is turned off a plane becomes invisible there would be no defense against enemy aircraft. Normal radar echo return from the metal surface of an aircraft would still identify it on the radar scope.
Luckily, we still have first-rate establishment media to make sure that we retain confidence in our government.

See also:
9/11 Stand Down
by Mark Ellis
Exposing NORAD's "Wag the 911 Window Dressing Tale", using NORAD’s own Press Release and Fifth Grade Math

Inspectors seek to solve mystery of golfer's last flight U.S. Open champ Stewart among 6 dead

October 26, 1999
Web posted at: 9:09 a.m. EDT (1309 GMT)
In this story:
Pilots' accounts point to cabin pressure
PGA statement
Troubled plane shadowed by military jets
Shoot down not considered by Pentagon

MINA, South Dakota (CNN) -- A private jet drifting on autopilot across the South and Midwest. Frost on the windows of the plane. Wreckage scattered across a South Dakota field.
Those are among the clues left for investigators Tuesday as they try to learn why a Learjet carrying reigning U.S. Open golf champion Payne Stewart and five others crashed, killing all aboard. The aircraft drifted off course shortly after it left Orlando, Florida, for Dallas, aviation officials said.

In addition to Stewart, those aboard included golf-course designer Bruce Borland and two officers of Leader Enterprises, the firm that chartered the Lear 35 jet. Robert Fraley and Van Ardan acted as agents for Stewart, said Jerri Gibbs, of the Orlando-based firm.
The two pilots were identified as Michael Kling, 43, and Stephanie Bellegarrigue, 27.
The plane flew on autopilot for 1,500 miles before nose-diving into a field in South Dakota on Monday afternoon. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board began to examine the jet's wreckage Monday: Early discussion has focused on indications that the plane's cabin might have lost pressure, killing the pilots and passengers.
NTSB Vice Chairman Bob Francis said the investigation team included representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration, state and local authorities in South Dakota and the FBI. He also said he expected the makers of the Learjet would join the probe.
Francis refused to answer any questions from reporters Monday night, issuing only a short statement.
"Highway patrol people were here about 10 minutes after the accident and they did not find any extensive fire," Francis said.
Pilots' accounts point to cabin pressure The Air Force used fighter jets to shadow the doomed plane across the deep South and Midwest: They reported frost on the windows, indicating the cabin lost pressure sometime during the flight.
Pilots said when they flew alongside and looked inside the aircraft, the people inside appeared to be slumped over and incapacitated, CNN's Carl Rochelle reported.
Asked whether depressurization may have contributed to the crash, Francis said he would not speculate: "We'll tell you factual stuff as soon as we figure it out."
Air Force Capt. Chris Hamilton said there was nothing he could do when his F-16 caught up with the Learjet over Memphis, Tennessee.
"It's a very helpless feeling to pull up alongside another aircraft and realize the people inside that aircraft potentially are unconscious or in some other way incapacitated," Hamilton said. "And there's nothing I can do physically from my aircraft -- even though I'm 50 to 100 feet away -- to help them at all."
If the plane depressurized, passengers and pilots could have died from lack of oxygen, leaving the aircraft flying without a pilot until it ran out of fuel. The plane was equipped with a cockpit voice recorder.
It finally fell to earth about 12:20 p.m. CDT (1:20 p.m. EDT) in a marshy pasture about two miles south of Mina, in north-central South Dakota.

FAA spokesman Paul Turk said the plane had flown as high as 45,000 feet (13,500 meters). Before the crash, he had described the plane as being "in distress."
Planes that fly above 12,000 feet are normally pressurized, because passengers would have difficulty breathing the thin air above that altitude.
If there is a pressurization problem, those aboard the aircraft could slowly lose consciousness or, if an aircraft broke a door or window seal, perish in seconds from hypoxia, or oxygen deficiency.
"This is a tremendous loss for the entire golfing community and all of sports," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said after learning of Stewart's death.
"Payne was a great champion, a gentleman and a devoted husband and father. He will always be remembered as a very special competitor, and one who contributed enormously to the positive image of professional golf."
Stewart and his wife, Tracey, had two children, Chelsea, 13, and Aaron, 10.
Vistors, including fellow golfer Mark O'Meara, began arriving at Stewart's home in an exclusive Orlando community.
The Rev. Jim Henry, retired pastor for First Baptist Church of Orlando who used to minister to the Stewart family, was one of those outside the home.
Stewart, 42, easily identified on the links by his patented knickers and tam-o'-shanter hat, had 11 PGA victories spanning 17 years, including the 1991 and 1999 U.S. Open Championships.
Stewart, who lived in Orlando, had been expected in Houston on Tuesday for practice rounds in advance of the Tour Championship, the PGA Tour's final tournament of the year for the top 30 players on its money list.
Troubled plane shadowed by military jets

An Air Force spokesman says two U.S. Air Force F-15s from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, intercepted the plane shortly after it lost contact with aircraft controllers, and followed it to Missouri.
Pilots reported the plane's crew was "non-responsive" and that the cockpit windows were obscured by condensation or frost, an indication the aircraft may have lost cabin pressure.
Over Missouri, four F-16s from an Air National Guard unit based in Fargo, North Dakota, took over the escort mission, and stayed with the plane until it crashed.
The Air Force says additional F-16s were also scrambled from the Oklahoma Air National Guard unit in Tulsa, but were not used because the Fargo planes arrived first
The plane originally had been scheduled to fly to Love Field in Dallas where Stewart was to have had a business meeting.
The FAA said the plane was a 1976 Learjet and was owned by Jetshares One, Inc., of Wilmington, Delaware. It was operated by Sunjet Aviation, of Sanford, Florida.

Shoot down not considered by Pentagon
The Pentagon said Monday it never came close to shooting down Stewart's wayward plane in order to prevent a possible crash into a heavily populated area.
In fact, a Pentagon spokesman said, the F-16 fighter planes that monitored the jet's flight were not armed with air-to-air missiles.
Two other F-16s on "strip alert" at Fargo, South Dakota, were armed, but never took off.
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said, "Once it was determined it was apparently going to crash in a lightly populated area, we didn't have to deal with other options, so we didn't.
The FAA routed air traffic around the Learjet and kept planes from flying underneath it in case it crashed.
Air Force pilots reported no movement in the cockpit, and that the plane seemed to be on auto pilot.
The tracker planes reported the Learjet altitude was varying wildly from between 22,000 and 51,000 feet. One possible explanation for the so called "porpoiseing" effect is that the plane's autopilot was having trouble maintaining speed and was diving and climbing in an attempt to adjust.
Pentagon officials say the fighter jets could do little but watch as the plane completed it fatal fight.
In theory, the fighters could have tried to tip or nudge the wings of the plane to change it's course, but it's not clear if the Learjet's auto-pilot would have simply automatically corrected its course.
At 11:10 p.m. CDT (12:10 p.m. EDT) the Northeast Air Defense sector estimated the Learjet would run out of fuel in one hour, and calculated the plane would likely to go down in a sparsely populated area near Pierre, South Dakota.
At 12:16 CDT (1:16 p.m. EDT) the F-16s following Stewart's plane reported the jet had run out of fuel and was spiraling through the clouds. The fighter planes circled the area until they were told the scene of the crash had been located and their assistance was no longer needed.
Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.