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Blame the FAA

Since the 9/11 commission’s comments on the Iraq-Al Qaeda link has been commented on plenty, I’ll look at something else I found:

Air Defenses ‘Unprepared’ for 9/11 – Report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. fighter jets had virtually no chance to shoot down or intercept four hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001, because of confusion and poor communication among “unprepared” officials responsible for America’s air defenses, a special commission said on Thursday.

Although fighter jets were airborne seven minutes after the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center, military officials received insufficient notice of the other hijackings to stop the planes, the staff statement said.

Gen. Ralph Eberhart, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), said that if the FAA had immediately reported all it knew to the military command, jets could have shot down the planes.

The earliest notice the military had of any of the hijackings was nine minutes before a plane crashed.

In the two hours between the takeoff of the first hijacked plane at 8 a.m. and the fourth plane’s crash, officials raced against time to discover the extent of the crisis.

“We have some planes,” a hijacker said from American Airlines Flight 11, which hit the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. EDT. “Nobody move … If you try to make any moves, you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane.”

At one point, unnamed senior FAA officials mistakenly directed Air Force fighter planes to chase American Airlines Flight 11, which had struck the World Trade Center’s north tower 30 minutes earlier.

NORAD also said it was not alerted to the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 175 until after it hit the trade center’s south tower.

FAA controllers lost track of Flight 77′s route for 36 minutes. Once the agency identified an unknown plane “six miles from the White House,” fighters were too far away to help, and Flight 77 hit the Pentagon (news – web sites).

The report is here (and that link works, unlike the ones on the commission’s site), which I’m going to read and hopefully comment on tomorrow. It seems they’re blaming the whole thing on the FAA. I think there are some problems with that, but I have to read their full report first.

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Categories: 9/11
  1. Bryan
    June 17, 2004 at 10:28 pm | #1

    Here’s the problem: the military’s stuff looks outward from the coast except close to a military installation.

    The Highjacked aircraft had turned off their IFF transponders, but the FAA could have maintained the track ID if they had “marked” the aircraft while it was still able to be identified.

    There’s no interconnect between the military and the FAA, so the military ground controller has to depend on the FAA reports over a phone line.

    There are so many aircraft around New York or any large city at any given time that tracking a single aircraft without a transponder is a big problem.

    If the White House had given the OK earlier and there was a direct feed to the military from the FAA radar, we probably could have taken out the Pentagon aircraft and the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania.

  2. June 19, 2004 at 11:12 pm | #2

    Yeah, that’s basically what the report said. It also says that what happened doesn’t relfect poorly on the FAA (or something to that effect), but I tend to agree with Kerrey when he says the FAA blew it. But it’s understandable, and the landing 4,500 planes is pretty impressive.

    But it just makes you cringe when you read that they sent jets off the coast after a plane that had already crashed.

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