Where were the Fighters on 9/11

Discuss air warfare, doctrine, air forces, historic campaigns, etc.
  • Author
  • Message


Elite 2K

Elite 2K

  • Posts: 2561
  • Joined: 02 Feb 2014, 15:43

Unread post11 Sep 2021, 16:36

Factual run through the timeline of events from Ward Carroll.

User avatar


Elite 5K

Elite 5K

  • Posts: 5817
  • Joined: 22 Jul 2005, 03:23

Unread post11 Sep 2021, 16:56

I wonder if things would have been any different if we'd still had the Nike sites.

"There I was. . ."


Elite 4K

Elite 4K

  • Posts: 4881
  • Joined: 20 Mar 2010, 10:26
  • Location: Parts Unknown

Unread post12 Sep 2021, 17:03

I personally spoke to two F-15 pilots based at Otis about the events of Sept 11th, and where their fighters were (or weren't). Their answers were weak, and it didn't even sound like they believed what they were saying. In fact, their answers made no sense, and it wasn't lost on everyone listening.

I walked away when it got uncomfortable, but not before 2 WWII veterans also listening said quietly to me.. "they told us the same crap after Pearl Harbor". You may or may not agree, but that's what was said. What I can say with conviction is that many things that happened (or were questionable) on that fateful day - have been whitewashed from the documentaries I watched this weekend. And some of what's left of the official narrative (oh, NORAD was set up to find incoming Russian bombers, not internal civilian air traffic) is... ridiculous. Or "oh, they turned off the transponders we couldn't track them". I mean really, did NORAD think Russian bombers were going to turn on/carry transponders during their approach/penetration of our airspace??

Payne Stewarts Lear Jet goes off course in 1999 and has an F-15/16 on either wingtip within minutes, and stayed there clear across the country. Yet 4 jumbo jets go joyriding around the country on 9/11, and we couldn't get a fighter in the air to intercept for HOURS?

Bull. Something is amiss IMO..
User avatar


Elite 5K

Elite 5K

  • Posts: 5817
  • Joined: 22 Jul 2005, 03:23

Unread post12 Sep 2021, 19:31

Could you elaborate? The interview I saw had an F-16 pilot saying they were prepared to ram the airliner (her aircraft was unarmed) but she wasn't able to get there in time. :shrug: :shrug:
"There I was. . ."


Elite 5K

Elite 5K

  • Posts: 8716
  • Joined: 19 Dec 2005, 04:14
  • Warnings: 3

Unread post13 Sep 2021, 07:05

9/11 10th Anniversary: F-15 pilot Dan Nash recalls response

Lt. Col. Dan Nash, Barnes Air Reserve Base

08.20.2011 | WESTFIELD - Lt. Col. Dan Nash stands with one of the Air National Guard 104th Fighter Wing's F-15 Eagles at Barnes Municipal Airport. Nash was one of two pilots scrambled from Cape Cod's Otis Air Guard Base as the attacks of September 11, 2011 unfolded.

The pilots could see the smoke almost as soon as they reached 30,000 feet, 130 miles from Manhattan.

Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy flew the lead F-15 Eagle fighter jet that morning. His wingman, then-Maj. Dan Nash, who had been scheduled as the lead pilot in the event of a scramble, deferred to Duffy’s previous experience with a hijacked aircraft. Eight years earlier, in February 1993, Duffy had flown an escort mission when a man armed with what turned out to be a starter pistol diverted Ethiopia-bound Lufthansa Flight 592 to New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Now Duffy was headed to New York again in pursuit of a hijacked airliner.

As the eagle flies, it’s 153 miles from Cape Cod’s Otis Air National Guard Base to New York City. Duffy and Nash cruised at a supersonic Mach 1.2. “We got there as fast as we could,” Nash, now a lieutenant colonel with the Air Guard's 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Regional Airport in Westfield, recalled recently.

They were 70 miles out when an air traffic controller told them that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center. “We were scrambled on a suspected hijacking of American (Flight)11,” Nash said. “And, that’s all we knew. So when they said a second aircraft had hit the World Trade Center, my reaction was, ‘Well, what happened to American 11?’ Because nobody was talking about that anymore.”

Flying faster than the speed of sound as the world changed in the blink of an eye, the pilots suddenly understood the source of the smoke on the horizon.

“When I left the base it was peace time,” Nash said. “Then, I thought I saw the start of World War III.”

Nash, who now lives in Southampton, stands with a kind of permanent crook at his hips, as though his natural state is sitting strapped into a cockpit, and his body resists more mundane tasks like standing for photographs. Around the base and in the air he's known as "Nasty," a call sign derived from the way his name appears on the flight roster: "Nash. D." Becoming a pilot had long been his dream: "Something about flying always seemed romantic. Basically, I knew what I wanted to do since I was 10 years old -- so, I was lucky enough to get to do it."

He had arrived at the Otis Air Guard base in 2000 after 10 years' active duty in the Air Force and settled into his role as a scheduling officer. He mapped out which pilots flew which sorties, and flew himself three or four times a week. Typically, a "flight" for the Guard pilots would be an all-day affair, from pre-flight briefing to post-flight debriefing. “It takes a while,” Nash said of the process.

Then, there were the scrambles; most of the time, they are an emergency response in which fighter pilots are sent to investigate unidentified aircraft. Nash had been scrambled a number of times, always for false alarms. Sometimes the unidentified craft turned out to be a Coast Guard airplane; sometimes a plane used by sportsmen to spot schools of fish in the Atlantic.

Otis kept two of its roughly 18 F-15 fighters -- as well as one or two “spares” -- on alert, fully armed and ready to scramble. In all, Nash said, six fighters were on alert status to defend the eastern seaboard each day in September 2001: the two at Otis, two at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and two at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida.

At 8:34 a.m. on Sept. 11, air traffic controller Dan Bueno at the Federal Aviation Administration's Boston Center facility tried to contact the military through the FAA's Cape Cod facility. According to a transcript of communications involving American Airlines Flight 11, released by the FAA in 2002, Bueno told the Cape Cod controller: "I have a situation with American 11. I want to talk to Otis. I need to scramble some fighters."

A supervisor at the Cape Cod facility referred Bueno to the Northeast Air Defense Sector in Rome, N.Y., a division of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). In the meantime, word trickled down to the Otis operations personnel that there was a possible hijacking. "One of the alert pilots on duty that morning heard the words 'possible hijacking' and said to his fellow alert pilot, Maj. Dan Nash, that they should suit up immediately," Technical Sgt. Bruce Vittner wrote in his account of the base's response on 9/11, entitled "Historian's Report for Sept. 11, 2001."

The official scramble order from the Northeast Air Defense Sector came in to the Otis command post at 8:46 a.m. -- the same moment that Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Nash and Duffy were in the air at 8:52 a.m., Vittner wrote, flying on full after-burners.

As they arrived in the sky over Manhattan and established a combat air patrol, Nash couldn't believe what he saw: "We couldn't fly through all the debris; we had to fly around it as we intercepted all the aircraft still in the area," Nash is quoted in Vittner's report.

While they were scrambled to intercept a hijacked airliner, the pilots’ role in the response quickly evolved. The FAA and the Northeast Air Defense Sector wanted all civilian aircraft to land and get out of the way, Nash said, and it was their task was to make that happen. Traffic had already come to at halt at JFK. Any planes taxiing for take-off were sent back. “Basically it was the two of us flying over Manhattan, trying to convince smaller aircraft to get away from the scene,” Nash recalled.

Controllers from the Northeast Air Defense Sector would spot an aircraft on their radar and ask the pilots to investigate and steer it away from Manhattan’s airspace. Over a four-hour period, Nash and Duffy repeated the process for between 50 and 100 aircraft.

When the South Tower of the trade center fell at 9:59 a.m., Nash was flying east over Kennedy, escorting a small civilian airliner to a safe landing. “When we turned around,” he recalled, “Manhattan was covered with what I thought was smoke. But it was the dust from the collapsed tower.”

The pilots were over the North Tower when it collapsed at 10:28 a.m. From an altitude of 6,000 feet, according to Vittner’s report, Duffy watched the tower implode. Nash wasn’t looking down at the time; he only saw the aftermath. The plume of smoke and ash, he estimated, rose 5,000 feet above streets below.

“I thought I watched 30,000 people die,” Nash recalled, "but there was no emotional tie to it. The emotion was anger at the situation.”

The hijackers of the 1970s and 1980s acted according to often-predictable motivations. They demanded the release of imprisoned associates; they attempted to collect ransoms; they hoped to grab headlines to advance political statements. The Lufthansa flight that Duffy escorted in 1993 was hijacked by a man who wanted to join his family in the United States. In a 1993 publication titled "Criminal Acts Against Civil Aviation," the FAA reported that Nebiu Zewolde Demeke -- who was eventually convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for the hijacking -- had been denied a student visa to enter the country. "He said that a number of personal and family problems required his presence here," the report reads.

Demeke was of a vastly different mind than the 9/11 hijackers, and he represents the type of threat which commercial airline pilots were trained to deal with in the pre-9/11 world. Airline procedures, Nash explained, called for pilots to cooperate with hijackers, to make sure that none of the passengers were hurt and to get everyone down on the ground safely. Fighter pilots attempted to support that effort: “Our protocol would be to intercept it and stay behind it until the controllers knew what the aircraft was doing,” Nash said.

The scenario of a hijacker flying a plane into a building was barely a blip on the radar screen of those involved in analyzing airline security before 9/11. In the wake of the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, Vice President Al Gore headed a commission tasked with reporting on security threats to air travel and traffic in the United States. But, despite "having thoroughly canvassed available expertise inside and outside of government," the 9/11 Commission found, Gore's commission failed to anticipate the possibility of a suicide hijacking or the use of an airplane -- particularly a commercial airliner -- as a weapon.

Moreover, NORAD focused its planning on situations that would afford the military plenty of advance warning to scramble fighters to threats like hijackings. NORAD's planning scenarios "occasionally considered the danger of hijacked aircraft being guided to American targets, but only aircraft that were coming from overseas," the 9/11 Commission's report reads.

“Obviously, after 9/11 the belief that a terrorist would take possession of an aircraft only as a tool to negotiate was no longer realistic,” said Maj. Matthew T. Mutti, executive officer for the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes. The 9/11 attacks, Mutti said, redefined the Eastern Air Defense Sector’s strategic planning. "Our responsiveness to those internal threats and our ability to defend against them is one of the most important legacies of 9/11,” Mutti said, explaining that the Air National Guard’s tactics and training have evolved to prepare pilots to assess and address domestic threats as well as those originating beyond the nation’s borders.

"Our fighters will scramble and intercept domestic and civilian flights in training scenarios so that they’re better prepared to respond in a real-world situation,” Mutti said.

Much of the new preparedness for domestic threats has involved improving communications among civilian and military agencies. “We won’t be limited in our abilities to communicate with external agencies, which will allow us to better respond to domestic or internal threats,” Mutti said. “At a minimum, the information flow back and forth and the decision matrix is better defined in terms of a response to a threat from civil aviation."

As the impact of United Airlines Flight 175 erased any doubt that the American Flight 11 crash had been an accident, the fighter pilots’ role in the 9/11 response became suddenly murky, according to Nash. “At that point it was apparent to me that it was a deliberate act. And now the FAA didn’t know what to do with us,” he said.

Later that morning, as Nash and Duffy flew over Manhattan, a civilian air controller offered a chilling thought: “If we have any more of these, you guys are going to have to shoot it down.”

Nash knew that scenario was unlikely. “The way we were trained, nobody’s going to shoot down a civilian airliner without authorization from very high up,” he said. The 9/11 Commission noted in its report that, prior to the attacks, only the National Command Authority -- shorthand for the president and secretary of defense -- could issue an order to shoot down a commercial aircraft.

From Nash's perspective, “the F-15 is the world’s best fighter” for air-to-air combat. “It’s got an undefeated record of 104 kills and no losses. So even with all that, we couldn’t prevent what happened that day.”

After he left the base at 6 p.m. on 9/11, Nash went home and spent the evening watching television news. He stayed up late. He'd spent over four hours with a birds-eye view of the events unfolding in Manhattan, but being airborne added a level of detachment -- and, besides, he had a job to do. Finally seeing the day's events through the lenses of those on the ground seemed to bring the horror home. He was angry.

“We had a lot of freedoms that we took for granted then,” Nash said in reflecting on what happened 10 years ago this month. “I don’t know how much you travel, but going through airports now is kind of a hassle. And people took advantage of that to use airplanes as weapons.”

In 2006, Nash traveled to New York for a fifth-year anniversary gathering of 9/11 first responders. Last year he spoke at a ceremony at Springfield’s Raymond Sullivan Safety Complex. So far, he has no plans for this anniversary of the attacks.

Asked whether he maintains any of his own private rituals for each anniversary, Nash said he needs few reminders. He’s still one of the go-to guys for 9/11 retrospective interviews and in the waning days of August was scheduled to spend time with reporters from regional news media and national TV network reporters.

“It’s just something that’s always with me,” he said.

NORAD acknowledged the role which the Otis Guard unit played in the 9/11 response 10 days after the attacks. When the information became public, the base was immediately flooded with media requests, according to Vittner’s “Historian’s Report.” Lt. Col. Maggie Quenneville, community relations officer for the unit, and public affairs specialist Cliff MacDonald worked rotating 12-hour shifts. CNN filmed at the base for three days. Diane Sawyer participated in a fly-along for a segment of "Good Morning America."

Despite the flurry of media coverage, Nash was reluctant to talk about his experience with his family. He still hasn’t fully discussed his role in the response with his children.

One of his kids is a teenager now; the other will be soon. One of Nash’s favorite activities is to take them on hikes to explore Mount Tom.

https://www.masslive.com/news/2011/09/9 ... _nash.html

Another source.......



Elite 4K

Elite 4K

  • Posts: 4043
  • Joined: 13 Mar 2013, 08:31
  • Location: Finland

Unread post13 Sep 2021, 12:38

sferrin wrote:I wonder if things would have been any different if we'd still had the Nike sites.

I really doubt it as there was a huge amount of air traffic all around that day like any other day and the enemy was hidden in all that traffic and flew over populated areas. It was impossible to tell from the outside which aircraft were under enemy control and which were not. It's not like they flew Tu-95s or Tu-160s which could relatively easily be determined to be hostile. It would've been really difficult decision to start shooting down passenger aircplanes with SAMs without being sure what their intentions were. I also think there was simply no time to do that. First two aircraft did most of the damage and it was only after those two when deliberate attacks could be ever considered and more attacks to be underway. I think those Nike sites might've been used if there was more aircraft and in theory could've shot down the Flight 77 that went to Pentagon. I'd say Flight 93 would'be been the only realistic possibility if it went towards intended target and it seems that there was no knowledge that it was hijacked. So I think it was also pretty unlikely one.


Active Member

Active Member

  • Posts: 162
  • Joined: 07 Dec 2017, 22:29

Unread post13 Sep 2021, 16:10

mixelflick wrote:

Payne Stewarts Lear Jet goes off course in 1999 and has an F-15/16 on either wingtip within minutes, and stayed there clear across the country. Yet 4 jumbo jets go joyriding around the country on 9/11, and we couldn't get a fighter in the air to intercept for HOURS?

You can read the NTSB Aircraft Accident Brief for the Learjet crash that killed six people,including Payne Stewart, here:

https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/Acc ... AB0001.pdf

From page 3

At 0933:38 EDT (6 minutes and 20 seconds after N47BA acknowledged the previous clearance), the controller instructed N47BA to change radio frequencies and contact another Jacksonville ARTCC controller. The controller received no response from N47BA. The controller called the flight five more times over the next 4 1/2 minutes but received no response.…. About 0952 CDT, a USAF F-16 test pilot from the 40th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, was vectored to within 8 nm of N47BA.About 0954 CDT, at a range of 2,000 feet from the accident airplane and an altitude of about 46,400 feet, the test pilot made two radio calls to N47BA but did not receive a response.

As noted in a footnote “ About 1010 EDT, the accident airplane crossed from the EDT zone to the CDT zone in the vicinity of Eufaula, Alabama.” In other words it took well over an hour from this aircraft’s failure to respond for the initial interception to occur.
User avatar


Elite 1K

Elite 1K

  • Posts: 1022
  • Joined: 23 Aug 2004, 00:12
  • Location: USA

Unread post13 Sep 2021, 17:07

An unprecedented set of events occurred that day, catching NORAD off guard, in my opinion, that led to a national spectacle and terrible loss of life. I do not believe it had anything to do with conspiracies of sorts, just that, as a nation, we had encountered something that was thought little about, and trained that much less for.
Have F110, Block 70, will travel


Elite 1K

Elite 1K

  • Posts: 1757
  • Joined: 27 Feb 2008, 23:40
  • Location: Serbia, Belgrade

Unread post13 Sep 2021, 18:35

I found this presentation of NORAD coverage as expected in 1987:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_War ... System.png

So in hotest part of cold war interior of CONUS would be covered only by OTH radars and in 2001 they were sure on much lower level of capability then in 1980s.

OTH radars are quite hyped today because they are lot less affected by stealth tech (smaller stealth, big ones like B-2 have dimensions which are stealthy even on OTH radar) but they aren't that great for tracking convetional planes like Boeing compared to standard radars.

Also NORAD quite likely filter out non military targets like Boeings because with massive air traffic it would create huge problems for NORAD operators to search for potential Tu-160 penetrating CONUS air space.

So no NORAD wouldn't be able to help much.


Elite 2K

Elite 2K

  • Posts: 2561
  • Joined: 02 Feb 2014, 15:43

Unread post13 Sep 2021, 19:48

aussiebloke wrote:You can read the NTSB Aircraft Accident Brief for the Learjet crash that killed six people,including Payne Stewart, here:


Interview with Marc Sasseville.

Sasseville, then a lieutenant colonel with the District of Columbia Air National Guard, had a similar perspective that morning. He was one of four F-16 pilots over Washington, D.C., assigned to find and prevent United Airlines Flight 93 from reaching the nation’s capital, even if that meant ramming the airliner. He and his wingman had no missiles at the time.

Now the National Guard’s No. 2 officer, Sasseville is looking back on the Guard’s role in responding to the attacks and the force has evolved into the operational reserve it is today.

He sat down and spoke with NATIONAL GUARD earlier this summer, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

https://www.ngaus.org/magazine/conversa ... sasseville

Return to Air Power

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests