Says FAA, Military Response Was Poorly Coordinated
Like the rest of us
humans, the military's air defense command as well as its civilian
control agency were dazed and confused by the events of 9/11,
according to a new report from the committee studying the terror
"NORAD and the FAA were unprepared for the type of attacks
launched against the United States on September 11, 2001," the
report said. "They struggled, under difficult circumstances, to
improvise a homeland defense against an unprecedented challenge
they had never encountered and had never trained to meet."
Some of those struggles were against the system itself. For
instance, controllers first learned on September 11th that American
Airlines Flight 11 had been hijacked at 8:24 AM EDT. But because
protocol demanded controllers go through layer upon layer of
command, they were unable to get to NORAD in time to stop the
"We have a problem here," the FAA's Boston Center told the North
East Air Defense Sector (NEADS). "We have a hijacked aircraft
headed towards New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone
to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out."
"Is this real-world or exercise?" asked the NEADS officer.
"No, this is not an exercise, not a test," replied the
F-15s were scrambled from Otis AFB in Atlantic City (NJ). Forty
seconds after they were ordered into the air, Flight 11 slammed
into the World Trade Center.
In the case of AAL Flight 77, the aircraft was off course for 36
minutes before it crashed into the Pentagon. Nobody noticed, in
part, because of a radar malfunction.
The 9/11 Commission was careful to praise those who did try to
respond that terrible morning. In the hours after the attacks, when
the FAA grounded all civilian flights, controllers nationwide
scrambled to get some 4,500 aircraft onto the ground. The
commission noted controllers had to deal with 50 times the usual
number of flight diversions.
The commission was also careful to say it's looking just as hard
for news of what went right as it is searching for problems that
hampered the response to the attacks.
"The real issue is first establishing the facts
minute-by-minute," said commissioner John Lehman, a Republican and
former Navy secretary. "Who knew what when? What orders were given?
From there we can learn the lessons of what went right."