9-11: Delta 1989; Addendum, Confirmed not trip by Delta

The purpose of this article is to establish that Delta Airlines did not consider Delta 1989 to be a “trip,” a hijacked aircraft.  At 9:55, Herndon Center, Operations Position 27 called Delta asking about the flight.  Delta confirmed that it was landing normally at Cleveland.

The primary source audio can be heard here. 095527 Delta 1989 not a trip

Delta Airlines considered the source of the concern about Delta 1989 to be Boston Center, ZBW.  ZBW, on its own initiative, had assessed the developing situation and determined that the hijack pattern concerned transcontinental flights departing Boston.  Three flights fit that profile: AA 11, UA 175, and D 1989. ZBW shared its analysis, and what was originally an expression of concern by ZBW morphed into speculation that D 1989, itself, had been hijacked.

My understanding, using the lens of Chaos Theory, is that D 1989 became a “strange attractor,” a focal point for attention that could not be predicted.  Contorted concern for the flight became disruptive feedback into the air traffic control system during an already chaotic time.  An unknown aircraft (AA 77) had just slammed into the Pentagon.  Minutes earlier, Cleveland Center had reported that UA 93 had a bomb on board.

The conflation of events concerning D 1989, UA 93 and AA 77 persisted long after the attack was over.  Norman Mineta conflated the AA 77 and UA 93 stories.  General Arnold and Colonel Marr conflated the D 1989 and UA 93 stories.

All three internalized the events of the day in the immediate aftermath as FAA and NORAD failed to agree on a common timeline.  Their misunderstanding of events became the public story, one which persists erroneously to this day.

9-11: Delta 1989; an addendum

Following is an MFR extract from the Commission Staff  interview with the Identification Technicians at NEADS.  It explains the confusion about a destination of either Los Angeles or Las Vegas.  The interview was recorded and the audio file will ultimately be made available by NARA

“They began looking for a Delta 89 (Note: the flight is actually Delta 1989) as another hijack. They found it on the scope and had him as a “confirmed hijack”. They originally believed Delta 89 was on a flight path to Las Vegas, but then realized it was to Los Angeles. They marked it as a “Special” flight for tracking purposes. They informed Cleveland Center of Delta 89’s status and that it was in Cleveland Center. They gave Cleveland Center the information that it was headed to Los Vegas, not Los Angeles. They were informed that it was actually Delta 1989, and they gave Cleveland Major Nasypany’s contact number.”

9-11: Delta 1989; relationship to UA 93

Recently, Fox News aired a special, “9/11: Timeline of Terror” on the 8th anniversary of 9-11.  Major General Larry Arnold was among the voices heard describing the events of the day.  It is not clear if the clips featuring General Arnold were made for the special or were file footage.  My speculation is that it was file footage since General Arnold misspeaks about NORAD knowledge of UA 93.  The plane he is heard describing was Delta 1989.  NORAD had no knowledge of UA 93 in the time frame to which General Arnold refers.

The Commission Staff spent time with General Arnold explaining to him, using a radar presentation based on 84th RADES radar files, that the plane they observed meandering that day was, in fact, Delta 1989.  He acknowledged that fact.

As I have stated elsewhere, the only hijacked plane track forward told (electronically linked) by NEADS that morning was track B-89.  That was the track for Delta 1989.  That fact that it was track number 89 is coincidental.

Here is a graphic, based on 84th RADES radar files showing the relationship of Delta 1989 and UA 93.  The graphic was created on September 16, 2009. UA93 and Delta 1989

9-11: Delta 1989; an intervening variable, not a hijack

Aug 31, 2009 Addendum. Here is a BTS link to the official record of Delta flights that departed Boston Logan on September 11, 2001.  There is no listing for a Delta flight 89 and no indication that any Delta flight was scheduled Boston to Las Vegas.

Delta 1989 became a plane of interest briefly on 9-11 concurrent with the information that United 93 was hijacked and was presumed to have a bomb on board.  Delta 1989 became confused and conflated with United 93 in real time. and again in NORAD’s attempt after the fact to piece together the facts of the day.  It is worth noting that Delta 1989 was the only plane that NORAD at all echelons knew much about that morning and the only one that they were able to track.   The problem was they were out of air defense fighters.  Their effort to find anyone who could respond is clearly told on the NEADS tapes.  The effort was intense.

There is just one plane

Notations in Commission files, in contemporary documents of the day, and in testimony before the Commission that refer to flight “89” are simply shorthand notations for Delta 1989.  Lynn Spencer in Touching History acknowledges this; her notation style is ‘[19]89.’  To speculate otherwise ignores a simple truth; there is one and only one plane  in the radar files, both FAA and RADES, and in the air traffic control communications.  The primary source documents are definitive and conclusive.

The 9-11 Commission Staff sorted this out in the primary source information–tapes, transcripts, logs and radar.  Concerning the latter, we tailored a radar video, isolating just the two tracks, Delta 1989 and United 93, so that we could demonstrate to NORAD officials at every echelon that their story that the observed United 93 ‘meandering’ in the skies was, in fact, their watching the flight path of Delta 1989.  No one at any NORAD echelon disagreed with our findings.

How did this all come about?

The story starts at Boston Center.  Given the uncertainly that morning and the stark reality broadcast by Mohammend Atta, “we have some planes,” Boston Center saw a pattern of transcontinental flights originating at Boston.  In reviewing what it knew it determined that Delta 1989 was one such flight.  By that time Colin Scoggins had established a constant information flow to the Identification Technicians at NEADS. and by 9:27 NEADS knew that there were three unaccounted for aircraft.  The MCC/T log shows an entry at that time: “Boston FAA says another a/c is missing.”  A subsequent entry at 9:41 shows: “Delta 89 possible hijack Bos/Vegas.”

The NEADS Identification Technicians, whose story is well told by Michael Bronner, made and received multiple calls to five different FAA Centers that morning.  Among them were one to Indianapolis Center and one to Cleveland Center informing them of the hijack status of Delta 1989.  Cleveland Center, in direct communication with the Delta 1989 pilot, confirmed that he was not a hijack and that information was fed back to NEADS.   NEADS, meanwhile, established a track, B-89, on the aircraft which it forward told to NORAD, the only such track forwarded that morning.

Delta 1989, the only plane the NMCC will hear about from NORAD

To “forward tell” is to link a known track to a specific radar in such a manner that the track can be seen by NORAD echelons above NEADS.  NEADS established only two tracks of interest that morning, B-32 for the unknown that was AA 77 and B-89 for the known that was Delta 1989.  Track B-32 faded before it could be forward told.

The Air Threat Conference Call is conclusive concerning what was forward told.  When asked for an update NORAD informed the Conference at 9:44 that the only other hijacked plane it knew about was Delta 1989.  There was no mention of United 93 or any other aircraft.

The Tracking Story

A technician was assigned to track Delta 1989 and her conversation with another technician was recorded; a transcript is available.  The supposition that she was concerned about an airplane squawking mode 3 7112 has no foundation in fact.  Code 7112 is not an emergency code and was used by at least one airplane that morning, according to the 84th RADES radar files.  Here is what happened as revealed by the radar, the transcript, and the tape, examined concurrently.

Spatial Relationship of D1989, UA93 and Code 7112


Delta 1989 and Code 7112 both took off at 8:30.  Code 7112 departed from eastern Pennsylvania near the New Jersey border and flew northeasterly, as depicted on the linked slide.  The plane had no correlation to events of the day other than it became, briefly, a plane of interest to NEADS tracking technicians.  This slide also depicts the “meandering” path of Delta 1989 as it is vectored away from United 93 by air traffic control.

The technician who tracked Delta 1989 was first assigned to work a target in the Boston area.    At 9:42 her supervisor assigned her a target off of radar site 53, azimuth 288 and range 92 miles.  She picked it up at azimuth 287 and range 97 miles.  The tape  is clear, the transcript standing alone is not. Here is the audio information in graphic form. 

M3 7112

The radar shows two VFR aircraft and a transponding aircraft, Mode 3 7112, in close proximity at the bearing and range assigned to the technician.  She clearly describes this confluence of potential targets in her comments.  Thereafter, there is a gap in the recorded conversations that is not apparent in the transcript.  During that gap the comment Bravo 089 is heard in the background at 9:43:25. It is clear from the tape and the radar that the technician worked a target in the Northeast—-not 7112 by the way—-before she was assigned to track Delta 1989.

Delta 1989, not a hijack

By 9:58 the Identification Technicians understood that Delta 1989 was not a hijack, although the Surveillance Technicians continued the track.  By 10:09, after NEADS found out about United 93, efforts to scramble fighters from the Midwest in response to Delta 1989 were changed to focus on United 93.  An FAA chronology confirms the 9:58 time.  According to the log of the Air Traffic situation room at FAA Headquarters (separate from the WOC): “9:58, DAL1989 not a hijack.”

Nevertheless, Cleveland Center was uncertain and that uncertainty led Cleveland Tower, Cleveland Airport, and the FBI to treat Delta 1989 with suspicion after it landed as documented in a timeline compiled by Cleveland Air Traffic Control Tower.  It is clear from this document that Cleveland, Tower and Center, attributed  the suspicious information concerning Delta 1989 to NEADS.

The story according to Cleveland

“The OM [Cleveland Center] told the ATM [Cleveland Tower] that they had confirmation that the DAL flight could be a hijack and might have a bomb on board.  The OM stated that the pilot and company [Delta] both said it was a precautionary landing and there was no hijack.  The OM then said that the “Hunters” said it was a hijack. The ATM asked who the hunters were.  There was a lot of confusion at the center and the impression the ATM got was the ‘Hunters’ were in receipt of some intelligence that indicated the aircraft was a hijack.”

After all is said and done

NEADS is “HUNTRESS.”  They had no intelligence.  They knew what they knew from the FAA Centers, in this case Boston and Cleveland.  Such is the cloth from which myths are made in real time; proactive thinking, conflated information, and, ultimately, circular reporting. Such is the cloth from which myths are perpetuated; incomplete analysis based on partial information misinterpreted.