9-11: The Return of NORAD; an interesting article


Many months ago I wrote a series of articles, “The Scott Trilogy.” to depict the state of public information when the Commission began its work.  There was one additional article of interest that needs mentioning.   That article is “The Return of NORAD,” written by Adam Hebert and published in the February, 2002, edition of Air Force Magazine. The purpose of this additional article, filed under “The Scott Trilogy,” is to document specific information provided by Hebert.

Alert Aircraft

Hebert made the following points

  1. NORAD operators were looking outward from US borders, seeking incoming aircraft
  2. NORAD did not anticipate attacks in which civil airliners would be hijacked
  3. Only seven locations—around the perimeter of the United States—were engaged in the air defense mission
  4. Alert locations had F-15 or F-16 fighters on the runways, fueled, and ready to take off in fewer than 15 minutes

That was an accurate summation with one exception.  The alert fighters were not on the runways, they were in the alert sheds with ready access to the runways.  Crews were on standby 24/7.

The Response

Given a standard of “less than 15 minutes,” both the Otis and the Langley fighters exceeded standards.  According to the author, accurately, the Otis fighters were airborne in 12 minutes and the Langley fighters were airborne in 6 minutes.  There was no delay in launching the fighters as some have speculated.  The Langley fighters were quickly airborne because they had been placed on battle stations previously.

The author’s summation of the response to the four hijacked aircraft is accurate with two exceptions.  First, he repeated the erroneous notification time of 9:24 for AA 77.  Second, he wrote that “F-16s patrolling the Washington area were in a position to have intercepted this [UA 93] airliner.  During these tense moments, the fighter pilots had permission to shoot down hijacked airliners if they were to threaten more targets.”

Neither the Langley fighters nor the Otis fighters were given shootdown authority during the terrorist attack that morning.

Scramble frequency, in perspective

Actual air defense scrambles were an infrequent event prior to 9-11.  It is also important to know that a scramble did not necessarily result in fighters actually launched.

Hebert provided this perspective.  “In the year 2000, during the period Sept. 10 through Oct 10, NORAD scrambled fighters a total of seven times (counting exercises).”  That extrapolates to 84 scrambles in a year, not just in the NEADS sector or CONUS but in Alaska and Canada, as well.

Hebert continued: “A year later, during the same Sept 10 through Oct. 10 period, fighters were scrambled 41 times.  In addition officers diverted 48 Combat Air Patrols to tracks of interest, for a total of 89 events.  That twelve-fold increase was roughly three a day across all of North America, not a high volume by any means.

Target consideration

Another noteworthy point made by Herbert concerns how NORAD considered and treated domestic aircraft.  “For some time, the FAA had been the lead agency for handling events of ‘air piracy.’  NORAD and the FAA had a cooperative arrangement that left control of domestic airspace to the hands of FAA.  Domestic airliners were considered “friendly by origin.””

That is consistent but slightly different than my understanding during work on the Brothers to the Rescue project for the Department of Defense Inspector General.  My understanding was that any aircraft departing from a domestic airport and squawking a Mode 3 code was friendly be definition.  However, any such aircraft that departed the ADIZ and returned was of continuing interest.  Those type flights were called DVFR, Defense Visual Flight Rules, and were always reported by FAA centers to NORAD sectors.  The Vigilant Guardian NEADS tapes contain multiple examples of such reporting.

Shootdown authority

Herbert’s last noteworthy point documents the delegation of shootdown authority post 9/11.  Herbert, quoting General Eberhart, wrote, “He said, ‘If there’s time, we’d go all the way to the President’ for approval to shoot down an airliner.  ‘Otherwise, the standing orders have been pushed down.'”

Herbert listed three individuals with that authority: “Maj. Gen Larry K. Arnold, commander of 1st Air Force…LT. Gen. Norman A. Schwartz, a three-star officer at Elmendorf Air Force Base [Alaska]…In Hawaii, Adm. Dennis C. Blair, head of Pacific Command.”

9-11: Air Defense Response; first things first, the Scott Trilogy (part 3)

This is the last article in the Scott series and it stands alone, independent of the other two articles.  Scott chose the week of the first anniversary of 9-11 to publish “F-16 Pilots Considered Ramming Flight 93,” September 9, 2002.  In his article Scott told the story of the Air National Guard at Andrews and literally set in stone a story contrary to the events of the day; one that has been difficult to unravel.

The Commission Staff thought we had put the Andrews story to rest when our final report was published.  The story was resurrected in Lynn Spencer’s Touching History which compelled three members of the Staff, including me, to publish an OpEd article in the “New York Times.”  I spoke to the Andrews Story in a previous article which should be read first.  With the understanding that the primary and secondary sources of the day do not support Scott’s narrative we can now look at the issue that Scott raises in his title, rules of engagement.

The Facts

At no time during the battle of 9-11 did any military aircraft have authenticated rules to engage a target.  NEADS, itself, did not have any such guidance until well after the fate of UA 93 had been determined.  That guidance was not passed to either the Otis or Langley pilots that morning.  No Andrews pilot had written “weapons free” authority until a pair of fully armed fighters lifted off after 11:00.

The Rationalization

Scott told us two things.  First, he addressed the title of his article by writing: “all three [Hutchison, Sasseville, Lucky] acknowledge they were prepared to ram a terrorist-flown aircraft, if necessary.”  Second, he further wrote: “Sasseville planned to fire from behind and ‘try to saw off one wing…and bring it down.”  There is no primary or secondary souce information to support either supposition.

Scott did not address the Langley pilots, but we do know that the stated NORAD rationalization by both Arnold and Marr was that they would take lives in the air to save lives on the ground.  That being said, they did not give the pilots in the air the authority to engage.

Since the circumstances never came to that Hobson’s Choice the ‘what if?’ is a matter of speculation.  What we do know is that only the Langley fighters had authentication tables with them; the Andrews pilots did not, according to what they told me during interview.  We also know that the Langley fighters were over the nation’s capital long before the Andrew’s fighters.  We also know that only the Langley (and Otis) fighters under any plausible scenario could have conceivably had to take terrible, swift action.

So, we can set the Andrew’s fighter story aside with one final point about Scott’s narrative turning again to an issue with all eyewitness and participant recall information, time compression.

Time Compression

Scott wrote: “Within minutes of American airlines Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon on Sept. 11, Air National Guard F-16s took off from here [Andrews AFB, MD] in response to a plea from the White House to ‘Get in the air now’.”  That establishes a takeoff time prior to 9:45, which is not possible.  It is no wonder that Lynn Spencer had so much difficulty with time compression in her own narrative concerning the Andrews fighters.  Three of the available seven pilots were in the skies over North Carolina.. The other four had no planes immediately ready for use.The first Andrews fighter airborne, Hutchison just returning from North Carolina, lifted off a hour later than Scott’s narrative has it.

The Realm of Speculation

I leave it to the reader to rationalize what might have happened.  As you do so consider these points.

First, in my article on the Battle of 9-11 I make reference to rules of engagement and to my work on this last Scott article.  I wrote: “All informal time-distance analyses that I have worked through in my mind [given a scramble at 9:09] indicate that AA 77 and the Langley fighters would have arrived over greater DC skies at about the same time. And the unanswered question is, “then what?””

Second, I have worked through in my mind the time distance factors for both the Otis and Langley fighters and in the most perfect of worlds there is a slender chance that the Otis fighters would have arrived over a heavily populated area at the same time as did UA 175.  There is a slightly less slender chance that AA 77 and the Langley fighters would have also arrived over a heavily populated area at the same time.

Third, arriving on the scene and actually intercepting a target are two very different things.  It takes time, time the pilots would likely not have had.

Fourth, there is the issue of authority and authentication.  That, too, takes time.

Finally, there is the cognitive problem for the reader of where is it, exactly, the two hijacked airliners are going to go down?

With the possible exception of UA 93, NORAD was not going to take lives in the air to save lives on the ground, despite their rationalization.

AA 11 and UA 93

The Otis pilots had no chance to defend against AA11.  FAA declared a hijack at 9:25.  It took NEADS, once alerted, the Otis pilots, once scrambled, (edited Nov 1, 2009) on the order of thirteen minutes to get fighters (edited Nov 1, 2009) airborne.  Air defense fighters fly at ‘military power,’ maximum subsonic.  NORAD specified in its timeline a rate of advance of .9 mach.  That approximates 9 nautical miles per minute.  It is nearly 170 nautical miles from Otis to Manhattan according to Google Earth.  I leave it to the reader to do the math.

The Langley pilots were in position to do something about UA 93, but they had no authority to engage.  That is the one plane that could have been engaged to save lives on the ground.  Except the passengers and crew aboard UA 93 had already figured that out for themselves.

A Final Observation

We have now completed a review of the Scott Trilogy.  That body of work together with other published information in the aftermath of 9-11 established a story that was simply not true.  The quote at the top of my home page is the Staff’s summation of the situation as we found it.

9-11: Air Defense Response; first things first, the Scott Trilogy (part 2)

This is the second in a series of three articles concerning the Scott trilogy.  To set the stage, I recommend a reading of the short introductory article and the article concerning the first of William Scott’s three articles published in 2002.  In this article we will consider Scott’s second article, “Command Cells Speed Airspace Reactions,” published June 10, 2002.

FAA/Military Interface

Government functions because agencies establish relationships with each other to facilitate work and the flow of information.  Since the military is a constant presence in air space controlled by the FAA it is natural that such relationships would have developed over time between the military services and the FAA. In this article we will identify and discuss three such relationships in existence on 9-11.  The three are the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC), the Central Altitude Reservation Function (CARF) and the exchange of liaison officers.

Some have speculated that because of these relationships the FAA had direct, immediate, and responsive communication with the military concerning the events of the day, in other words what FAA knew in real time the military, especially NORAD, also knew in real time.That was not the case as we shall see. None of the three relationships was structured to help with the battle that morning.

Two, the CARF and the liaison function, were ultimately helpful in establishing a secure communications link between the NMCC and FAA, but not until the fate of all four hijacked aircraft had been determined.  All three, especially the ATSC, were extremely helpful the rest of day as the nation transitioned to military control of the sky; they were not helpful in fighting the battle itself.

Scott’s first article, setting the stage

Scott’s first article is a departure point for our discussion.  In that article Scott stated, “the…hijack notification was being passed by phone to a Norad [sic] command center…and the joint FAA/Defense Dept. Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC) colocated with the …Command Center in Herndon…”  Scott provided no antecedent to tell us who made those two passes.

Moreover, Scott’s own reference is to a page in a December 2001 AW&ST article which simple shows the floor layout at Herndon.  There is a desk specifically designated for the DoD/CARF, but not the ATSC.  It was not a desk normally occupied except when needed, according to Herndon managers who briefed the Commission Staff.  Two desks in the immediate vicinity were for the Air Traffic Association and the National Business Aircraft Association.  Scott’s source article stated that the latter two organizations were represented on the operations floor and “in a fluke, so was what Herndon called the ‘military cell’.”

Scott set up his second article with this passage in his first article: “The Air Traffic Services Cell [was]created  by the FAA and the Defense Dept. for use when needed to coordinate high priority aircraft movements during warfare or emergencies.  The Pentagon staffs it  only three days per month for refresher training, but Sept. 11 happened to be one of those days.”

He segued smoothly into a discussion of a small office “established after the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War to facilitate movements of military aircraft in U.S., Pacific and European airspace.  Reservists assigned to ATSC have strong backgrounds in fighter, tanker, AWACS and strategic airlift operations.  Many were also pilots.”  This was not a crisis management operation, it was simply a routinized process set in place to manage significant military use of domestic and foreign airspace.

Scott goes astray

As we discussed in the first article, Scott had little help to validate what he was being told.  He clearly gained the impression that the ATSC was something more than it turned out to be.  He assessed it this way.  “That experienced cadre…paid dividends on Sept. 11, when the cell quickly became a key communications node during the military’s response to terrorist attacks.”  Scott then goes on to give a reasonable account of how valuable the ATSC was, except that value came in the aftermath, well after the battle was over.  The ATSC played no role in the response to the four hijacked aircraft that morning.  Before we can establish what actually happened we first need to consider the other two interface functions, the CARF and the liaison officers, and we start with the CARF.

Central Altitude Reservation Function

The CARF operated a secure facility co-located with the ATSC.  Its function is further described in the Robert Williams MFR. Among other activities, “the primary space they reserve is for military movement overseas, and for mass military movements.  They also handle ‘more unusual’ circumstance [sic] like the dropping of rocket boosters for a space shuttle launch..”

As a secure facility it had phone lines capable of linking to the NMCC.  The Commission Staff determined that sometime in the 10:15 time frame a CARF member, Rayford Brooks, was monitoring the Air Threat Conference Call.  Brooks and Williams, both civilian, were two people on duty in the CARF that morning.  Although the CARF mission was to provide military interface its work force was civilian, no military personnel were assigned.  ATSC was the military cell which, according to the Williams MFR, “co-join[ed] the CARF office for the practicality of proximity for secure information.”

In order to find out how the CARF ended up as the FAA node on the Air Threat Conference Call we first need to discuss the last of the three interface functions, liaison officers. Scott did not discuss the liaison function in his article.

Liaison between FAA and NORAD

A long-established liaison relationship existed between FAA and NORAD.  At FAA Headquarters that relationship was formalized as “Detachment Two,” the military liaison office at FAA headquarters, commanded that day by Colonel Sheryl Atkins.  Each service had its own liaison officer who reported to his/her service directly but worked administratively under Atkins.

FAA regional offices also had military liaison officers assigned.  In the Northeast those officers were accredited to both the New England Region and the Eastern Region and split their time between the two.  None of the liaison officers at any level had crisis management responsibilities.

In Atkins case she was en route work when AA 11 struck the North tower and was at FAA Headquarters by the time the second plane struck. She went to the 10th floor shortly after AA 77 struck the Pentagon, but reported to the Air Traffic Situation Room not the Washington Operations Center.  Atkins and the other liaison officers were effective in the management of airspace in the aftermath but were not engaged in the crisis, itself.

The liaison relationship was a two-way arrangement.  FAA liaison officers were accredited to key NORAD echelons, including NEADS.  At NEADS, Steve Culbertson was at the Headquarters when the World Trade Center was twice struck. (Note: Leslie Filson’s notes at one point have Culbertson at the Headquarters after the second plane struck and, later, headed for the SOCC before the second plane struck.)  My recall is that when he learned that FAA was having difficulty communicating with the military he went to the Sector Operations Center to help.  That would be closer to 9:30 and that initiative is documented in the primary sources of the day.  The NEADS tapes show that a few minutes after 9:30 Steve Culbertson was looking for a STU-III (secure telephone) and Major Nasypany is heard asking the SOCC Director if Culbertson can use his STU-III.  According to the Staff’s interview with Culbertson he estimated that the line was established around 10:15.

Culbertson and Bill Ayers, the DoD Airspace Manager for NEADS, are among the unsung group of people who struggled that day to bring order out of chaos.  Their effort, according to Filson’s notes, became the Domestic Events Network (DEN).

Back to William Scott

Scott, in his second article discusses only the ATSC.and that’s OK, given the time at which he was writing.  He focused on the visible and the tangible and that was the ATSC embedded with the Herndon Center.  Our treatment here of the CARF and the Liaison Function between FAA and NORAD completes the record.  He teed up the ATSC in his first article and made it the centerpiece for his second article.  In his opening sentence to the second article he gets the story right, “a small group of Air Force reservists and FAA air traffic experts [including CARF] started working on the inevitable next phase–how to restore the National Airspace System.”

And that was their proper role.  There should be no expectation that the three linear process in existence discussed in this article could have or should have been engaged earlier than they ultimately were.  I will add these three processes/functions to the growing list of identifiable linear procedures in effect on 9-11.

9-11: Air Defense Response; first things first, the Scott trilogy, (part 1)

In an introductory article we established three barriers to analyzing events of 9-11; time compression, event conflation, and the application of post facto awareness and understanding to facto and post-facto events.  William Scott’s work must be considered with due regard to the latter barrier. In his first article, “Exercise Jump-Starts Response to Attacks,” he reported what he was told  by participants and what he learned from the public record of the day.  The fact that his narrative compressed time and conflated events is not his doing.    It was his sources who compressed  and conflated, and Scott did not have the primary and secondary source information available for validation.

Two different Scotts

William B. Scott (not the same Scott who briefed the Commission on May 23, 2003) wrote a series of three articles in 2002 for Aviation Week & Space Technology. That trilogy was one of the early detailed accounts of the events of the day and it served as a starting point for Staff work concerning FAA and NORAD. The Staff began with a LexisNexis literature search, a portion of which is available at NARA. The Scott trilogy immediately came to light as did the NORAD September 18, 2001, time-line, replicated in Scott’s first article published June 3, 2002.

The Commission Staff knew what the public knew but had reason to believe that the account of the day was flawed.  That belief was confirmed when the other Scott, Lieutenant Colonel Alan Scott,–who had been researching events of the day for several months–briefed the Commission.

Documents of the day told a different story

One of the first primary source documents the Staff received was the set of radar files from the 84th RADES,followed in short order by the first document delivery from NEADS which included a partial transcript and a copy of the MCC/T log.  None of that information–one primary source file and two secondary source documents–supported the public story as related by William Scott.  Simply put, the actual tracks of the air defense fighters did not correspond to what Scott reported.  Further, the primary and secondary source records of the day supported neither the September 18, 2001, NORAD time-line nor Lieutenant Colonel Alan Scott’s revision as briefed to the Commission.

Some Things William Scott got right

Scott’s title for his first article is consistent with what the Commission Staff found.  Scott elaborated: “In retrospect, the exercise would prove to be a serendipitous enabler of a rapid military response….Senior officers involved in Vigilant Guardian were manning Norad [sic] command centers…and [were] available to make immediate decisions.”  The problem was there were few immediate decisions to be made.  As the Commission determined and reported there was no timely notification concerning any of the hijacked airplanes.

Scott’s account of General Arnold telling Marr to “scramble; we’ll get clearances later,” is also accurate.  As the Commission Staff briefed at the June 2004 hearing, the formal hijack notification procedures were unsuited in every respect for the events of 9-11.  Boston Center abandoned the procedures; NEADS/CONR followed suit.

His  account remains reasonable as the Otis pilots are introduced.  They heard the word even before NEADS because of their working relationship with Cape TRACON.  The pilots were in action before they were scrambled; they literally put themselves on battle stations.

The Account Starts to Drift

Then Scott’s account starts to deviate from what actually happened.  The Otis pilots did not do what they told Scott they did. “Consequently he [the lead pilot] jammed the F-15’s throttles into afterburner and the two-ship formation devoured the 153 mi.. to New York City at supersonic speeds.  It just seemed wrong.  I just wanted to get there.  I was in full-blower all the way.”

Except they didn’t go to New York City and they did not proceed supersonic.  The “NORAD RESPONSE TIMELINE,” which Scott discussed, states: “Flight times calculated at 9 mi./min. (Mach 0.9).”  It is reasonable to infer that the Otis pilots, by the time Scott interviewed them, had internalized the events of the day in a way differently than they occurred and that is the story they told Scott and others.

Concerning the Langley scramble, Scott did not address the fact that the actual path of the fighters after takeoff was orthogonal to their intended direction.  Scott stated, simply, that the “alert F-16s were scrambled and airborne in 6 min., headed for Washington.”  That remained the official story until the Commission staff learned the actual path from the 84th RADES radar files.  Lieutenant Colonel Alan Scott, was supposed to put that straight at the May 23, 2003, hearing; he did not.  Instead, he blurred the paths of both the Langley and the Otis fighters in his briefing charts.  I told that story in a separate article.

Conflation and Compression, two  examples

Scott reported that the alert was being passed simultaneously to NORAD/Cheyenne Mountain and to the DoD Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC) at the FAA Herdon Command Center. Indeed, Colonel Marr was immediately able to talk to General Arnold. The Battle Cabs at all echelons in NORAD were fully manned because of the scheduled exercise.That was not the case for the ATSC. Scott’s reference is to a December 17, 2001, Aviation Week & Space Technology article: “Crisis at Herndon: 11 Airplanes Astray.” That article gives the erroneous impression that the ATSC was immediately represented on the Herndon operational floor.

In another example, at NORAD, according to Scott’s interviews, “A bunch of things started happening at once…We initiated an Air Threat Conference [call].”  It didn’t go quite as Scott told it, but the lead was particularly helpful; this was the Commission staff’s first awareness that there was such a call and a request for any tapes of that call was among our first document requests.  Because of its importance that call will be discussed in a separate article.

Scott’s narrative thereafter is a conflation of events on multiple levels; participants told him what they remembered or what they had internalized.

Some more examples

Delta 1989.  Scott discussed a fifth hijacked aircraft–although no airplane is mentioned the implication is that it is Delta 1989–before he talks about the discovery and immediate loss of AA 11 at 8:46.

Search for additional fighter support.  Scott introduced this activity before he mentions the Langley fighters on battle station at 9:09.

FAA reports 11 aircraft amiss. Scott interjected this fact while discussing  the Langley battle station/scramble sequence.  That was the time frame for the erroneous report that AA 11 was still in the air.

AA 77 impact 9:41. This is interesting since Colonel Scott, with great stress that all his times were log times, briefed the Commission that the time was 9:43.

Scatana/Mineta. Scott perpetuated Mineta’s contention that he gave the order to bring all the planes down and conflates it with a discussion that occurred later in the day about implementing Scatana.  General Eberhart was in his office at NORAD Headquarters and did not arrive at the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center until later in the morning.

Prepared to shoot down UA 93.  Scott reported that, “F-16s…were prepared to shoot down United 93.”  They were in position but had no authority to shoot and were never vectored to intercept the airplane.

Escorting Air Force One. Scott quoted General Arnold as saying, “We scrambled available airplanes from Tyndall and then from Ellington…We maintained AWACS overhead the whole route.”  What we now know from the radar files is that only the Ellington fighters caught up with Air Force One and only briefly before it landed at Barksdale AFB.  In the Mystery Plane article I show that the mystery plane, Venus 77, was in position to monitor the flight of Air Force One.

The Staff picks up the pieces and moves on

Prior to the May 23, 2003 hearing the Staff sensed that the official story of the day was at odds with primary source information.  We anticipated that NORAD’s testimony would help clarify matters; it turned out just the opposite.  Thereafter, we set aside existing time lines of the day and built our own.  We used that time line and the primary and secondary sources [e.g. transcripts, logs} as an aid during interviews.  We found that participant recall was like eye witness accounts, subject to event conflation and time compression.  There is no better example than Scott’s first article.

9-11: The Scott Trilogy; an introduction, cutting to the chase

After four attempts to address William B. Scott’s three 2002 articles written for Aviation Week & Space Technology let me cut to the chase and get some things off my mind. Scott wrote at a time when accurate information was not available, the emerging story was incomplete, and the voices of the day had internalized events in their own way. His was an honest effort and is particularly useful to address three barriers, pitfalls if you will, to accurately understanding the events of September 11, 2001.

The barriers are: time compression; event conflation; and the imposition of post-facto understanding and conditions on both facto and pre-facto events.  The Staff of both the 9-11 Commission and the Congressional Joint Inquiry that preceded it grappled constantly with these barriers to understanding.   Most people writing objectively about the events of the day, the work of the 9-11 Commission Staff, or the work of authors, such as Scott, will remember to ‘walk in their shoes.’ And that especially means not looking through a post-facto lens.  Setting aside the post-facto lens barrier lets look a bit further at the other two barriers.

Time Compression

A good example of time compression is the difficulty the well-researched author, Lynn Spencer, encountered. Hers was another honest effort. In Touching History she established a reader’s road map by time-stamping each section; a chronological approach. That worked well until she attempted to tell the Andrews fighter story.  Spencer struggled to get the Andrews fighters back from the skies over North Carolina to Washington D.C. in time and space to deal with UA 93. The compression of time problem was such that Spencer had to abandon her reader’s road map and did not time-stamp that section of her book

In another example, Richard Clarke’s compression of time in “Against All Enemies” is not helpful in understanding the sequence of events that morning.  Clarke’s is also an honest effort, one which highlights the fact that participant recall is much like an eye witness account, helpful but not definitive.  And Clarke’s problems with time compression lead to the second barrier, event conflation.

Event Conflation

Clarke established a time hack for his readers, “It was now 9:28.”  That time was in reference to establishing an air defense “CAP over D.C.”  That meant that by that time, according to Clarke,  General Myers was in the Pentagon, the Air Threat Conference Call was underway, and “eleven aircraft [were] off course or out of communications.” [attributed to Garvey] Actually, Clarke conflated events as he compressed them in time, leaping nimbly over both barriers at once.  He also established that Norman Mineta was not in the loop by 9:28, despite Mineta’s own account.

Mineta, then Secretary of Transportation established in multiple accounts, including testimony before the 9-11 Commission, that he was there before 9:28 and that an aircraft “50 miles out” was AA 77.  Mineta’s story is the definitive example of event conflation.  The plane in question was UA 93.  Mineta and Clarke cannot both be right at the same time in terms of Mineta’s location in space and time.

Even the events of the day were conflated in at least two instances as they occurred; Delta 1989 was conflated with UA 93, and AA 77 was conflated with AA 11.  NEADS perpetuated the first conflation in its own story of the day. The plane that ‘meandered’ that day was not UA 93, it was Delta 1989.  We may never know the details of the second conflation other than the fact that it occurred and that it did prompt the Langley scramble.

Looking ahead to the Scott Trilogy

Researchers, writers, analysts, and investigators have the capability to overcome time compression and event conflation by using primary and secondary source information as an aid to recall during interviews. Spencer and Scott, especially, did not have the primary source information they needed to deal with either barrier. And as we will discover in the first Scott article some conflated events were also time compressed by Scott’s sources.

Okay, with that off my mind we can move on to Scott’s trilogy. And as we do, let me mention that is was from Scott that the Commission Staff obtained the lead about the Air Threat Conference Call. The tape of that conference is the single most important primary source of the day. For now, Commission Report footnotes stand as the best available secondary source of the day concerning that conference call.