9-11: The Mystery Plane; not so mysterious

Last year, the researcher and writer, Mark Gaffney, wrote The 9-11 Mystery Plane. He speculated that a “white plane” seen in DC skies was somehow nefarious in ways that simply don’t track with primary source information of the day or with the body of information accumulated by the 9-11 Commission. In part, the author relied on eye witness accounts and post facto media reporting to try and make his case. He did use the radar files of the day and did refer to the NEADS tapes, but he did not put things together correctly. Following is what the primary source information tells us about the flights from Andrews Air Force Base on 9-11. A related Commission work file is at this link.

The Flights

Four aircraft of interest took off from Andrews that morning, excluding the fighters; a separate story. Flight strips generated by Andrews Tower provide this detail:

Word 31: B742 [E4B], a NAOC (National Airborne Operations Center) flight, according to the flight strip, that staged at 1136 hrs (subtract 4 hours from all times for EDT). Word 31 was airborne at 1327.

Venus 22: A Gulfstream 3, airborne at 1316 on a scheduled flight to West Virginia; it landed back at Andrews at 1354

Gofer 06: A Minnesota Air National Guard C130H, airborne at 1333, ultimately an observer to the aftermath of the impacts of AA 77 and UA 93.

Venus 77: B747, airborne under VFR rules at 1345; it became the “white plane.”

In sum, four aircraft departed Andrews Air Force Base between 9:16 (Venus 22) and 9:43 (Venus 77), three on scheduled flights and one, Venus 77, in reaction to events of the day.

Venus 22

There is little remarkable about VENUS 22. It declared for Lewisburg, West Virginia but returned to Andrews after a short 30 minute plus flight. At the moment Dulles TRACON sounded the alarm about the fast moving unknown (AA77), Venus 22 was approaching Waldorf, Maryland, headed for a holding pattern near the Chesapeake Bay, south of Annapolis, to burn fuel. Venus 22 was in that pattern when AA77 impacted the Pentagon. The plane landed at 9:54 and remarked to air traffic control on approach that it looked like something happened at National Airport. Here is a Google Earth trace of the flight path, created from 84th RADES text files.

Word 31

Word 31 took off routinely and proceeded on a route to the Midwest. It was routed around the National Capital Region to the south and, outbound, passed well south of AA77 like a ship in the night.  It is a bizarre fact of 9-11 that a National level airborne command post flew westerly over Virginia at the same time the hijacked AA77 flew generally the I66/Rte29 corridor on its eastern approach to its target. Neither was aware of the others existence.  The 11th slide in this Commission file, a screen print from 84th RADES data, shows the relationship of Word 31 (labeled Sword 31), AA77, Gofer 06 and, according to Andrews flight strips  two military T2 aircraft, Bobcat 14 and Bobcat 17, transiting the area north-to-south, at altitude.  At the time AA77 was approaching DC, Word 31 was being routed around DC to the south, a normal routing according to controllers at Dulles TRACON.  Air Traffic Control tapes confirm that Word 31 was routed around the National Capital Region before anyone knew that AA77 was approaching.  Reagan National tape (big file, 23 MB) is at this link.

1 DCA 105 TYSON 1324-1350 UTC.mp3

Gofer 06

Gofer 06 was in the takeoff queue behind Word 31 and it was delayed briefly because of B747 wake turbulence. Quick action by FAA controllers at National Tower/TRACON resulted in Gofer 06 being the only military aircraft that day to see one of the hijacked aircraft and the only one vectored to follow any of the four aircraft. En route home, it again came to air traffic control attention. Cleveland Center directed Gofer 06 to turn right to avoid oncoming traffic, UA 93. Gofer 06 reported smoke soon after the turn that turned out to be from the Shanksville site, the first such report to FAA.

Venus 77

Venus 77 took off at 9:45 in a hurry, VFR. The pilot declared for Offutt AFB and on its climb-out western leg Venus 77 passed just north of P56, the restricted flying area over the National Capital Region. It then declared for an orbit south of Washington and turned back east in order to proceed south for orbit. It is during that west leg and return east that Venus 77 was noticed by multiple observers on the ground; it became the ‘white plane’ captured on CNN raw footage taken near the White House. Venus 77 then declared for an orbit in the Richmond area where it set up a north-south racetrack holding pattern. It altered the orientation of the racetrack once to point toward Barksdale AFB. It exited the pattern by returning north and then turned west and proceeded out of the area. The flight of this ‘mystery’ plane is consistent with support for the possible return of Air Force One to Andrews and for its actual flight to Barksdale. This video clearly shows the relationship between Venus 77 and Air Force One.  It also shows that Air Force One had no fighter escort until shortly before it arrived at Barksdale when the Texas Air National Guard arrived on the scene.

There is no correlation between Venus 77 and the Langley fighters. There is no primary source information to support the contention that the Langley fighters were vectored to intercept Venus 77.