9-11: Dulles TRACON called by FAA Eastern Region; asked about UA175; was told about fast mover

This article documents a call from Ron Ruggieri, Eastern Region, to John Hendershot, Dulles TRACON manager.  It is clear and explicit primary source evidence that the alert about the fast mover later identified as AA77 passed to NEADS by Boston Center was a result of Colin Scoggins listening to the results of this conversation.

In this call Ruggieri is turned over to the Supervisor, John Hendershott,  and asked about UA 175, but then confirmed it was out of Boston.  Here is the the start of that call.  0934 Ruggieri to Hendershott about UA 175

Hendershott then told Ruggieri that they were tracking a primary target headed toward  the White House [P56].   Hendershott advised that National Approach and the White House had been notified.  It is clear from this next cut that Ruggieri was briefing someone else who was then passing along the information.  0935 IAD Tracking a fast moving unknown toward White House

Ruggieri asked for a position and was told the target was six miles southwest of the White House, identical to the information that Colin Scoggins was concurrently passing to NEADS.

0936 six miles SW of White House

Note the confusion, however.  Hendershott opined that the target could be military.  In the background a voice is heard saying that the military had been notified.  That is either a garble of Hendershott’s opinion or an acknowledgement of the Boston Center notification to NEADS.  There is no evidence that anyone in the military other than NEADS was notified.  The FAA primary net did not include the NMCC and the NMCC had closed down its Significant Event Conference and was in the process of bringing up an Air Threat Conference, one that did not include FAA.

Hendershott, clearly looking at a TRACON radar scope, then provided near-real time updates to Eastern Region.   It’s “maneuvering,” now turning back “towards the White House.” A background voice asked if it was military.  Hendershott responded, “we have no knowledge.”  The background voice immediately passed along that information, “they have no knowledge, Dave.”  0937 Turning Back Toward the White House

That is likely a reference to Dave Canoles.  If so, then Eastern Region was passing the information immediately to FAA Headquarters.  Given that Colin Scoggins was listening to the Eastern Region phone bridge, then it is likely that the false earlier report that AA11 was still airborne originated on that bridge.  Scoggins has long contended that the false report came from Canoles’ office, if not from Canoles, himself.

Headquarters, via Eastern Region, became concerned that National was not on the bridge and that the hot line to the White House had not been activated.  National had done that immediately when Daniel O’Brien and her supervisor sounded the alarm, but no one at FAA Headquarters or Eastern Region apparently knew that.  Hendershott took an action to call National and confirm that the hot line had been activated.  0937 Concern About Hot Line to White House

Hendershott reported that  the primary dissappeared shortly after 9:38.  Then reporting got confused as apparent false returns from the aftermath of the Pentagon impact caused Hendershott to also report that the target was a mile from the White House.  It was a chaotic moment and in that moment Hendershott confirmed that the White House hot line had been activated.  0938 Target Disappeared False Returns Confuse White House Hot Line Confirmed

A  little more than a minute later Ruggieri told  Hendershott, with resignation, that  “he went into the Pentagon, West side.”  Ruggieri heard that first in background just as he was explaining that the only reason he called had to do with UA 175.  0939 He Just Went into the Pentagon West Side

The Ruggieri call provides a unique and perhaps the only real time window into the FAA’s Eastern Region.  Once John Hendershott was asked to keep the line open the window opened.  Eastern Region was and is an administrative headquarters.  It served FAA poorly by interjecting itself into a battle being fought by Herndon Center.

Eastern Region had no business being in the middle of the situation once the focus changed from UA175 to a fast moving unknown being tracked by Dulles TRACON.  Yet, ironically, had Eastern Region not made the call looking for UA175 then FAA Headquarters would not have had near real-time information from a radar scope displaying the track of what would later be determined to be AA77.