This is the fourth in a series of articles describing the battle on the morning of September 11, 2001, from the perspective of the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Mission Crew Commander (MCC) Major Kevin Nasypany. The account is based on primary source information, the NEADS audio tapes.
In the first three articles (part I, part II, part III) we covered Major Nasypany’s actions up to 0941 EDT. NEADS had heard about three hijacked aircraft, AA 11, UA 175, and AA 77. NEADS established track B032 on a fast moving unknown near the White House which, retrospectively, was AA 77. As we pick up the story, track B032 has faded, AA 77 is reported down well to the West, and the Mission Crew Commander, Major Nasypany has learned that the Langley fighters are not where he thought they were.
We concluded part III with this clip (0941 Delta what) that announced yet a fourth hijacked plane, Delta 1989. Here is how things proceeded at NEADS from Major Nasypany’s perspective.
The Langley fighters, continued
Major Nasypany was listening to the weapons controllers working with the Langley fighters. This next clip establishes three things. First, NEADS was now in radio communication with the Langley flight lead, Quit 25. Second, with Quit 25 squawking the AFIO code 7777, the controllers were responsible for clearing the route through traffic, as we hear. Third, the last known location of track B032 (AA 77) was to become the Z point to establish a CAP (combat air patrol) over Washington. 0941 Establish CAP over Washington
Quit 25 asked for that specific point and was told to stand by and continue current heading. According to the radar track, as depicted in the Part III graphic, that heading was toward Baltimore (BWI), and that explains why, as of 0942, the fighters were still not vectored toward the nation’s capital.
At this point NEADS was activating additional scope positions on the sector floor to expand operations to the Midwest. Major Nasypany was now engaged on two fronts as we hear in this next clip. His train of thought is difficult to establish since he was listening to the Weapons Controllers for the Langley fighters and his conversations, specifically with the Battle Cab, were continually overridden. This next audio fragment captures a portion of his 0943 brief to the Battle Cab concerning the possibility of additional assistance from Langley, the 1st Fighter Wing, for the eastern situation, and his concurrent order to contact Selfridge to seek help for the situation in the Midwest. 0943 Brief Battle Cab Langley Selfridge
In the continuation of the brief, at 0944, Nasypany briefed another aircraft spotted near the Pentagon, a probable reference to track B32 (AA 77) and “Delta eight niner” south south east of Toledo on which a “special track” had been established. 0944 Battle Cab brief continuation
Langley fighters approaching DC
As Nasypany concentrated on the Midwest, Selfridge and Duluth, the Langley fighters were about to go astray for a second time. At 0946 the CAP point provided, 3825N 07702W was transposed in its northern component, which should have been 3852N, a separate story for another time. Moreover, Quit 25 confirmed that “all birds” were squawking quad seven (7777), the AFIO code. Quit 27 was not, according to the 84th RADES radar files. 0946 Quit 25 wrong coordinates
While that was happening Nasypany’s authority was questioned by a commanding officer in Toledo. This next audio clip provides insight into Nasypany’s thought processes and performance. He was prepared to “schmooze” his way to get units to respond but also prepared to summon Colonel Marr for support, if needed. He also received a call from an off duty person who volunteered to come in. Nasypany’s response is clear evidence that he had all the support he needed: “I have beau coup folks here!” 0948 Toledo questions authority
Over the next few minutes we gain even more insight into Nasypany, who tended to verbalize everything, either to himself or to those near him or listening to him. First, he matter of factly stated that “Pentagon just got hit, CNN,” and then immediately turned to another person and told them to just do “the best they can.” Then he returned to the Toledo situation musing that “God dammit, I can’t even protect my NCA (National Capital Authority),” and then for, likely, the Toledo fighters demanded that they be “hot turned,” “I’ll pay for it, I got a credit card.” Then someone asked about the Langley fighters and Naspany stated explicitly and profanely, “I’ll tell you what the history on that is, fuckin’ Giant Killer sent them out to 386 (Whiskey 386 training area).” 0950 Can’t even protect my NCA
By 0952 Nasypany’s attention had returned to the Langley fighters and protecting Washington. In this next clip he gave explicit directions: “Talk to me about my Langley guys. I want them over the NCA, NOW!! 0952 Langley over NCA NOW His immediate side comment showed that his attention was focused on Washington and not the Midwest: “Bravo zero eight nine [Delta 1989] is making a hard right turn, whoever that was.”
Nasypany did, however, continue to follow the Delta 1989 scenario but was thinking well beyond the immediate situation. At 0958 he placed a call to his counterpart at the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS). He told the WADS MCC that NEADS wasn’t “doing so good right now” and that the situation could be a “world-wide, CONUS type of thing.” His specific interest was in generating fighter assets from Fargo, ND. The WADS MCC agreed to the request. Of note is the degree of authority delegated to the Mission Crew Commanders at each of the air defense sectors. The WADS MCC made the decision to support on her own recognizance with no hesitation. 0958 Request to WADS The time was 1000 EDT.
The Chain-of-Command at Work
Nasypany, for his part, immediately back briefed the Battle Cab. In the course of the conversation he vocalized two very specific thoughts that demonstrate that he knew he was in command and needed to take very specific action. First, he pressed the Battle Cab for specific guidance on what he was supposed to do during an intercept. “What are you going to do if this is it? What are you going to do? I gotta give my guys directions.”
Second, he realized that the SOCC (Sector Operations Control Center) Director, an officer that out ranked him but was not part of the operational chain-of-command, was interfering with his work. “I gotta get Ian off the floor, he has been circumventing my system here. He is not an MCC, he needs to stay up there [Battle Cab.]”
That comment about the SOCC director is a specific example of NEADS ability to maintain the integrity of the chain of the command and to delegate authority and then stay out of the road. At no time did Colonel Marr ever come to the SOCC floor. He would only have done so–the Toledo situation–at the direct request of Major Nasypany. Otherwise, Nasypany and subordinates were to be left to do the job for which they were trained. The SOCC director violated the chain-of-command and Nasypany took action. 1000 What are we going to do
By 1003, another problem confronted Major Nasypany, a 5th airplane, one out of Canada headed for Washington. Nasypany’s guidance was colloquial and apt, let’s “do the Northern border thing.” By that time he had been looking to generate fighter assets from the Alpina range in Michigan and though they could assist. He also asked if he could get E-3 support, specifically for the Chicago area, and tasked that requirement to the Surveillance Section. At the end of the clip we learn that the Canadian information came from the Battle Cab. That threat never existed. It was speculation by Canadian intelligence officers that something like that might occur, a fact that NEADS will later learn. For the moment, to Nasypany, it was a very real threat, “a 5th airplane.” 1003 Unknown from Canada
Nasypany continued to work the generation of additional fighter assets from multiple locations. As a result he was concerned that he did not have radar and radio coverage over Chicago and at 1005 issued explicit orders for some one to “call them,” (Tinker AFB) yet another example of Nasypany’s command presence, decisiveness, and leadership that morning. 1005 Need E3 over Chicago
Example of Staff Coordination
There was one additional person from the Battle Cab on the SOCC floor and she was there with Major Nasypany’s concurrence and for the explicit purpose of briefing him on the status of additional fighters. Major Dawne Deskins told Commission Staff that she spent the majority of her time in the Battle Cab working on obtaining additional air assets. Listen in as Deskins and Nasypany compare notes shortly after 1005. This clip portrays dedicated staff officers at work performing their duties under intense conditions. 1006 Deskins Nasypany coordinate
Shortly thereafter, Nasypany’s day took two concurrent turns for the worse. He heard for the first time about United 93, with a bomb on board. As that came to his attention he also learned, but not recorded on his channel, of an unknown over the White House. He issued explicit instructions, which on first listen sound like he was responding to United 93. He was not. His guidance pertained specifically to the unknown. Here is how those two events were recorded at the MCC position. Note, that, again, Nasypany pushed the Battle Cab for explicit instructions for the unknown, “intercept and what else. Aircraft over the White House.” 1007 UA 93 bomb on board unknown over White House
As of 1010, Nasypany, who had been working the generation of additional assets, the inaccurate threat posed by Delta 1989, and the false threat of an unknown from Canada, was suddenly faced with two very real threats, United 93–crashed but unknown to NEADS–and an immediate threat to the White House. We will pick up that story in Part V.
To Be Continued