The Hijackings

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At another point, the FAA mistakenly told NEADS that American 11 had not hit the World Trade Center, after all. The FAA said American 11 was still in the air and was headed toward Washington. The mission crew commander passed this incorrect information on to the NEADS battle commander:

"Okay, American Airlines is still airborne - 11, the first guy," he said. "He's heading towards Washington. Okay, I think we need to scramble Langley right now and I'm going to take the fighters from Otis and try to chase this guy down if I can find him."

Fighters were sent to intercept an airplane that didn't exist. They were not sent to intercept American 77, because no one had told the military that American 77 was hijacked.

Six minutes before American 77 hit the Pentagon, air traffic controllers in Washington noticed an unidentified plane on their radar. They told the military there was an unidentified plane a few miles from the White House. The military tried to send fighters to intercept it. But American 77 hit the Pentagon while the fighters were still 150 miles away.

By then, the FAA had ordered a "national ground stop." No more planes were permitted to take off, but a fourth plane with highjackers aboard was already in the air.

United Airlines Flight 93 - Newark to San Francisco
8:42 Takeoff
9:24 Flight 93 receives warning from UA about possible cockpit intrusion
9:27 Last routine radio communication
9:28 Likely takeover
9:34 Herndon Command Center advises FAA headquarters that UA 93 is hijacked
9:36 Flight attendant notifies UA of hijacking; UA attempts to contact the cockpit
9:41 Transponder is turned off
9:57 Passenger revolt begins
10:03:11 Flight 93 crashes in field in Shanksville, PA
10:07 Cleveland Center advises NEADS of UA 93 hijacking
10:15 UA headquarters aware that Flight 93 has crashed in PA; Washington Center advises NEADS that Flight 93 has crashed in PA

From 9/11 Commission report
The report details what happened to the fourth plane, United Flight 93:

United 93 took off from Newark at 8:42. It was more than 40 minutes late. At 9:28, United 93 acknowledged the transmission from the controller. This was the last normal contact the FAA had with United 93. Less than a minute later, the Cleveland controller and the pilots of aircraft in the vicinity heard, 'A radio transmission of unintelligible sounds, of possible screaming or a struggle from an unknown origin.'

The controller responded seconds later: 'Somebody call Cleveland?' This was followed by a second radio transmission with sounds of screaming and someone yelling, 'Get out of here! Get out of here!' Again, from an unknown source. The Cleveland Center controllers began to try to identify the possible sources of transmissions and noticed that United 93 had descended some 700 feet.

At 9:32, a third radio transmission came over the frequency. 'Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board.'

Then, at 9:39,a fifth radio transmission came over the radio frequency from United 93.

ZIAD JARRAH: (Communication from United Flight 93.): Uh, is the captain. Would like you all to remain seated. There is a bomb on board and are going back to the airport, and to have our demands - (inaudible). Please remain quiet.

The controller responded: 'United 93, understand you have a bomb on board. Go ahead.' The flight did not respond.

The Cleveland air traffic controllers called the FAA's Command Center and offered to contact a nearby military base. They were told that FAA officials at headquarters had to make the decision about whether to call the military. The command center called headquarters and said United 93 was now 29 minutes out of Washington DC. The commission heard tape of headquarters' indecisive response:

FAA HEADQUARTERS: They're pulling Jeff away to go talk about United 93.

COMMAND CENTER: Do we want to think about scrambling aircraft?

FAA HEADQUARTERS: Oh, God, I don't know.

COMMAND CENTER: That's a decision somebody's going to have to make probably in the next 10 minutes.

FAA HEADQUARTERS: You know, everybody just left the room.

The report says another aircraft spotted United 93. It says, "At 10:01 Command Center advised FAA Headquarters that one of the aircraft had seen United 93 'waving his wings.' The aircraft had witnessed the radical gyrations in what we believe was the hijackers' effort to defeat the passenger assault on the cockpit. United 93 crashed in Pennsylvania at 10:03:11, 125 miles from Washington D.C. "

FAA officials were still discussing what to do. By the time they alerted the military, Flight 93 had crashed.

Continued: part 6

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