|The paragraph in the article below provides confirmation
of Snake Plissken's "Flight of the Bumble Planes" hypothesis.
"In the tense minutes after two hijacked jetliners smashed into New York's World Trade Center and another hit the Pentagon, air traffic controllers had as many as 11 other suspect aircraft on their screens, federal aviation officials said Monday."
FAA: 11 Other Suspect Planes In The Air On September 11th(Westbury-AP, August 12, 2002) — Regional air traffic controllers on Monday offered a detailed chronology of Sept. 11, when two planes were hijacked from Boston, but refused to say more about what actually happened on the planes.
In the tense minutes after two hijacked jetliners smashed into New York's World Trade Center and another hit the Pentagon, air traffic controllers had as many as 11 other suspect aircraft on their screens, federal aviation officials said Monday.
The concern over possible additional hijackings did not end until 12:15 p.m. on Sept. 11 - 3½ hours after the first attack on the twin towers - when the last of 4,546 commercial aircraft were safely on the ground nationwide.
"Somewhere in the first hour after the first plane hit, we were receiving reports of additional confirmed hijackings. The list at that point in time started to grow," said Frank Hatfield, Eastern Region division manager for FAA air traffic control operations.
"All reports were treated as unconfirmed hijackings until we eliminated that as a possibility. We were not satisfied that the last number was four until 12:15 p.m., and every airplane in the country was on the ground," he said.
"No one had ever envisioned a scenario where the United States would land every plane in the sky."
Airports became jammed with the unexpected aircraft, yet there were no mishaps, he said.
Hatfield and other FAA officials briefed news media on Monday at the New York Terminal Approach Control Center, known as TRACON, on Long Island.
Mike McCormick, air traffic control manager at New York Center - the main traffic control center for New York area airports - made the unprecedented decision at 9:04 a.m. to declare "ATC Zero," meaning that normal services were suspended and no aircraft could fly into, out of or through the region's airspace.
At that time there were still hundreds of aircraft in the skies around New York and the western Atlantic, for which the Long Island-based center had responsibility.
The decision came just after the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, struck the south tower of the World Trade Center, confirming that the country was under terrorist attack.
Unlike the first hijacked plane, American Airlines Flight 11, the second Boeing 767's transponder was working and he knew where it was headed, McCormick said, even before the Newark Airport control tower picked it up visually as it flew south along the Hudson River, turned and headed back toward the twin towers.
"I wanted to make sure everyone understood that this (attack) was not a single aircraft, that this was not a single event. There was at least one other aircraft involved and there could be many more, and we needed to prepare for all eventualities," McCormick said.
The officials said many changes have been effected in emergency procedures since Sept. 11 but declined to go into detail for security reasons.
Hatfield said, however, that the time frame for the FAA to make contact with the military in an emergency "has been shaved from minutes to seconds."
On that day, the first two military interceptors, Air Force F-15 Eagles from Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts, scrambled airborne at 8:52 a.m., six minutes after the first attack, but too late to do anything about the other jets heading for the Trade Center or Pentagon.
Those struck at 9:02 and 9:40 a.m., respectively. The fourth hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed near Somerset, Pa., at 10:07 a.m.
McCormick said that under the new procedures, "We are in direct instantaneous communication with our military and those people responsible for defending our country."
Hatfield said security now has a much higher priority than it did before Sept. 11.
"We have searched our souls and tried to figure out what we could have done differently on that day," he said. "Probably the best thing we could have done was to improve our communications, and over the last year we have aggressively addressed that issue."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Last Updated: Aug 13, 2002
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