washingtonpost.com

News Home Page
News Digest
Nation
 World
Africa
Americas
Asia/Pacific
Europe
Former USSR
Middle East
Columnists
Search the World
Special Reports
Photo Galleries
Live Online
World Index
Metro
Business
Washtech
Sports
Style
Education
Travel
Health
Home & Garden
Opinion
Weather
Weekly
Classifieds
Print Edition
Archives
Site Index
Help
Archives
Site Index
Help


Air Traffic Controllers Spotted Unidentified Aircraft
Aircraft's Transponder Was Disabled, Rendering Plane Anonymous

_____Flight Information_____
Families of passengers on the following flights may call the airlines for information at the numbers below:
American Airlines: 1-800-245-0999
Statement from American Airlines
United Airlines: 1-800-932-8555
Statement from United Airlines

The following flights are believed to have been affected in today's attacks:
American Airlines Flight 11: A Boeing 767 en route from Boston to Los Angeles.
American Airlines Flight 77: A Boeing 757 en route from Dulles Airport near Washington to Los Angeles.
United Airlines Flight 93: A Boeing 757, crashed southeast of Pittsburgh while en route from Newark, N.J. to San Francisco.
United Airlines Flight 175: A Boeing 767. The flight was bound from Boston to Los Angeles.
_____Related Content_____
Special Report: U.S. Under Attack
Overview: Q & A
Timeline of Today's Attacks
Previous Attacks on U.S. Targets
spacer
_____Multimedia_____
Photo Gallery: New York Attacks
MSNBC Video: Towers Collapse
MSNBC Video: Trade Center Crash
MSNBC Video: President Bush
Text: Bush Comments on Attacks
MSNBC Video: Colin Powell
MSNBC Video: Giuliani and Pataki
Video: Eyewitness at Pentagon
Audio: Expert on Anti-Terrorism
Audio: Colbert I. King
Webcam: Pentagon Fire
spacer
_____Graphics_____
Attack on the Pentagon
Attack on the World Trade Center
Area Map of World Trade Center
Location of Pennsylvania Crash
spacer
_____Closings, Evacuations_____
Nationwide Closures
D.C.-Area Closures
_____Related Articles_____
N.Y., D.C. Rocked by Attacks
Bush Reacts, Moves to Nebraska
Pentagon Evacuated After Attack
Nightmare Shatters NY Morning
Nation's Capital Shaken
U.S. Tries to Identify Perpetrators
Aircraft Carriers Head to Cities
Federal Gov't Closes Offices
FAA Closes Airports
World Reacts With Revulsion
Attacks Snarl Local Traffic
D.C. Schools Feel Force of Attacks
Blood Donors Requested
Region's Phone System Strained
Internet Slows After Attacks
Stock Markets Closed
Baseball Cancels Games
Marc Fisher: Coddled No More
Howard Kurtz: Disaster Unfolds on TV News
_____Pentagon Request_____
The Pentagon has asked that all Navy and Marine personnel who were in the building at the time of the attack to call in to a toll-free number so that the services can put together a roster.
That number is 1-877-663-6772.

By Don Phillips
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 11, 2001; 5:22 p.m.

Controllers watching their radar screens at Washington Dulles International Airport spotted an unidentified aircraft flying at unusually high speed directly toward the White House early this morning, and warned authorities minutes before the Boeing 757 turned tightly and circled around to slam into the Pentagon, according to federal aviation sources.

The controllers could not identify the plane because apparently someone on board had turned off its transponder--the equipment that sends the plane's airline, flight number, speed and altitude to radar screens. Tentatively, the plane was identified as American Flight 77, which had been scheduled to take off from Dulles at 8:10 a.m. for Los Angeles, with two pilots, four flight attendants and 58 passengers on board.

The skill with which the plane was flown, including the knowledge of how to turn off the transponder, raised the probability that a trained pilot was at the controls, possibly a hijacker.

Sources were not specific about the times of the events, but said that after leaving Dulles, the plane continued west for a while. At some point, apparently after turning off the transponder, the plane turned back toward Washington with no radio contact.

The plane would have appeared on radar screens as an unidentified blip – called a "primary target" – something commonly seen by controllers when an aircraft does not have a transponder or is a military aircraft flying with its transponder turned off. However, the airspace around Dulles, Washington Reagan National Airport and much of Washington is designated "class B" airspace, meaning no one is supposed to fly there without a working transponder and permission from a controller.

The sources said Dulles controllers noticed a fast-moving primary target in their airspace east-southeast of the airport where it shouldn't be, headed directly toward the restricted airspace around the White House. They called controllers at National Airport to tell them that an unidentified unauthorized aircraft was headed their way.

However, as they watched, the plane began turning to the right away from the White House, circling a full 270 degrees to the right and approaching the Pentagon from the Southwest. It then dropped below radar level, disappearing from the controllers' screens, shortly before hitting the Pentagon about 9:30 a.m., less than an hour after two other aircraft hit the World Trade Center towers in New York City.

Federal aviation rules limit the speeds of commercial aircraft flying below 10,000 feet. The sources said it appeared this plane was at full throttle.

Controllers then saw that a Boeing 757 identified as United Flight 93, flying from Newark to San Francisco, had turned toward Washington over Pennsylvania. However, the United plane crashed for unknown reasons about 10 a.m. about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

Federal aviation officials are reporting that the transponders had been turned off on all four of the planes that crashed today, including two that flew into the World Trade Center.

2001 The Washington Post Company




SEARCH:


Search Options
Site Search