CBS Evening News

Three flight recorders recovered from two of the hijacked planes

CBS News
September 14, 2001




Mixed news today about the three flight recorders recovered from two of the hijacked jets. Data recorders from the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania and the one that hit the Pentagon contain some information about the plane's movements, but the cockpit voice recorder from the Pentagon plane is so badly damaged, it may be useless to investigators. And late today, Pentagon sources told CBS' Bob Orr that contrary to early reports, US Air Force jets did get into the air on Tuesday while the attacks were under way. Bob, what can you tell us about that?

BOB ORR reporting:

Well, Dan, we do now know tonight as the terrorist attack was unfolding on Tuesday, the US military scrambled fighter jets in a desperate attempt to intervene.

CBS News has learned the FAA alerted US Air defense units of a possible hijacking at 8:38 Tuesday morning, and six minutes later, at 8:44, two F-15s received a scramble order at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod. But two minutes later, at 8:46, American Airlines Flight 11, the first hijacked jet, slammed into the World Trade Center. Six minutes later, at 8:52, the F-15s were airborne and began racing towards New York City, but the fighters were still 70 miles away when the second hijacked jet, United Airlines Flight 175, hit the second Trade Center tower. Shortly after that blast, the F-15s reached Manhattan and began flying air cover missions over the city.

But to the south, a new danger and a new response. At 9:30, three F-16s were launched out of Langley Air Force base in Virginia, 150 miles south of Washington. But just seven minutes later, at 9:37, American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. The F-16s arrived in Washington just before 10:00 and began flying cover over the nation's capital.

Now the last hijacked jet, that would be United Airlines Flight 93, was still in the air at that time but crashed minutes later in a Pennsylvania field. The jet, we're told, was on a course for Washington, DC, and may have gone down instead after passengers tried to overpower the hijackers. In any case, Pentagon officials say they can find no evidence at all in their records that the military asked them to militarily intervene in that. And since Tuesday, the Department of Defense has repeatedly denied persistent rumors that that flight was shot down. Dan.

RATHER: Bob Orr in Washington.

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