Published On: Tue, Sep 10th, 2019

9/11: How US forces made critical mistake leaving them 'unprepared for attack'

One of the deadliest attacks in American history took place 18 years ago, on September 11, organised by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda. Four American passenger aeroplanes were hijacked. Two crashed into the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and one crashed into the US Department of Defence, the Pentagon. The first plane, American Airlines Flight 11 (AA11), crashed at 8.46am into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre while travelling at a staggering 466mph. A flight attendant did warn the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through an airphone only five minutes after the terrorists had taken control of the plane of the hijack.

However, it was another 27 minutes before two fighter jets were given orders to scramble and deter the terrorists – only 40 seconds later, the plane crashed into the World Trade Centre.

This delay was exacerbated by the confused communication between Boston Air Traffic Control and the military.

When a controller from Boston Air Traffic Control was instructed to break protocol and call NEADS (North East Air Defence Sector) directly to ask for assistance in deterring AA11, all the military personnel were expecting to go on a training exercise.

Speaking in 2012 Amazon Prime documentary, ‘9/11 Voices From The Air’, controller Joseph Cooper said: “When I gave [the employee] that information, it appeared he didn’t believe me because he asked if it was real-time or not.”

Additionally, the two forces do not speak in the same jargon, so could not successfully understand the gravity of the situation and locate the aircraft.

Another controller Colin Scoggins spoke to an identification technician within NEADS, but in the documentary he said: “I kept telling them it was a primary target but during that time in the military and the FAA that word probably had two different meanings.

“They still want to know what the code is and I’m trying to explain that there is no code and that they need to pick up this primary target.”

As a result, the fighter planes could not be scrambled because they did not know where they were going. 

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The jets were held on the Tarmac while the military tried to decide the exact coordinates for their destination.

Mr Scoggins added: “[There was] a lot of frustration because we were trying to tell them where the aircraft was and they just couldn’t identify it.”

When the fighter jets did finally leave the ground, it was too late. 

The first passenger plane had crashed into the World Trade Centre’s North Tower seven minutes earlier. The plane contained 20,000 gallons of jet fuel and struck the 80th floor of the 110 story skyscraper.

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At least 100 people were then trapped and forced to jump to their deaths to avoid the fire and smoke coming from the site of the collision.

Only 18 minutes later, United American Lines flight 175 collided with the 60th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Centre. 

It collapsed 56 minutes after the initial impact. Half an hour later, the North Tower fell too.

It was only after the second plane’s impact that the NEADS realised the first incident was not a freak accident and the US was actually under attack.

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