Jets from langley sent towards atlantic ocean
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|The base dispatched fighter jets from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, but they headed first east over the Atlantic Ocean instead of toward the Pentagon. One minute before the crash, the fighter jets were redirected toward Washington but they were 150 miles away.|
'Stay quiet and you'll be OK,' Atta told passengers
'There is a bomb onboard,' another hijacker said
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A voice believed to be that of al Qaeda hijack leader Mohamed Atta urged passengers to "stay quiet and you'll be OK" as the hijackers steered American Airlines Flight 11 toward New York, the independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks reported Thursday.
"Nobody move. Everything will be OK," the voice said in a recording first played publicly in the commission's final hearing.
"If you try to make any moves, you'll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet," the voice said.
The announcement, which commission staff believe was from Atta, was the first transmission from the aircraft picked up by air traffic controllers in Boston, where the flight originated.
Ten minutes later, the voice again warned, "Nobody move please. We are going back to the airport. Don't try to make any stupid moves."
The Egyptian-born Atta apparently was not aware that his announcements to passengers were being broadcast.
The recording was played as the commission examined a report by its staff that said the U.S. military and the Federal Aviation Administration were unprepared "in every respect" to stop the hijackings, in which Atta and other al Qaeda operatives crashed passenger jets into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks.
The first word of the hijacking reached the FAA about a half-hour into the flight. And the Northeast Air Defense Sector base in Rome, New York, received its first notification at 8:37 a.m. -- just nine minutes before Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's north tower.
"The nine minutes' notice was the most the military would receive that morning of any of the four hijackings," the report said.
Two Air Force F-15s were dispatched from an Air Force base in Massachusetts, but they were not airborne until 8:53 a.m.
On three of the four planes, the hijackers turned off transponders that best enable air traffic controllers to follow a plane's path.
'It's escalating big, big time'
The same air traffic controller handling Flight 11 was also responsible for United Airlines Flight 175, the second hijacked plane. The Boston-to-Los Angeles flight crashed into the Trade Center's south tower at 9:03 a.m.
At 8:51 a.m., the controller noticed a change in Flight 175's transponder reading, indicating a second hijacking. But it wasn't until 9:01 a.m., two minutes before impact, that the air traffic control center in Herndon, Virginia, got the word.
"It's escalating big, big time. We need to get the military involved with us," the manager of the New York air traffic center said. NORAD didn't get a call until 9:03 a.m. -- the same time the second plane hit the World Trade Center.
The third hijacked plane, American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 that took off from Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., had begun deviating from its flight plan about 10 minutes earlier. It managed to evade detection for 36 minutes, until it slammed into the Pentagon, the commission found.
Military officials on previous occasions, including testimony before the commission, have stated they had 47 minutes to intercept Flight 93 and 14 minutes to intercept Flight 77 before it hit the Pentagon. Both of these perceptions are incorrect, the report said.
"NORAD did not know about the search for American 77. Instead, they heard once again about a plane that no longer existed," the report said. "No one at FAA Command Center or headquarters ever asked for military assistance."
But the FAA did relay incorrect information about a different aircraft closing in on Washington to the NEADS Air Force base in upstate New York.
The base dispatched fighter jets from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, but they headed first east over the Atlantic Ocean instead of toward the Pentagon. One minute before the crash, the fighter jets were redirected toward Washington but they were 150 miles away.
The fourth hijacked plane, United Flight 93, had taken off from Newark at 8:42 a.m., four minutes before the first plane struck the Trade Center. Its last transmission to air traffic controllers was at 9:28 a.m.
A Cleveland air traffic controller heard the sounds of a struggle in the cockpit over radio transmissions and sought contact with the pilot, which he could not achieve.
"Uh, is the captain. Would like you all to remain seated," hijacker-pilot Ziad Jarrah of Lebanon told the passengers in a previously disclosed transmission heard in Cleveland.
"There is a bomb onboard and are going back to the airport, and to have our demands."
Instead, the plane changed course and turned toward Washington. Reports of the hijacking had reached the FAA at 9:34 a.m., but the agency never requested military assistance.
CNN senior producer Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.