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Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 (The Witness Flight)

Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-300ER, Similar To The Flight.
Occurrence summary
Date September 11, 2001
Type Suspected hijacking
Site Cleveland, Ohio
Injuries 0
Fatalities 0
Survivors All on board
Aircraft type Boeing 767-332
Operator Delta Air Lines
Tail number N189DN

Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 was a regularly scheduled flight offering nonstop service from Logan International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport on a Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. On September 11, 2001, this flight was one of several flights considered by government authorities to be possibly hijacked. No such threat existed and the flight landed safely.

Contents

Suspected hijacking

On September 11, 2001, Delta 1989 was, for a time, considered to be a hijacked plane. The Boston Center controllers recognized that both of the aircraft that struck the World Trade Center had been Boeing 767 aircraft departing Boston’s Logan airport for Los Angeles and found that Delta 1989 fit the same profile as other hijacked flights.[1] When Delta 1989 failed to acknowledge Boston Center's attempts to communicate, it was declared a suspected hijacking. Boston Center notified the FAA about their suspicions regarding Delta 1989 at 9:19 AM Eastern Daylight Time when the FAA’s New England regional office contacted the Herndon Command Center and asked Herndon to relay a request that Cleveland Center notify Delta 1989 to increase cockpit security. Herndon then ordered controllers to send a cockpit warning to Delta 1989[2]. Boston was tracking Delta 1989 and not receiving any radio contact from the aircraft. However, unknown to Boston, Delta 1989 was in Cleveland airspace and in contact with Cleveland Center, completely safe. The FAA had read Delta 1989 to be in Cleveland airspace so they contacted Cleveland Center to watch for Delta 1989 as a suspected hijacking. A Cleveland controller thought he heard "Get out of here" and "We have a bomb on board" coming from Delta 1989. The Delta pilot denied any cockpit intrusion and stated that everyone on board was fine. It was later confirmed that that mysterious transmission had come from United Flight 93 which was in the same vicinity as 1989.[1] The NORAD Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) became aware of Delta 1989 right after the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon when Boston Center called NEADS at 9:41 AM EDT and told NEADS of their suspicion regarding Delta 1989. At 9:42 AM EDT, the FAA ordered all aircraft in flight to land at the nearest airport. NEADS dispatched fighter aircraft from Ohio and Michigan to intercept the flight, though Delta 1989 never turned off its transponder and NEADS never lost radar contact with the flight. NEADS, the FAA Herndon Command Center, and Cleveland Center tracked Delta 1989 until its eventual landing.[1]

Landing

After pilots reported an unruly, Middle-Eastern passenger and due to confusion and lack of communication between Boston and Cleveland, Delta ordered Flight 1989 to land at Cleveland. The flight reversed course over Toledo, Ohio, landed uneventfully in Cleveland, Ohio at 9:47 AM, and the perceived airborne hijacking threat was removed.[1][2] The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and city SWAT team evacuated the airport and held the aircraft at gunpoint on the tarmac for two hours, though all passengers were cleared. After an investigation by local and FBI authorities, it was concluded there was no threat aboard Delta 1989. As noted by the 9/11 Commission report, “[d]uring the course of the morning, there were multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft. The report of American 11 heading south was the first; Delta 1989 was the second”. [1]

Consolidated Delta 1989 timeline

Add times and actions are taken from the official National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission) Report and Public Testimony. All times are Eastern Daylight Time on September 11, 2001.

  • before 9:19 AM – Delta Flight 1989 departed from Boston Logan International Airport bound for Los Angeles, CA;
  • 9:19 AM – FAA New England regional office contacted the Herndon Command Center about their suspicion that Delta 1989 was a potential hijack target and asked Herndon to relay a request that Cleveland Center notify Delta 1989 to increase cockpit security. Herndon then ordered controllers to send a cockpit warning to Delta 1989;
  • 9:28 AM – A Cleveland controller thought he heard "Get out of here" and "We have a bomb on board" coming from Delta 1989. The Delta pilot denied any cockpit intrusion and stated that everyone on board was fine. It was later confirmed that that mysterious transmission had come from United Flight 93 which was in the same vicinity as 1989;
  • 9:41 AM – NORAD Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) became aware of Delta 1989 right after the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon when Boston Center called NEADS and told NEADS of their suspicion regarding Delta 1989.;
  • 9:42 AM – FAA ordered all aircraft in flight to land at the nearest airport;
  • 9:47 AM – Delta 1989 landed safely in Cleveland, Ohio.

Flight 1989 in Fiction

In the made for TV movie Homeland Security, Melissa's flight was loosely based on Delta 1989 because both were east-to-west flights that were intercepted. For dramatic effect, fictional scenes were added, including a near shoot-down of her plane. Her flight was ultimately escorted to Chicago/O'Hare.[3]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e "The 9/11 Commission Report; Chapter 1.2 Improvising a Homeland Defense"
  2. ^ a b http://www.gpoaccess.gov/911/pdf/fullreport.pdf The 9/11 Commission Report; Chapter 1.1 "Inside the Four Flights"
  3. ^ NBC movie, Homeland Security, 2004

External links

  • [1] The 9/11 Commission
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