Where Were You on September 11, 2001?
A few days ago, I watched a television program on the events of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our country. This was a horrible attack on the people of the United States of America killing 2,996 people and injuring more than 6,000 people by Islamic terrorist. There were more American deaths and injured in the 9/11 attack then by the Japanese at pearl Harbor in 1941. As horrible as this attack was, there were some great things that came out of it, we saw the people of a great country put all their differences aside with great heroism by those that responded to the tragedy and a magnificent showing of “Good-Old-American Patriotism”. This got me to thinking about what I was doing that day. Like many other airline crews, it was work day.
The first officer and I arrived at the airport at O-Dark-Thirty that morning. After reviewing our paperwork from dispatch, performing our preflight checks, and with the aircraft loaded we departed Austin Texas for Wilmington Ohio, the home of Airborne Express. Like most airlines, I was in the habit of sharing flight legs with the first officer, this morning was my leg. We were not very heavy allowing us to climb to 41000 ft. or better said, flight level four-one-zero.
Shortly after takeoff there was a lot of radio chatter about an airplane hitting a building in New York City. The first officer tuned up an AM radio station on one of the two ADF receivers on board our aircraft so that we could hear the news reports. We heard that an aircraft had hit the World Trade Center. This is not the first time an aircraft had hit a building in New York. In 1945 a B-25 Mitchell bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. There were fourteen deaths, three crewmen and eleven people in the building. Then again in 1960, a United Airlines DC-8 and TWA Super Constellation collided in the air, killing all 128 passengers on the planes and six people on the ground. Once more in 2006, Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor were killed when their Cirrus SR-20 flew into a high-rise apartment building.
My first thought was a small general aviation aircraft had hit the World Trade Center, but after asking center and listening to the radio chatter and the news reports, it was obvious, that was not the case. Then we heard of the second aircraft hitting the World Trade Center, then another aircraft hitting the Pentagon. Fort Worth Center made a blind radio call to all the aircraft that he was handling saying that we had all been ordered out of the air. Center then began calling each individual flight asking were we would like to land. The first officer and I had a brief discussion where we should go, we tried to take into consideration what would be best for the company with the load we carried, and how long/far we would need to travel to descend from FL 410 to a landing. Due to our location I decided it was best to return to our departure airport.
As we reentered Austin airspace, approach control said that we had a fast-moving aircraft headed straight for us. Of course, this made us a little nervous knowing what type of aircraft it probably was and why it was there. Shortly after that call, they said he had turned to a new heading. The rest of the flight was non-eventful. We didn’t have any trouble catching the crew van back to hotel or obtaining rooms.
Later that afternoon, after talking with crew scheduling, dispatch, and our chief pilot we decided to visit the hotel restaurant/bar. There was a lady setting at the bar, very inebriated from the drinks that she had been enjoying. She kept saying over and over again to herself and anyone that would listen, “This day the world has changed”.
She had no idea how right she was, especially for air travel.
By David Hoover, Owner of Great Plains Enterprises, LLC,
Retired B767 Captain from ABX Air Inc.
Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, Flight Instructor Certificates, Ground Instructor Certificates, Volunteer FAASTeam Representative
typed in B-767, B-757, DC-9, CV-600, and CV-640