August 12, 2002
2:52 PM   Subscribe

The September 11th 'Ground And Freeze' order which halted air travel for 4 days didn't come from the president, nor SecTrans... not even the Adminstrator of the FAA. Nope, it came from Ben Sliney. [ Actual journalism in McPaper. Whoulda? ]
posted by baylink (22 comments total)
But not actual journalism from me. Apologies: Sliney's subordinate, Bruce Barrett actually pulled the trigger. What I get for not reading all the way to the bottom first.
posted by baylink at 2:57 PM on August 12, 2002

Sept. 11 is Sliney's first day on the job as national operations manager, the chess master of the air traffic system.
posted by ColdChef at 2:57 PM on August 12, 2002

"Order everyone to land! Regardless of destination!" Sliney shouts.

Barrett made the initial decision to clear the region, Sliney cleared the country. You got it right the first time.
posted by me3dia at 3:06 PM on August 12, 2002

"If someone tries to come in that door, I don't want you to hurt him," Hosking says. "Kill him."
posted by stbalbach at 3:12 PM on August 12, 2002


Was anyone on a plane or know anyone who was on a plane when the order was issued?
posted by tomplus2 at 3:33 PM on August 12, 2002

[ Actual journalism in McPaper. Whoulda? ]

I didn't get the reference at first. I tend to call it USAYesterday.

What a compelling read. I did not realize that the ground order came before approval.
posted by lampshade at 4:02 PM on August 12, 2002

This is a great narrative of the situation. Placed next to the others [the 9.11 video/documentary comes to mind] the ever-widening enormity of the situation emerges. Thank your local deity for those in charge [pilots and Sliney, et al] for their quick thinking and ability to make decisions, and to face the consequences. Those are great public servants.
posted by plemeljr at 4:10 PM on August 12, 2002

All Things Considered had a segment today about the same thing [realaudio link]
posted by gluechunk at 4:26 PM on August 12, 2002

pilots are suggested to agree with terrorists?

i didn't know that.
posted by mrplab at 4:36 PM on August 12, 2002

Was anyone on a plane or know anyone who was on a plane when the order was issued?

A friend of mine was the pilot on a charter flight to WV when the order came down. He was forced to land and had to rent a car to get back home. I'm not sure they knew the extent of the attack until they got to a television though.
posted by reverendX at 4:49 PM on August 12, 2002

mrplab: Before 9/11 planes that were hijacked were not expected to lead to the death of everyone on board; in prior circumstances the concept of complying with terrorist demands entailed the belief the passengers would end up safe in the end.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:03 PM on August 12, 2002

Wasn't on a plane yet, but was scheduled to fly back from visiting the in-laws that day at 3 pm. Needless to say, we had a little longer visit. Glad we didn't take an earlier flight. I can't imagine being in the air when all that went down.
posted by shecky57 at 7:12 PM on August 12, 2002

USAToday is not a bad paper, it is just a determinedly utilitarian paper. They have done notable journalism regarding 9/11 before: the one I particularly recall is the story revealing that 99% of the persons below the impact zones escaped.

And I think you meant the casual contraction usually spelled "Who'd'a thunk it?"

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists wrote some time back about the plan for military control of the skies, should it ever be needed, called SCATANA. There are also copious procedures in place for what are called "stops" including the "all stop" that was invoked 9/11. The plan ATC Zero was devised for, among other things, the millennium bug (or the more practical problem of aging FAA computer systems). According to my friend, who works at Chicago Center (which manages the regional airspace in the Midwest), there's always a few folks in the break room due to work rules, and the news was on -- by the time the first plane hit the WTC, the scuttlebutt had already reached them that there were multiple hijackings. A lot of the pilots got messages from their airline centers, and by the time the order came down it was really no surprise; I think some controllers that lived nearby even came in to help. Because of frequent training and frequent opportunity to practice diversion of flights due to weather or (lately sometimes) closed airports, they're always ready. I took the controller's anguish as related to the news, not to the job at hand.

I've noted this before, but I had an opportunity to tour the center before, and on top of all the individual controller stations, which have a weather display, an analog radar, and a digital radar showing the plane's flight info (call sign and altitude, usually), there are sections that oversee larger sections, and there's even a station that diisplays what they referred to in the story as the Traffic Situation Display: a digital radar station that can be zoomed in to any specific controller's sky, or back out to the entire United States and parts of the Atlantic and Europe. Each commercial plane in flight has a dot, and to see them all spread across the display is something else.

An important point: the "full groundstop" came from within the ranks, as it were, but the four-day grounding of all flights, anywhere, was an officially listed NOTAM (Notice to Airmen), that was cleared either through Garvey or Mineta.
posted by dhartung at 7:59 PM on August 12, 2002

My aunt and her husband were scheduled to leave Toronto that day. I think they had time to get pretty familiar with the city before they were able to leave.

On a similar note: my mother was on an Amtrak from DC to NYC when the planes hit the WTC. A cousi n notified her via cell phone; she didn't really understand what was happening, but she got off the train in Wilmington and took the first, and possibly the last, train back before the rails were closed as well.

This was an amazing read.
posted by swerve at 9:01 PM on August 12, 2002

Here's part two.

I've actually noticed quite a bit of good reporting in USA today over the last two or three years. It kind of weirded me out at first, but I've concluded that it is actually a very encouraging sign, seeing good work coming from what was widely considered an LCD newspaper.
posted by dglynn at 10:20 PM on August 12, 2002

GREAT READ. Bravo to the reporters on this story.
posted by omidius at 9:18 AM on August 13, 2002

I believe Linda Ellerbee pointed out USA Today is the newspaper for those who find TV news too complex.
posted by redshoes3 at 10:43 AM on August 13, 2002

Here's a side story about a Korean airliner flying over Alaska later that day that came close to being shot down after a series of miscommunications that led officials to believe it too had been hijacked.
posted by ewagoner at 10:53 AM on August 13, 2002

also who was at the helm guarding the security and integrity of our nation's monetary and financial underpinnings in our time of need? alan greenspan? nope! roger ferguson :) who issued the two sentence press release that saved the world :) SUPERHERO!
posted by kliuless at 11:18 AM on August 13, 2002

USAToday does, in fact, regularly win awards, many given out by their peers in journalism or the industry.
posted by dhartung at 11:43 AM on August 13, 2002

Really good article -- it transmits the emotion of what was happening. My throat was closing up all over again while I was reading it. I'm going to have to stay away from the tv and papers on 9/11 if this is a precursor to the anniversary. I wonder how long it will be until I can be dispassionate..
And I was on the West Coast!
posted by dness2 at 11:52 AM on August 13, 2002

Nice notes, Dan; thanks.

Just now getting back to my posting on this... my *ghod*, but Meta has gotten busy...

They don't want to alarm passengers. More important, they don't want terrorists to know that they know, to know that they'll be waiting, even if it is with only cutlery, a cockpit hatchet and a year-old chardonnay.

Love it. :-)

And there's a great sidebar on the Tin Pushers, too.
posted by baylink at 9:17 AM on August 16, 2002

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