Delta Air Lines Flight 1989

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Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 (The Witness Flight)
Incident summary
Date September 11, 2001
Summary Suspected hijacking
Site Cleveland, Ohio
Injuries (non-fatal) 0
Fatalities 0
Survivors 155 All on board
Aircraft type Boeing 767-332ER
Operator Delta Air Lines
Registration N189DN

On September 11, 2001, Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 was a regularly scheduled flight offering nonstop morning service from Logan International Airport in Boston to Los Angeles International Airport on a Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. This flight was one of several flights considered by the U.S. government as possibly hijacked. The flight had not been compromised, and soon landed safely in Cleveland, Ohio.

Suspected hijacking[edit]

The Boston Center air traffic controllers realized that both of the aircraft that had struck the World Trade Center were Boeing 767s departing Logan Airport for Los Angeles and that Delta 1989 fit the same profile as other hijacked flights: it had taken off from Logan International and was a 767 ER.[1] When Delta 1989 failed to acknowledge Boston Center's communications,[citation needed] it was declared a suspected hijacking. Boston Center staff notified the FAA about their suspicions 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. In fact, Delta 1989 was in Cleveland airspace and in contact with Cleveland Air Traffic Control Center.

The FAA had read Delta 1989 to be in Cleveland airspace and ordered 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 the transmission had come from United Airlines Flight 93 which was in the same vicinity as Delta 1989, and would later crash into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the passengers and crew tried to fight off the hijackers.[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 at 9:38AM when Boston Center called NEADS at 9:41 AM EDT and told NEADS of the suspicions 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 aircraft. NEADS, the FAA Herndon Command Center, and Cleveland Center tracked Delta 1989 until its eventual landing.[1]

Landing[edit]

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, and landed uneventfully in Cleveland at 9:47 AM, some 6 minutes after Boston Center called NEADS and told of Delta 1989.[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.[citation needed] As noted by the 9/11 Commission report, “During the course of the morning, there were multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft. The report of American 11 heading south [after American 11 had already crashed into WTC 1] was the first; Delta 1989 was the second”.[1]

Consolidated Delta 1989 timeline[edit]

All 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.[citation needed]

  • 8:05 AM – Delta Flight 1989 departed Boston Logan International Airport bound for Los Angeles, CA;[3]
  • 9:19 AM – FAA New England regional office contacted the Herndon Command Center about their suspicion that Delta 1989, (having come from the same airport as the two aircraft that struck the World Trade Center) 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 Airlines Flight 93 which was in the same vicinity as 1989 and would crash in 35 minutes;
  • 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;
  • 9:45 AM- United States airspace is shutdown. No commercial airplanes are allowed to takeoff, and all commercial aircraft in flight are ordered to land at the nearest airport as soon as possible.
  • 9:47 AM – Delta 1989 landed safely in Cleveland, Ohio.

In popular culture[edit]

In the 2004 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 the plane.[4]

Flight number[edit]

Delta Air Lines still uses flight 1989 on its domestic flight between Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Michigan, and Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. The flight is mostly operated by a McDonnell Douglas MD-80.[5]

References[edit]

External links[edit]