Q&A With 9/11 Boston Center Air Traffic Controller


 

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Q:  Why, in your opinion, were the four hijacked aircraft never reached by any scrambled fighters?

 

Cheap Shot:  Through out the day I felt like we were a day late and a dollar short.  I felt we were closer than people really think.  The FAA wasn’t prepared for anything like this, and nor was the military.  But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t improvise, and we did.  I would have to say the one biggest thing we needed was better communication.  We needed one stop place for all of the information to flow: military info, FAA info, and other agencies.  We eventually got it that day, but it was too late.  I also feel like the main players have to have the ability and the authority to make some of the critical decisions.  Decisions like scrambling aircraft should be able to be made at a fairly low level in the command structure.  Decisions such as shoot down authority should remain at the higher level of commands.  As well as better training for the FAA in military procedures.    

 

 

Q:  Did you notice any signs of a military stand-down at any point?

 

Cheap Shot:  I never saw any signs of a military stand down.  When I called they answered and responded quickly.  Do I think the fighters got off early enough the answer is no.  Would it have made a difference, it could have in the case of UAL175, if the information that that aircraft was hijacked we could have got to that aircraft.  The information had not got to TMU, but I believe it had got to Area E the last area to work the aircraft in Boston Center’s airspace.

 

 

Q:  There was a story on Washington Post about a tape, that was destroyed by FAA managers. The tape included comments from FAA personnel, recorded only hours after the attacks. Can you tell, what you know about this tape?

 

Cheap Shot:  Basically someone at New York Center had the idea to put down everything that had happened that day so they could refer back to it.  These tapes were not operational air traffic controller tapes that the FAA is required to keep on file for 15 days.  These were just some cassette tapes that they made.  Several hours after they were made, the controllers involved started to think that maybe these tapes could be used against them.  FAA Management and NATCA were getting along better back then, but it still wasn’t a rosy situation.  So they asked questions if they kept these tapes could they be used against them, and I believe an FAA management official advised them that were no guarantees.  They chose to destroy the tapes.  I don’t blame them, however after talking to some of them they wish they hadn’t.  I wish I had recorded a tape after that day, never thought about it.  I tried three days later to build a timeline, and I never could, it was just too much information, it was like information overload.

 

 

Q:  What can you tell about the military exercises of that day, and if they had any effect whatsoever on the response?

 

Cheap Shot:  I never knew anything about them.  Vigilant Guardian is an exercise that we don’t participate at Boston Center.  We normally are involved in Fertile Spades, Fertile Angels, and Amalgam Virgo’s.  Occasionally we will get involved in large-scale exercises such as a while back Amalgam Warrior, and Global Yankee. 

 

 

Q:  Some theorists claim false radar blips created extra confusion. What is your response to those claims?

 

Cheap Shot:  The military has the ability to put simulated targets on their scopes.  We can’t do that at the center.  We could do it in our DYSIM, which are our training scopes, but that system is tied off from live traffic.  Can’t be done.

 

 

Q:  How would you comment General Arnold's different testimonies?

 

Cheap Shot:  As Generals go I think General Arnold was a very good compassionate General.  But he sits in a spot very high up.  For CT’s to accuse him of lying is ridiculous.  He presented the information as it was presented to him.  It would be like a CEO of a huge company trying to explain the intricacies of every position underneath them.  When General Arnold was interviewed the first time I had not yet been interviewed by the Justice Department.  My tapes had not yet been heard.  So how could he have known what I had said.  No one had ever pulled my tapes.  We did not record my conversations at the Center.  They were recorded at NEADS.

 

 

Q:  David Ray Griffin interviewed you for his book. However, you don't agree with the conclusions he makes. What mistakes does Griffin make related to the topics of your expertise, and how would you comment his conclusions?

 

Cheap Shot:  Allot of debunkers can’t stand DRG; he was actually very pleasant to deal with.  At no time did I feel he was trying to put words in my mouth.  He is very good at spinning things though.  He doesn’t come out and say it directly but he leaves the impression that my calls about the phantom AAL11 could have been morphed.  I did emphasize with David that I was not a CT; but that as a civilian employee I kind of feel that the public deserves answers.  DRG is okay, I don’t think he gets 20 grand per engagement, I’m sure he makes okay money off of his books, but eventually the CT movement will dry up. 

 

I don’t necessarily agree with every detail in the 9-11 commission book either, but not so much as anything is fabricated, but that they just didn’t get the story right.  To their credit they probably received over 200,000 pages in documents from the FAA, who knows how much they received from the FBI, CIA, and military.

 

  

Q:  What do you have to say for those claiming a stand-down and inside job?

 

Cheap Shot:  Flat out wrong.  First I have worked with the military for years, I was in the military for 4 years.  There was just too much crap to cover up if there was a stand down or an inside job.  We at Boston reacted that day and improvised, our men and women in the military would do the same thing.  So even if there was some conspiracy at the top it would have to reach pretty far down to actually get a stand down to work, the same goes for any type of inside job.  Ten people couldn’t pull this off, a hundred people couldn’t pull it off, it would have to be thousands, and you can’t shut thousands of people up.  The other thing is I don’t believe this administration has the competency to pull something like this off.  The most that could ever possibly happen was to possibly find out something was going to occur, and to let it happen, but even that is kind of farfetched. 

 

 

 

After 9/11:

 

 

Q:  You were interviewed by the FAA three days after 9/11, but it took three years, before you could finally tell your whole story to the Justice Department. Can you talk about that, and why it took so long for them to approach you?

 

Cheap Shot:  I honestly don’t know why.  I told the QA at Boston Center and some of these guys are my closest friends.  That the majority of my conversations were on the DSN phone lines.  They said they were recorded at NEADS and they would probably pull the tapes. I even told the airspace manager at NEADS about the phone calls, and they said someone would probably review them.  Everyone just wanted the Hot Line tapes.  So mine were ignored.  The Justice Department after some pressure from some New Jersey constituents decided to get involved a little more, and some things about the timeline just didn’t seem right. They could figure out how the Langley fighters were scrambled for AAL77 when there was never any tape-recorded conversation regarding intercepts for AAL77.  When they interviewed me they thought my interview would take only about five minutes.  I was in there for at least two hours.  They were very interested in getting the tapes from NEADS.  To be honest I didn’t know if they would go and get them.  I was surprised when they did, and I was surprised NEADS still had them.  They came back four months later and interviewed me for another two or three hours.    

 

 

Q:  You were involved in the making of the movie United 93. What role did you have in that project?

 

Cheap Shot:  At first I thought I was going to be a Boston Center controller in the Boston Center scene.  I was also directly involved in the video portion of the air traffic computer screen.  I must have sent about a 100 e-mails back and forth with their computer guru.  He was pretty sharp.  We worked on what the targets looked like what the history of what the targets looked like. The data block structure, I got into that pretty good.  I worked with the art department on what the set would look like.  Paul Greengrass was amazing.  When I got there I had done allot of prep work for them so they decided to put me in my own scene, playing myself, showing me talking on two different phones.  One simulating the DSN phone, and the other just a regular phone.  I was there for eight days, and actually got sick when I was there.  I was feeling pretty drained at the end of the week.  I was involved in the New York scenes and the Boston center scenes as well. 

 

Well my scene was edited out along with some other scenes as well.  I don’t think my scene was very good anyway.  Michael Bronner called me personally to tell me that my scene was cut.  He said a couple scenes were cut because it broke up the flow of the movie.  I would have to agree with them.  I got to meet Lloyd Levin the producer, we talked a fair amount, the same with Paul Greengrass, and I think he really wanted to do something really special.  He really felt compassion for all of the relatives of the UAL93 passengers.

 

 

Q:  How are you doing nowadays, 6 years after 9/11?

 

Cheap Shot:  I’m still doing the same job as I was back then, with less people in the office as before with more work than before.  I am sure I will be in this job until I retire.  I am eligible in 3 ½ years for retirement, I might stay longer, and I might go I don’t know.  As far as 9-11 goes I am still working on new procedures that would be used today, compared to what we had back then.  Its still not perfected, and we may never see the same type of event, but if we do hopefully we will be more prepared.

 

I think the people that lost their lives on UAL93 have done as much as well.  I don’t think innocent people flying on aircraft will ever allow the commandeering of a plane ever again, because of UAL93.  I think the UAL93 passengers drew the line in the sand.   American citizens would ever allow.

 

The last two years and since the making of UAL93 I finally have become more open about the subject.  I participate on a few Forums or Blogs.  I have been interviewed a few times mostly by CT authors.  I always emphasize that I am not a CT but I will answer their questions as honestly as I can.  I try not to enter my opinion too much but some times you just can’t help it. 

 

My goal is to go to ground zero one day, I was invited last year, and I almost went, but I haven’t yet been able to do it.  I think it will be a very somber experience for me.  I don’t think I need it for closure, I think I have put it behind me, I just feel it is something I should do to pay my respects, I also want to go to Pennsylvania as well.

 

Directly after 9-11 I experienced about three weeks worth of sleepless nights and bad dreams.  It pretty much went away.  Around every 9-11 anniversary I may get a little edgy.  Making UAL93 brought allot of it back.  I experienced it again when I went to the Premiere, and when I watched the movie with my family a week later.  Since then it has been pretty good.  Probably the worst feeling is whenever you get one of those New England fall days where the temperature is about 70 degrees and there is not a cloud in the sky.  I mean so perfectly blue, the type of day you would look forward in New England.  Well I look up into the sky on those days, and it all comes back, if I am with someone I’ll tell them that it is a 9-11 day.  

 

 

Q:  Is there anything else you would like to say?

 

Cheap Shot:  I want to thank you for allowing me a chance to share my experiences with those who follow your web page, and that stay enlightened regarding 9-11.  It is an event that like Pearl Harbor will never be forgotten. 

 

 

 

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