Condition Zero

CONDITION ZERO*                                                                                                                                         

*excerpt from Mighty Hands – Victory Over Adversity Through the Grace of God, Chapter 17

September 11, 2001
0846 (eastern) – American Airlines flight 11 hits the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
0903 – United Air Lines flight 175 hits the South Tower.
0937 – American Airlines flight 77 hits the Pentagon.
0942 – The Federal Aviation Administration issues the order to execute SCATANA (Security Control of Air Traffic and Air Navigation Aids), an emergency preparedness plan facilitated by the FAA, Department of Defense, and the Federal Communications Commission designed to bring U.S. airspace to “Condition Zero” – no aircraft allowed airborne except for waivers to specified law enforcement, air ambulance and military flights.
0945 – Shutdown of U.S. airspace begins.
1003 – United Air Lines flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania.
1215 – Skies are empty of all commercial and private flights.

Within minutes of receiving our clearance revision from Denver Center we had descended from cruise altitude, flown our approach and landed, unscheduled, in Denver. Although we were savvy enough to know that something substantially irregular was occurring, everything in our 727 cockpit was calm and exceptionally professional – as one would expect from a Delta crew. We had notified the flight attendants that we were diverting and to prepare the cabin. Our Engineer made a PA to the passengers informing them that, although we had no in-flight emergency, it was necessary for us to land and further updates would be provided at the gate.
We speculated what the problem might be but quickly deduced by the radio traffic that, whatever the issue, it was indeed a national situation. We had no means of communicating with the company as both of our radios were busy acquiring weather information and other necessary data.
When the gate agent opened our door and briefed us, we de-planed the aircraft and everyone gathered around the TV monitors in the gatehouse to see for ourselves. It was surreal.
Passenger air travel would never be the same world-wide and neither would the United States of America.