I am a big fan of RX Frasier’s blog: Click This, TAPG! Last month he posted a photo of a pair of Aussie aircraft tail sections—complete with stylized Kangaroos—on what turned out to be Australia Day. It just so happened that I was at the Pacific Coast Air Museum in Santa Rosa, CA that very day taking photos of warplanes—and tail sections—and one aircraft in particular.
That aircraft was one of two fighter jets scrambled on September 11, 2001 to respond to the attacks in New York City. In fact, it was the lead aircraft that fateful day and now it has a home in California.
The story that follows under the purple headings is taken directly from the informational sign at the PCAM exhibit. I happened to be the only visitor on that rainy day and the weight of history surrounding that plane was palpable.
The first aircraft to arrive over New York City and the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001
The Pacific Coast Air Museum has the honor of being the home of the first aircraft to respond to the World Trade Center attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001. The aircraft is on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The 9/11 “First Responder” F-15 Eagle aircraft is being restored to the conditions and markings it wore on 9/11/2001.
An interpretive exhibit is being designed to honor those who perished and all those who responded to the events of 9/11. It will also tell the little-known story of heroism and crucial decisions made “on the fly” by pilots and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) controllers on that fateful day in our nation’s history. The Pacific Coast Air Museum is honored and proud to be the first, and currently only, west coast exhibit commemorating and honoring 9/11.
F-15 Eagle History
The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter designed to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat. It is considered among the most successful modern fighters with over 100 aerial combat victories. Following reviews of proposals, the United States Air Force selected McDonnell Douglas’ design in 1967 to meet the service’s need for a dedicated air superiority fighter. The Eagle first flew in July, 1972, and entered service in 1976. The F-15 is expected to be in service with the U.S. Air Force until 2025. Since the 1970s, the Eagle has also been exported to Israel, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. Despite originally being envisaged as a pure air superiority aircraft, the design proved flexible enough that an all-weather strike derivative, the F-15E Strike Eagle, was later developed, and entered service in 1989.
The F-15 Eagle “First Responder” Story
On September 11th, 2001, two U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagles from the 101st Fighter Squadron, 102nd Fighter Wing, Otis Air Force National Guard Base (ANGB) Massachusetts were scrambled by NORAD in response to commercial airliners being hijacked and used as weapons to attack the World Trade Center in New York City. This armed patrol was this nation’s first airborne response to the terrorist attacks of that day arriving over Manhattan only moments after the World Trade Center was struck. The sight of these F-15s over New York City was the show of strength New Yorkers on the ground needed to see in their darkest hour.
Owing its heritage to the Massachusetts Minutemen, the 102nd Fighter Wing has been in continuous service since 1921, and the tail flash for this wing includes the Minuteman, the very symbol of the citizen soldier. One of those historic “First Responder” F-15 Eagles was retired to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona after nearly thirty years of service. This is the 102nd Fighter Wing Commander’s aircraft, serial number 77-0102 and was the lead aircraft that responded from the alert shelters at Otis ANGB on that fateful day.
This aircraft [led] the United States response in the sky over New York City, and developed, in the air, the air defense plan for New York City, Washington D.C., and the east coast of the United States.
The exhibit at the Pacific Coast Air Museum will honor those who perished and those who responded in a valiant effort to save lives, as well as tell the untold story of the heroism in the skies and on the ground that day by the U.S. Air Force and FAA.
Donations to build this exhibit are gratefully accepted in the PCAM gift shop, or online at www.pacificcoastairmuseum.org
Here’s the blogger who inspired my post today: Tall Tell Tale Tails of Oz by RXFRAZIER, Click This, TAPG!