September 11 “First Responder” Exhibit

The F-15 Eagle that Defended New York After the 9/11 Attack

About The Exhibit

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 First Responder exhibit was unveiled and dedicated on September 11, 2011 at the Pacific Coast Air Museum at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, California.

The First Responder F-15 rests in an interpretive exhibit designed to honor those who perished and all those who responded to the events of 9/11. It also tells the little-known story of heroism and crucial decisions made moment by moment 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 have been the first west coast exhibit commemorating and honoring 9/11

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Story of the F-15 Eagle

The aircraft flown by Lt. Col Duffy on September 11, 2001 was F-15A Eagle 77-0102. “102” flew combat air patrol missions that day to clear the New York City airspace of almost 100 aircraft. “102” and the 102nd Fighter Wing continued to protect the skies over the eastern United States for several months. By February 2002 the wing flew 2,388 combat patrols.

The 9/11 Story of F-15A Eagle “102”

Back on the morning of September 11, 2001, Lt. Col. Tim “Duff” Duffy of the 101st fighter squadron, 102nd Fighter Wing based at the Otis Air National Guard Base (ANGB) Massachusetts near Cape Cod, and his wingman, Major Daniel “Nasty” Nash, were on active alert. That morning “Duff” received orders from NORAD to respond over the skies of New York to a report of a commercial airliner hijacking. As the leader of the flight of two F-15A Eagle fighter jets “Duff” and his aircraft were the first American airborne fighter response on that day.

It was not understood in those early hours of the crisis that Al Qaeda terrorists had hijacked a total of four commercial airliners. The first had been intentionally crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center a few minutes before Duffy and Nash were airborne, so the two Air National Guard pilots were directed to a holding pattern near Long Island to await further orders. Soon, a second airliner was crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. The hijackers had turned off the transponders of both commercial planes, making them very difficult for ground controllers to locate and track. After the second impact, Duffy and Nash were redirected to New York, to clear the airspace there and to be prepared to fire upon any other hijacked aircraft that might appear. Within approximately the next hour, a third hijacked airliner was crashed into the Pentagon building near Washington DC, and the fourth and final airliner was forced to crash near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after its passengers heroically rose up against their attackers.

This painting of the “First Responder” F-15 Eagle over New York City and the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 was painted and donated by museum member and Santa Rosa Fire Captain Don Ricci.  Lithographs and prints are available for purchase in the Gift Shop.


The First Responder Comes to PCAM

The historic “First Responder” aircraft “102” continued to serve for almost five years after the attacks. Having reached the end of its useful life after nearly thirty years of service, it was retired to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ on July 31, 2006.

As the wing commander’s aircraft that responded on that terrible day in 2001, “102” is a significant historical artifact deserving of preservation.

In the spring of 2009 the National Museum of the United States Air Force awarded the Pacific Coast Air Museum the honor of taking possession of “102” and putting it on display. The aircraft was partially disassembled and transported from AMARC in Tucson to the museum in December 2010.

Our goal was to build a world class exhibit to honor those involved in 9/11 and to provide a venue for the public to see this historic aircraft and learn more about the events of that day. To that end the museum began an intensive fundraising campaign to raise $250,000 for the exhibit. Funds were donated by many generous individuals and organizations, notably the late Hattie Stone, who donated the seed money that kicked off the project and whose enthusiasm and dedication were driving forces in seeing the project through to completion.

We evaluated several design concepts and selected a winning design firm. The concrete foundation for the exhibit was poured in early August 2011 and the aircraft was hoisted into place soon thereafter.

Meanwhile, the aircraft was restored to the condition and markings it wore on September 11, 2001.

The “First Responder” exhibit was unveiled and dedicated during a special ceremony on September 11, 2011, the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It was a moving ceremony attended by several hundred people and presided over by the PCAM Executive Director at the time, David Pinsky (Colonel, USAF, Ret.) CHP Captain Greg Tracy and former Secretary of the Air Force Tom Reed led the commemoration and dedication segments and the event included presentations by museum leadership and local dignitaries.

The exhibit now stands as the centerpiece of the museum.

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There’s always something great going on at the Pacific Coast Air Museum. We have Open Cockpit weekends once a month,  special events throughout the year, and regular hot dog lunches. We host school field trips, special group tours, birthday parties, and family get-togethers, all among our collection of historic aircraft and educational exhibits.