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9/11 First Responder

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 9/11 “First Responder” F-15A Eagle was flown by Lt. Col Duffy on combat air patrol missions to clear the New York City airspace.  Our “Eagle” and the 102nd Fighter Wing continued to protect the skies over the eastern United States for several months.

 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.

History of the F-15 Eagle

The aircraft, flown by Lt. Col Duffy on September 11, 2001 was an F-15A Eagle 77-0102. Aircraft “102” flew combat air patrol missions that day to clear the New York City airspace of almost 100 aircraft. Aircraft “102” and the 102nd Fighter Wing continued to protect the skies over the eastern United States for several months following the events of 9/11. By February 2002 the Fighter Wing had accumulated 2,388 combat patrols.

September 11, 2001 - “102” First Responder

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 tragic 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 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 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.

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 is 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. 

Find out more about this aircraft.

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