On Jun. 9, 2021 the Eastern Air Defense Sector had a unit photograph taken at the neighboring Griffiss International Airport as part of its 9/11 20th anniversary commemoration activities.
On Jun. 9, 2021 the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS) had a unit photograph taken at the neighboring Griffiss International Airport as part of its 9/11 20th anniversary commemoration activities.
Two F-16s from the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, in central New York for a training flight, added some firepower when they became available to serve as a backdrop for the picture.
In a fitting coincidence, one of the F-16s had responded to the terrorist attacks on Sep. 11, 2001, said Timothy Jones, New York National Guard, in the article EADS takes group photo with F-16 that responded to 9/11 terror attacks. EADS, one of the first military units to react to the attacks, had controlled and directed the aircraft that day.
“This is the first ‘EADS-all’ photograph we’ve ever done,” said EADS Commander Col. Paul M. Bishop, who has served at the unit for 30 years. “Getting more than 150 New York Air National Guardsmen, Canadian Forces members and civilians together made the photo memorable, but including an aircraft that responded on 9/11 made it an historic keepsake.”
“My uncle was the crew chief for this plane, tail number 89-114, on Sept. 11, so I knew its background,” said 1st Lt. Todd Copic, the aircraft’s pilot from the 180th Fighter Wing’s 112th Fighter Squadron. “When we learned that the photo was part of EADS 9/11 commemoration, I verified the aircraft’s history as soon I could.”
Senior Master Sgt. Terry Copic, Lt. Copic’s uncle, said he was getting that F-16 ready for a routine flight the morning of Sep. 11, 2001.
The pilot and I went through the launch procedures and I had started to marshal the aircraft out when a co-worker pulled up and announced that an aircraft had hit the World Trade Center, Copic recalled,
My plane powered up and taxied out to the end-of-runway, where it turned around and came back. The sortie was cancelled. All flights in the United States were grounded, the pilot told me and the pilot went to get more information, Copic said.
After refueling 114, Copic walked to the maintenance hangar. When he stepped inside, everyone was huddled around the Maintenance Group Commander. The only words I heard were, “that’s what we know, let’s get to work,” he recalled.
Airmen ran outside towards the flight line and somebody grabbed Copic. “Let’s go, they need your jet,” they told him.
“I rushed back to 114, where weapons troops were pushing out Universal Ammunition Loading Systems (UALs) to load the guns with inert bullets – the only weapons we had on 9/11,” Copic said. “They pushed the UAL to aircraft 90-0700, just across from mine, and a pilot ran past me to that jet.”
The crew chief stopped him, Copic remembered, because jet was broke, unable to fly.
Copic said he realized there were only two flyable, fully mission capable jets on the ramp.
“One was my jet. The other was being loaded right next to mine,” he said. “I rushed over to the broken jet and told everyone my aircraft was ready to go. I just needed the bullets. “
We pushed the UAL to 114 and weapons began loading. As the pilot readied for the flight, I asked what was going on. A jet had been hijacked, he said, and was headed our way. We were going after it.
Once loaded, Copic strapped the pilot in. “I have to get in the air now,” the pilot told him.
Within a few minutes the pilot was taxiing towards the runway, going after what they would eventually learn was United Airlines Flight 93, Copic said.
“I didn’t see the pilot again until about 1900 that night. He hadn’t made it to Flight 93, but he had intercepted several small planes who weren’t aware that every aircraft in the country had been ordered to land,” Copic recalled.
“Flying this plane here wasn’t intentional,” Lt. Copic added, “but it was certainly appropriate.”
Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Tiffany Scofield / U.S. Air National Guard