The 911 Mystery Plane
First in a Series

Mark H. Gaffney

On September 11 2001, as the eyes of the nation were focused on the gruesome events at the World Trade Center, the networks interrupted their coverage in New York with a breaking story from Washington. A large plane had just been sighted over the White House. Exactly when it first appeared is not certain, but the reports aired at about the time of the pentagon strike, or just before. Witnesses who saw the mystery plane say it circled over Washington. CNN's Senior White House correspondent John King saw it while standing in Lafayette Park, directly across from the White House. King reported live that "about 10 minutes ago, there was a white jet circling overhead. Now, you generally don't see planes in the area over the White House. That is restricted air space. No reason to believe that this jet was there for any nefarious purposes, but the Secret Service was very concerned, pointing up at the jet in the sky."[1]
Kate Snow, another CNN correspondent, was standing two blocks from the Capitol when she saw the plane. Snow mentioned it on-air, adding that a security guard told her it was responsible for the decision to evacuate the seat of government.[2] In his book Against All Enemies, counter-terrorism czar Richard A. Clark mentions that the decision to evacuate the White House was made after a warning from the Secret Service about the approach of an unidentified aircraft.[3] Was this the mystery plane? ABC, NBC and FOX News picked up the story on 9/11. CNN actually filmed the mysterious plane as it flew over the Capitol, but, unfortunately, it was too far away to identify.
The sighting of a large white plane above the White House and Capitol on September 11, 2001 was very strange, because the airspace over Washington is probably the most restricted on the planet. At the time, the World Trade Center in New York was in flames. Hundreds of people had already perished. Multiple hijackings were known to be in progress. The only planes that should have been in the skies over Washington were fighters for the purpose of protecting the nation's capital. Yet, as we know, the city was undefended­­­totally exposed. Scrambled F-16 fighters from Langley AFB, located near Norfolk, Virginia, failed to establish a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over Washington until shortly before 10 AM­­­much too late. And subsequently, as we also know, the 911 Commission absolved the Joint Chiefs of all responsibility. The 9/11 panel put the blame for the security breach squarely on the FAA for failing to notify NORAD of the hijackings. Incidentally, the pentagon has also dismissed the news reports cited above. To this day the US military claims that it knows nothing about a large plane circling over Washington on 9/11. So, what is going on, here? Did a large unidentified plane circle over Washington, or not? And if so, what does it mean?
After a crime it is standard procedure for police detectives to interrogate witnesses who were at the scene, and cross-check their testimony in an attempt to reconstruct what actually happened. Had the members of the 9/11 Commission been serious about their charge to provide "the fullest possible account" of the horrific events of September 11 2001, they would have followed this kind of procedure. Certainly the news reports and eyewitness accounts merited close attention. These were obvious starting points for the official investigation. It was not necessary to go above and beyond the call of duty. Had the members of the panel merely done their job they would have discovered the evidence I am about to present and, in all likelihood, would also have drawn the correct conclusions. But the simple fact is, the commission never investigated the mystery plane. The 9/11 Commission Report doesn't even mention it­­­one of many grave omissions.
After I recently posted an article about 9/11, an independent investigator directed me to some stunning evidence­­­of which I was unaware­­­about the mystery plane. I was surprised to learn that this evidence has been available on the internet for quite some time. It seems that during the evacuation of the White House on 9/11 a woman captured an amazing photo of the mystery plane. Linda Brookhart, at the time Vice President of the Taxpayer Federation of Illinois, was in Washington on September 11 attending a National Taxpayers Conference in the Old Executive Office Building (located immediately next to the White House) when she and many others were told to vacate the building. Linda explained to me that after she walked outside she was standing in the street talking with a security guard when she just happened to look up and see the plane.[4] She then snapped this excellent photo with her Pentax. It refutes the pentagon and, fortunately, also enables us to identify the mystery plane­­­as we will see.
Nor is this all. The same investigator also told me about another equally stunning piece of evidence. As it happened, a second individual also filmed the mystery plane on September 11 as it made a banking turn over Washington; and this short video segment even appeared in a made-for-TV docudrama about Flight 93. The two-hour movie was titled The Flight that Fought Back, and it aired on the Discovery Channel in August 2005. Once alerted to its existence, I had no difficulty locating this short segment on the internet. Someone had pulled it from the film and posted it at You-Tube as part of a short melange of video footage about 9/11. Anyone with access to cyberspace may view it on line.[5] The following still-shot was taken from this footage.
A DVD of the original Discovery Channel program is also available, and can be purchased at The crucial segment appears 47 minutes into the film (in scene four). It is not a part of the dramatic production per se, but is a short segment of raw documentary footage embedded in the film. The crucial segment is very brief, only about three-seconds long, which may help to explain why this remarkable footage has not attracted more attention. Frankly, I was astonished when I learned about it, since I had seen no reference to this video evidence in the published literature about 9/11, nor on any of the many 9/11 web sites. I now realize I simply missed it. Pilots for 9/11 Truth has long featured an excellent forum discussion about this video.[6] Although the cameraman has not yet been identified, there is every reason to believe the footage is bona fide.
As I've noted, in the video the plane makes a banking turn. The angle is fortunate, because it brought the plane's unique features and markings into plain view. There can be no doubt as to the plane's identity. The aircraft belonged to the US Air Force. Moreover, this was no ordinary plane. It was an E-4B, the US military's most advanced electronics platform. Even a casual comparison shows that the still-shot from the docudrama matches an official photo (see below) of the E-4B, from a USAF web site.[7] There can be no mistake.
The plane is a modified Boeing 747-200. Notice the white color, the US flag painted on the vertical stabilizer (i.e, the tail), and the blue stripe and insignia on the fuselage. The clincher, however, is the "bump" directly behind the bulging 747 cockpit. It is clearly discernible in both photos. No other plane has this piggy-backed appendage. It is unique to the E-4B, and is integral to the plane's military role as an airborne command center. The appendage contains a communication satellite dish and perhaps other advanced electronic hardware. In fact, this is the same plane that Linda Brookhart photographed outside the White House. Although her vantage point was not ideal­­­Linda was standing in the street looking almost straight up when she snapped the shot­­­nonetheless, a careful inspection shows that the plane in her photo is an E-4B. Notice, the aircraft has four engines and all of the characteristics of a Boeing 747. In addition to the white color, which is also a match, there is another crucial detail that positively identifies the airplane. Notice the tiny blue spot near the rear of the aircraft. Several close-ups of an E-4B clearly show that this blue spot is simply the place where the blue stripes painted on the fuselage come together at the rear of the aircraft.
This is the only place on the 747 fuselage where the E-4B's otherwise conspicuous blue stripes are visible, from beneath. No other airplane has this combination of features. Linda explained to me that at the time of the evacuation she believed the White House was the target of the attack. She snapped the picture before the towering plume of smoke became visible at the pentagon, which suggests that the E-4B was already circling at the time of the pentagon strike. Linda later contacted the FBI about her photograph. After she developed the film an agent came by her office to pick up a copy. But she never heard back. Nor did the 9/11 Commission ask her to testify. In fact, they never even contacted her.[8]
No Ordinary Plane
Again, I must emphasize: this is no ordinary plane. The E-4B's official designation is the National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP), pronounced "knee-cap." But the aircraft is more commonly known as the "doomsday plane," because its premier function is to serve as a flying command, control and communications (C3) center in the event of a national emergency­­­or nuclear war. When the president travels on Air Force One, an E-4B usually follows behind the presidential entourage. Unlike Air Force One, however, the E-4B can be refueled in midair and so has considerably greater range. For this reason, when the president goes abroad on long trips he occasionally flies on an E-4B to save travel time. The plane also doubles as a mobile office for the Secretary of Defense. Recently, for example, when the newly appointed Defense Secretary Robert Gates traveled to London for talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair, he rode on an E-4B. According to various reports, his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, often used the plane, and much preferred it.
A recent article in the Air Force Civil Engineer describes the E-4B as "a truly amazing" aircraft, and provides more details about its impressive specs.[9] The $250 million dollar aircraft has all of the advanced electronics needed for world-wide communication. If Air Force One can be accurately described as a flying White House, then, the E-4B is a substitute pentagon. The plane's electronics cover the full radio spectrum, from extremely low frequency (ELF) to high frequency (UHF). Which enables the E-4B to communicate with all US military commands, world-wide, including tactical and strategic forces, naval ships, planes, nuclear-armed missiles, even submarines. In short, the E-4B is a fully equipped communications platform and can serve as an airborne command center for all US military forces in a national crisis. The plane carries its own electrical-generating plant to power its electronic hardware, which is also shielded against the damaging electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effects generated by nuclear explosions. Even the plane's white color is a design feature­­­not simply cosmetic. Its purpose is to help the E-4B survive in a nuclear battlefield by reflecting heat away from the plane.
The E-4B carries a crew of 64, but can accommodate an additional 50 passengers, for a total of 114. The large 747 fuselage includes command and work areas, conference and briefing rooms, as well as an operations center or battle station. In addition the plane reportedly has a rest area, bunks for sleeping, even a galley stocked with a week of provisions. The Air Force has four E-4Bs, and they are normally assigned to Offutt AFB, near Omaha, Nebraska. Offutt is the home of STRATCOM, i.e., the Strategic Command (formerly the Strategic Air Command).
Practicing Armageddon
According to one report, on September 11, 2001 three of the E-4Bs were participating in a live command-level exercise known as Global Guardian.[10] The exercise is an annual event, and is staged to test the readiness of the US military's command and control procedures involved in waging thermonuclear war. The 2001 exercise started the week before September 11 under the directorship of Admiral Richard Mies, commander-in-chief of STRATCOM. According to various reports, the drill was in "full swing" at the time of the 9/11 attack. Numerous other military commands were also involved, including NORAD. While few details have been released, we know that in previous years the US Space Command, the Air Combat Command, and the US Atlantic and Pacific Fleets were also involved.[11]
Starting in the 1990s, Global Guardian included pre-planned mock attacks upon the military's computer and information systems. For example, during the 1998 exercise "terrorists" attempted to disrupt STRATCOM's internal communications by hacking into its computers, and also by tying up its phone/FAX lines with phony messages.[12] Evidently, these "terrorist attacks" were at least partly successful, although the details have not been released. In recent years, the military has incorporated similar "attacks" into Global Guardian exercises. However, it is not known if these were a part of the 2001 drill. We do know that at the time of the 9/11 attack one of the E-4Bs was en route to Offutt AFB with a high-level military advisory panel on board, including its chairman, retired Lt. General Brent Scowcroft, evidently for the purpose of observing the exercise. The role of this panel, known as the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (FIAB), is to monitor US intelligence agencies. As we know, STRATCOM abruptly terminated the 2001 exercise at 9:03 AM, when Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower.[13] However, the E-4Bs remained aloft.[14]
In previous years the military always staged Global Guardian in October or November; and the 2001 exercise was likewise originally scheduled for October, according to various reports.[15] Curiously, however, for reasons never disclosed, the Joint Chiefs changed the plan and conducted the 2001 exercise during the week of September 11. The following year the date reverted back. The 2002 Global Guardian came off in October, as in previous years, and this has continued to be the case.[16]
All of which raises disturbing questions. Why did the Joint Chiefs change the date of Global Guardian in 2001? Even more importantly, why was the world's most sophisticated electronics warfare plane circling over Washington at the time of the September 11 attack? Recently, when the investigator who contacted me filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concerning the presence of the E-4B over Washington on 9/11, the FAA responded that it "had no knowledge" of such a plane. My contact also shared the basic information presented in this article with his Congressman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and requested that he look into the matter. Schiff then made a formal inquiry through official channels, but was told that the Air Force knows nothing. Obviously, the pentagon is lying. If the E-4B was on a legitimate mission on September 11, why does the military deny its presence? Why would they do this? When people lie it is generally because they have something to hide. Is the US military any different?
Catch-22: The Need for a New Investigation
Although Linda Brookhart's photo provides sufficient detail to positively ID the mystery plane, the short segment from the Discovery Channel docudrama is extremely important corroborating evidence. For which reason, myself and others have been working diligently to learn more about it. The E-4B footage occurs in the Discovery film in the context of the evacuation of the White House and Capitol building on 9/11. This definitely places it in Washington on the day of the attack. However, we still don't know who filmed it. Nor does the footage include any visual evidence linking it to Washington. According to the credits for The Flight that Fought Back, a London-based company named Brook Lapping produced the docudrama for the Discovery Channel. When I contacted Brook Lapping I was told they used the E-4B footage under license from FOX News, which holds the copyright. Brook Lapping also informed me they could provide no further assistance in the matter. After numerous phone calls I was led to a company called ITN Source, which handles all of FOX's licensing contracts. A cordial individual at their Burbank office assisted me. However, a search failed to locate the short segment in the FOX News archive, at which point I was informed that there was nothing more they could do. My repeated attempts to contact the FOX legal department were also fruitless. FOX never responded to my queries. Thus, my investigation reached a blind alley. Evidently the same thing has happened to others. According to Linda Brookhart, "Every time someone has tried to research this plane it becomes a dead end."[17] Shades of Catch-22
All of this underscores the urgent need for a new 9/11 investigation: It must be nonpartisan, independent, adequately funded, and empowered with the authority to subpoena witnesses. Representatives of FOX News must be brought before a genuine panel and made to testify under oath about the whereabouts of this important evidence; and why it was made to go bye-bye. Without a true investigation, we will probably never learn the truth about September 11.
Stay tuned. This is the first in a series. More to come...
Mark H Gaffney's book Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes was a finalist for the 2004 Narcissus Book Award. Mark can be reached for comment at Visit Mark's web site at
1 The transcript is posted at:
2 The transcript is posted at
3 Richard A. Clark, Against All Enemies, Free Press, New York, 2004, p. 7.
4 email from Linda Brookhart, March 25, 2007.
5 The short segment may be viewed at:
Or at:
6 This page has an excellent discussion of the mystery plane:
8 emails from Linda Brookhart, March 25 and 27, 2007.
9 Lt. Col James P. Zemotel, USSTRATCOM/J643, "CEs Still Have Aircrew Mission," Air Force Civil Engineer, Vol. 14 #2, 2006
10 Joe Dejka, "Inside STRATCOM on September 11: Offutt exercise took real-life twist," Omaha World-Herald, February 27, 2002.
11 Col. Joe Wasiak, "Global Guardian '99," The Collins Center Update, Vol 1, Issue 3, December 1999.
12 Ward Parker, "Incorporating IA into Global Guardian," IA Newsletter, IATAC, Vol 2, No 1, Summer 1998.
13 US DoD, News Transcript, "Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with the Washington Post," January 9, 2002, posted at
14 Joe Dejka, "Inside STRATCOM on September 11: Offutt exercise took real-life twist," Omaha World-Herald, February 27, 2002.
15 Space Observer, March 23, 2001, p. 2; William Arkin, a military analyst, corroborated this in his 2005 book, Code Names, which mentions an October 22-31 date.
16 See the discussion about Global Guardian at
17 email from Linda Brookhart, March 25, 2007.
Name Witheld
The mysterious "white plane" seen flying over the D.C on 9-11 by Mark H. Gaffney. He may have correctly identified the aircraft in the pictures as an E4-B, but the article goes on to incorrectly state that "Unlike Air Force One, however, the E-4B can be refueled in midair and so has considerably greater range". Think about it that statement. If the President is on Air Force One and a national emergency occurs, will he have the time or the safety to land and change planes? If he is on Air Force One and has to stay airborne past the takeoff fuel load, don't you think Air Force One would have the capability to be refueled? Nah, they will just let him run out of gas and crash. I hate to break the news to you, but Air Force One can also be refueled air to air. Another fact for you .. both aircraft can also refuel their fighter escorts.



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