Former 1st Air Force Commander at Tyndall, Ret. Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold, testified Thursday.
Gen. Arnold commanded Tydall's 1st Air Force from 1997 to 2002. After September 11th he became one of only three men besides the president with the authority to order the destruction of a civilian aircraft. Thursday, he told the 9-11 committee what the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 was like for him.
"We had two airplanes that had hit and we got a call that another airplane had been hijacked, and so now the Northeast Air Defense Sector, correctly, was scrambling aircraft out of Langley to get an aircraft over Washington, DC incase that aircraft that was called in was headed to Washington, DC," says former 1st Air Force Commander Larry Arnold.
Thursday, Arnold and others were called to explain what the military did to try and stop the attacks that morning. Several of those who testified described the confusion of that morning. A pair of planes turned toward New York, air traffic controllers suspected hijacking. F-15s take off, but too late, and the first jet strikes tower one. The fighters continued to circle without orders, then the second tower is hit. Forty-seven minutes later, two more planes turned toward Washington. Jets went up from Virginia, and before the order to fire gets to the pilots one of the planes slammed into the Pentagon.
North American Aerospace Defense Commander Gen. Ed Eberhart told the commission of the lessons learned that morning.
"Obviously we know that we could have done it better. We know now that we are doing it better, and most importantly we know tomorrow that we must do it even better," says Gen. Ed Eberhart.
It wasn't until after 9-11 that Gen. Arnold was given the authority to shoot down any suspicious civilian aircraft. Gen. Eberhart is also familiar with the Panhandle. He trained at both Tyndall and Eglin in the late 60's and early 70's.
The 9/11 commission's final report is due out next month.