SCRAMBLING AGAINST THE CLOCK
According to the official pre-2004 timeline supplied by NORAD, Boston flight control had waited twenty minutes after it decided Flight 11 was hijacked to alert them, at 8:40 am. This has been widely contested, with FAA insisting it had alerted NORAD much earlier. But anyway, at 8:46 NORAD issued the scramble order to Otis Air National Guard base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts – the same minute flight 11 slammed into the North Tower. The first two F-15 pilots, Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy (code-named “Duff”) and Major Daniel Nash (“Nasty”), were off the ground to intercept American 11 six minutes later, at 8:52.
This yielded a 39-minute loss-of-contact to takeoff time for Otis. This delay, coming after months of foreign and domestic warnings of possible hijackings, is 50%, longer than reaction in the totally unexpected Payne Stewart case two years earlier. These fighters were sent to intercept American 11 six minutes after it was obliterated in its impact with the WTC.  They finally arrived and established a combat air patrol over Manhattan at 9:25, 33 minutes after takeoff. 
At about this time, more jets were scrambled from Langley AFB in Virginia, the other ready pair in the northeast. NEADS called Langley at about 9:15 and asked national guardsman “Honey” urgently “how many planes can you send?” “We have two ready,” Honey replied. “That’s not what I asked,” came the curt reply. “How many can you get airborne?” “With me, three.’” Honey said.”  It’s not clear why there was an insistence on sending a third jet when standard procedure was to send a pair – I looked for clues in the 9/11 Commission’s final report, but it does not seem to mention the number of fighters sent from Langley. Since only two fighters were ready, prepping this third plane would set their schedule back. “Honey,” his partner “Lou,” and the unnamed third pilot took off at 9:30, just minutes before flight 77 reappeared on radar screens closing in on Washington. The CCR lists the pilots as pilots were Major Brad Derrig, Captain Craig Borgstrom, and Major Dean Eckmann, all from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, then stationed at Langley, but I cannot find who was Honey, who was Lou, and ho as the third. The commission concluded they were not being sent to intercept American 77 closing in on Washington, but rather to New York to back up the Otis pilots. 
This was the entire first wave of national defense – five fighters, scrambled late from two bases far from the scene of the crime. More fighters would join them by about 10 am, but during the actual attack, the first wave was all there was. The following sections detail their mission, doomed to failure from the beginning.
(also linked on the air defense masterlist)
- Heading and Speed
- Information shared with the defending fighter pilots: RIDICULOUSLY inadequate
- No shoot-down order received.
 North American Aerospace Defense Command News Release. “NORAD’s Response Times” September 18, 2001. Accessed May 7, 2003 at: http://www.unansweredquestions.org/timeline/2001/norad091801.html
 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The 9/11 Commission Report. Authorized First Edition. New York. W.W. Norton. 2004. Page 24.
 "9;30 am: Langley Fighters Take Off." http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/context.jsp?item=a930langleylaunch#a930langleylaunch
 Longman, Jere. Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew who Fought Back. New York. Harper Collins. 2002. Page 65.