First Pass, Defenders Over Washington

Captain Dean Eckmann of the 119th FW, North Dakota Air National Guard, makes his first pass in his F-16 over the Pentagon near Washington DC, September 11th, 2001 (9-11-2001) following the terrorist attack. Scrambled from Langley AFB, VA, Capt Eckmann led an F-16 flight of three fully armed aircraft in providing the first combat air patrol (CAP) over Washington, DC in history. In this dramatic portrayal, Capt Eckmann is seen making his initial low level high speed pass over the Pentagon. It has been said that many Pentagon Employees actually cheered upon seeing the F-16, “one of our own” was now protecting the skies over Washington, DC.

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(Notable update: We received a first-hand report from an Army contractor who experienced the terror of the day, that they definitely cheered upon seeing the F-16. Here’s his eyewitness report:

Flight 77 hit my section, 3D450, and then, as we were in the E Ring trying to rescue people, the chopper pad fuel tank cooked off, which sent shock waves through the building and forced us out.

In South Parking, most cell phones were down, but a few were up as tens of thousands left the building – it can hold about 23,000 – and someone said, “another plane is coming.” It must have been Flight 93. It was unsettling, and we braced for the unknown.

Shortly thereafter, we heard a very shrill jet engine whine come from the National Airport area – definitely not a passenger aircraft – and there shot the F-16, in my estimation less than 2,000 feet of the deck. He tilted toward the Pentagon City Mall a little, and we could see his helmet. Hundreds of fists shot up and shouts of ‘Yeah!’ rang out. It sounded like applause at a rock concert.

He actually rocked his wings to let us know he’d seen us. We knew he’d take care of us, and it was inspirational to say the least.”

Signatures (paper editions only):

  • Dean ECKMANN
  • Brad DERRIG


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