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Surprise aircraft makes EADS memorable photo historic

Group photo at Griffiss International Airport

More than 150 New York Air National Guardsmen, Canadian Forces members and government civilians from the Eastern Air Defense Sector posed for a group shot in front of two F-16s from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, on Wednesday, June 9 at the Griffiss International Airport in Rome, N.Y. One of the first U.S. military units to respond to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, EADS group photo is one of a series of 9/11 20th anniversary events the unit has planned. Having the photo with the 180th Fighter Wing F-16s was fitting. The plane directly behind the formation was part of the initial response on 9/11. EADS thanks Griffiss International Airport, Million Air Flight Base Operations and the Oneida County Department of Aviation for their cooperation and support. Photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany Scofield, 174th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard.

As part of its 9/11 20th anniversary commemoration activities, the Eastern Air Defense Sector had a unit photograph taken on June 9 at the neighboring Griffiss International Airport.

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 Sept. 11, 2001. 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.”

“Flying this plane here wasn’t intentional,” Lt. Copic added, “but it was certainly appropriate.”

Read the backstory on 89-114 from its 9/11 crew chief

Organizing the unit photograph had its challenges. More than 150 Airmen and civilians had to formed around the aircraft, which were added late in the planning process. The photographers had to be hoisted into the air in bucket trucks to get the proper angle.

And an impending summer thunderstorm meant everything had to be done quickly. A photograph that was supposed to start at 2 p.m. was finished at 1:57 p.m.

“It was hectic, but everyone cooperated and the result was an historic photo,” Col. Bishop said. “After it was all over, one of my officers told me ‘it was meant to be’ and I have to agree.”

EADS plans to hang the photograph in its headquarters building and send a copy to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial in New York City.

Earlier this year, the 9/11 Museum and Memorial presented EADS with a sapling from the Survivor Tree, which was found alive under the World Trade Center rubble in October 2001 and rehabilitated.

In its initial 20th anniversary commemorative event, EADS planted the sapling at its Rome facility on May 26. The unit photograph was the second of the commemorative events, which will culminate with a memorial ceremony at EADS on Sept. 11.

One of the first U.S. military units to respond to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Airmen from what was then called the Northeast Air Defense Sector took the initial calls from civilian air traffic controllers notifying them that terrorists had hijacked airliners. The Airmen then worked to vector fighter jets to intercept the hijacked airliners and coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration to track the four planes.

For more information on the Eastern Air Defense Sector and the 224th Air Defense Group, visit www.eads.ang.af.mil. For more information about the New York Air National Guard, visit www.dmna.ny.gov.