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Before 9/11

Warning Signs (228)
Foreign Intelligence Warnings (27)
Insider Trading (36)
Counterterrorism Before 9/11 (181)
Able Danger (39)
Military Exercises (38)
Hunt for bin Laden (73)
Pipeline Politics (54)

Al-Qaeda Members

Al-Qaeda in Germany (42)
Alhazmi and Almihdhar (74)
Other 9/11 Hijackers (48)
Marwan Alshehhi (21)
Mohamed Atta (37)
Ziad Jarrah (9)
Hani Hanjour (15)
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (33)
Zacarias Moussaoui (40)
Nabil al-Marabh (10)

Geopolitics and 9/11

Pakistani ISI (126)
Randy Glass (7)
Sibel Edmonds (6)
Saeed Sheikh (3)
Mahmood Ahmed (3)
Drugs (21)
Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden Family (110)
Bin Laden Family (33)
Israel (33)
Iraq (49)
US Dominance (34)

Day of 9/11

All day of 9/11 events (401)
Flight AA 11
Flight UA 175 (49)
Flight AA 77 (70)
Flight UA 93 (105)
George Bush (66)
Dick Cheney (24)
Donald Rumsfeld (24)
Richard Clarke (22)

The Post-9/11 World

Afghanistan (49)
Investigations (166)
9/11 Congressional Inquiry (0)
9/11 Commission (0)
Other 9/11 Investigations (0)
Other events (79)
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Complete 911 Timeline: American Airlines Flight 11


Project: Complete 911 Timeline

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6:50 a.m.: Hijacker's Connecting Flight Arrives in Boston

       Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari's Portland-Boston flight arrives on time at Boston's Logan Airport. [Der Spiegel, 2002]
People and organizations involved: Logan Airport, Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz Alomari

(7:00 a.m.-7:45 a.m.): Computer Screening Program Selects Some Hijackers; Fails to Stop Them

       Sometime during this period, the hijackers pass through airport security checkpoints at the various airports. The FAA has a screening program in place called the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS). CAPPS automatically targets passengers for additional screening based on suspicious behavior such as buying one-way tickets or paying with cash. If a passenger is selected, their bags are thoroughly screened for explosives, but their bodies are not searched. [Washington Post, 1/28/04] CAPPS selects three of the five Flight 11 hijackers. Since Waleed Alshehri checked no bags, his selection had no consequences. Wail Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami have their bags scanned for explosives, but are not stopped. No Flight 175 hijackers are selected. Only Ahmad Alhaznawi is selected from Flight 93. His bag is screened for explosives, but he is not stopped. The 9/11 Commission later concludes that Alhaznawi and Ahmed Alnami, also headed to Flight 93, have suspicious indicators and that they could have been linked to al-Qaeda upon inspection, but it has not been explained why or how. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04; Baltimore Sun, 1/27/04] Screening of the Flight 77 hijackers is described below.
People and organizations involved: Waleed M. Alshehri, Ahmed Alnami, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, Wail Alshehri, 9/11 Commission Report, Satam Al Suqami, al-Qaeda, Federal Aviation Administration

(7:45 a.m.): Hijack Suspects' Bags Contain Airline Uniforms

       Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari board Flight 11. Atta's bags are not loaded onto the plane in time and are later found by investigators. Investigators later find airline uniforms and many other remarkable items. [Boston Globe, 9/18/01] It is later reported that at least two other hijackers on Flight 11 use stolen uniforms and IDs to board the plane. [Sunday Herald, 9/16/01]
People and organizations involved: Abdulaziz Alomari, Mohamed Atta

(Before 7:59 a.m.): Inter Flight Phone Call Between Hijackers

       Hijacker Mohamed Atta on Flight 11 calls hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in Flight 175 as both planes sit on the runway. They presumably confirm the plot is on. [Time, 8/4/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Marwan Alshehhi, Mohamed Atta

(7:59 a.m.): Flight 11 Is Late Taking Off

       Flight 11 takes off from Boston's Logan Airport, 14 minutes after its scheduled 7:45 departure time. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01; ABC News, 7/18/02; Newsday, 9/10/02; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); CNN, 9/17/01; Washington Post, 9/12/01; Guardian, 10/17/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission Report, Logan Airport

(Between 8:13-8:21 a.m.): Flight 11 Transponder Turned Off

Flight controller Matt McCluskey stands in the Boston tower where the Flight 11 hijack was first detected.
Shortly after flight controllers ask Flight 11 to climb to 35,000 feet, the transponder stops transmitting. A transponder is an electronic device that identifies a plane on a controller's screen and gives its exact location and altitude. Among other vital functions, it is also used to transmit a four-digit emergency hijack code. Flight control manager Glenn Michael later says, “We considered it at that time to be a possible hijacking.” [MSNBC, 9/15/01; Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01; Associated Press, 8/12/02] Initial stories after 9/11 suggest the transponder is turned off around 8:13 a.m., but Pete Zalewski, the flight controller handling the flight, later says the transponder is turned off at 8:20 a.m. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] The 9/11 Commission places it at 8:21 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, claims the transponder is turned off some time after 8:30 a.m. where the Flight 11 hijack was first detected a.m. [ABC News, 9/11/02]
People and organizations involved: Robert Marr, Glenn Michael, Pete Zalewski

(8:13 a.m.): Flight 11 Hijacked, but Pilot Makes No Distress Call

Flight 11's manifest. Such details on other flights haven't been released. One version of where the hijackers and murdered passenger Daniel Lewin sat is marked, but there are competing versions of the seat numbers.
The last routine communication takes place between ground control and the pilots of Flight 11 around this time. Flight controller Pete Zalewski is handling the flight. Pilot John Ogonowski responds when told to turn right, but immediately afterwards fails to respond to a command to climb. Zalewski repeatedly tries to reach the pilot, even using the emergency frequency, but gets no response. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01; New York Times, 10/16/01; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Flight 11 is apparently hijacked around this time. One flight controller says the plane is hijacked over Gardner, Massachusetts, less than 50 miles west of Boston. [Nashua Telegraph, 9/13/01] The Boston Globe notes, “It appears that the hijackers' entry was surprising enough that the pilots did not have a chance to broadcast a traditional distress call.” It would only have taken a few seconds to press the right buttons. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Yet flight attendant Amy Sweeney appears to witness three of the hijackers storming the cockpit around 8:20 a.m. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01 (C)] This would imply that, at most, one or two hijackers enter the cockpit at this time, before the others do.
People and organizations involved: Madeline ("Amy") Sweeney, Pete Zalewski

(After 8:14 a.m.-8:38 a.m.): Flight 11 Pilot Repeatedly Pushes Talk Back Button

John Ogonowski.
At some unknown point after the hijacking begins, the talkback button is activated, which enables Boston flight controllers to hear what is being said in the cockpit. It is unclear whether John Ogonowski, the pilot of Flight 11, activates the talkback button, or whether a hijacker accidentally does so when he takes over the cockpit. A controller later says, “The button [is] being pushed intermittently most of the way to New York.” An article later notes that “his ability to do so also indicates that he [is] in the driver's seat much of the way” to the WTC. Such transmissions continue until about 8:38 a.m. [MSNBC, 9/15/01; Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01]
People and organizations involved: Boston flight control, John Ogonowski

(8:15 a.m.): Flight Controllers Cannot Contact Flight 11

       Two Boston flight controllers, Pete Zalewski and Lino Martins, discuss the fact that Flight 11 cannot be contacted. Zalewski says to Martins, “He won't answer you. He's nordo [no radio] roger thanks.” [Guardian, 10/17/01; New York Times, 10/16/01 (C); CNN, 9/17/01; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Lino Martins, Pete Zalewski

(Before 8:20 a.m.): Hijackers Attack Passenger on Flight 77

Daniel Lewin.
Four hijackers get up from their seats and stab or shoot passenger Daniel Lewin, a multimillionaire who once belonged to the Israel Defense Force's Sayeret Matkal, a top-secret counterterrorist unit. Lewin is sitting in front of one of the three hijackers in business class. An initial FAA memo regarding the flight states that Satam Al Suqami shoots Lewin at 9:20 a.m. The time is certainly a typo; perhaps 8:20 a.m. is meant? The killing is mentioned in a phone call from the flight that starts at 8:20 a.m. [UPI, 3/6/02; ABC News, 7/18/02; Washington Post, 3/2/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Daniel Lewin, Satam Al Suqami

8:20 a.m.: Flight 11 IFF Signal Transmission Stops

       Flight 11 stops transmitting its IFF (identify friend or foe) beacon signal. [CNN, 9/17/01]

(8:20 a.m.): Boston Flight Control Thinks Flight 11 May Be Hijacked?

       According to some reports, Boston flight control decides that Flight 11 has probably been hijacked, but apparently, it does not notify other flight control centers for another five minutes, and does not notify NORAD for approximately 20 minutes. [Newsday, 9/23/01; New York Times, 9/15/01 (C)] ABC News will later say, “There doesn't seem to have been alarm bells going off, [flight] controllers getting on with law enforcement or the military. There's a gap there that will have to be investigated.” [ABC News, 9/14/01] (Note the conflicting account at 8:21 a.m. (see (8:21 a.m.)))
People and organizations involved: Boston flight control

(8:20 a.m.): Flight 11 Veers Off Course

       Flight 11 starts to veer dramatically off course. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)]

(8:21 a.m.): Boston Controller Suspects Something Seriously Wrong with Flight 11, but NORAD Not Notified

       Boston flight controller Pete Zalewski, handling Flight 11, sees that the flight is off course and that the plane has turned off both transponder and radio. Zalewski later claims he turns to his supervisor and says, “Would you please come over here? I think something is seriously wrong with this plane. I don't know what. It's either mechanical, electrical, I think, but I'm not sure.” When asked if he suspected a hijacking at this point, he replies, “Absolutely not. No way.” According to the 9/11 Commission, “the supervisor instructed the controller [presumably Zalewski] to follow standard operating procedures for handling a ‘no radio’ aircraft once the controller told the supervisor the transponder had been turned off.” Another flight controller, Tom Roberts, has another nearby American Airlines Flight try to contact Flight 11. There is still no response. The flight is now “drastically off course” but NORAD is still not notified. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] Note that this response contradicts flight control manager Glenn Michael's assertion that Flight 11 was considered a possible hijacking as soon as the transponder was discovered turned off.
People and organizations involved: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Pete Zalewski, Tom Roberts, Glenn Michael

(8:21 a.m.): Flight 11 Attendant Ong Phones in Hijack Report, Officials Doubt Validity

Betty Ong.
Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong calls Vanessa Minter, an American Airlines reservations agent in North Carolina, using a seatback Airfone from the back of the plane. Ong speaks to Minter and an unidentified man for about two minutes. Then supervisor Nydia Gonzalez is patched in to the conference call as well. Ong says, “The cockpit's not answering. Somebody's stabbed in business class and ... I think there's mace ... that we can't breathe. I don't know, I think We're getting hijacked.” A minute later, she continues, “And the cockpit is not answering their phone. And there's somebody stabbed in business class. And there's ... we can't breathe in business class. Somebody's got mace or something ... I'm sitting in the back. Somebody's coming back from business. If you can hold on for one second, they're coming back.” As this quote shows, other flight attendants relay information from the front of the airplane to Ong sitting in the back, and she periodically waits for updates. She goes on, “I think the guys are up there [in the cockpit]. They might have gone there—jammed the way up there, or something. Nobody can call the cockpit. We can't even get inside.” The first four and a half minutes of the call is later played in a public 9/11 Commission hearing. Ong apparently continues speaking to Gonzalez and Minter until the plane crashes. [New York Observer, 2/11/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey, who has heard more recordings than have been made public, says that some officials on the ground greet her account skeptically: “They did not believe her. They said, ‘Are you sure?’ They asked her to confirm that it wasn't air-rage. Our people on the ground were not prepared for a hijacking.” [New York Times, 4/18/04 Sources: Bob Kerrey]
People and organizations involved: Betty Ong, Nydia Gonzalez, Vanessa Minter

8:21 a.m.: Sweeney's Call Reaches American Headquarters, but Managers Cover Up the News

Amy (Madeline) Sweeney.
American Airlines Flight service manager Michael Woodward is listening to Flight 11 attendant Amy Sweeney on the telephone, and he wants to pass on the information he is hearing from her. Since there is no tape recorder, he calls Nancy Wyatt, the supervisor of pursers at Logan Airport. Holding telephones in both hands, he repeats to Wyatt everything that Sweeney is saying to him. Wyatt in turn simultaneously transmits his account to the airline's Fort Worth, Texas, headquarters. The conversation between Wyatt and managers at headquarters is recorded. All vital details from Sweeney's call reach American Airlines' top management almost instantly. However, according to victims' relatives who later hear this recording, the two managers at headquarters immediately begin discussing a cover-up of the hijacking details. They say, “don't spread this around. Keep it close,” “Keep it quiet,” and “Let's keep this among ourselves. What else can we find out from our own sources about what's going on?” One former American Airlines employee who has also heard this recording recalls, “In Fort Worth, two managers in SOC [Systems Operations Control] were sitting beside each other and hearing it. They were both saying, ‘Do not pass this along. Let's keep it right here. Keep it among the five of us.’ ” Apparently, this decision prevents early and clear evidence of a hijacking from being shared during the crisis. Gerard Arpey, American Airlines' executive vice president for operations, soon hears details of the hijacking from flight attendant Betty Ong's phone call (see (8:21 a.m.)) at 8:30 a.m. (see 8:30 a.m.), but apparently, he does not learn of Sweeney's call until much later. Victims' relatives will later question whether lives could have been saved if only this information had been quickly shared with other airplanes. [New York Observer, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: American Airlines, Nancy Wyatt, Michael Woodward, Madeline ("Amy") Sweeney

(8:22 a.m.): Flight 11 Attendant Sweeney Phones in Hijacking Details

Flight attendants Karen Martin and Barbara Arestegui are apparently stabbed early in the hijacking of Flight 11.
Flight 11 attendant Amy (Madeline) Sweeney borrows a calling card from flight attendant Sara Low and uses an Airfone to try to call the American Airlines flight services office at Boston's Logan Airport. She makes her first attempt at 8:22 a.m., but this quickly disconnects, as does a second attempt at 8:24. Further attempts at 8:25 and 8:29 are cut off after she reports someone hurt on the flight. The respondent to the call mistakenly thinks Sweeney's flight number that she reports is 12. Hearing there is a problem with an American Airlines plane, Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight service manager, goes to American's gate area at the airport with a colleague, and realizes Flight 12 has not yet departed. He returns to the office to try to clarify the situation, then takes the phone and speaks to Sweeney himself. Because Woodward and Sweeney are friends, he does not have to verify the call is not a hoax. The call is not recorded, but Woodward takes detailed notes. According to the 9/11 Commission, the call between them lasts about 12 minutes, from 8:32 a.m. to 8:44 a.m. Accounts prior to the 9/11 Commission report spoke of one continuous call from around 8:20. [ABC News, 7/18/02; 9/11 Commission Final Report, 7/24/04, pp. 6 and 453; New York Observer, 2/11/04] Sweeney calmly tells Woodward, “Listen, and listen to me very carefully. I'm on Flight 11. The airplane has been hijacked.” [ABC News, 7/18/02] According to one account, she gives him the seat locations of three hijackers: 9D, 9G, and 10B. She says they are all of Middle Eastern descent, and one speaks English very well. [New York Observer, 2/11/04] Another account states that she identifies four hijackers (but still not the five said to be on the plane), and notes that not all the seats she gave matched up with the seats assigned to the hijackers on their tickets. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01 (C); ABC News, 7/18/02] She says she cannot contact the cockpit, and does not believe the pilots are flying the plane any longer. [New York Observer, 2/11/04] According to a later Los Angeles Times report, “Even as she was relating details about the hijackers, the men were storming the front of the plane and ‘had just gained access to the cockpit,’ ” (Note that Sweeney witnesses the storming of the cockpit at least seven minutes after radio contact from Flight 11 stops and at least one of the hijackers begins taking control of the cockpit.) [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01 (C)] She says the hijackers have stabbed the two first-class flight attendants, Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin. She adds, “A hijacker cut the throat of a business-class passenger [later identified as Daniel Lewin], and he appears to be dead (see (Before 8:20 a.m.)).” She also says the hijackers have brought a bomb into the cockpit. Woodward asks Sweeney, “How do you know it's a bomb?” She answers, “Because the hijackers showed me a bomb.” She describes its yellow and red wires. Sweeney continues talking with Woodward until Flight 11 crashes. [New York Observer, 2/11/04; Boston Globe, 11/23/01]
People and organizations involved: Sara Low, Madeline ("Amy") Sweeney, Michael Woodward, Barbara Arestegui, Karen Martin, Daniel Lewin

(8:23 a.m.): Flight 11 Attendant Ong's Hijacking Account Forwarded to American Airlines Headquarters

       Nydia Gonzalez, an American Airlines supervisor with expertise on security matters, is patched in to a call with flight attendant Betty Ong on Flight 11. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] At 8:27 a.m., Gonzalez calls Craig Marquis, a manager at American Airlines' headquarters. Gonzalez holds the phone to Ong to one ear, and the phone to Marquis to the other. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01; New York Observer, 2/11/04] Gonzalez talks to Marquis continuously until Flight 11 crashes. The first four minutes of this call are later played before the 9/11 Commission. Marquis quickly says, “I'm assuming they've declared an emergency. Let me get ATC [air traffic control] on here. Stand by. ... Okay, We're contacting the flight crew now and We're ... We're also contacting ATC.” In the four recorded minutes, Gonzalez relays that Ong is saying the hijackers from seats 2A and 2B are in the cockpit with the pilots. There are no doctors on board. All the first class passengers have been moved to the coach section. The airplane is flying very erratically. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04]
People and organizations involved: Betty Ong, Nydia Gonzalez, American Airlines, Craig Marquis

(8:24 a.m.): Boston Flight Controllers Hear Flight 11 Hijacker: We Have Some Planes

       Because the talkback button on Flight 11 has been activated, Boston flight controllers can hear a hijacker on Flight 11 say to the passengers: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you will be OK. We are returning to the airport.” Flight controller Pete Zalewski responds, “Who's trying to call me?” The hijacker continues, “Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you'll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.” [Boston Globe, 11/23/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Guardian, 10/17/01; New York Times, 10/16/01; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); New York Times, 9/12/01; Channel 4 News, 9/13/01] Immediately after hearing this voice, Zalewski “knew right then that he was working a hijack” and calls for his supervisor. The frequency of Flight 11 is played on speakers so everyone in Boston flight control can hear. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); Village Voice, 9/13/01]
People and organizations involved: Boston flight control, Pete Zalewski

(8:24 a.m.): Flight 11 Turns, Many Watch It on Primary Radar

       Boston flight control radar sees Flight 11 making an unplanned 100-degree turn to the south (the plane is already way off course). Flight controllers never lose sight of the flight, though they can no longer determine altitude once the transponder is turned off. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02] Before this turn, the FAA had tagged Flight 11's radar dot for easy visibility and, at American Airlines headquarters at least, “All eyes watched as the plane headed south. On the screen, the plane showed a squiggly line after its turn near Albany, then it straightened.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01] Boston flight controller Mark Hodgkins later says, “I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down.” [ABC News, 9/6/02] However, apparently, NEADS has different radar. When they are finally told about the flight, they cannot find it. Boston has to update NEADS on Flight 11's position periodically by telephone until NEADS finally finds it a few minutes before it crashes into the WTC. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02; ABC News, 9/11/02; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02]
People and organizations involved: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Boston flight control, Mark Hodgkins, Federal Aviation Administration

8:25 a.m.: Boston Flight Control Tells Other Centers About Hijack, but Not NORAD

       The Guardian reports that Boston flight control “notifies several air traffic control centers that a hijack is taking place.” But it does not notify NORAD for another 6-15 minutes, depending on the account. [Guardian, 10/17/01] However, the Indianapolis flight controller monitoring Flight 77 claims to not know about this or Flight 175's hijacking twenty minutes later at 8:56 a.m. Additionally, the flight controllers at New York City's La Guardia airport are never told about the hijacked planes and learn about them from watching the news. [Bergen Record, 1/4/04]
People and organizations involved: North American Aerospace Defense Command, La Guardia Airport, Boston flight control

(Before 8:26 a.m.): Hijackers Identified by Seat Locations

       Having been told by flight attendant Amy Sweeney the seat locations of three hijackers (see (8:22 a.m.)), American Airlines Flight service manager Michael Woodward orders a colleague at Boston's Logan Airport to look up those seat locations on the reservations computer. The names, addresses, phone numbers, and credit cards of these hijackers are quickly identified: Abdulaziz Alomari is in 9G, Mohamed Atta is in 9D, and Satam Al Suqami is in 10B. 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey notes that from this information, American Airlines officials monitoring the call would probably have known or assumed right away that the hijacking was connected to al-Qaeda. [New York Observer, 2/11/04; ABC News, 7/18/02]
People and organizations involved: Bob Kerrey, Mohamed Atta, Satam Al Suqami, Michael Woodward, Abdulaziz Alomari, al-Qaeda

(Between 8:27-8:30 a.m.): Ong Gives Flight 11 Details; Seating Accounts Differ

       Craig Marquis, listening to information coming from flight attendant Betty Ong on Flight 11, calls American Airlines' system operations control center in Fort Worth. He says, “She said two flight attendants had been stabbed, one was on oxygen. A passenger had his throat slashed and looked dead and they had gotten into the cockpit.” He relays that Ong said the four hijackers had come from first-class seats: 2A, 2B, 9A, and 9B. She said the wounded passenger was in seat 10B. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Note that this conflicts with the seats flight attendant Amy Sweeney gives for the hijackers at about the same time (see (Before 8:26 a.m.)): 9D, 9G, and 10B. By 8:27 a.m., this information is passed to Gerard Arpey, the effective head of American Airlines that morning. By 9:59 a.m., counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and other top officials receive the information. [Clarke, 2004, pp 13-14]
People and organizations involved: Betty Ong, Craig Marquis, Gerard Arpey, Richard A. Clarke, American Airlines

8:28 a.m.: FAA Centers Have Hijacking Conference Call; NORAD Not Notified

The FAA Command Center, the center of daily management of the US air traffic system. On 9/11 it is managed by Ben Sliney (not pictured here).
Boston flight control calls the FAA Command Center and tells them that they believe Flight 11 has been hijacked and it is heading toward New York airspace. At 8:32 a.m., the Command Center shares this with the Operations Center at FAA headquarters. Headquarters replies that they have just begun discussing the hijack situation with the main FAA New England office. The Command Center immediately establishes a teleconference between the Boston, New York, and Cleveland flight control centers so that Boston can help the others understand what is happening. Even though by 8:24 a.m. Boston is fairly certain that Flight 11 has been hijacked, they do not contact NORAD. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Federal Aviation Administration, Boston flight control

(8:28 a.m.): Flight 11 Is a Confirmed Hijacking; NORAD Still Not Notified

       American Airlines manager Craig Marquis is talking to Nydia Gonzalez, who in turn is talking to flight attendant Betty Ong on Flight 11. Marquis says, “We contacted air traffic control, they are going to handle this as a confirmed hijacking. So they're moving all the traffic out of this aircraft's way. ... He turned his transponder off, so we don't have a definitive altitude for him. We're just going by ... They seem to think that they have him on a primary radar. They seem to think that he is descending.” This transmission further indicates that Boston flight control believes that Flight 11 has been hijacked by this time. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04]
People and organizations involved: Boston flight control, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Nydia Gonzalez, Betty Ong, Craig Marquis

8:30 a.m.: Rookie in Command of the NMCC

Captain Charles Leidig.
Captain Charles Leidig, the deputy for Command Center operations at the NMCC, takes over temporarily from Brigadier General Montague Winfield and is effectively in charge of NMCC during the 9/11 crisis. Winfield had requested the previous day that Leidig stand in for him on September 11. Leidig had started his role as Deputy for Command Center Operations two months earlier and had qualified to stand in for Winfield just the previous month. Leidig remains in charge from a few minutes before the 9/11 crisis begins until about 10:30 a.m., after the last hijacked plane crashes. He presides over an important crisis response teleconference that has a very slow start, not even beginning until 9:39 a.m. [Leidig Testimony, 6/17/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Montague Winfield, Charles Leidig

8:30 a.m.: American Airlines Vice President Informed of Hijacking

Gerard Arpey.
Gerard Arpey (American Airlines' executive vice president for operations) learns from manager Joe Burdepelly that Flight 11 may have been hijacked. Burdepelly tells Arpey that he has been told that another manager, Craig Marquis, is in contact with flight attendant Betty Ong on the hijacked flight. Arpey learns that Ong has said two other attendants have been stabbed, that two or three passengers are in the cockpit, and more. Arpey is the effective head of American Airlines during the early phase of the crisis, because the company's president is still at home and out of contact. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] At some point before Flight 11 crashes, Arpey is told about the “We have some planes” comment made by the hijackers. [USA Today, 8/13/02]
People and organizations involved: Betty Ong, Gerard Arpey, Craig Marquis, Joe Burdepelly, American Airlines

8:30 a.m.: FAA Command Center Informed of Hijacking; NORAD Still Not Notified

       The FAA's Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, begins its usual daily senior staff meeting. National Operations Manager Ben Sliney interrupts the meeting to report a possible hijacking in progress, as the Center had been told about the Flight 11 hijacking two minutes earlier. Later, a supervisor interrupts the meeting to report that a flight attendant on the hijacked aircraft may have been stabbed. The meeting breaks up before the first WTC crash at 8:46 a.m. Apparently, no one in the meeting contacts NORAD. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/01]
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, Ben Sliney, North American Aerospace Defense Command

(8:34 a.m.): Boston Flight Control Hears Hijacker Announcement

       Flight controllers hear a hijacker on Flight 11 say to the passengers: “Nobody move, please, we are going back to the airport. Don't try to make any stupid moves.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; New York Times, 10/16/01; Boston Globe, 11/23/01; Guardian, 10/17/01] Apparently, shortly after this, the transmission tapes that are automatically recorded are played back to hear the words that were spoken by the hijackers a few minutes before. Everyone in the Boston flight control center hears the hijackers say, “We have some planes.” [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] Ben Sliney, the FAA's National Operations Manager, soon gets word of the “We have some planes” message and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. [USA Today, 8/13/02]
People and organizations involved: Ben Sliney, Boston flight control

8:34 a.m.: Boston Flight Control Attempts to Contact Air Base Directly; Result Unknown

       Boston flight controllers attempt to contact the military through the FAA's Cape Cod, Massachusetts, facility. Two fighters are on twenty-four hour alert at the Otis Air National Guard Base, at Cape Cod. Boston tries reaching this base so the fighters there can scramble after Flight 11. Apparently, they do this before going through the usual NORAD channels. The 9/11 Commission is vague about the outcome of this call. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] According to another account, this call occurs “around 8:30 a.m.,” when the Boston controller tells Otis control tower that Flight 11 has lost its identification signal and appears to be headed toward Manhattan; it looks like a possible hijacking, and fighters are needed fast. The lead pilot at Otis, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, says, “It didn't happen the way it was supposed to � We were the ones who were contacted right away and knew about it before the air defense sector.” Duffy says that at “[a]bout 8:30, 8:35” he receives a phone call from one of the sergeants, informing him of the hijacking. He says: “As soon as we heard there was something about a hijacking we got moving. � I called for ‘Nasty’ (Maj. Dan Nash) and I to suit up right away.” According to Duffy, “Halfway to the jets, we got ‘battle stations, ’ and I briefed Nasty on the information I had about the American Airlines flight. About 4-5 min. later, we got the scramble order and took off.” [Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, pp. 47-50; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02]
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, Otis Air National Guard Base, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Boston flight control, Timothy Duffy

(8:34 a.m.): Atlantic City Fighters Not Reached; Not Redeployed Until Much Later

       Around this time, Boston flight control attempts to contact an Atlantic City, New Jersey, air base, to send fighters after Flight 11. For decades, the air base had two fighters on 24-hour alert status, but this changed in 1998 due to budget cutbacks. The flight controllers do not realize this, and apparently try in vain to reach someone. Two F-16s from this base are practicing bombing runs over an empty stretch of the Pine Barrens near Atlantic City. Only eight minutes away from New York City, they are not alerted to the emerging crisis. Shortly after the second WTC crash at 9:03 a.m., the two F-16s are ordered to land and are refitted with air-to-air missiles, then sent aloft. However, the pilots re-launch more than an hour after the second crash. They are apparently sent to Washington, but do not reach there until almost 11:00 a.m. After 9/11, one newspaper questions why NORAD “left what seems to be a yawning gap in the midsection of its air defenses on the East Coast—a gap with New York City at the center.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Bergen Record, 12/5/03] Had these two fighters been notified at 8:37 a.m. or before, they could have reached New York City before Flight 11.
People and organizations involved: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Boston flight control

(8:36 a.m.): Flight 11 Attendants Ong and Sweeney Report Plane Maneuvers

       On Flight 11, flight attendant Betty Ong reports that the plane tilts all the way on one side and then becomes horizontal again. Flight attendant Amy Sweeney reports that the plane has begun a rapid descent. [ABC News, 7/18/02] Sweeney also says that the hijackers are Middle Easterners. [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/04]
People and organizations involved: Madeline ("Amy") Sweeney, Betty Ong

(After 8:37 a.m.): NORAD Scramble Order Moves Through Official and Unofficial Channels

NORAD commander Larry Arnold.
NORAD gives the command to scramble fighters after Flight 11 after receiving Boston's call. Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins at NEADS tells Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, “I have FAA on the phone, the shout line, Boston [flight control]. They said they have a hijacked aircraft.” Marr then calls Major General Larry Arnold at NORAD's Command Center in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and says, “Boss, I need to scramble [fighters at] Otis [Air National Guard Base].” Arnold recalls, “I said go ahead and scramble them, and we'll get the authorities later.” Arnold then calls the operations deputy at NORAD's Colorado headquarters to report. The operations deputy tells him, “Yeah, we'll work this with the National Military Command Center. Go ahead and scramble the aircraft.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, p. 56; ABC News, 9/11/02] Then, upon receiving this authorization from Larry Arnold, NEADS calls Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek at NORAD's Colorado headquarters. Jellinek is sitting near Canadian Air Force Major General Rick Findley, director of combat operations there. Findley's staff is “already on high alert” because of Vigilant Guardian and Operation Northern Vigilance, a training exercise and a NORAD operation that are currently in progress. Jellinek gets the thumbs up authorization from Findley to send fighters after Flight 11. Yet, according to the 1st Air Force's own book about 9/11, the “sector commander [at NEADS] would have authority to scramble the airplanes.” Military controllers at NEADS are only a hot line call away from the pilots on immediate alert. Why NEADS calls NORAD's Command Center at Tyndall, then NORAD's Colorado headquarters, to get authorization to launch fighters after Flight 11, is unclear. Rick Findley later states, “At that point all we thought was we've got an airplane hijacked and we were going to provide an escort as requested. We certainly didn't know it was going to play out as it did.” Findley remains in charge of NORAD headquarters while his staff feeds information to NORAD Commander in Chief Ralph Eberhart, who is stationed in Florida. [Canadian Broadcasting Corp., 11/27/01; Toledo Blade, 12/9/01; Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/02; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02; Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, pp. 50-52]
People and organizations involved: Dawne Deskins, Rick Findley, 9/11 Commission Report, Ralph Eberhart, Larry Arnold, Operation Northern Vigilance, Federal Aviation Administration, Mike Jellinek, National Military Command Center, Robert Marr

8:37 a.m.: Flight 11 Enters New York Control Space

       Flight 11 passes from Boston flight control airspace into New York flight control airspace. Flight controller John Hartling takes over monitoring the plane. However, when a colleague tells him the flight is hijacked, he is incredulous: “I didn't believe him. Because I didn't think that that stuff would happen anymore, especially in this country.” [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: New York flight control, John Hartling

8:37 a.m.: Flight 175 Pilots Asked to Look for Flight 11

       Flight controllers ask the United Airlines Flight 175 pilots to look for a lost American Airlines plane 10 miles to the south—a reference to Flight 11. They respond that they can see it. They are told to keep away from it. [Guardian, 10/17/01; Boston Globe, 11/23/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Apparently, Flight 175 is not told Flight 11 has been hijacked. Flight 175 itself is hijacked a few minutes later (see 8:41 a.m.).

After 8:37 a.m.: Otis Commander Phones NEADS for Authorization to Launch Fighters

       Following a call from an FAA controller at Boston to the control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base reporting the possible hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:34 a.m.), Lt. Col. Jon Treacy, commander of the 101st Fighter Squadron at Otis, phones NEADS to report the FAA's request for help, and get authorization to launch fighters. By now though, the FAA has already gotten through to NEADS themselves, and reported the hijacking (see (8:37 a.m.)). [Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, p. 50]
People and organizations involved: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Jon Treacy, Otis Air National Guard Base, Federal Aviation Administration

(8:37 a.m.): Boston Flight Control Notifies NORAD; Timing Disputed

Jeremy Powell.
According to the 9/11 Commission, Boston flight control contacts NEADS at this time. This is apparently the first successful notification to the military about the crisis. Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell, a member of the Air National Guard at NEADS, initially takes the call from Boston flight control. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02; Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02] Boston flight control says, “Hi. Boston [flight control], we have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed toward New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.” Powell replies, “Is this real-world or exercise?” Boston answers, “No, this is not an exercise, not a test.” [BBC, 9/1/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Powell gives the phone to Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins, regional Mission Crew Chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise. Deskins later says that initially she and “everybody” else at NEADS thinks the call is part of Vigilant Guardian. After the phone call, she has to clarify to everyone that it is not a drill. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, also says that when he hears of the hijacking at this time, “The first thing that went through my mind was, is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?” [ABC News, 9/11/02] Deskins recalls, “I picked up the line and I identified myself to the Boston [flight] controller, and he said, we have a hijacked aircraft and I need to get you some sort of fighters out here to help us out.” However, the timing of this vital notification is in some dispute. Deskins herself claimed the call occurred at 8:31 a.m. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Another report later states, “Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD.” [ABC News, 9/14/02] FAA Administrator Jane Garvey later testifies that the FAA notified NORAD at 8:34 a.m. [New York Times, 12/30/03] NORAD on the other hand, originally claimed they were first notified at 8:40 a.m., and this was widely reported in the media prior to the 9/11 Commission's 2004 report. [Newsday, 9/10/02; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); BBC, 9/1/02; NORAD, 9/18/01] If the 8:37 a.m. time is accurate, then flight controllers failed to notify NORAD until approximately 13 minutes after the hijackers in the cockpit clearly stated that the plane had been hijacked at 8:24 a.m.; 17 minutes after the transponder signal was lost and the flight goes far off course; and 24 minutes after radio contact was lost at 8:13 a.m.
People and organizations involved: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Vigilant Guardian, Jane Garvey, Jeremy Powell, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Boston flight control, Dawne Deskins, Larry Arnold

(8:38 a.m.): Flight 11 Pilot Stops Activating Talk Back Button

       The talkback button on Flight 11, which has been periodically activated since around 8:14 a.m., stops around this time. Some have suggested that this indicates that the hijackers replace pilot John Ogonowski at this time. [MSNBC, 9/15/01; Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01]
People and organizations involved: John Ogonowski

(8:40 a.m.): ‘Hubbub’ at NEADS Headquarters

       At NEADS, a huddle of people is gathered around one of their radar scopes. NEADS Commander Robert Marr initially thinks this hubbub is part of the NORAD training exercise (presumably Vigilant Guardian). He says, “I've seen many exercises � and as I saw that huddle I said, ‘There's got to be something wrong, something is happening here.’ You usually see that whenever they find a track on the scope that looks unusual; it's usually an indicator that something is getting ready to kick off.” He sends Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins, the regional mission crew commander for the exercise, to check it out. According to Marr, she comes running back with urgency in her voice: The FAA needs help with a possibly hijacked civilian airliner that has just disappeared from the radar scope and was heading toward New York. [Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, p. 55] Presumably it is while she is checking out this 'hubbub' that Deskins speaks over the phone with FAA's Boston Control Center about the first hijacking (see (8:37 a.m.)). According to the 9/11 Commission, this call to NEADS begins at 8:37:52 a.m. However, Deskins has given the time for the call at 8:31 a.m.(see (8:37 a.m.)). [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Federal Aviation Administration, Dawne Deskins, Robert Marr, Vigilant Guardian

(8:40 a.m.): Fighter Pilots Unofficially Told to Get Ready to Scramble After Flight 11

Major Daniel Nash.
Major Daniel Nash (codenamed Nasty) and Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy (codenamed Duff ) are the two F-15 pilots who would scramble after Flight 11 and then Flight 175. Apparently, they get several informal calls warning to get ready. According to Nash, at this time, a colleague at the Otis Air National Guard Base tells him that a flight out of Boston has been hijacked, and that he should be on alert. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] NEADS senior technician Jeremy Powell (informed about the hijacking at 8:37 a.m.), says that he telephones Otis Air National Guard Base soon thereafter to tell it to upgrade its “readiness posture.” [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, also says that after being told of the hijacking at 8:37 a.m., he says, “I'll call First Air Force [at Otis] and let them know we've got a potential incident.” [BBC, 9/1/02] Boston flight control had tried calling the Otis base directly at 8:34 a.m., although the result of that call remains unclear. Duffy recalls being warned: “I was just standing up by the ops desk and I was told I had a phone call. I asked who it was and they said the [Boston] tower calling and something about a hijacking. It was Flight American 11, a 767, out of Boston going to California. At the time we ran in and got suited up.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02; BBC, 9/1/02; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Duffy says, “Halfway to the jets, we got ‘battle stations’ ... which means to get ready for action.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] The actual scramble order does not come until the pilots are already waiting in the fighters: “We went out, we hopped in the jets and we were ready to go—standby for a scramble order if we were going to get one.” [BBC, 9/1/02] Duffy continues, “I briefed Nasty on the information I had about the American Airlines Flight. About four-five minutes later, we got the scramble order and took off.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] However, the official notification to scramble these fighters does not come until 8:46 a.m. The six-minute (or more) delay between unofficial and official notification has not been explained.
People and organizations involved: Boston flight control, Otis Air National Guard Base, Robert Marr, Jeremy Powell, Daniel Nash, Timothy Duffy

8:41 a.m.: Flight 175 Reports Suspicious Flight 11 Radio Transmission; Hijacked Moments Later

       The pilots of Flight 175 tell ground control about Flight 11, “We figured we'd wait to go to your center. We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure out of Boston. Someone keyed the mic and said, ‘Everyone stay in your seats.’ It cut out.” [Guardian, 10/17/01; Newsday, 9/10/02; New York Times, 10/16/01] An alternate version: “We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure from B-O-S [Boston's airport code]. Sounds like someone keyed the mic and said, ‘Everyone, stay in your seats.’ ” [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] The last transmission from Flight 175, still discussing this message, comes a few seconds before 8:42 a.m. [New York Times, 10/16/01] Presumably Flight 175 is hijacked within the next minute.

8:41 a.m.: New York Flight Control Knows Flight 11 Has Been Hijacked

       Flight 175 flies into New York flight control airspace. Dave Bottoglia takes over monitoring the flight. Bottoglia has just been told by the pilot of Flight 175 that he has heard threatening communications from Flight 11. Seconds later, a controller sitting next to Bottoglia gets up and points to a radar blip. He says, “You see this target here? This is American 11. Boston [flight control] thinks it's a hijack.” John Hartling has been watching the hijacked Flight 11 since 8:37 a.m. Bottoglia joins Hartling in watching Flight 11's blip until it disappears over New York City. He does not pay attention to Flight 175 for several minutes. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] The New York flight control center was notified of Flight 11's hijacking around 8:25 a.m.
People and organizations involved: New York flight control, John Hartling, Dave Bottoglia

(8:45-8:46 a.m.): Flight 11 Attendants Calm as End Approaches

       Flight attendant Amy Sweeney is still on the phone with Michael Woodward, describing conditions on Flight 11. The plane is nearing New York City, but the coach section passengers are still quiet, apparently unaware a hijacking is in progress. Woodward asks Sweeney to look out of the window and see if she can tell where they are. She replies, “I see the water. I see the building. I see buildings.” She tells him the plane is flying very low. Then she takes a slow, deep breath and slowly, calmly says, “Oh my God!” Woodward hears a loud click, and then silence. [ABC News, 7/18/02; Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01] Flight attendant Betty Ong, on another phone, apparently does not realize what is about to happen. She is repeatedly saying, “Pray for us. Pray for us,” before her phone call comes to a halt. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: Betty Ong, Michael Woodward, Hajji Abdul Qadir

(Before 8:45 a.m.): American Airlines Tells Crisis Center, Leaders of Hijacking, but Not Other Pilots

       At American Airlines' headquarters in Fort Worth, their crisis Command Center used in emergencies, is activated. A page is sent to American's top executives and operations personnel: “Confirmed hijacking Flight 11.” However, pilots on other American flights apparently are not notified. Top managers gather at the Command Center and watch the radar blip of Flight 11 until it disappears over New York City. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01]
People and organizations involved: American Airlines

8:46 a.m.: First WTC Attack Recorded on Video, but Not Broadcast Until Evening

The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash.
Two French documentary filmmakers are filming a documentary on New York City firefighters about ten blocks from the WTC. One of them hears a roar, looks up, and captures a distant image of the first WTC crash. They continue shooting footage nonstop for many hours, and their footage is first shown that evening on CNN. [New York Times, 1/12/02] President Bush later claims that he sees the first attack live on television, but this is technically impossible, as there was no live news footage of the attack. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush

8:46 a.m.: Flight 11 Hits the North Tower of the World Trade Center

Flight 11 hits the WTC North Tower at 8:46. This video still is the only well-known image of this crash.
Flight 11 slams into the WTC North Tower (Building 1). Seismic records pinpoint the crash at 26 seconds after 8:46 a.m. [New York Times, 9/12/01; NORAD, 9/18/01; CNN, 9/12/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); New York Times, 9/11/02; USA Today, 12/20/01; Newsday, 9/10/02; USA Today, 8/13/02] Investigators believe the plane still has about 10,000 gallons of fuel and is traveling approximately 470 mph. [New York Times, 9/11/02] The plane strikes the 93rd through 98th floors in the 110-story building. No one above the crash line survives; approximately 1,360 people die. Below the crash line, approximately 72 die and more than 4,000 survive. Both towers are slightly less than half full at the time of the attack, with between 5,000 to 7,000 people in each tower. This number is lower than expected. Many office workers have not yet shown up to work, and tourists to the observation deck opening at 9:30 A.M. have yet to arrive. [USA Today, 12/20/01]
People and organizations involved: World Trade Center

8:46 a.m.: New York Flight Control Suspects Flight 175 Hijacking

       New York flight controller Dave Bottoglia is in charge of monitoring both Flights 11 and 175. He has just watched Flight 11's radar blip disappear over New York City, but does not yet realize the plane has crashed. “Within seconds” of losing Flight 11's blip, he realizes that Flight 175 is also missing. He has another controller take over all his other planes so he can focus on finding Flight 175. He tries contacting the planes several times unsuccessfully. Curt Applegate, sitting at the radar screen next to Bottoglia, sees a blip that might be the missing Flight 11. In fact, it is the missing Flight 175. Just as Bottoglia notices it, its transponder signal turns back on, but at a different signal than before. “There is no longer any question in Bottoglia's mind that he's looking at a second hijacked airliner,” according to later MSNBC reports. Bottoglia then notices Flight 175 turn east and start descending. He keeps an eye on it and sees it head right toward Delta Flight 2315. He recalls saying to the Delta Flight, “Traffic, 2:00, ten miles. I think he's been hijacked. I don't know his intentions. Take any evasive action necessary.” Flight 2315 takes evasive action, missing Flight 175 by less than 200 feet. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] However, there is no claim that NORAD is notified about the hijacking at this time. On the other hand, according to a NORAD timeline from shortly after 9/11, NORAD is notified by Boston flight control three minutes earlier at 8:43 a.m. [NORAD, 9/18/01] The 9/11 Commission seems to ignore this account from Bottoglia completely, asserting that he notices the transponder change at 8:51 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: New York flight control, Curt Applegate, Dave Bottoglia, North American Aerospace Defense Command

8:46 a.m.: NEADS Staff Believe They See Flight 11 Disappear Over New York

       NEADS staff have been desperately trying to track the missing Flight 11 on their radar screens. Despite having great difficulty locating it, Master Sergeant Joe McCain believes they see Flight 11 when it disappears over New York. He says: “We picked up a search track going down the Hudson Valley, straight in from the north toward New York. It's very unusual to find a search target, which is a plane with its transponder turned off, in that area. This plane was headed toward New York going faster than the average Cessna and was no doubt a jet aircraft. We had many clues. The plane was fast and heading in an unusual direction with no beacon. We had raw data only. Everything just kind of fit. We watched that track until it faded over New York City and right after that someone came out of the break room and said the World Trade Center had been hit.” [Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, pp. 56-57]
People and organizations involved: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Joe McCain

(8:46 a.m.): Fighters Ordered to Scramble to Flight 11 Nine Minutes After NORAD Notification

       Two F-15 fighters are ordered to scramble from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts to find Flight 11, approximately 190 miles from the known location of the plane and 188 miles from New York City. [Channel 4 News, 9/13/01; CNN, 9/17/01; Washington Post, 9/15/01; Los Angeles Times, 9/17/01; NORAD, 9/18/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] According to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD makes the decision to scramble after only one phone call, as the decision is made to act first and get clearances later. Yet there is a nine-minute gap between when the 9/11 Commission says NORAD is notified about the hijacking at 8:37 a.m., and when the fighters are ordered scrambled. This delay has not been explained. The pilots had already received several unofficial warnings before this order—possibly as early as 8:34 a.m., 12 minutes earlier. One of the pilots recalls sitting in the cockpit, ready and waiting for the scramble order to come. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; BBC, 9/1/02] Yet, according to some reports, they do not take off for another six minutes, at 8:52 a.m. [NORAD, 9/18/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] The fighters' initial target, Flight 11, is already crashing into the WTC at this time. NEADS Commander Robert Marr later claims, “My intent was to scramble Otis to military airspace while we found out what was going on.” [Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, pp 56]
People and organizations involved: Otis Air National Guard Base, North American Aerospace Defense Command

(8:46-8:50 a.m.): New York and Boston Flight Control Conclude Flight 11 Has Hit WTC

Rick Tepper.
Rick Tepper, a flight controller at the Newark, New Jersey, tower, looks across the Hudson River at New York City in time to see the explosion caused by Flight 11. Another flight controller there tries to find out what caused it. He recalls that in the next few minutes, “We contacted La Guardia, Kennedy Tower, and Teterboro Tower to find out if they lost an airplane. And they all said they didn't know what it was. I got on the phone to the en route air traffic control's facility out in New York on Long Island, and I asked them if they'd lost any airplanes, and they said, ‘No, but Boston [flight control] lost an airplane. They lost an American 767.’ ” New Jersey flight controller Bob Varcadapane says to the Long Island flight controller, “I have a burning building and you have a missing airplane. This is very coincidental.” The assumption is quickly made at New York and Boston flight control centers that Flight 11 has hit the WTC. NBC later reports, “Word of the fate of Flight 11 quickly travels throughout the air traffic control world.” [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] However, the Indianapolis flight control center that handles Flight 77 reportedly does not learn of Flight 11's crash until around 9:20 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: Rick Tepper, Bob Varcadapane, World Trade Center, Boston flight control, New York flight control

(8:48 a.m.): NORAD's Colorado Headquarters Sees WTC Television Footage

Canadian Air Force Major General Major General Rick Findley.
Canadian Air Force Major General Rick Findley is in charge of battle stations at NORAD's Colorado Springs, Colorado, headquarters. According to Findley, “As the phones were beginning to ring, someone said, ‘Sir, you might want to look at that.’ I looked up and there was the CNN image of the World Trade Center. There was a hole in the side of one of the buildings.” CNN broadcasts this footage starting at 8:48 a.m. An as-yet unidentified person reportedly tells Findley that it was a small plane, who responded, “I said the hole's too big for a small airplane. ... I asked if it was the hijacked aircraft. I was scratching my head, wondering if it was another aircraft altogether.” [Calgary Herald, 10/1/01]
People and organizations involved: World Trade Center, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Rick Findley

8:48 a.m.: CNN First Major Network to Show WTC Crash Footage

       CNN is the first major network to show the footage of the crash site. It breaks into a commercial and anchor Carol Lin says, “This just in. You are looking at ... obviously a very disturbing live shot there—that is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.” CNN then switches to Sean Murtagh, the network's vice president of finance, who says in a live telephone interview, “I just witnessed a plane that appeared to be cruising at a slightly lower than normal altitude over New York City. And it appears to have crashed into—I don't know which tower it is—but it hit directly in the middle of one of the World Trade Center towers. It was a jet, maybe a two-engine jet, maybe a 737 ... a large passenger commercial jet ... It was teetering back and forth, wing-tip to wing-tip, and it looks like it has crashed into—probably, twenty stories from the top of the World Trade Center—maybe the eightieth to eighty-fifth floor. There is smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 16-17; CNN, 9/11/01] Many reports do not come until a few minutes later. For instance, ABC first breaks into regular programming with the story at 8:52 a.m. [ABC News, 9/14/02] Incredibly, a NORAD timeline presented to the 9/11 Commission in 2003 claims that CNN doesn't begin its coverage of the attacks until 8:57. [9/11 Commission Report, 5/23/03]
People and organizations involved: World Trade Center, CNN, Carol Lin, Sean Murtagh

8:48 a.m.: New York Flight Control Center Manager Aware of Ong Phone Call, Unaware Flight 11 Has Crashed

       A New York flight control center manager speaks in a teleconference between flight centers. The person says, “Okay. This is New York [flight control]. We're watching the airplane [Flight 11]. I also had conversation with American Airlines, and they've told us that they believe that one of their stewardesses was stabbed and that there are people in the cockpit that have control of the aircraft, and that's all the information they have right now.” The manager is unaware Flight 11 has already crashed. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] This appears to be a simplified version of flight attendant Betty Ong's phone call, given to American Airlines leader Gerard Arpey and others around 8:30 a.m. (see 8:30 a.m.).
People and organizations involved: New York flight control

(8:50 a.m.): CIA Director, Told of Attack, Immediately Suspects bin Laden

       CIA Director Tenet is told of the first WTC crash while he is eating breakfast with his mentor, former Senator David Boren (D). They are interrupted when CIA bodyguards converge on the table to hand Tenet the cell phone. Tenet is told that the WTC has been attacked by an airplane. Boren later says, “I was struck by the fact that [the messenger] used the word ‘attacked.’ ” Tenet then hands a cell phone back to an aide and says to Boren, “You know, this has bin Laden's fingerprints all over it.” “ ‘He was very collected,’ Boren recalls. ‘He said he would be at the CIA in 15 minutes, what people he needed in the room and what he needed to talk about.’ ” [ABC News, 9/14/02; USA Today, 9/24/01] According to other accounts, Tenet responds to the caller, “They steered the plane directly into the building?” Tenet then says to Boren, “That looks like bin Laden.” Tenet muses aloud, “I wonder if this has something to do with the guy [Zacarias Moussaoui] who trained for a pilot's license.” (Moussaoui had been arrested several weeks earlier.) [Stern, 8/13/03; Saint Paul Pioneer Press, 5/29/02] According to another account, Tenet pauses while on the phone to tell Boren, “The World Trade Center has been hit. We're pretty sure it wasn't an accident. It looks like a terrorist act,” then returns to the phone to identify who should be summoned to the CIA situation room. [Time, 9/14/01] (Note that according to two accounts, Tenet was not informed of the developing crisis until after the second WTC tower had been struck. [Washington Post, 1/27/02; Bamford, 2004, pp 18-19] However, the majority of reports indicate that Tenet was informed of the crisis right after the first WTC tower was struck.)
People and organizations involved: World Trade Center, George Tenet, David Boren, Zacarias Moussaoui, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency

(8:50 a.m.): Boston Flight Control Informs NORAD That Flight 11 Has Hit WTC

       As soon as Boston flight controllers hear news that a plane might have hit the WTC, they know it was Flight 11. They have been tracking it continually since it began behaving erratically. It takes “several minutes” for Boston to report to NORAD that Flight 11 is responsible. [New York Times, 9/13/01 (F); Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02]
People and organizations involved: Boston flight control, North American Aerospace Defense Command

8:52 a.m.: Fighters Ordered Toward the Crashed Flight 11, Head for Flight 175 Instead

A typical F-15.
Two F-15s take off from Otis Air National Guard Base. This occurs six minutes after being ordered to go after Flight 11(which has already crashed); 26 minutes after flight controllers were certain Flight 11 was hijacked; and 39 minutes after flight controllers lost contact with Flight 11. [Washington Post, 9/12/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; ABC News, 9/11/02; NORAD, 9/18/01; CNN, 9/17/01; Washington Post, 9/15/01] The fighters inadvertently head toward Flight 175 instead. According to one of the pilots, as soon as they strap in, the green light to launch goes on, and they're up in the air even before their fighters' radar kicks in. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02]
People and organizations involved: Otis Air National Guard Base

8:52 am (and After): Otis Fighters Scramble to New York; Conflicting Accounts of Urgency and Destination

Route of the Otis Air National Guard fighters to New York City.
The F-15 fighters are scrambling to New York City. Later accounts concerning these fighters conflict significantly. According one account, pilot Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy later recalls that they are in a hurry at this time: “we've been over the flight a thousand times in our minds and I don't know what we could have done to get there any quicker.” However, though Duffy says he's been warned Flight 11 had been hijacked and appears headed toward New York City, he does not yet realize that his flight is anything other than a routine exercise: “It's just peacetime. We're not thinking anything real bad is going to happen out there.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02; BBC, 9/1/02] But, in another account, Duffy claims that fellow officer tells him before takeoff, “This looks like the real thing.” “It just seemed wrong. I just wanted to get there. I was in full-blower all the way.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Full-blower means the fighters are traveling at or near full speed. An F-15 can travel over 1,875 mph. [Air Force News, 7/30/97] A considerable amount of fuel is required to maintain such high speeds for long, but a NORAD commander notes that, coincidentally, these fighters are stocked with extra fuel. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Duffy later says, “As we're climbing out, we go supersonic on the way, which is kind of nonstandard for us.” He says his target destination is over Kennedy airport in New York City. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Similarly, another account states that, as the F-15s are taking off, “Duffy told his wingman they would fly supersonic.” According to Duffy, “When we took off I left it in full afterburner the whole time.” [Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, pp 57] He says, “When we [take] off we [start] climbing a 280-heading, basically towards New York City. I [am] supersonic. ... We [are] to proceed to Manhattan directly and set up a combat air patrol.” [BBC, 9/1/02] There are different accounts as to just how quickly they travel. According to Major General Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, “The pilots [fly] ‘like a scalded ape,’ topping 500 mph but [are] unable to catch up to the airliner.” [Dallas Morning News, 9/16/01 Sources: Paul Weaver] ABC News later says, “The fighters are hurtling toward New York at mach 1.2, nearly 900 miles per hour.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold later states that the fighters head straight for New York City at about 1,100 to 1,200 mph. [Slate, 1/16/02; MSNBC, 9/23/01 (C) Sources: Larry Arnold] “An F-15 departing from Otis can reach New York City in ten to twelve minutes, according to an Otis spokeswoman.” [Cape Cod Times, 9/16/01] At an average speed of 1,125 mph, the fighters would reach the city in ten minutes—9:02 a.m. If NORAD commander Arnold's recollection is correct, these fighters should reach Flight 175 just before it crashes. Yet according to a NORAD timeline developed just after 9/11, the fighters take about 19 minutes to reach New York City (arriving at about 9:11 a.m.), traveling below supersonic speeds at less than 600 mph. [NORAD, 9/18/01] According to a later account though, these fighters weren't even heading toward Manhattan. Contradicting his earlier recollection, pilot Timothy Duffy says, “we were supersonic going down to Long Island. � [W]e have no idea what we are going toward. We are taking off to go help somebody and we needed to get there quickly to assess the situation.” NEADS Commander Robert Marr says that after they received word of the first plane hitting the WTC, “Our jets are heading down south toward Whiskey 105 and we don't really have a mission for them at this point, because we don't have any other problems in the air.” Whiskey 105 is military training airspace southeast of Long Island. [Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, pp 57-59] Consistent with this account but also contradicting the earlier recollections of pilots and others involved that day, the 9/11 Commission later concludes, in direct contradiction of the recollections of the pilots and others involved that day, that the fighters are never directed toward New York City at all, but rather are ordered to head out over the Atlantic Ocean. According to the 9/11 Commission's conclusions, the fighters do not reach New York City until 9:25 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: Timothy Duffy

(9:03 a.m.): Boston Flight Control Tells FAA That Hijackers Said We Have Planes, FAA Suggests Notifying NORAD

       A manager at Boston flight control reports to the FAA's New England regional headquarters the “We have some planes” comment made by a Flight 11 hijacker at 8:24 a.m. (see (8:24 a.m.)). The Boston controller says, “I'm gonna reconfirm with, with downstairs, but the, as far as the tape ... seemed to think the guy said that ‘we have planes.’ Now, I don't know if it was because it was the accent, or if there's more than one [hijacked plane], but I'm gonna, I'm gonna reconfirm that for you, and I'll get back to you real quick. Okay?” Asked, “They have what?,” this person clarifies, “Planes, as in plural. ... It sounds like, We're talking to New York, that there's another one aimed at the World Trade Center. ... A second one just hit the Trade Center.” The person at New England headquarters replies, “Okay. Yeah, we gotta get—we gotta alert the military real quick on this.” At 9:05 a.m., Boston confirms for this headquarters and the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, that a hijacker said, “we have planes” (forgetting the “some”). [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] It appears Boston replays the recording of the hijacker saying this from about 30 minutes earlier. Other people, such as American Airlines leader Gerard Arpey at that airline's headquarters, apparently learned about this comment before the Flight 11 crash at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m.)
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, Boston flight control, Gerard Arpey

(9:03 a.m.): Fighters Do Not Have Shootdown Authority

       A fighter pilot flying from Otis Air Base toward New York City later notes that it wouldn't have mattered if he caught up with Flight 175, because only President Bush could order a shootdown, and Bush is at a public event at the time. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] “Only the president has the authority to order a civilian aircraft shot down,” according to a 1999 CNN report. [CNN, 10/26/99] In fact, by 9/11, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld also has the authority to order a shootdown, but he is not responding to the crisis at this time. [New York Observer, 6/17/04] Furthermore, NORAD Commander Larry Arnold later states that on 9/11, “I have the authority in case of an emergency to declare a target hostile and shoot it down under an emergency condition.” [Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, pp 75]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld

(9:03 a.m.): Contradictions over Otis Fighter Mission and Whereabouts

       The minute Flight 175 hits the South Tower, pilot Major Daniel Nash says that clear visibility allows him to see smoke pour out of Manhattan, even though NORAD says he is 71 miles away. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] The other Otis pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, recalls, “We're 60 miles out, and I could see the smoke from the towers.” They call NORAD right then for an update, and Duffy relates, “At that point, they said the second aircraft just hit the World Trade Center. That was news to me. I thought we were still chasing American [Airlines Flight] 11.” [ABC News, 9/14/02] In another account Duffy again relates, “It was right about then when they said the second aircraft had just hit the World Trade Center, which was quite a shock to both [Nash] and I, because we both thought there was only one aircraft out there. We were probably 70 miles or so out when the second one hit. So, we were just a matter of minutes away.” [BBC, 9/1/02] He asks for clarification of their mission, but the request is met with “considerable confusion.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Bob Varcadapane, a Newark, New Jersey, flight controller who sees the Flight 175 crash, claims, “I remember the two F-15s. They were there moments after the impact. And I was just—said to myself, ‘If only they could have gotten there a couple minutes earlier.’ They just missed it.” [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] However, the 9/11 Commission appears to believe that the pilots never get near New York City at this time. According to the commission's account, from 8:46 a.m. until 8:52 a.m., NORAD personnel are unable to find Flight 11. Shortly after 8:50 a.m., and just before the fighters take off, NORAD is given word that a plane has hit the WTC (see (8:50 a.m.)). Lacking a clear target, the fighters take off toward a military controlled airspace over the ocean, off the coast of Long Island. A map released by the 9/11 Commission indicates that at 9:03 the fighters are about 100 miles away and heading southwest instead of west to New York City. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] The 9/11 Commission says that, at 9:10 a.m., Boston flight control tells the Otis fighters about the second WTC tower being struck. [9/11 Commission Final Report, 7/24/04, p. 459]
People and organizations involved: Daniel Nash, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Bob Varcadapane, World Trade Center, Timothy Duffy

(9:03 a.m.): New York Flight Control Informs NORAD That Flight 175 Has Been Hijacked; Timing of Notice in Question

       The 9/11 Commission later concludes that New York flight control tells NEADS that Flight 175 has been hijacked at this time. The commission refers to this as “the first indication that the NORAD air defenders had of the second hijacked aircraft.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, claims that he first learns a flight other than Flight 11 has been hijacked when he sees Flight 175 crash into the WTC on television. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] NEADS Mission Crew Commander Dawne Deskins claims that when she sees Flight 175 hitting the South Tower on television, “we didn't even know there was a second hijack.” [Air War Over America, by Leslie Filson, 1/04, pp 59] However, these accounts contradict NORAD's conclusion reached shortly after 9/11 that it was first notified about Flight 175 at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m.). [NORAD, 9/18/01] Additionally, as Flight 175 crashes into the WTC, Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek (who is overseeing the Command Center in NORAD's Colorado headquarters) is on the phone with NEADS. He sees the crash live on television and asks NEADS, “Was that the hijacked aircraft you were dealing with?” The reply is yes. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01] If the commission's account is correct, several questions remain unanswered. Flight 175 lost radio contact at 8:42 a.m. (see 8:41 a.m.) and changed transponder signals at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m.); a flight controller declared it possibly hijacked sometime between 8:46 a.m. and 8:53 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m.); and a flight control manager called it hijacked at 8:55 a.m.(see (8:55 a.m.)) The commission has not explained why New York flight control would wait 10-17 minutes before warning NORAD that Flight 175 is possibly hijacked. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] It also would not explain why United Airlines headquarters would fail to notify NORAD National Guard after learning that the plane has been hijacked at about 8:50 a.m. (see (8:50 a.m.))
People and organizations involved: New York flight control, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Robert Marr, United Airlines, Mike Jellinek, North American Aerospace Defense Command

9:06 a.m.: Flight Controllers Nationwide Are Told Flight 11 Crash Caused by Hijacking

       All flight control facilities nationwide are notified that the Flight 11 crash into the WTC was probably a hijacking. [House of Representatives Committee, 9/21/01; Newsday, 9/23/01]

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