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Context of 'September 8, 2001: Suspicious Visitors Try to Enter Boston Airport Control Tower'

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The Hyatt Regency hotel in San Francisco.The Hyatt Regency hotel in San Francisco. [Source: Hyatt Hotels Corporation]A conference is held in San Francisco, California, to examine airport security, during which terrorism and hijackings are two of the main topics of discussion. The Airport Security Summit is held at the Hyatt Regency hotel, near San Francisco International Airport. [Security, 6/2001; Security Technology and Design, 10/2001] It is produced by World Research Group, a New York-based conference and training development company. [Security Technology and Design, 10/2001; World Research Group, 2011] Numerous top aviation and airport executives attend the three-day event, at which they discuss their security problems and successes. Participants include representatives from San Francisco International Airport, JFK International Airport in New York, Logan International Airport in Boston, United Airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the US Department of Transportation, among others. [World Research Group, 6/19/2001; World Research Group, 6/19/2001; Airport Business, 9/2001] Aircraft hijackings and terrorism are two of the key agenda topics. [Security Technology and Design, 10/2001] The conference includes presentations with titles such as “It Can’t Happen Here: Anatomy of an Attempted Hijacking,” “Airport Safety and Security: Logan International Airport’s Approach,” and “Working Towards Better Partnerships to Combat Security Threats.” [World Research Group, 6/19/2001] The event is held “[i]n response to growing awareness that aviation security needed strengthening,” according to Security Technology and Design magazine. [Security Technology and Design, 10/2001]

Entity Tags: John F. Kennedy International Airport, Logan International Airport, World Research Group, Federal Aviation Administration, US Department of Transportation, United Airlines, San Francisco International Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A car rented by some of the 9/11 hijackers is recorded several times on surveillance cameras going in and out of the parking lot at Boston’s Logan Airport in the days before the attacks, and is finally left at the parking lot on the morning of September 11 (see (6:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The car is a white Mitsubishi sedan that has been leased from an Alamo franchise in Springfield, Massachusetts. It is found after the attacks, on the evening of September 11, and contains a “ramp pass” enabling access to restricted areas of Logan Airport. Time magazine will speculate that “someone was reconnoitering with accomplices who worked on the planes, who could plant weapons onboard.” [USA Today, 9/13/2001; Washington Post, 9/14/2001; Boston Globe, 9/17/2001; Time, 9/24/2001]

Entity Tags: Logan International Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The air traffic control tower at Logan Airport.The air traffic control tower at Logan Airport. [Source: Public Domain]Several unidentified Middle Eastern men try unsuccessfully to get a tour of the air traffic control tower at Boston’s Logan Airport, while, later in the day, a Middle Eastern man is able to enter the tower and look around. In the first incident, around late morning or early afternoon, four or five Middle Eastern men approach an air traffic controller in the parking area while he is on a cigarette break. The controller will later describe two of the men as “approximately 38 to 42 years of age,” while the others are “approximately 30 to 34 years of age.” (Mohamed Atta, the oldest of the 9/11 hijackers, is 33 years old at the time of the attacks.) One of the older men has a mustache, and all of them are dressed casually. The men ask the controller to let them have a tour of the control tower, but he refuses. After a brief conversation, he gives the men a phone number to call if they want a tour. Later on this day, during the evening, a Middle Eastern man who introduces himself as a pilot is able to enter and tour the tower. The man is able to get to the tower’s 19th floor, even though access to that floor is restricted. Officials later surmise that he waited in one of the elevators until an employee on the 19th floor called for it, and then the employee went down after the Middle Eastern man got off. The man enters a room where some controllers are on break. When the controllers ask the man what he is doing, he says he is a pilot who wants a tour of the tower cab. An unnamed source will later describe: “He showed some ID, said he was a pilot, and because it was not a busy time, they said OK. It is not that unusual for a pilot to get a tour.” The man heads up the stairs to the tower cab where he spends about 15 minutes and engages the controllers there in conversation. He says he lives in Haverhill and has family in Afghanistan, and then leaves on his own. The two incidents on this day will be recalled as suspicious after the 9/11 attacks, but the identity of the Middle Eastern men will not be established. [Boston Globe, 9/16/2001; Boston Globe, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 2003]

Entity Tags: Logan International Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mike Hilliard.Mike Hilliard. [Source: Mary Schwalm / North Andover Eagle-Tribune]The air traffic control tower at Logan International Airport in Boston is called by the FAA’s Boston Center and told that communication with Flight 11 has been lost, but when the tower supervisor looks at the plane through his binoculars, he can see nothing outwardly wrong with it. [North Andover Eagle-Tribune, 9/6/2011; CNHI News Service, 9/9/2011] Flight 11 took off from Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m. (see (7:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It was in communication with the Logan control tower before being passed on to the FAA’s Boston Center. All communications between the Logan tower and Flight 11 were routine, and tower operators received no indication that anything was wrong with the flight. [Boston Globe, 9/12/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; New York Times, 10/16/2001] But since the Boston Center instructed it to ascend to 35,000 feet, just before 8:14 a.m. (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), Flight 11 has failed to respond to all air traffic controller communications (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 7]
Tower Supervisor Sees Nothing Wrong with Flight 11 - The Boston Center now calls the Logan tower to alert it to the problem. “We got a call in the tower that communication with the plane had been lost,” Mike Hilliard, the tower supervisor, will later recall. Then, Hilliard will say, the radar room, which is on a level below the tower room, “called and asked if we could still see the plane.” Hilliard looks at the radar screen and can see Flight 11’s track. He then grabs his binoculars, looks out the window through them, and can see Flight 11, because the sun is reflecting off its aluminum fuselage. The aircraft is flying “at 15,000 feet, and he wasn’t trailing vapor or smoke,” Hilliard will recall. Hilliard therefore informs the radar room that he cannot see anything wrong with the plane.
Assistant Says, 'I Hope It's Not a Hijack' - One of Hilliard’s assistants then says to the supervisor, “I hope it’s not a hijack.” This gives Hilliard an uneasy feeling. He replies, “It better not be, because if they got the airplane that quick, it’s a team that took the airplane.” He says to his assistant that the problem with Flight 11 has “got to be mechanical,” and then adds, “Nobody can get a plane that quick.” [North Andover Eagle-Tribune, 9/6/2011; CNHI News Service, 9/9/2011] The 9/11 Commission will conclude that Flight 11 is hijacked at around 8:14 a.m. (see 8:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). Flight 175, the second plane to crash into the World Trade Center, takes off from Logan Airport at 8:14 a.m. (see 8:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4, 7]

Entity Tags: Mike Hilliard, Logan International Airport, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Madeline ‘Amy’ Sweeney.Madeline ‘Amy’ Sweeney. [Source: Nashua Telegraph / Getty Images]Madeline “Amy” Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, makes two unsuccessful attempts at calling the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Flight 11 took off from Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m. (see (7:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001] The American Airlines flight services office at the airport manages the scheduling and operation of flight attendants. Attendants go there to check in for duty and fill in their pre-flight paperwork, among other things. The office’s phone number is well known to the American Airlines flight attendants who operate out of Logan Airport. [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] Sweeney first tries phoning the flight services office at 8:22 a.m., but the call fails to connect. Her second attempted call, two minutes later, also fails to connect. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Sweeney tries making the calls from a passenger seat in the next-to-last row of the coach section of the plane. She makes the attempted calls on an Airfone, using a calling card given to her by Sara Low, another of the plane’s flight attendants. [New York Observer, 2/15/2004; New York Observer, 6/20/2004; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9/11/2011] Sweeney will finally reach the American Airlines flight services office on her third attempt to do so, at 8:25 a.m., and alert its staff to what is happening on her plane (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10]

Entity Tags: Madeline (“Amy”) Sweeney, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager at Logan International Airport in Boston, goes with a colleague to the American Airlines gate area at Logan Airport in response to a call from a flight attendant on Flight 11, but finds the area quiet and sees that all of his airline’s morning flights, including Flight 11, have already left the airport. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6; 9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10]
Manager and Colleague Head to Departure Gate - Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, called the American Airlines flight services office at Logan Airport at 8:25 a.m. and told Evelyn Nunez, a passenger service agent, about the trouble on her plane (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). Nunez passed on the details of the call to Woodward. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10] She told Woodward that the plane on which the trouble occurred was at Gate 32 at the airport. Woodward therefore heads to the departure gate with Elizabeth Williams, a colleague of his, to see if the plane is still there. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6] Williams will later recall that Woodward tells her that “they needed to go to Gate 32 because two flight attendants had been stabbed.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4] Sweeney incorrectly told Nunez that she was on Flight 12, not Flight 11. However, Flight 11 did indeed depart from Gate 32 at Logan Airport (see 7:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 7]
Manager and Colleague Realize They Have Been Given Incorrect Information - Woodward will say that when he and Williams reach Gate 32, they find that all of American Airlines’ morning flights have already left Logan Airport. [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10] However, Williams will contradict this, telling the FBI that when she and Woodward reach the departure gate, they find “an empty airplane” there. Williams uses the gate-side computer to search for information on the flight time of the plane at Gate 32, while Woodward phones Nunez. Williams and Woodward then conclude that they must have received incorrect information. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4]
Manager Realizes Flight 12 Is a Plane from Los Angeles - Woodward realizes that Flight 12—the plane Sweeney said she was on—is a flight from the West Coast that has not yet left for Boston. He says to Williams: “Wait a minute: Flight 12 comes in at night. It hasn’t even left Los Angeles yet.” Woodward will tell the 9/11 Commission that he is currently thinking about how “sometimes the [American Airlines] operations center will call when there is a problem on a flight, and tell them to meet it when the aircraft lands.” Presumably he means that he is wondering if the call Nunez received from Sweeney was actually made by someone at the airline’s operations center, who was referring to a flight that is heading to Boston. Woodward and Williams check out the gate area and then, finding nothing wrong there, walk back to their office, which takes them about two minutes. Woodward will talk to Sweeney when she calls the flight services office again at 8:32 a.m. (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10-11]

Entity Tags: Evelyn Nunez, Logan International Airport, Elizabeth D. Williams, Michael Woodward, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Evelyn Nunez and Elizabeth Williams, two American Airlines employees at Logan International Airport in Boston, call the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center and pass on to it information that a colleague of theirs is receiving from a flight attendant on Flight 11, but apparently no details of their call will later be provided to the 9/11 Commission. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4; 9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 4] Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, phoned the American Airlines flight services office at Logan Airport at 8:32 a.m., and in a call lasting 12 or 13 minutes gives details of the trouble on her plane to Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Williams Passes on Information from Flight Attendant - While Woodward is talking to Sweeney, Williams, a colleague of his, looks on the computer for information about Flight 11. Then Nunez, a passenger service agent for American Airlines, calls the American Airlines SOC in Fort Worth, Texas, to advise it of the situation. The person who answers the call is unknown. Nunez has a short conversation with them and then Williams takes over the call. Williams repeats to the SOC employee information that Woodward is calling out to her, which he is receiving from Sweeney. Woodward passes on to Williams the information that the hijackers on Flight 11 are Middle Eastern and have broken into the cockpit; Sweeney thinks the original pilot is no longer flying her plane; two flight attendants have been stabbed; one of them—Karen Martin—is on oxygen, but the other—Barbara Arestegui—is “hanging in there”; and a passenger in business class had his throat slashed and is presumed dead. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4]
Details of Call Not Provided to 9/11 Commission - Nancy Wyatt, another American Airlines employee in the flight services office, talks over the phone with someone at the SOC from 8:40 a.m. to 8:48 a.m., and passes on to them the information that Woodward is receiving from Sweeney (see 8:40 a.m.-8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14; Rutgers Law Review, 9/7/2011, pp. 14 pdf file] It is unclear whether the call made by Nunez and Williams takes place before or around the same time as Wyatt’s call. When she is interviewed by the FBI about her experiences on 9/11, Williams will not state the time her call is made at or its duration. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4] When he is interviewed by the 9/11 Commission in 2004, Woodward will describe the call Wyatt makes to the SOC, but make no mention of the call made by Nunez and Williams. [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file] Wyatt’s call and some other calls to the SOC made today by American Airlines employees at Logan Airport are recorded. But it is unclear whether the call made by Nunez and Williams is also recorded. Apparently no transcript or recording of their call will be provided to the 9/11 Commission during its investigation of this morning’s terrorist attacks. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 31-32; American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41; American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 46-48; 9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 4]

Entity Tags: Evelyn Nunez, Madeline (“Amy”) Sweeney, Elizabeth D. Williams, Michael Woodward, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Later in the day of 9/11, weapons are found planted on board three US airplanes. A US official will say, “These look like inside jobs.” Time magazine will later report, “Sources tell Time that US officials are investigating whether the hijackers had accomplices deep inside the airports’ ‘secure’ areas.” [Time, 9/22/2001] Penetrating airport security does not appear to have been that difficult: Argenbright, the company in charge of security at all the airports used by the hijackers, had virtually no security check on any of its employees, and even hired criminals and illegal immigrants. Security appears to be particularly abysmal at Boston’s Logan Airport, even after 9/11. [Boston Globe, 10/1/2001; CNN, 10/12/2001] An FAA official had similar concerns about two other security contractors at Logan Airport: Huntleigh USA, a subsidiary of ICTS International NV, a large Israeli security company, and Globe Aviation. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Christian Science Monitor, 1/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004, pp. 6 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Globe Aviation Services Corp., Huntleigh Corp., Logan International Airport, Argenbright, ICTS International N.V.

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

It is reported that Boston’s Logan Airport has no cameras in its terminals, gate areas, or concourses. It is possibly the only major airport in the US not to have such cameras. The two other airports used by the hijackers to launch the 9/11 attacks had security cameras, but only some footage of the hijackers in the Washington airport is leaked to the press in 2004. [Boston Herald, 9/29/2001] It was previously reported that FBI agents had “examined footage from dozens of cameras at the three airports [including Logan] where the terrorists boarded the aircraft.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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