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Context of '8:23 a.m.-8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001: American Airlines Operations Center Tries to Contact Flight 11, but Gets No Response'

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Peggy Houck, a flight dispatcher at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, is contacted by an American Airlines flight and told that air traffic control has asked the aircraft to try to contact Flight 11. Houck is working at the desk for American Airlines’ transcontinental flights and is therefore the dispatcher responsible for Flight 11. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7; 9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 pdf file] Under FAA rules, dispatchers licensed by the agency are responsible for following aircraft in flight. Once a plane is in the air, a dispatcher must monitor its progress, relay safety information to the captain, and handle any problems. American Airlines assigns a dispatcher to each of its flights. [Dallas Morning News, 6/13/2002; Sydney Morning Herald, 6/14/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 86 pdf file] Houck will later tell the FBI that the flight that calls her has sent a message to Flight 11 stating something along the lines of, “Good morning, ATC [air traffic control] wants you on [a certain radio frequency] and requests an acknowledgment,” but received no reply. Houck has, until now, had no direct contact with Flight 11 and the communication she receives from this other aircraft is the first indication she has of any problem on Flight 11. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 pdf file] Details of the aircraft that calls Houck are unclear. Houck will tell the 9/11 Commission, in 2004, that it is a “Seattle-Boston” flight. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] However, interviewed by the FBI later today, she will refer to it as “another Boston flight,” suggesting that—like Flight 11—it had taken off from Logan International Airport in Boston. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7] Houck, or another dispatcher at the SOC, will subsequently send an ACARS text message to Flight 11, but receive no response to it (see 8:23 a.m.-8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 pdf file]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Peggy Houck

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Craig Marquis.Craig Marquis. [Source: American Airlines]Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, calls the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, to notify it of the trouble on Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 pdf file] Gonzalez, along with two of her colleagues, is currently on the phone with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11 who called the reservations office at 8:18 a.m. to report that her plane had been hijacked (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Gonzalez calls the SOC. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 pdf file] Her phone system is not set up to transfer calls, so she holds the phone on which she is monitoring Ong’s call to one ear while calling the SOC on another phone. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 17]
Gonzalez Says 'Everyone's Been Stabbed' on Flight 11 - Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, answers the call. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 pdf file] He says this is the “American Airlines emergency line,” and then says, “Please state your emergency.” After introducing herself, Gonzalez says, “I am monitoring a call in which Flight 11, the flight attendant is advising our reps that the pilot, everyone’s been stabbed.” She adds, “They can’t get into the cockpit is what I’m hearing,” and then tells Marquis: “I’ve got the flight attendant on the line with one of our agents.… I can go in on the line and ask the flight attendant questions.” Marquis replies, “I’m assuming they’ve declared an emergency.” He then says, “Let me get ATC [air traffic control] on here.” He tells Gonzalez to “stand by.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Marquis immediately starts an active log on the incident, reporting it as a flight emergency. This requires that he display all of the information that is available to him about Flight 11 on the monitors at his workstation. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]
Gonzalez Gets More Information from Ong - Gonzalez asks Ong more questions while Marquis is off the line. Ong says she is the number three flight attendant on her plane and she has phoned no one other than those at the reservations office. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6] Gonzalez tells Ong: “I’ve got security on the line.… So just bear with us.” Marquis then returns to the line and asks Gonzalez if Flight 11 is descending or “landing somewhere.” (Marquis will tell the 9/11 Commission that at the beginning of the call from Gonzalez, he is “wondering where [Flight 11] was going to be taken to land.”) Gonzalez replies, “[Ong] says they’re in the air.” She adds that she is talking to “Betty,” who is the number three flight attendant. This detail enables Marquis to cross-check the information Ong has provided with the crew manifest for Flight 11, thereby confirming that Ong’s plane is indeed Flight 11.
Marquis Unaware that Flight 11 Is Hijacked - Gonzalez then asks Marquis if there is a way that Ong can communicate with the pilots on her plane, because Ong has said that “she can’t get… into the cockpit.” Marquis replies, “Well maybe [the pilots are] busy.” (Marquis will tell the 9/11 Commission that, at this point, he is wondering “why Ong doesn’t bang on the door of the cockpit” to get the pilot’s attention. He will explain that he “did not assume the plane was hijacked with the information he had from Gonzalez at that time.”)
Gonzalez Learns that Hijackers Are in the Cockpit - Marquis says he will get hold of the American Airlines dispatcher in charge of Flight 11 and ask them to contact the pilot. He tells Gonzalez to “stand by” and then calls the dispatcher (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] While Marquis does this, Gonzalez continues talking to Ong, and Ong says the hijackers are in the cockpit (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10 pdf file] When Marquis comes back on the line, Gonzalez says to him, “Betty is telling me that the guys, there’s two men [that] are in the cockpit with the pilots.” Marquis tells Gonzalez, “I have the dispatcher contacting the crew right now… so I’ll keep you informed.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19]
Marquis Finds Call 'Tough' - Gonzalez calls the SOC at 8:27 a.m., according to an SOC chronology. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] But according to the 9/11 Commission Report, she makes the call at 8:21 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5] Marquis will describe the call as “tough,” because he is unable to hear Ong directly. He wants the call from Ong to be transferred to him, he will say, but Gonzalez is unable to do this. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] While only the first four minutes of Ong’s call to the reservations office are recorded, all of Gonzalez’s call to the SOC is recorded. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Nydia Gonzalez, Craig Marquis, Betty Ong, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas.The American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas. [Source: American Airlines]Employees at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, send ACARS text messages to the pilots of the hijacked Flight 11, but receive no response. At 8:23 a.m., a flight dispatcher at the SOC sends an ACARS message to Flight 11. ACARS, meaning Aircraft Communications and Reporting System, is an e-mail system enabling company personnel on the ground to rapidly communicate with those in the cockpit of an in-flight aircraft. The message says: “Good morning.… ATC [air traffic control] looking for you on [radio frequency] 135.32.” No response is received from Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10 pdf file] It is unclear which dispatcher sends this ACARS message. Peggy Houck, the dispatcher responsible for Flight 11, will tell the 9/11 Commission, in 2004, that she tries to reach the flight “via the ACARS system” shortly after 8:20 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] However, when she is interviewed by the FBI later today, Houck will say that “another” American Airlines dispatcher, besides herself, “sent an ACARS message to Flight 11… based upon ATC’s attempts to contact Flight 11.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7] At 8:25 a.m., Bob Marino, an American Airlines air traffic control specialist at the SOC, sends another ACARS message to Flight 11. This says: “Plz contact Boston Center ASAP.… They have lost radio contact and your transponder signal.” Again, no response is received from the plane. Subsequent ACARS messages sent to Flight 11 will also receive no reply. [9/11 Commission, 3/25/2004, pp. 14; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10 pdf file]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Bob Marino, Peggy Houck

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, calls Peggy Houck, the dispatcher at the SOC who is in charge of Flight 11, and asks her to try and contact the pilot of Flight 11, but he also instructs her not to tell anyone else that there is a problem on the plane. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 23; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 4] Marquis is currently also on the phone with Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina. Gonzalez told him that she was in contact with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, who was describing to her the trouble on the plane (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17-18] Marquis said he would call the flight dispatcher in charge of Flight 11 and ask them to contact the pilot (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He therefore calls Houck, who is working at the desk for American Airlines’ transcontinental flights and so is responsible for Flight 11. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7; 9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file]
Marquis Describes Problems on Flight 11 - After introducing himself, Marquis says, “I have an interesting call: Flight 11, from Boston to LA.” He then relays to Houck the information Gonzalez has given him, saying: “The number three flight attendant on board, by the name of Betty Ong, has contacted Raleigh Reservations and says that there’s a passenger on board that’s stabbing this flight attendant, and [Ong is] trying to get hold of the cockpit crew and she can’t get through, and the cockpit cabin door is closed.” Marquis then asks, “Could you SELCAL this captain and confirm that everything’s okay?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 23] “SELCAL” is short for “selective calling,” a technique that enables a ground radio operator to let an aircraft’s crew know that the operator wants to communicate with them. It involves a chime sounding in the cockpit, which lets the pilots know they are about to receive a voice transmission. [International Virtual Aviation Organisation, 4/2/2006; Aviation Spectrum Resources, Inc., 9/14/2011, pp. 2-1, 4-1 pdf file]
Marquis Tells Houck, 'Don't Spread This Around' - Houck agrees to SELCAL the pilot on Flight 11. Marquis then instructs her to keep the information about the trouble on Flight 11 to herself. He says: “Don’t spread this around. This is between you and me right now, okay?” Houck replies, “Okay.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 23] In response to Marquis’s request to SELCAL Flight 11, Houck will contact ARINC, a company that provides a backup communications capability for airborne flights, and ask it to try and contact Flight 11 (see (Shortly After 8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 24-25; 9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Peggy Houck, Craig Marquis

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The ARINC San Francisco Communications Center.The ARINC San Francisco Communications Center. [Source: ARINC]ARINC, a company that provides a backup communications capability for airborne flights, tries unsuccessfully to contact the hijacked Flight 11. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 26-27; 9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] Peggy Houck, a flight dispatcher at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, calls ARINC in San Francisco and says she needs “to get a hold of” Flight 11. Houck says Flight 11 is “ACARS-equipped” but not responding to ACARS messages (see 8:23 a.m.-8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 24-25; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7] (ACARS is a text messaging system that enables airline personnel to communicate with the pilots of an in-flight aircraft. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 14-17; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 pdf file] ) The ARINC employee Houck talks to says they will try to contact Flight 11 using ACARS, and then “SELCAL him.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 24-25] (“SELCAL,” short for “selective calling,” is a technique that, by causing a chime to sound in the cockpit of an aircraft, lets the crew know that a ground radio operator wants to communicate with them. [International Virtual Aviation Organisation, 4/2/2006; Aviation Spectrum Resources, Inc., 9/14/2011, pp. 2-1, 4-1 pdf file] ) However, ARINC’s attempts at contacting Flight 11 are unsuccessful. ARINC calls Houck back to let her know this. The ARINC employee says ARINC has “SELCALd” Flight 11 and sent ACARS messages to the plane, but without getting any response. The employee also says that ARINC called the FAA’s Boston Center, which has been handling Flight 11, and asked if it could relay a message to Flight 11, but the Boston Center replied that it “couldn’t at this time.” After Houck says she would like ARINC to keep trying to contact Flight 11, the employee ends the call, telling her, “I’ll advise the operators to keep on trying.” Houck will later recall that by this time, she has received “no messages or other communications from Flight 11, and had received nothing from the crew to indicate any trouble on board.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 26-27; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7]

Entity Tags: Peggy Houck, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, ARINC

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

American Airlines’ System Operations Command Center.American Airlines’ System Operations Command Center. [Source: American Airlines]American Airlines managers activate the System Operations Command Center (SOCC) in order to manage the company’s response to the terrorist attacks. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file] The SOCC is a dedicated crisis response facility located on the floor above, and overlooking, the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Activating the command center allows the airline to isolate an event and gather together the people needed to manage it. [9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file] The SOCC is activated in emergencies, such as major accidents and hijackings, during which the airline’s top operations officials assemble there. Craig Parfitt, the managing director of dispatch operations, and Joseph Bertapelle, the manager of SOC operations coordination/air traffic systems, will serve as its directors today. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]
Accounts Unclear over When SOCC Is Activated - The exact time when the SOCC is activated is unclear. Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, will tell the 9/11 Commission that when he arrives at the SOC, between around 8:35 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. (see (8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he sees that Parfitt, Bertapelle, and Kyle Phelps, the manager of administration for the SOC, are setting up the SOCC. By around 8:45 a.m. or 8:50 a.m., according to Arpey, the command center is filling up with people. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] But Parfitt will indicate that the SOCC is activated slightly later. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that it is being set up after the airline’s 8:45 a.m. conference call (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001) and that senior managers, including himself, arrive there at around 8:55 a.m. Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, will say that at about 8:50 a.m., he looks up and notices activity in the SOCC. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] The SOC manager is the individual responsible for activating the SOCC, according to a 9/11 Commission memorandum. However, it is unclear whether Marquis makes the decision to activate the command center on this occasion. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]
Airline's Key Decisions Made in the SOCC - The SOCC will be primarily responsible for dealing with the crisis. [9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 pdf file] The key decisions on the airline’s immediate response to the hijackings will be made there. American Airlines employees in the command center will provide assistance to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies involved in investigating the attacks. The SOCC will remain open 24 hours a day for the next two weeks. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Joseph Bertapelle, Gerard Arpey, Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Kyle Phelps

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Larry Wansley.Larry Wansley. [Source: Publicity photo]At 8:45 a.m., Larry Wansley learns of the hijacking of Flight 11. Wansley is the managing director of corporate security for American Airlines, and is at the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. He is informed of the hijacking in an urgent phone call from the airline’s Command Center, located on the floor above its System Operations Control (SOC), about a mile away from headquarters (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The SOC learned there was some kind of problem with Flight 11 at 8:20 a.m. (see 8:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). Since as early as 8:21, details of Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong’s emergency call have been constantly relayed to Craig Marquis, a manager at the SOC (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet the 8:45 call is apparently Wansley’s first notification of the hijacking. He calls Danny Defenbaugh, the special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI office. Wansley is himself a former undercover FBI agent, and Defenbaugh is a longtime friend of his. This call is “the first step in the well-researched, secret hijack-response plan all commercial airlines have in place.” As Wansley is relaying information, he hears screaming from an adjacent conference room, as several employees watch the aftermath of the first WTC crash on television. The TV in Defenbaugh’s office has been turned on, but reportedly neither of the two men connects the images of the burning tower with the hijacking they are trying to deal with. As they continue discussing their response plans, television shows the second plane hitting the South Tower. No doubt realizing this is a terrorist attack, Defenbaugh says, “The ball game just changed.” Around this time, Wansley learns that the first plane to hit the WTC was the hijacked American Airlines flight. He will subsequently make a hurried drive to the nearby Command Center, where the FBI will already be setting up its own command post (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Dallas Observer, 11/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Larry Wansley, Federal Bureau of Investigation, American Airlines, Danny Defenbaugh

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Shortly before 9/11, American Airlines revised its crisis plan for dealing with situations including “plane crashes and 1978-style hijackings” (see Late Summer 2001). However, on this day, “American abandoned its freshly minted crisis communications plan almost immediately, not because putting the CEO out front isn’t the best plan of action in a crisis, but because the FBI rushed to American’s Command Center and made it clear who was in charge.” [PR Week, 11/5/2001] Larry Wansley, the American Airlines director of security, is at the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. He had contacted the Dallas FBI about the hijacking of Flight 11 at around 8:45 a.m. (see (8:45 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After learning of the two planes hitting the World Trade Center, he makes a hurried drive to the airline’s Command Center, about a mile from the headquarters, on the floor above its System Operations Control (SOC). Already, by the time he arrives, the FBI is setting up its own command post there, reviewing the Flight 11 passenger manifest, and replaying the recording of flight attendant Betty Ong’s emergency phone call. [Dallas Observer, 11/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Tim Doke, the American Airlines vice president for corporate communications, later recounts that the “FBI essentially gagged us from any meaningful media interaction immediately following the terrorist attacks.” [Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, 12/4/2002] American Airlines’ first press release, issued within a few hours of the attacks, will refer all questions to the FBI. [PR Week, 11/5/2001]

Entity Tags: Larry Wansley, Federal Bureau of Investigation, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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