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Context of '8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001: American Airlines Manager Asks Dispatcher to Contact Flight 11, Tells Her to Keep Information about Crisis to Herself'

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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] 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] 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] 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]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, 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; 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] ) 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

Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, instructs Peggy Houck, a dispatcher at the SOC, to calculate how far Flight 11 could travel with the fuel it has left. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] Marquis was recently told by a colleague at the SOC that FAA air traffic controllers are treating Flight 11 as a hijacking (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6] He now talks to Houck and tells her that Flight 11 has “turned off his transponder.” He says controllers have the plane “on primary radar and they see him descending.” Marquis then asks Houck to calculate how far the plane could go with its current amount of fuel. He says: “Could you run me a model? [Flight 11] is currently 66,000 pounds of gas back from the time I got the call. Just give me some sort of endurance for 25,000 feet, if you would.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22] Marquis is also on the phone with Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina who is simultaneously participating in a call with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9] Marquis updates Gonzalez on what is happening. He tells her, “I have the dispatcher currently taking the current fuel on board, and we’re gonna run some profiles to see exactly what [Flight 11’s] endurance is.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22] Houck will perform an analysis of the fuel capacity of Flight 11 and determine that the plane has “an approximate range of six hours.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7] She will tell the 9/11 Commission that, around this time, she thinks the situation with Flight 11 is “looking like a typical hijacking.… She was thinking they might be headed to Cuba or Colombia.” [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Nydia Gonzalez, Craig Marquis, Peggy Houck

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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