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Context of '8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001: American Airlines Makes First Contact with FAA about Flight 11, Learns Details of Crisis'

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Nydia Gonzalez.Nydia Gonzalez. [Source: 9/11 Commission]Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, joins a phone call between two employees at her office and Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9 pdf file] Ong called the reservations office at 8:18 a.m. to report the hijacking (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and has since then been talking to two employees there: Vanessa Minter and Winston Sadler. Sadler pushed the emergency button on his phone to alert personnel in the operations area of the reservations office, so that one of them could pick up the call from Ong. A colleague of Gonzalez’s initially picked up the call, but Gonzalez quickly takes over from them. [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] Gonzalez, Minter, and Sadler are in different areas of the reservations office, but all three of them are able to monitor Ong’s call. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]
Supervisor Told of Stabbings on Flight 11 - The first thing Gonzalez says when she joins the call is: “This is operations. What flight number are we talking about?” Ong earlier told Minter and Sadler, incorrectly, that she was on “Flight 12,” not Flight 11 (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sadler therefore tells Gonzalez, “Flight 12.” Ong quickly corrects him, saying: “We’re on Flight 11 right now. This is Flight 11.… Boston to Los Angeles.” She also repeats information she previously gave to Minter and Sadler, saying, “Our number one [flight attendant] has been stabbed and our [number] five [flight attendant] has been stabbed.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6]
Supervisor Notifies Airline's Operations Center - Gonzalez is an operations specialist, and her responsibilities include monitoring any emergency situations with American Airlines flights and forwarding information to the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17] She immediately realizes the seriousness of the situation on Flight 11 and therefore, while remaining connected to Ong’s call, phones the SOC on a separate line to notify it of the problem (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 pdf file] Gonzalez will later recall that she finds Ong to be “calm, professional, and in control throughout the call.” [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 pdf file] She will also say that during the time she is monitoring Ong’s call, she does not hear much commotion in the background. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71]

Entity Tags: Betty Ong, Nydia Gonzalez, Winston Sadler, Vanessa Minter, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

American Airlines has problems contacting the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, about the problems with its aircraft, according to four managers working at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, on this day. Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Joe Bertapelle, and Mike Mulcahy will later tell the 9/11 Commission that American Airlines has “a hard time on 9/11 in getting in touch with Herndon.” They will say that “[p]recious minutes were lost in building the communications bridge” between the SOC and the Command Center. The cause of these communication problems is unknown. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] The SOC has known that there are problems on Flight 11 since 8:21 a.m., when Marquis received a call from a supervisor at the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call that had been received from one of the plane’s flight attendants about the emergency taking place (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Presumably the SOC starts trying to contact the FAA Command Center soon after receiving this call. It is known that the SOC will make contact with the Command Center at 9:16 a.m., if not earlier (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9, 15 pdf file] Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, is at least able to reach the FAA’s Boston Center regarding Flight 11 at 8:29 a.m. (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453] The four American Airlines managers will also tell the 9/11 Commission, “In the event that the [American Airlines] SOC was aware that it was the first to know about an incident [with an aircraft], the protocol would have been for the SOC manager on duty [i.e. Marquis] to have immediately autodialed to the Herndon manager on duty [i.e. Ben Sliney] with the information.” However, the FAA “knew what was going on because of the intercepted communications from the cockpit.” [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] (FAA air traffic controllers have been aware of problems with Flight 11 since around 8:14 a.m., when they lost communication with the plane (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and they subsequently hear communications made by the hijackers on the plane, beginning at 8:24 a.m. (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 18-19] )

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Bill Halleck, Joseph Bertapelle, Federal Aviation Administration, Mike Mulcahy

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, calls the FAA’s Boston Center to ask about the status of Flight 11 and is told that the plane has deviated from its flight path, air traffic controllers have lost communication with it and have lost its transponder signal, and they have heard a possible threat being made in the background over the radio. This call is American Airlines’ first contact with FAA controllers regarding Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 3/25/2004, pp. 15; 9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004; 9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 pdf file]
Manager Told Halleck to Call FAA - At 8:21 a.m., Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, received a call from a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call the office had received from Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, reporting the emergency on her plane (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Marquis had replied that he would get in touch with air traffic control about this. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 pdf file] He asked Halleck to contact the FAA’s Boston Center and find out what is happening with Flight 11. Immediately after receiving this request, Halleck calls the traffic management unit (TMU) at the Boston Center. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 pdf file]
Boston Center Tells Halleck Details of Crisis - When the call is answered, Halleck introduces himself and then says, “[W]e’re trying to find out the status to what you know about our Flight 11.” The Boston Center controller replies that Flight 11’s last reported altitude was below 29,000 feet. He reports that the flight has altered course, saying, “He was heading west, but right now he’s pointed southwest of Albany.” Furthermore, he says, “we lost frequency with him,” meaning communication has been lost with the plane, and adds that the plane’s transponder has been turned off.
Controller Heard a 'Threat in the Background' on Flight 11 - The controller at the TMU also tells Halleck that the Boston Center controller dealing with Flight 11 “heard on the frequency a threat in the background, but that’s unconfirmed and we’re trying to pull the tape [recording of the radio communication] at this time.” Halleck asks for clarification that the controller handling Flight 11 “heard a background noise in the cockpit,” and is told: “Like a threat. Yes, sir.” The controller at the TMU adds that he has been told that it is believed the pilot’s microphone on Flight 11 was keyed, and so the controller handling the flight “heard in the background, like, yeah, ‘Return to an airport… or I’ll kill you,’ or something to that effect.” He also says the plane is not squawking any emergency transponder codes. Halleck says he is tracking Flight 11 on the aircraft situation display, and the controller replies that the Boston Center is currently tracking the plane with primary radar only. The controller ends by telling Halleck, “That is all we have.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 56-57; American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 58; 9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file]
Halleck Does Not Pass On Information from Flight Attendant - With this call, Halleck is the first person at American Airlines to speak to FAA air traffic control personnel about Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004; 9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 pdf file] During the call, he does not tell the Boston Center controller about the ongoing conversation between American Airlines and Ong, or what Marquis has learned from this conversation. [United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1/16/2009 pdf file] Halleck will promptly pass on the information from the Boston Center to Marquis, and this will lead American Airlines to suspect that Flight 11 has been hijacked (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Aviation Administration, Bill Halleck

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Gerard Arpey.Gerard Arpey. [Source: American Airlines]Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, learns of the trouble on Flight 11 and then heads to the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center, but he is unable to contact the airline’s president to alert him to the crisis at this time. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file]
Arpey Told about Call from Flight Attendant - At around 8:30 a.m., Arpey, who is in his office at American Airlines’ headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, makes a routine phone call to the nearby SOC. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file] The call is answered by Joseph Bertapelle, the manager of SOC operations coordination/air traffic systems. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] Bertapelle tells Arpey about a phone call the airline has received from Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file] Since 8:18 a.m., Ong has been on the phone with employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and one of those employees has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9 pdf file]
Arpey Wonders if Ong's Call Is Genuine - Bertapelle tells Arpey that Marquis has learned that Ong said there were “bad guys” on her plane and a flight attendant had been stabbed. Arpey wonders if the call from Ong is genuine. Considering the number of “crank” calls the airline receives, he will later comment, he is “conditioned to be somewhat skeptical.” However, when Bertapelle says Ong has reported a cockpit intrusion (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), this information makes Arpey think “that the incident could be the real thing.”
Arpey Unable to Reach Airline's President - Immediately after the call with Bertapelle ends, Arpey tries calling Don Carty, the president of American Airlines, to let him know what is happening. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file] But Carty is at home answering e-mails and so has not yet arrived at his office. Arpey therefore leaves a message, requesting that Carty call him as soon as possible.
Arpey Heads to Operations Center, Learns Details of Hijacking - Arpey briefs his executive assistant on what he has learned about the trouble on Flight 11. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] He then heads to the SOC, along with Dan Huffman, American Airlines’ senior vice president of maintenance and engineering. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] The SOC is about a mile away from the airline’s headquarters, and Arpey will recall that he arrives there at between 8:35 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. After he reaches the SOC, managers there tell him they are now treating Flight 11 as a confirmed hijacking. Arpey is told that the plane’s pilots are still not responding to calls from the flight attendants and that Ong said a passenger in first class had been stabbed, possibly fatally (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). He learns that the FAA has notified the airline that, instead of heading west on its intended flight path, Flight 11 is heading south; the plane’s transponder has been turned off; and the pilots are not responding to radio calls (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Arpey also learns that airline managers are setting up the System Operations Command Center in order to deal with the emergency (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and because they are doing this, he will say, he “knew that they had concluded the incident was real.” [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file] As executive vice president of operations, Arpey is responsible for American Airlines’ worldwide flight operations, and he will therefore be directly involved in the airline’s subsequent emergency response efforts and other operational decisions throughout the day. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]

Entity Tags: Gerard Arpey, Don Carty, Dan Huffman, American Airlines, Joseph Bertapelle

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, is told details of the crisis with Flight 11 that have just been received from the FAA’s Boston Center, and this information leads American Airlines to suspect that Flight 11 has been hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file] Minutes earlier, Marquis instructed Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, to contact the Boston Center to find out what was happening with Flight 11, and Halleck has just done so (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 pdf file] Halleck now calls Marquis and tells him what he learned about Flight 11 from his call with the Boston Center. He says the aircraft is at “29,000 feet. They’ve lost comm [communications] with ‘em. Turned off his transponder. Tracking his primary [radar track] only. Was westbound. Turned southbound. Said the controller heard on the [radio] frequency, the pilot apparently adjust his mike… lot of loud voices… that sounded threatening.” Halleck then tells Marquis the details of this possible threat in the cockpit of Flight 11 that the Boston Center heard over radio. He says, “Something about ‘return or I’ll kill ya,’ or something to that effect… or threatening dialogue.” Halleck adds that he asked the Boston Center to pass on to the SOC “any information or updates” it subsequently receives. After Marquis hears this information from Halleck, he asks Halleck to “pull” Flight 11 up on his aircraft situation display. Following Halleck’s report to Marquis, American Airlines “now suspected that Flight 11 had been hijacked,” according to the 9/11 Commission. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Bill Halleck, Craig Marquis

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11, tells American Airlines employees on the ground that her plane is flying erratically, and then says it is in a rapid descent. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 13 pdf file] Ong is on the phone with employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). One of these employees, Nydia Gonzalez, is simultaneously relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Texas (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9 pdf file] Ong reports that all of the passengers on Flight 11 have been moved out of the first class section of the plane, back to the coach section. Gonzalez passes this information on to Marquis.
Ong Says Flight 11 Is 'Flying Sideways' - Gonzalez then asks Ong, “What’s going on honey?” Ong previously mentioned that Flight 11 was flying erratically (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), but she subsequently said it had stabilized (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). She now says the plane is flying erratically again. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 13 pdf file] Vanessa Minter, an employee at the reservations office, will later recall that Ong describes the way the plane is being flown by saying it is “flying sideways.” According to Minter, another reservations office employee, Winston Sadler, then asks Ong if she means the plane is flying erratically and Ong says yes. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41] Gonzalez will similarly recall that Ong says the plane is “flying sideways, erratically.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71] Gonzalez relays the information to Marquis, telling him, “The aircraft is erratic again, flying very erratically.”
Ong Says Flight 11 Is in a Rapid Descent - About a minute later, Gonzalez again asks Ong, “What’s going on?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Ong says her plane is descending rapidly. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 1-8; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71] Gonzalez passes this information on to Marquis, telling him, “Seems like the aircraft is descending quite a bit right now.” Marquis replies, “Okay, I have it on the radar here.” Marquis then asks Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, if Flight 11 is descending. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] When Halleck recently contacted the FAA’s Boston Center, he was told that air traffic controllers had lost Flight 11’s transponder signal (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/25/2004, pp. 15] He therefore tells Marquis: “We don’t know [if Flight 11 is descending]. The transponder is off, so we have no active read on him.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Betty Ong, American Airlines, Vanessa Minter, Bill Halleck, Nydia Gonzalez, Craig Marquis, Winston Sadler

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 Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, to tell FAA air traffic controllers to treat Flight 11 as an emergency. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14 pdf file] Halleck contacted the FAA’s Boston Center at 8:29 a.m. to inquire about Flight 11 (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001), and at 8:33 a.m. he called Marquis and passed on what he had just learned from the Boston Center about the crisis with the aircraft (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). That information, according to the 9/11 Commission, led American Airlines to suspect that Flight 11 had been hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11-12 pdf file] Marquis now instructs Halleck, “Tell [air traffic control] to handle this as an emergency.” According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, “At this point, Marquis was just confirming it was a hijack and he wanted to make sure Halleck was communicating the emergency to the [air traffic control] system.” Halleck answers that FAA controllers are treating Flight 11 as a hijacking, saying, “They have in there, it’s been hijacked.” Marquis replies: “It is. Okay.” Halleck adds that FAA controllers “don’t know what his altitude is… they think he’s descending. They think he’s headed toward Kennedy [JFK International Airport in New York]… they’re moving everybody out of the way.” Referring to Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, Marquis tells Halleck, “I’m talking to the flight attendant in the back of the plane and she says the plane is descending.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; American Airlines, 1/15/2002; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Craig Marquis, Bill Halleck

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Joseph Bertapelle.Joseph Bertapelle. [Source: Publicity photo]American Airlines managers are informed of what their airline has learned about the trouble on Flight 11 during a regular conference call. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] In their daily morning conference call, senior American Airlines personnel usually discuss what happened on the previous day at the airline and what they are expecting in the day ahead. [9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file] But shortly after today’s conference call begins, Joseph Bertapelle, a manager at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, announces, “Gentlemen, I have some information here I need to relay.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] Bertapelle then passes on to the senior managers much of the information about the hijacking of Flight 11 that has been received by SOC employees Craig Marquis and Bill Halleck. Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, has been on the phone with a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, who has been relaying to him information she received in a simultaneous phone call with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11 (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9 pdf file] And Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, has been in contact with the FAA’s Boston Center, which gave him details of the problems with Flight 11 (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/25/2004, pp. 15] The conference call apparently only lasts a short time. Craig Parfitt, American Airlines’ managing director of dispatch operations, will later recall that at around 8:55 a.m.—10 minutes after the conference call begins—senior managers are arriving at the System Operations Command Center, located on the floor above the SOC (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Presumably, some of these managers will have previously been participating in the conference call. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bill Halleck, Craig Parfitt, Craig Marquis, Joseph Bertapelle, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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