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Context of '8:37 a.m.-8:39 a.m. September 11, 2001: Flight 11 Attendant Betty Ong Says Her Plane Is ‘Flying Sideways’ and Descending'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event 8:37 a.m.-8:39 a.m. September 11, 2001: Flight 11 Attendant Betty Ong Says Her Plane Is ‘Flying Sideways’ and Descending. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

Vanessa Minter.Vanessa Minter. [Source: Capitol Broadcasting Company]Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, calls the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, to report the emergency on her plane. Ong makes the call using an Airfone. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Flight attendants know the reservations 800 number that she calls because they often call it to help passengers with reservations questions. Calls made to the number are routed to the first available phone station at one of several facilities, including the office in Cary. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 72-74; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8 pdf file]
Ong Tells Agent, 'We're Being Hijacked' - The call is answered by Vanessa Minter, a reservation agent. The first thing Ong says is, “I think we’re being hijacked.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453] Minter will later reflect: “There was something in her voice that said: ‘Okay, this isn’t funny. This isn’t a joke. This is real.’” [WRAL, 9/9/2011]
Resolution Agent Joins Call - Minter asks Ong to hold for a moment. She then phones the American Airlines international resolution desk, which is on the other side of the building. Winston Sadler, the resolution agent, answers, and Minter tells him she has a woman on the phone who is calling from an American Airlines flight that is being hijacked. Minter says she cannot find the “emergency button” on her phone, and Sadler notices that she seems panicked. He offers to take over the call, and so Minter transfers it to him. The phone system allows Sadler to be connected to Minter’s line while Minter remains on it.
Alarm Sent Out to Notify Supervisor - Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Sadler pushes the emergency button on his phone, which initiates a tape recording of Ong’s call and also sends out an alarm that notifies Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, to pick up the call. Gonzalez will join the call from Ong a short time later (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sadler will tell the FBI that as soon as he joins Ong’s call, he is convinced it is a genuine phone call from an airplane, because he is used to hearing the background noise that occurs in calls from airplane telephones, and he can hear such noise during Ong’s call. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453]
Only First Four Minutes of Call Recorded - Ong’s call will last over 25 minutes, ending at around 8:44 a.m. or 8:45 a.m. (see (8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and in it Ong will relay crucial information about what is happening on her plane. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] However, only the first four minutes of the call are recorded. This is because the recently installed recording system at the reservations office has a default time limit. The recording system it replaced did not have such a time limit. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8 pdf file]

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

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

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina that her plane is flying erratically. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11 pdf file] Ong is on the phone with three employees at the reservations office—Vanessa Minter, Winston Sadler, and Nydia Gonzalez—and has been describing to them the trouble on her plane. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453] Gonzalez has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, a manager at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Texas (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17-18] She promptly passes on to him Ong’s information that her plane is flying erratically. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11 pdf file] Also around this time, Flight 11 begins a sharp turn to the south (see (8:26 a.m.-8:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 pdf file] Sadler will later recall that Ong says Flight 11 is flying erratically “several times during the conversation” she has with the reservations office personnel. He will also say that during “the moments in between the erratic flying, the airplane seemed to be smooth in its flight path.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44]

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

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells American Airlines employees on the ground the seat numbers of two hijackers who have gained unauthorized access to the cockpit of her plane. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6] Ong is on the phone with three members of staff at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, and has been describing to them the trouble on her plane. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8 pdf file] She previously said she thought that two hijackers had forced their way into the cockpit, but could provide no description of them (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71]
Ong Provides Hijackers' Seat Numbers - Nydia Gonzalez, one of the reservations office employees, now asks Ong: “Do you know any information as far as the gents, the men that are in the cockpit with the pilots. Were they from first class?” Ong replies that the men were in seats 2A and 2B. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] These seats, in the first class section of the plane, were occupied by hijackers Wail Alshehri and Waleed Alshehri. Ong would not have seen these two men, as she is at the back of the plane. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 6 pdf file] However, the reservations office employees gain the impression that she is getting information from someone else, such as another flight attendant. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71]
Gonzalez Relays Information to Airline Operations Center - Gonzalez has been passing on the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, a manager at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Texas (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17-18] She has just told Marquis that, according to Ong, the “number five” flight attendant on Flight 11—Barbara Arestegui—has been stabbed, but “seems to be breathing,” and the “number one” flight attendant—Karen Martin—has been “stabbed pretty badly, and she’s lying down on the floor,” possibly unconscious. The other flight attendants are at the back of the plane with Ong, Gonzalez said. Gonzalez also told Marquis that the passengers in the coach section “might not be aware of what’s going on right now,” meaning they are unaware that their plane has been hijacked.
Ong Says Pilots Made No Announcements - Gonzalez now relays to Marquis the hijackers’ seat numbers that Ong provided, and adds that the two hijackers “are in the cockpit with the pilots.” She then returns to her conversation with Ong. She asks if the pilots have “made any announcements on the PA system.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Ong says there have been no announcements. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71] Gonzalez then asks if Flight 11 is “still flying erratically” (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). Ong says that “right now it’s more or less stabilized.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Later during her call with the reservations office, Ong will provide the seat number of a third hijacker on her plane (see 8:35 a.m.-8:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file]

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

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

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

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