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Context of '(Shortly After 8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Flights 11 and 175 Nearly Crash into Each Other'

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According to an employee at the FAA’s Boston Center in Nashua, New Hampshire, Flight 11 and Flight 175 nearly crash into each other while heading toward their targets in New York. The unnamed employee says, “The two aircraft got too close to each other down by Stewart” International Airport, which is in New Windsor, NY, about 55 miles north of New York City. Describing the incident, the Nashua Telegraph says that the terrorists “nearly had their plans dashed when the two planes almost collided.” [Telegraph (Nashua), 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 9/13/2001; United Press International, 9/13/2001] It is unclear exactly when this incident occurs, though it is presumably shortly after 8:42, when Flight 175 has its last communication with air traffic control. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Flight 175 almost collides in mid-air with at least two other planes as it descends towards Manhattan. At the FAA’s New York Center, air traffic controller Chris Tucker sees it turn toward the path of Delta Flight 2315, a Boeing 737 heading southwest at 28,000 feet. He tells the Delta pilot: “Traffic 2 o’clock. Ten miles. I think he’s been hijacked. I don’t know his intentions. Take any evasive action necessary.” The Delta plane begins to turn to get out of the way, but Flight 175 turns as well. According to the Washington Post, the two planes’ radar targets actually merge on the radar screen. Controller Dave Bottiglia later says, “It was a terrifying moment just to watch the two airplanes miss by less than, I think it was 200 feet.” Shortly after this near miss, Flight 175 almost collides with US Airways Flight 542, another 737, flying just below and four miles behind Delta 2315. This plane’s onboard collision alert system sounds an alarm as Flight 175 comes closer and closer to it. Its pilot descends, managing to avoid a collision. According to an early FAA report, after this incident, several New York air traffic controllers speculate that the unknown aircraft heading towards New York City—only later confirmed to be Flight 175—is an emergency and is heading for an airport to land. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; Washington Post, 9/17/2001; Newsday, 9/10/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Associated Press, 9/12/2002] Earlier on, Flight 175 nearly collided with Flight 11 (see (Shortly After 8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and minutes later it will narrowly avoid another collision, with Midwest Airlines Flight 7 (see (9:01 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Dave Bottiglia, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Chris Tucker

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

About a half-dozen air traffic controllers at the FAA’s New York Center in Ronkonkoma, NY, watch Flight 175 on the radar screen in its final minutes, as it approaches Manhattan. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 pdf file; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Flight 175 is marked on the screen with the letter “I” for “intruder.” Initially, those at the center think it might be heading for Newark Airport, maybe for an emergency landing there. But controller Jim Bohleber says, “No, he’s too fast and low, he’ll never make Newark.” [Newsday, 9/10/2002] The controllers start speculating what Flight 175 is aiming for, with one of them guessing the Statue of Liberty. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] They are astonished at the extraordinary rate at which it is descending (see (8:58 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). A controller counts down its altitude, “Eight, six, four” thousand feet, and then says, “My god, he’s in the ground in the next step.” But someone else at the center says, “No, that’s the Trade Center right there.” [The Learning Channel, 8/20/2006] But, according to the 9/11 Commission, the New York Center does not notify NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) about Flight 175 until 9:03 a.m., the same time as it crashes into the South Tower (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 23] Workers at the crisis center at United Airlines’ headquarters outside Chicago, also closely watch Flight 175 head into New York City on radar. [USA Today, 8/13/2002]

Entity Tags: New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Jim Bohleber

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Air traffic controllers at the FAA’s New York Center who are watching Flight 175 on the radar screen (see (8:57 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) see the aircraft descending at an astonishing rate of up to 10,000 feet per minute. [The Learning Channel, 8/20/2006] From 8:58 a.m., Flight 175 is constantly descending toward New York. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 pdf file] One of the New York Center controllers, Jim Bohleber, is looking at his radar scope and calls out the plane’s rate of descent every 12 seconds, each time the screen updates, saying: “It’s six thousand feet a minute. Now it’s eight. Now ten.” [Newsday, 9/10/2002; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Dave Bottiglia, the controller responsible for monitoring Flight 175, will later comment that 10,000 feet per minute is “absolutely unheard of for a commercial jet. It is unbelievable for the passengers in the back to withstand that type of force as they’re descending. [The hijackers are] actually nosing the airplane down and doing what I would call a ‘power dive.’” [The Learning Channel, 8/20/2006] While Flight 175 is in this rapid descent, it heads directly into the paths of several other aircraft, and narrowly avoids a mid-air collision with flight Midex 7 (see (9:01 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 73-76]

Entity Tags: Dave Bottiglia, Jim Bohleber, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Gerald Earwood.Gerald Earwood. [Source: MaryJo Walicki / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]Just one or two minutes before it crashes into the World Trade Center, Flight 175 narrowly avoids a mid-air collision with another commercial aircraft. [TMJ4, 6/25/2008] Midwest Airlines Flight 7 (Midex 7) is a DC-9 jet bound from Milwaukee to New York’s La Guardia Airport, with about 30 passengers and five crew members on board. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/24/2008] Pilot Gerald Earwood and co-pilot Eric Fjelstad have been concerned at the unusually slow radio responses they have been receiving from New York air traffic controllers. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 56-57 and 61-62] As they are approaching La Guardia from the southwest, Earwood is again frustrated as he awaits the controller’s response to his latest transmission. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/24/2008]
Instructed to Turn Left - Suddenly, the voice of a panicked controller comes over the radio: “Midex 7, are you with me? Midex 7, Midex 7, are you with me?” Unknown to Earwood, controllers have noticed that Flight 175 is now flying directly at his plane at over 500 miles per hour. Earwood replies, “Midex 7 is with you out of 7 for 4,000,” meaning he has just passed through 7,000 feet in his descent to his assigned altitude of 4,000 feet. The controller orders: “Roger, Midex 7, turn left now! Head two-four-zero degrees now, as quick as you can!” The pilots of Midex 7 begin a standard 30-degrees-of-bank turn. But even though they are doing exactly what they have been ordered to, the controller continues, “Left turn, Midex, left turn!” Several seconds later, the controller restates his order: “Midex 7, tighten it up! Roll left! Now! Now! Now!” Earwood looks out of the window for the plane he is meant to be avoiding, but cannot see anything.
Narrowly Avoids Collision - As Midex 7 is completing its left turn, the controller comes back over the radio even more panicked than before, ordering: ”Roll right, Midex! Roll right as hard as you can! Keep it tight, Midex. Roll hard right! Now! Now!” Midex 7 complies with the instruction, but Earwood is wondering where the plane is that he is trying to avoid. At the FAA’s New York Center, air traffic controllers watch as the radar returns for Flight 175 and Midex 7 get so close that they appear to merge on the screens. Finally, Flight 175 continues its rapid descent toward New York, after having narrowly avoided a collision. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 74-77] Midex 7 returns to its approach to La Guardia Airport, and then Earwood overhears a radio transmission from another pilot, who reports that a second plane has hit the World Trade Center. Earwood will later estimate that Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower 60 to 90 seconds after its near-collision with Midex 7. He sees the fireball coming from the tower, but does not immediately connect it with the aircraft he has just avoided. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/24/2008] Minutes earlier, Flight 175 almost collided with at least two other planes as it descended toward Manhattan (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and prior to that it had almost collided with Flight 11 (see (Shortly After 8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Telegraph (Nashua), 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/17/2001] The incident with Midex 7 will not come to light until 2008, when it is described in the book Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama that Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11, by Lynn Spencer. [TMJ4, 6/25/2008]

Entity Tags: Eric Fjelstad, Gerald Earwood, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the FAA’s New York Center tells NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) that Flight 175 has been hijacked at this time. The Commission will refer to this as “the first indication that the NORAD air defenders had of the second hijacked aircraft.” The notification is apparently received from the military liaison at the New York Center (see 9:01 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
NEADS Technician Announces 'Second Possible Hijack' - Tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor will reveal ID tech Stacia Rountree answering the call from the New York Center, and saying out loud, “They have a second possible hijack!” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, will claim he first learns that an aircraft other than Flight 11 has been hijacked when he sees Flight 175 crash into the World Trade Center on television. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins will claim that when she sees Flight 175 hitting the South Tower on television, “we didn’t even know there was a second hijack.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 59]
Conflicting Accounts - However, these accounts contradict NORAD’s claim that it makes shortly after 9/11 that NEADS was first notified about Flight 175 at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] Additionally, as Flight 175 crashes into the WTC, Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek, who is working at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado operations center, is on the phone with NEADS. He sees the crash live on television and asks NEADS, “Was that the hijacked aircraft you were dealing with?” The reply is yes. (However, it is unclear whether Jellinek is referring to Flight 175 or to the smoke coming from the crash of Flight 11.) [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] If the 9/11 Commission’s account is correct, several questions remain unanswered. Flight 175 lost radio contact at 8:42 a.m. (see 8:41 a.m.-8:42 a.m. September 11, 2001) and changed transponder signals at 8:47 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001); an air traffic controller declared it possibly hijacked sometime between 8:46 a.m. and 8:53 a.m. (see (Shortly After 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001); and an air traffic control manager called it hijacked at 8:55 a.m.(see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Commission will not explain why the New York Center waits 10 to 16 minutes before warning NEADS that Flight 175 is possibly hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Stacia Rountree, Northeast Air Defense Sector, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Robert Marr, Michael H. Jellinek, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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