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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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Flight 175 passes from the airspace of the FAA’s Boston Center to the airspace of the New York Center, which is in Ronkonkoma, New York. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 20] New York Center air traffic controller Dave Bottiglia takes over monitoring the flight from Boston Center controller John Hartling (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Flight 175 waits nearly 45 seconds to check in with Bottiglia. According to author Lynn Spencer, this is “rather long, and Bottiglia is just about to call the plane.” But then Captain Victor Saracini, the pilot of Flight 175, makes radio contact, saying, “New York, United 175 heavy.” [Gregor, 12/21/2001 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 36]

Entity Tags: Dave Bottiglia, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Victor Saracini

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

The FAA’s Boston Center is evacuated after it receives a report that an unidentified aircraft is heading its way. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001; USA Today, 8/11/2002; New Hampshire Union Leader, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 243] The Boston Center, located in Nashua, New Hampshire, manages air traffic above New England, and monitored Flight 11 and Flight 175 earlier on. [USA Today, 8/11/2002; Associated Press, 8/12/2002] Employees there are already concerned because a large tractor-trailer has parked directly in front of their facility, on New Hampshire’s Route 3. State police have been called to get it away from there.
Possible Airborne Threat Leads to Evacuation - The FAA’s New England regional office in Burlington, Massachusetts, now calls the Boston Center and reports that an unidentified aircraft is heading for the facility. In response to this potential threat, managers at the center immediately order the closure and evacuation of their building. They also declare “ATC zero,” which shuts down the Boston Center’s airspace (see (Shortly After 10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Employees run from the building while managers try to decide which, if any, personnel should remain in the facility. According to Colin Scoggins, the center’s military liaison, “at this time we honestly felt that we were targeted and an impact was imminent.”
Bomb Threat to Childcare Facility - Making matters worse, a bomb scare phone call is received at the center’s childcare facility, which is the employees’ usual evacuation point. Center managers therefore decide that everyone must leave the building. Employees are advised to go to either 11 Murphy Drive—an FAA administrative facility—or a nearby Holiday Inn. According to Scoggins, three or four Flight Service Data Processing System personnel remain in the basement of the Boston Center when it is evacuated, apparently because there is no paging system in their office on which they can receive the evacuation order.
Evacuation Time Unclear - The time the evacuation takes place at is unclear. According to the account of author Lynn Spencer, it occurs some time shortly after 10:20 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001; USA Today, 8/11/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 242-243] At 10:34 a.m., John White, a manager at the FAA’s Command Center, reports that the Boston Center “has received a threat,” and is “going down to skeleton staffing.” [9/11 Commission, 11/4/2003] A 10:52 a.m. entry in the log of the FAA headquarters’ teleconference will state that the Boston Center is “evacuating the building.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 pdf file] USA Today will report that the center is evacuated at “about 11 a.m.”
Few Employees Return to Building - About 30 minutes to an hour after the building is evacuated, some of the center’s personnel will return to work. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001; USA Today, 8/11/2002] By 12:16 p.m., the center is back in operation, but with only a skeleton staff. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 pdf file]
Suspicious Aircraft Only a Coast Guard Plane - As it turns out, the approaching aircraft that prompts the evacuation is just a Coast Guard plane. According to Scoggins, “We had already identified it.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001] The aircraft was noted in a 10:18 a.m. entry in the log of the FAA headquarters’ teleconference, which stated: “Aircraft 160 miles east of Nantucket is headed westbound toward Boston at a high rate of speed.” But a log entry five minutes later, at 10:23 a.m., noted that the aircraft “is identified as a Coast Guard flight from Nantucket.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 pdf file] Shortly before the Boston Center is alerted to this aircraft, Scoggins had been tracking what is apparently another unidentified target on his radar screen: a slow-moving large aircraft that is also flying toward the Boston Center from the east (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 242-243] The identity of that aircraft is unclear.

Entity Tags: Colin Scoggins, Federal Aviation Administration, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

United Airlines finally issues a press release confirming that Flight 175 has crashed, nearly three hours after this aircraft hit the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). The release states, “United Airlines has now confirmed that two of its aircraft have crashed.” These include “United Flight 175, a Boeing 767 aircraft, [that] departed from Boston at 7:58 a.m. local time, bound for Los Angeles, with 56 passengers onboard, two pilots and seven flight attendants.” [United Airlines, 9/11/2001] United Airlines previously issued a press release, at 11:17, confirming the crash of Flight 93 (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001), but this had stated that the airline was, at that time, only “deeply concerned” about Flight 175. [United Airlines, 9/11/2001] However, at 9:22, the United Airlines System Operations Control manager had issued an advisory to all the airline’s facilities, stating that Flight 175 had been in an accident in New York (see 9:22 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26] And Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, will later claim that United confirmed to the center that Flight 175 was down, “within two or three minutes” (see (9:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

Entity Tags: United Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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