The Center for Grassroots Oversight

This page can be viewed at

Context of '8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001: Message about Hijacking of Flight 11 Sent to Key American Airlines Officials'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event 8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001: Message about Hijacking of Flight 11 Sent to Key American Airlines Officials. 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.

Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Texas, tells Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, that FAA air traffic controllers are handling Flight 11 as a “confirmed hijacking.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19) Gonzalez is one of several employees at the reservations office who are on the phone with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11 who has been describing to them the trouble on her plane. Gonzalez has been relaying the information Ong provides to Marquis. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9) She asks him, “What’s going on on your end, Craig?” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19) Marquis has just been told by a colleague at the SOC that FAA 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 therefore replies: “We contacted air traffic control. They are gonna handle this as a confirmed hijacking. So they’re moving all the traffic out of this aircraft’s way.” He says that Flight 11 has its “transponder off, so we don’t have a definitive altitude for him.” Marquis adds that FAA controllers “seem to think that they have [Flight 11] on a primary radar. They seem to think that he is descending.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19)

American Airlines sends out a pager message to its top executives and operations personnel, informing them that Flight 11 is a “confirmed hijacking.” (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; American Airlines 1/15/2002) At around 8:42 a.m., Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, told a colleague to send out an SOCC (System Operations Command Center) notification, by pager, to 50 or 60 key American Airlines officials. Marquis told his colleague, “You better send a SOCKS.” (“SOCKS” is presumably another term for an SOCC notification.) (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file) The message is sent out seven minutes later, at 8:49 a.m., according to information recorded by senior American Airlines personnel. (American Airlines 1/15/2002) It states, “Confirmed hijacking Flight 11.” (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001)

Don Carty.Don Carty. [Source: Publicity photo]Don Carty, the president of American Airlines, calls his airline’s System Operations Command Center (SOCC) in Fort Worth, Texas, and asks if the plane that is reported to have hit the World Trade Center belonged to American Airlines. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/27/2004) According to author Lynn Spencer, Carty, who is still at home, learned that an American Airlines plane had been hijacked when he received a message from the airline on his pager, which stated, “Confirmed hijacking Flight 11” (see 8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 52) But Carty will tell CNN that he learned of the hijacking in “a call from our operations people.” He will say he’d told the caller that he “would be out immediately,” but then, he will say, “it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I should check whether the press had the story, and I turned on the TV, and almost at the moment I turned on the TV, I saw them talking about something that struck the World Trade Center.” Carty will say that upon seeing the report, “[J]ust in my gut, I knew it was our airplane” that had hit the WTC. (CNN 11/19/2001) Carty phones Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, who is at the SOCC. He says, “The press is reporting an airplane hit the World Trade Center,” and asks, “Is that our plane?” (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 1/27/2004) Arpey replies that the airline’s personnel do not know. He tells Carty only that they “had confirmed the hijacking of Flight 11, and knew it was flying toward New York City and descending.” (9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file)

Personnel at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, are panicked when they temporarily lose communication with a third American Airlines flight, and they also receive a text message from the plane mistakenly signaling that it has been hijacked. At 9:45 a.m., according to the Wall Street Journal, the airline loses radio contact with the plane, which is flying from Boston to Seattle. SOC personnel are therefore “convinced it [is] a third hijacking,” following American Airlines Flights 11 and 77.
Pilots Send Message Indicating a Hijacking - The plane with which communication is lost appears to be American Airlines Flight 189. According to Donald Robinson, a dispatcher at the SOC who is currently dealing with transcontinental flights, the airline receives a text message from Flight 189 signaling it has been hijacked. Robinson will later tell the FBI that Flight 189 is the “only known flight that sent a hijack message back to the dispatchers.” This “hijack message” is sent using ACARS, an e-mail system that enables airline personnel on the ground to communicate with those in the cockpit of an in-flight aircraft. After receiving the message, Robinson sends a message back to Flight 189, asking the pilots if they are “squawking” the universal code signifying a hijacking. The normal procedure in these circumstances is to send a series of ACARS messages to the plane so as to verify whether a hijacking is indeed in progress and, if so, to obtain information about it.
Dispatcher Later Suggests Message Was Sent Accidentally - Robinson will tell the FBI he believes the crew of Flight 189 mistakenly sent the message that includes the hijack code because a warning message they received from American Airlines made them fear an impending hijacking. (After it learned of the two plane crashes at the World Trade Center, American Airlines had become concerned for its remaining transcontinental flights, and sent them all a message instructing them to keep their cockpit doors shut.) Robinson says that when pilots type the hijack code into an ACARS message, the message is sent automatically, whereas normally it is necessary to press the send key to transmit an ACARS message. He says he suspects the crew did not realize this, and probably keyed in the code “in order to be ready for a possible problem.” Alternatively, he suggests, “the code was squawked by mistake.” However, this is just speculation, and Robinson says it is “unknown why the cockpit sent this message.”
Communication Restored after 10 Minutes - The loss of communication with the aircraft is due to a “radio glitch,” according to the Wall Street Journal, and everyone at the SOC calms down when radio contact with the flight is restored 10 minutes after it is lost. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001)

United Airlines contacts American Airlines and notifies it of the crash of Flight 93. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 47) Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania shortly after 10:00 a.m. (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). United Airlines received confirmation of this by 10:15 (see (10:07 a.m.-10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike