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(8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001: American Airlines Operations Center Learns of Plane Hitting the WTC

La Guardia Airport.La Guardia Airport. [Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey]Employees at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, receive phone calls from American Airlines employees at La Guardia Airport and JFK International Airport in New York, alerting them to the plane crash at the World Trade Center, but the SOC employees do not know for sure whether the plane involved was Flight 11.
La Guardia Employee Reports Crash at WTC - Ray Howland, at the SOC, receives a call from Chuck Easton, an American Airlines employee at La Guardia Airport. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 49-51; 9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 15] Easton tells Howland, “I’m not sure what’s going on, but the World Trade Center building, as we looked out the window, and we can kind of see [the Twin Towers] in the distance, and we noticed the right World Trade Center [tower] had had a, it has a big plume of smoke.” He says, “The news reports that we’re getting now is that it was struck by an aircraft.” About a minute later, Howland asks, “Have you heard anything else?” Easton replies, “They have an eyewitness [on the news] that says he saw a plane strike it at about the eightieth or hundredth floor.” Howland asks Easton if he knows how big a plane was involved in the crash, but Easton says he does not. He says that watching the news on television is “how we’re getting the information” about the incident.
Operations Center Employee Suspects Flight 11 Hit the WTC - Howland tells Easton, “I think I have a feeling I know what’s happened.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 42-43] SOC personnel have been informed that air traffic controllers have declared Flight 11 a hijacking and that Flight 11 was descending toward New York (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001), so presumably Howland means he suspects that Flight 11 hit the WTC. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6] He will in fact tell the 9/11 Commission that when he receives the call from Easton, he is “confident the plane that hit the first tower” was Flight 11. He will say he “put one and one together.” [9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 pdf file] However, when two other people call the SOC a short time after Easton does and ask about the plane that hit the WTC, Howland will tell them that SOC personnel “don’t know” if it belonged to American Airlines. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 44; American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 45]
JFK Airport Employee Wonders if Airline Is 'Missing a Plane' - Around the time that Easton calls Howland, Ed Dooley, an American Airlines ramp manager at JFK International Airport, also calls the SOC to report the incident at the WTC. Dooley tells Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, that there is smoke coming from the WTC and asks if American Airlines is “missing a plane.” Marquis says he doesn’t think so, but he is checking. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 49-51; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]
Airline Tries to Determine whether Flight 11 Hit the WTC - After receiving these notifications of the crash, American Airlines personnel “furiously” try to find out if the plane involved was Flight 11, according to Gerard Arpey, the airline’s executive vice president of operations. Arpey will later recall, “[S]ome early media reports indicated that the plane that had struck the building may have been a smaller aircraft, but we nonetheless feared the worst.” [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] At 9:16 a.m., an SOC employee will tell the FAA’s Command Center that American Airlines thinks Flight 11 was the first plane that hit the WTC (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and by 9:30 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission, the airline will confirm that Flight 11 hit the WTC (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 15-16]

Entity Tags: Ed Dooley, Chuck Easton, Craig Marquis, Ray Howland, American Airlines, Gerard Arpey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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