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Context of '9:05 a.m. September 11, 2001: Air Space Closed over New York Area'

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The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, establishes a teleconference with FAA facilities in the New York area. These facilities are the New York Center, the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, and the Eastern Regional Office. The participants in the teleconference jointly decide to divert all air traffic that would otherwise enter the New York area, either to land or to overfly. Linda Schuessler, the deputy director of system operations at the Command Center, will later describe, “They [New York area air traffic control personnel] would continue to work what they’d been working, but we wouldn’t give them any more.” The teleconference participants’ decision does not affect takeoffs from the New York area. After the second World Trade Center tower is hit at 9:03 a.m., the Command Center will expand this teleconference to include FAA headquarters and other agencies (see 9:06 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001]

Entity Tags: New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Aviation Administration, FAA Eastern Regional Office, Linda Schuessler

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, manager John White learns of the communication apparently made by a hijacker on Flight 11, stating “We have some planes” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and quickly notifies the national operations manager of this. Terry Biggio, the operations manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, is relaying all the information he has about Flight 11 to the Command Center’s teleconference. In the conference room at the Command Center, White is listening in. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 79-80] Because the air traffic controller monitoring Flight 11 had not understood the “We have some planes” hijacker communication, the Boston Center’s quality assurance specialist had been instructed to “pull the tape” of the transmission, listen to it carefully, and then report back. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 19] Having learned that the specialist has deciphered the transmission, Biggio now relays the details of it over the teleconference. Seconds later, those at the Command Center see Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower of the World Trade live on CNN. White promptly dispatches a manager to pass on the details of the transmission to Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the Command Center (see 9:06 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 79-80] The FAA’s New England regional office also learns of the “We have some planes” communication at this time (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 23]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Ben Sliney, John White, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Terry Biggio

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In a series of stages, air traffic control managers ban aircraft from flying near the cities targeted by the hijackers. All takeoffs and landings in New York City are halted within two minutes of the Flight 175 crash (see 9:05 a.m. September 11, 2001). Mike McCormick, the air traffic control manager at the FAA’s New York Center, makes the decision. The FAA’s Boston Center follows suit in the next few minutes. Around 9:08 a.m.-9:11 a.m., departures nationwide heading to or through the New York and Boston regions’ airspace are canceled. [Associated Press, 8/12/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002] In addition, “a few minutes” after 9:03 a.m., all takeoffs from Washington Reagan National Airport are stopped. [USA Today, 8/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Mike McCormick, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bruce Barrett.Bruce Barrett. [Source: H. Darr Beiser / USA Today]The FAA’s New York Center declares “air traffic control zero” (“ATC zero”), which means that all air traffic is prevented from departing from, arriving at, or traveling through the center’s airspace until further notice. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Freni, 2003, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 24] According to author Lynn Spencer: “ATC zero is designed for situations in which an air traffic facility is completely incapable of handling aircraft due to a massive computer failure, power outage, or even a large enough weather system. The declaration pushes all their aircraft onto neighboring sectors, and any new airplanes from adjacent sectors are turned back, at the sector boundaries if necessary.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 68] The decision to declare ATC zero is made after the second plane hits the World Trade Center, confirming that the US is under terrorist attack. There are currently hundreds of aircraft in the skies around New York and the western Atlantic that the New York Center is responsible for. [Associated Press, 8/12/2002] Bruce Barrett, a senior manager at the New York Center, announces, “We’re declaring ATC zero,” and Mike McCormick, the center’s air traffic control manager, approves the order. Several of the managers there then start informing air traffic controllers of the decision.
Unprecedented Order - USA Today will report that this decision is unprecedented: “Controllers had gone to ‘air traffic control zero’ before, but only when their radar shut down or their radio transmitters went silent. The planes kept flying then, and controllers in other centers guided them. This time, ATC zero means something far more drastic. It means emptying the skies—something that has never been attempted. And not just the skies over Manhattan. Controllers must clear the air from southern New England to Maryland, from Long Island to central Pennsylvania—every mile of the region they control.… Controllers from Cleveland to Corpus Christi must reroute jets headed to the region and put some in holding patterns.”
Accounts Conflict over Whether Center Seeks Permission - According to USA Today, McCormick and Barrett declare ATC zero without first seeking permission from higher-ups, because a “call to Washington could take minutes, and they aren’t sure they have that long.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] But according to Lynn Spencer, a New York Center supervisor has already requested ATC zero in a call to the FAA’s Herndon Command Center. Ben Sliney, the Command Center’s national operations manager, assured the supervisor, “You take care of matters in your center and we will provide all the assistance necessary by stopping any further aircraft from entering your airspace.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 68]

Entity Tags: Ben Sliney, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Lynn Spencer, Bruce Barrett, Mike McCormick

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, national operations manager Ben Sliney responds to the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and orders a “first-tier ground stop” to prevent aircraft from departing, arriving at, or flying through the airspace of the FAA’s New York Center. Like many others at the Command Center, Sliney has just seen Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower of the WTC live on CNN. A manager at the center then reports to him the news just received over the Command Center’s teleconference, about the sinister radio transmissions that have been deciphered by the Boston Center, stating “We have some planes” (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to author Lynn Spencer, “The words take on a sickening significance” to Sliney “after what he has just observed.”
Sliney Orders 'First-Tier Ground Stop' - Sliney orders across the room, “Give me a first-tier ground stop!” According to Spencer, “The order stops all aircraft departing, arriving, or flying through New York Center’s airspace, effectively closing down the nation’s busiest skies.” At 9:06 a.m., an advisory is sent out to every air traffic control facility in the nation, and the skies above New York are now officially closed. Numerous flights that are in the air or preparing to take off are given “holding instructions.” Meanwhile, the large screen at the front of the room in the Command Center displays the footage of Flight 175 hitting the WTC as it is shown repeatedly on CNN. According to Spencer: “[I]t becomes sickeningly obvious to all watching that the plane was a large commercial airliner. And it was no accident.” [AOPA Pilot, 11/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 80-81] Around this same time, the FAA’s New York Center takes action similar to that of the Command Center, declaring “air traffic control zero,” which prevents all air traffic from departing, arriving at, or traveling through its airspace (see 9:05 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 24] And at around 9:25 a.m., the Command Center will order a “nationwide ground stop,” which prevents any aircraft from taking off in the entire United States (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 33]
Sliney Expands Teleconference - Also in response to the second WTC crash, Sliney decides that he needs to expand the Command Center’s teleconference (see (Between 8:48 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) so as to include the secretary of transportation. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 81] It is expanded to include the secretary of transportation’s office, FAA headquarters, and other agencies. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001] It is unclear whether Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta participates himself, as he is told to go to the White House around this time, and subsequently heads there (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
Military Liaison Unable to Help - Sliney also seeks out the military liaison at the Command Center to get more information about what is going on. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 81] Presumably this officer is one of the three members of the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC) there (see (Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/2002] But, according to Spencer, it is “clear that the lieutenant colonel’s job has nothing to do with NORAD or the air defense interceptors. He is military, but his job duties at the Command Center are focused on military airspace usage. He has no place in the military chain of command that is relevant this morning.” Sliney therefore “can only assume that people much higher up than both of them are dealing with the military response. The fighters must be on their way.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 81]

Entity Tags: Ben Sliney, Norman Mineta, Federal Aviation Administration, Air Traffic Services Cell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The air traffic control tower at Reagan National Airport.The air traffic control tower at Reagan National Airport. [Source: Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority]Air traffic controllers at Washington’s Reagan National Airport are instructed to start securing the airspace around Washington, DC. In the tower at Reagan Airport, the controllers heard about the two aircraft hitting the World Trade Center. They then received the ground stop order for all flights going to or through New York. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 145] (This order was issued at 9:06 a.m.—see 9:06 a.m. and After September 11, 2001. [AOPA Pilot, 11/2001] ) Shortly afterwards, they receive the instruction to start securing the airspace around the capital. They are told to turn away all non-airliner aircraft, such as private planes, as these are considered high risk. Who it is that issues this instruction is unstated, but presumably, like the New York airspace ground stop, it comes from the FAA’s Herndon Command Center. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 145]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger begins sending text messages to United’s transcontinental flights that have not yet taken off, notifying them that a ground stop, preventing any further takeoffs, has been ordered for commercial aircraft in the New York area. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 37] FAA air traffic managers prohibited flights into or out of New York after the second plane hit the World Trade Center (see (9:04 a.m.-9:11 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002] Ballinger, who is working at the United Airlines System Operations Control center just outside Chicago, is responsible for monitoring United’s aircraft that are flying from the East Coast to the West Coast. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 23]

Entity Tags: Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who saw the second plane hitting the WTC on television while at the Department of Transportation, had been called to the White House (see (8:48 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). When he arrives there, as he later recalls, he sees “People… coming out of the White House, pouring out of the Executive Office Building, running over towards Lafayette Park.” As he enters the White House, Mineta is told he has to be briefed by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. He goes to the Situation Room where Clarke talks to him for four or five minutes, briefly informing him of what is going on. Clarke instructs him, “You have to get over to the Presidential Emergency Operation Center to be with the vice president.” The Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) is the bunker located below the White House. As Mineta does not know where it is, a Secret Service agent leads him to it. He will arrive there around 9:20-9:27, according to his own recollections (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Californian, 3/18/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; Academy of Achievement, 6/3/2006]

Entity Tags: Norman Mineta, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


FAA Administrator Jane Garvey.
FAA Administrator Jane Garvey. [Source: FAA]Time magazine later reports that Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, “almost certainly after getting an okay from the White House, initiate[s] a national ground stop, which forbids takeoffs and requires planes in the air to get down as soon as is reasonable. The order, which has never been implemented since flying was invented in 1903, applie[s] to virtually every single kind of machine that can takeoff—civilian, military, or law enforcement.” Military and law enforcement flights are allowed to resume at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001) A limited number of military flights—the FAA will not reveal details—are allowed to fly during this ban. [Time, 9/14/2001] Garvey later calls it “a national ground stop… that prevented any aircraft from taking off.” [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001] Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta later says he was the one to give the order: “As soon as I was aware of the nature and scale of the attack, I called from the White House to order the air traffic system to land all aircraft, immediately and without exception.” [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, 9/20/2001] According to Mineta, “At approximately 9:45… I gave the FAA the final order for all civil aircraft to land at the nearest airport as soon as possible.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] At the time, 4,452 planes are flying in the continental US. A later account states that Ben Sliney, the FAA’s National Operations Manager, makes the decision without consulting his superiors, like Jane Garvey, first. It would be remarkable if Sliney was the one to make the decision, because 9/11 is Sliney’s first day on the job as National Operations Manager, “the chess master of the air traffic system.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] When he accepted the job a couple of months earlier, he had asked, “What is the limit of my authority?” The man who had promoted him replied, “Unlimited.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] Yet another account, by Linda Schuessler, manager of tactical operations at the FAA Command Center where Sliney was located, says, “… it was done collaboratively… All these decisions were corporate decisions. It wasn’t one person who said, ‘Yes, this has got to get done.’” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001] About 500 planes land in the next 20 minutes, and then much more urgent orders to land are issued at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Time, 9/14/2001; US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Jane Garvey, Ben Sliney, Norman Mineta, Federal Aviation Administration, Linda Schuessler

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington, Virginia.The Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington, Virginia. [Source: Marriott International]An American Airlines plane takes off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, flying toward the Pentagon, just before the Pentagon attack occurs, according to a witness who says he sees the plane out the window of his hotel room.
Plane Takes Off toward Pentagon - Jeffrey Mark Parsons, an assistant chief patrol agent with the United States Border Patrol, is staying on the 17th floor of the Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington, Virginia. When later interviewed by Navy historian John Darrell Sherwood about his experiences of the 9/11 attacks, Parsons will recall: “I was looking out my window. I have a perfect view of Reagan National Airport. An American Airlines plane had just taken off, I mean, not 30 seconds before this plane [Flight 77] hit the Pentagon.” Parsons will add that the American Airlines plane is “taking off to the north, to the, different than the normal way. In other words, they were taking off toward the Pentagon.” [US Naval Historical Center, 12/13/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 258] Reagan National Airport is less than a mile from the Pentagon. [St. Petersburg Times, 10/3/2001] Parsons will continue, “Well, this American Airlines plane had just taken off, I mean it couldn’t have been a minute, 30 seconds before this plane [Flight 77] hit the Pentagon.” [US Naval Historical Center, 12/13/2001] Flight 77 hits the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001) and, like the plane Parsons sees, is an American Airlines aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10]
American Airlines and Reagan Airport Planes Supposedly Grounded - And yet Chris Stephenson, the supervisor in the Reagan National Airport control tower, reportedly stopped takeoffs from Reagan Airport in the minutes after 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hit the World Trade Center (see (9:04 a.m.-9:11 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/11/2002] And at 9:00 a.m., American Airlines ordered all its aircraft in the Northeast United States that had not yet taken off to remain on the ground (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 30] Furthermore, the FAA ordered a nationwide ground stop at around 9:26 a.m., which was supposed to prevent any aircraft taking off across the US (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25] Parsons will ask Sherwood if anyone has interviewed the pilot of the American Airlines plane he saw taking off, since that pilot must have witnessed the attack on the Pentagon. Sherwood will answer no, but add, “[T]hat’s another good lead for either myself or one of the other people to follow up on.” Whether the pilot is ever identified or interviewed is unknown. [US Naval Historical Center, 12/13/2001]

Entity Tags: Jeffrey Mark Parsons, John Darrell Sherwood, American Airlines, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Managers at the FAA’s Boston Center declare “air traffic control zero” (“ATC zero”), which completely shuts down the center’s airspace, after a report is received of a possible airborne threat to their facility. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 243] The Boston Center in Nashua, New Hampshire, has received a call from the FAA’s New England regional office, informing it that an unidentified aircraft is heading its way. In response, the center’s managers immediately order the evacuation of the facility (see (Shortly After 10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). At the same time, they make the declaration of ATC zero. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 243] The declaration of ATC zero means aircraft are not permitted to depart from, arrive at, or travel through the center’s airspace until further notice. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 24] According to author Lynn Spencer, ATC zero means all the aircraft a center is handling are pushed “onto neighboring sectors, and any new airplanes from adjacent sectors are turned back, at the sector boundaries if necessary.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 68] Although the exact time the managers declare ATC zero at is unclear, the Boston Center notifies the FAA’s Herndon Command Center of the declaration at 10:35 a.m. At 11:41 a.m., the ATC zero alert at the Boston Center is canceled. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 pdf file] The FAA’s New York Center declared ATC zero at 9:05 a.m. (see 9:05 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 24]

Entity Tags: Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Moncton Area Control Center.The Moncton Area Control Center. [Source: Nav Canada]Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and a Canadian air traffic control facility, to let them know that the Boston Center is shutting down its airspace and being evacuated, due to a possible airborne threat.
Scoggins Does Not Immediately Evacuate - The Boston Center in Nashua, New Hampshire, has just received a call from the FAA’s New England regional office, alerting it to an unidentified aircraft heading its way. In response, the center’s managers ordered the evacuation of the facility (see (Shortly After 10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and declared “ATC zero,” which completely shuts down the center’s airspace (see (Shortly After 10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But while others leave the building, Scoggins stays behind to make two phone calls.
Scoggins Calls Canadian Facility and NEADS - His first call is to the Moncton Center, which is the Canadian air traffic control facility that handles flights arriving from over the Atlantic. He tells a supervisor there, “We’re going to ATC zero and evacuating.” Scoggins then calls NEADS with the same information. He says: “I wanted to let you know, Boston Center has declared ATC zero and we are evacuating due to an airborne threat. It’s approaching Martha’s Vineyard and it’s coming our way.” Before hanging up, he gives NEADS the speed and coordinates of the approaching aircraft. Scoggins then heads out of the building. According to the account of author Lynn Spencer, Scoggins’s call prompts NEADS to immediately call Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and order it: “Get everything you’ve got in the air! Now!” (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
FBI and SWAT Teams Surround Center - By the time Scoggins is outside the Boston Center, FBI and SWAT teams are surrounding the facility. Scoggins will later recall that he sees the “Nashua SWAT team in the parking lot with automatic weapons, [and] the FBI running with the audio tapes with Bob Jones [a quality assurance specialist at the Boston Center] by their side.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 243-245] (The FBI reportedly arrived at the Boston Center “minutes after Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center,” and seized tape recordings of radio transmissions from the hijacked plane (see Soon after 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001] )
Scoggins Tracking Other Unidentified Plane - Before the Boston Center received the call from the FAA regional office about the approaching aircraft, Scoggins was tracking another unidentified target on his radar screen: a slow-moving aircraft also flying toward the center from the east (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Whether he alerts NEADS to that aircraft when he calls it is unclear. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 242-243]

Entity Tags: Moncton Area Control Center, Colin Scoggins, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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