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Context of '(9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001: FAA Command Center Asked to Issue Nationwide Cockpit Security Alert, but Does Not Act on Request'

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After conferring with the FAA’s New England regional office and contacting representatives of the Air Transport Association, the FAA’s Boston Center decides to issue a Notice to Airmen, warning pilots to heighten cockpit security. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 24-25] Following the second attack on the World Trade Center, Terry Biggio, the operations manager at the Boston Center, is concerned that there may be additional attacks. He therefore asks a manager at the FAA’s New England regional office if warnings could be sent to airborne aircraft via “ACARS or something,” advising them to increase their cockpit security. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 24] (ACARS is an e-mail system that allows personnel on the ground to rapidly communicate with those in the cockpit of an aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] ) Biggio is particularly concerned about the need to warn airborne international flights that are scheduled to arrive at New York’s JFK International Airport. On the advice of a New England Region representative, Boston Center decides to contact Air Transport Association representatives through the FAA’s Herndon Command Center and ask them to formally request that airlines warn their aircraft to heighten cockpit security. According to the 9/11 Commission, though, Biggio is “[n]ot content to rely on the airlines to warn their aircraft,” and so decides that the Boston Center will issue a Notice to Airmen (“NOTAM”) to heighten cockpit security in light of the attacks in New York. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 24-25] The NOTAM system is the communication method used to define the rules of the day for air traffic controllers and pilots. With the status of equipment, airports, and rules changing frequently, the NOTAM system is used to distribute any changes to all pilots and controllers. [Freni, 2003, pp. 86] Two or three minutes later, controllers at the Boston Center will contact all the aircraft in their airspace by radio and advise them to increase cockpit security (see 9:09 a.m.-9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 25]

Entity Tags: Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Aviation Administration, Terry Biggio, Air Transport Association

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Terry Biggio, the operations manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, instructs the air traffic controllers at his center to contact all aircraft in the center’s airspace by radio and inform them of the events taking place in New York. He tells the controllers to also advise the aircraft to heighten their cockpit security in light of these events. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 23; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 25] According to author Lynn Spencer, previously “No transmission of that kind has ever been made on air traffic control frequencies.” Controller Jim Ekins is the first to act. He announces over all the radio frequencies in the sector: “All aircraft! Due to recent events that have unfolded in the Boston sector, you are advised to increase cockpit security. Allow no entry to your cockpit!” According to Spencer, other controllers nearby overhear and realize: “Yes! That’s exactly what we need to tell them!” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 98] The Boston Center air traffic controllers then immediately execute Biggio’s order, and give the warning to their aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 25] However, Spencer will write: “Communications with controllers are [usually] as dry as they come, and to many pilots this announcement is so out of their realm of understanding, training, and experience that it simply doesn’t make sense. It actually agitates some, who cannot help but view it as some new kind of ‘FAA bureaucratic bullsh_t.’” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 99] Boston Center will subsequently ask the FAA’s Herndon Command Center to issue a similar cockpit security alert nationwide, but the Command Center apparently will not act on this request (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 23] United Airlines will issue a company-wide order at 9:21 for its dispatchers to warn their flights to secure their cockpits (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 455]

Entity Tags: Terry Biggio, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Jim Ekins

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Daniel Bueno.Daniel Bueno. [Source: Discovery Channel]At “approximately 9:15 a.m.,” according to the 9/11 Commission, Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, asks the FAA’s Herndon Command Center to contact all the FAA centers nationwide and instruct them to issue an alert, informing all airborne aircraft of the events unfolding in New York and advising them to heighten their cockpit security. Boston Center air traffic controllers have recently issued a similar alert to all aircraft in their airspace (see 9:09 a.m.-9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 25-26] However, the 9/11 Commission will conclude, “We have found no evidence to suggest that the Command Center acted on this request or issued any type of cockpit security alert.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 23] According to author Lynn Spencer, “The request never makes it to Ben Sliney,” the national operations manager at the Command Center. “Tragically, it is lost in the confusion and never gets past the staff person monitoring Sliney’s desk as events rapidly spiral out of control.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 99] But Ellen King, a Command Center manager, offers a different explanation. She will tell the 9/11 Commission that the FAA culture and mindset on 9/11 are such that the FAA “would never have relayed this message directly to all pilots.… [T]he FAA would pass situational awareness to the airline company representatives who, in turn, would determine if such action was necessary.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 92]

Entity Tags: Daniel Bueno, Ellen King, Ben Sliney, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FAA’s New England regional office calls the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, and asks it to tell Cleveland Center to contact Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 and advise it to use extra cockpit security. The reason the New England regional office makes this request is unclear. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10] As the 9/11 Commission will describe, apparently in response to the request, “[A]t 9:19 the FAA… Command Center in Herndon ordered controllers to send a cockpit warning to Delta 1989 because, like American 11 and United 175, it was a transcontinental flight departing Boston’s Logan Airport.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 455] Minutes earlier, the FAA’s Boston Center asked the Command Center to contact the nation’s FAA centers and instruct them to tell all airborne aircraft to increase their cockpit security (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Command Center’s instruction to air traffic controllers about Delta 1989 is apparently an exception, as the 9/11 Commission will say it found “no evidence to suggest that the Command Center acted on this request.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 23; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 25-26] Delta 1989 will subsequently be mistakenly reported as having been hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

United Airlines issues a companywide order for its flight dispatchers to warn their flights to secure their cockpit doors. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 455] The airline’s air traffic control coordinator sends a message to all of the airline’s dispatchers, telling them: “There may be addnl [additional] hijackings in progress. You may want to advise your flts [flights] to stay on alert and shut down all cockpit access inflt [in flight]. Sandy per Mgmt.” United Airlines dispatchers began notifying their aircraft that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center at 9:03 (see 9:03 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). However, with the exception of one dispatcher (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001), the airline has so far not sent any warnings to its aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 36-37] United Airlines did not initially realize the second plane to hit the WTC was one of its own (see Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001), and it is not until 9:22 that it notifies its dispatchers that UAL Flight 175 has been involved in “an accident” in New York (see 9:22 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: United Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767, the same kind of aircraft as Delta 1989.A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767, the same kind of aircraft as Delta 1989. [Source: Public domain]The FAA’s Cleveland Center incorrectly concludes that Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 has been hijacked, but accounts will conflict over how it comes to this conclusion. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 167] Delta 1989, a Boeing 767, is currently in the sector of airspace being monitored by Cleveland Center air traffic controller John Werth. [9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file; USA Today, 9/11/2008] It is flying west over Pennsylvania, approaching the Ohio border, and is about 25 miles behind Flight 93. FBI agents suspected Delta 1989 might be the next plane to be hijacked and called the Cleveland Center after the second attack on the World Trade Center, with the warning to watch this flight (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002] A supervisor at the center told Werth to keep an eye on the flight because, as Werth will later recall, “he was a suspected hijacking because he had taken off from Boston at approximately the same time as” the first two hijacked aircraft, Flights 11 and 175. [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; USA Today, 9/11/2008]
Controllers Hear Suspicious Communications - When, at 9:28, Werth hears the sound of screaming (subsequently determined to have come from Flight 93) over the radio (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he is unsure which of seven or eight possible aircraft it is coming from. The radio frequency is put on the speaker so other controllers can hear it, and they subsequently make out the words, “get out of here.” [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 11, 28]
Controllers Think Delta 1989 Is Hijacked - According to USA Today, when Cleveland Center controllers then hear a voice with a heavy accent over the radio, saying “Ladies and gentlemen: Here the captain.… We have a bomb on board” (see (9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), they mistakenly think it is coming from Delta 1989, not Flight 93. They suspect the flight has been hijacked, and start informing their chain of command. “Officials at Cleveland Center rush word to Washington: Hijackers have another flight. At the Federal Aviation Administration’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, Delta Flight 1989 joins a growing list of suspicious jets.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 12]
Werth Decides Hijacked Aircraft Is Flight 93 - Werth then calls all of the aircraft in his sector, and Flight 93 is the only one that does not respond. He also sees Flight 93 go into a quick descent and then come back up again. Werth therefore concludes that it is Flight 93, not Delta 1989, that has been hijacked, and instructs his supervisor to “tell Washington” of this. [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file] However, events in the following minutes will cause Cleveland Center controllers to remain suspicious of Delta 1989 (see (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 168; USA Today, 9/11/2008]
Book Gives Alternative Account - In a book published in 2008, author Lynn Spencer will give a different explanation for why Cleveland Center becomes suspicious of Delta 1989. According to her account, after hearing a later radio transmission where a hijacker again says “There is a bomb on board” (see (9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Werth begins to hand off his flights to other controllers so he can devote his full attention to Flight 93. “In the distraction of the emergency, the crew of Delta 1989 misses the hand-off to the new frequency. The new sector controller for Delta 1989 calls out to the plane several times and gets no response.” As a result, “News travels fast,” and “Soon, word on the FAA’s open teleconference call is that a fifth aircraft is out of radio contact: Delta 1989… is added to the list of suspect aircraft.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 167] At 9:39 a.m., even though it is not responsible for handling Delta 1989, the FAA’s Boston Center will call NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and incorrectly tell it that Delta 1989 is another possible hijack (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

Entity Tags: John Werth, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Stacia Rountree.Stacia Rountree. [Source: Vanity Fair]Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and incorrectly notifies it that another aircraft, Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, is a possible hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 2004; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Boston Center previously called NEADS at 9:27 and said that Delta 1989 was missing (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
NEADS Technicians Respond - At NEADS, Stacia Rountree, the ID technician who takes Scoggins’s call, announces to her colleagues: “Delta ‘89, that’s the hijack. They think it’s possible hijack.… South of Cleveland.” The plane’s transponder is still on, and she adds, “We have a code on him now.” Rountree’s team leader, Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley, instructs: “Pick it up! Find it!” The NEADS technicians quickly locate Delta 1989 on their radar screens, just south of Toledo, Ohio, and start alerting other FAA centers to it. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 177] NEADS mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany will be notified by his staff of the suspected hijacking at about 9:41 or 9:42 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 1/22/2004 pdf file] NEADS never loses track of Delta 1989. It will follow it on radar as it reverses course over Toledo, heads east, and then lands in Cleveland (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28] It will order Air National Guard fighter jets from Selfridge and Toledo to intercept the flight (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 178-179] But it will soon learn that Delta 1989 is not in fact hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28]
Cleveland Center, Not Boston, Handling Delta 1989 - Although Boston Center notifies NEADS of the suspected hijacking, Delta 1989 is in fact being handled by the FAA’s Cleveland Center. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10-12] Cleveland Center air traffic controllers suspected that Delta 1989 had been hijacked at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but apparently only informed the FAA’s Command Center, and not NEADS, of this. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] To explain why Boston Center alerts NEADS to the flight, the 9/11 Commission will later comment that, “Remembering the ‘we have some planes’ remark” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), the Boston Center simply “guessed that Delta 1989 might also be hijacked.”
Similar to First Two Hijacked Planes - Like Flights 11 and 175, the two aircraft that have crashed into the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Delta 1989 took off from Boston’s Logan Airport. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28] According to the New York Times, it left there at about the same time as Flights 11 and 175 did, meaning around 8:00 to 8:15 a.m. [New York Times, 10/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 32] Like those two aircraft, it is a Boeing 767. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28] But, unlike those flights, its transponder has not been turned off, and so it is still transmitting a beacon code. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] It is unclear what Delta 1989’s intended destination is. According to some accounts, like Flights 11 and 175 were, it is bound for Los Angeles. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 10/18/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Arizona Daily Star, 9/24/2007; Spencer, 2008, pp. 167] Other accounts will say that its destination is Las Vegas. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Personnel at NEADS are apparently informed that Las Vegas is the intended destination. Around this time, one member of staff there tells her colleagues that the flight is “supposed to go to Vegas.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]
One of Numerous Incorrect Reports - The 9/11 Commission will comment: “During the course of the morning, there were multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). The report of American 11 heading south was the first (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001); Delta 1989 was the second.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28]

Entity Tags: Maureen Dooley, Stacia Rountree, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Colin Scoggins, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Kevin Nasypany

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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