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Context of '9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001: American Airlines Contacts FAA; Thinks Flight 77 May Have Hit the WTC'

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American Airlines has problems contacting the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, about the problems with its aircraft, according to four managers working at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, on this day. Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Joe Bertapelle, and Mike Mulcahy will later tell the 9/11 Commission that American Airlines has “a hard time on 9/11 in getting in touch with Herndon.” They will say that “[p]recious minutes were lost in building the communications bridge” between the SOC and the Command Center. The cause of these communication problems is unknown. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] The SOC has known that there are problems on Flight 11 since 8:21 a.m., when Marquis received a call from a supervisor at the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call that had been received from one of the plane’s flight attendants about the emergency taking place (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Presumably the SOC starts trying to contact the FAA Command Center soon after receiving this call. It is known that the SOC will make contact with the Command Center at 9:16 a.m., if not earlier (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9, 15] Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, is at least able to reach the FAA’s Boston Center regarding Flight 11 at 8:29 a.m. (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453] The four American Airlines managers will also tell the 9/11 Commission, “In the event that the [American Airlines] SOC was aware that it was the first to know about an incident [with an aircraft], the protocol would have been for the SOC manager on duty [i.e. Marquis] to have immediately autodialed to the Herndon manager on duty [i.e. Ben Sliney] with the information.” However, the FAA “knew what was going on because of the intercepted communications from the cockpit.” [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] (FAA air traffic controllers have been aware of problems with Flight 11 since around 8:14 a.m., when they lost communication with the plane (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and they subsequently hear communications made by the hijackers on the plane, beginning at 8:24 a.m. (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 18-19] )

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Bill Halleck, Joseph Bertapelle, Federal Aviation Administration, Mike Mulcahy

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

By this time, officials at American Airlines’ System Operations Control in Fort Worth, Texas have mistakenly concluded that the second aircraft to hit the World Trade Center might have been Flight 77. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 30] American Airlines learned that communications had been lost with Flight 77 just before 9 a.m. (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bill Halleck, an American Airlines air traffic control specialist at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) in Fort Worth, Texas, phones an official at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, to ask about the status of New York City air traffic. During their two-and-a-half minute conversation, Halleck says American thinks Flight 11 crashed into the WTC, and says that Flight 77 is “missing.” Presently, he receives an update from someone else at SOC, indicating that Flight 77 may also have crashed into the WTC (see 9:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). He wonders how it could have gotten to New York, but updates the FAA official on this news. The FAA official replies that the second WTC crash may not have been Flight 77 because “we have another call sign” for that incident. The FAA Command Center is currently uncertain of the identity of either of the planes that hit the Twin Towers, and provides no further information. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31 and 94]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Bill Halleck, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center advises FAA headquarters that American 77 is lost in Indianapolis flight control’s airspace, that Indianapolis has no primary radar track, and is looking for the aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] When exactly the Command Center first learned that Flight 77 was lost is unclear. The earliest time reported by the 9/11 Commission is when an American Airlines employee mentioned it when calling the center at 9:16 a.m. (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] American Airlines headquarters was notified of the loss of contact with Flight 77 before 9:00 a.m. (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001), but had mistakenly thought this was the aircraft that hit the second WTC tower minutes later (see 9:08 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to the 9/11 Commission, by 9:30 a.m. American Airlines confirms that Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center. This is almost 45 minutes after the attack occurred. Earlier, at around 9:16, an American air traffic control specialist had only told the FAA that the airline “thought” the first plane to hit the WTC had been Flight 11 (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 15-16] However, Colin Scoggins, a civilian manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, will later claim that American Airlines refused to confirm that its plane had hit the WTC for several hours afterwards. He will claim this lack of confirmation was a factor in his mistakenly reporting that Flight 11 was still airborne at 9:21 (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). He says, “When we phoned United [after the second tower was hit], they confirmed that United 175 was down, and I think they confirmed that within two or three minutes. With American Airlines, we could never confirm if it was down or not, so that left doubt in our minds.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Yet American Airlines had the advantage over United that two of its flight attendants on Flight 11 had been in extensive contact by phone, up until a couple of minutes before their plane crashed. Amy Sweeney had been talking to Michael Woodward, a manager at the American Airlines flight services office at Boston’s Logan Airport (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). And Betty Ong had been in contact with the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, with details of this call being continuously relayed to its System Operations Control (SOC) in Fort Worth, Texas (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-14]

Entity Tags: American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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