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Context of '9:22 a.m. September 11, 2001: United Airlines Manager Issues Advisory Stating Flight 175 Was in Accident'

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Ed Ballinger.Ed Ballinger. [Source: CNN]At the United Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center outside Chicago, flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger learns that Flight 175 is suspected as being hijacked, and then sends text messages to try and make contact with it. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 23-24] The SOC center has just been contacted by the United Airlines maintenance office in San Francisco, about a call it received from an attendant on Flight 175, who had reported that their plane had been hijacked (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] Subsequently, around 9:01 or 9:02, a dispatch manager at the SOC goes to Ballinger’s desk and informs him of the details of this call. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 23] Ballinger is the flight dispatcher responsible for United’s aircraft flying from the East Coast to the West Coast, which include Flight 175 (and also Flight 93). [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004] At 9:03, he sends an ACARS message to Flight 175: “How is the ride. Anything dispatch can do for you.” (ACARS is an e-mail system that enables personnel on the ground to rapidly communicate with those in the cockpit of an aircraft.) At the same time, the United Airlines air traffic control coordinator also sends an ACARS message to the flight: “NY approach lookin for ya on [frequency] 127.4.” Just after 9:03, unaware it has now crashed into the World Trade Center, Ballinger and the air traffic control coordinator re-send these ACARS messages to Flight 175. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 and 23-24] Twenty minutes later, Ballinger will remain unaware that Flight 175 has crashed and still be trying to contact it by ACARS (see 9:23 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26] All airlines have a staff of dispatchers like Ballinger who, under FAA rules, are responsible for monitoring aircraft in flight. They follow each flight’s progress, relay safety information, and handle any problems that arise. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 14 and 35] United Airlines dispatchers typically monitor up to two dozen flights at once. [Longman, 2002, pp. 68] Ballinger has 16 transcontinental flights taking off early this morning that he is responsible for. [New York Observer, 6/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Beginning at 9:03, a number of United Airlines flight dispatchers send text messages to several United aircraft, indicating to the pilots that planes have flown into the World Trade Center. But, according to the 9/11 Commission, “These messages provided no details or warnings.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 36] It is not until 9:21 that United dispatchers are told to warn their flights to secure cockpit doors (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] The dispatcher responsible for Flight 175 and Flight 93—Ed Ballinger—begins sending warning messages to the flights he is monitoring at 9:19 a.m., informing them that two aircraft have hit the WTC (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 37] Airline dispatchers have an important part to play in managing aircraft in flight. According to commercial pilot and author Lynn Spencer, under FAA rules, dispatchers “take guardianship of each company aircraft in the sky. They are assigned to a certain number of aircraft and know all there is to know about each: who is flying, who is working the cabin, how many pounds of fuel are onboard, the flight plan, the alternate plan, and anything at all relevant to that flight. If there is a glitch in the system, the pilot talks to the dispatcher, and together they formulate a plan of action.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 35 and 72] United Airlines dispatchers are each responsible for monitoring from ten to 30 flights during a shift, and monitor anything up to two dozen flights at a time. [Longman, 2002, pp. 68]

Entity Tags: United Airlines, Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Within minutes of the second World Trade Center tower being hit, United Airlines tells the FAA’s Boston Center that Flight 175 is down. This is according to Colin Scoggins, a civilian manager who is the military liaison at the Boston Center. Scoggins will later recall, “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.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] However, according to the 9/11 Commission, even though by 9:20 United Airlines suspects that the second plane to hit the WTC was Flight 175 (see Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001), at that time the identity of the crashed aircraft is “still unconfirmed.” It is not until 9:22 that United issues an advisory to its facilities, stating that Flight 175 has been in an accident in New York (see 9:22 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26]

Entity Tags: Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Colin Scoggins, United Airlines

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

Craig Parfitt.Craig Parfitt. [Source: Publicity photo]The United Airlines dispatch operations manager speaks with the American Airlines dispatch operations manager, and they discuss the two plane crashes in New York. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 25] Mike Barber, the United dispatch manager, is at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center, just outside Chicago, while Craig Parfitt, the American dispatch manager, is at that airline’s SOC center in Fort Worth, Texas. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] At 9:10, United Airlines is aware a second aircraft has hit the World Trade Center, but it does not realize this is one of its own flights. During their call, Parfitt says to Barber he believes both the aircraft that hit the WTC belonged to American Airlines. (At 9:08 a.m., officials at American Airlines’ SOC mistakenly concluded the second aircraft to hit the WTC might have been Flight 77 (see 9:08 a.m. September 11, 2001).) But Barber says he is increasingly “confident” that the second plane was United Airlines Flight 175. “In slow motion and enlarged images of the second impact on CNN, he could see that the airplane did not have the shiny metallic color of American jets.” By 9:20, according to the 9/11 Commission, although Barber believes the second crashed plane was Flight 175, the identity of this aircraft is “still unconfirmed.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 25-26]

Entity Tags: Mike Barber, Craig Parfitt

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Shortly after he learns a second plane has hit the World Trade Center, United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger takes the initiative to begin sending a warning message to the flights he is monitoring, including Flight 93 and Flight 175 (although this aircraft has already crashed). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 11; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 37] Ballinger is responsible for monitoring United’s aircraft flying from the East Coast to the West Coast. He has 16 such flights he is in charge of. [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004] He sends out a text message to his airborne flights: “Beware any cockpit intrusion… Two aircraft in NY hit [World] Trade Center builds.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 11; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26] Although United Airlines has suspected Flight 175 as being hijacked since around 9:00 a.m. (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001), Ballinger is still responsible for multiple flights. (In contrast to United, American Airlines has a policy that flight dispatchers should only manage the hijacked flight, and be relieved of responsibility for their other flights.) [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 455-456] Ballinger’s warning is therefore sent out to his aircraft in groups, and will not be sent to Flight 93 until 9:23 a.m. (see 9:23 a.m.-9:26 a.m. September 11, 2001). Unaware that it was the second plane that hit the WTC, Ballinger will also send the message to Flight 175 (see 9:23 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 37] Ballinger begins sending out these warnings two minutes before United Airlines instructs its dispatchers to warn their flights to secure their cockpit doors (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 455] According to the 9/11 Commission, his text message represents “the first occasion on 9/11 when either American or United sent out such a warning to their airborne aircraft.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 37] Ballinger will later recall: “As soon as I had a grasp of what was going on… I sent [the warning] out immediately. It was before [Transportation Secretary Norman] Mineta, and even before the airlines told us to alert the crews.” [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004]

Entity Tags: Ed Ballinger

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

Rich Miles, the manager of United Airlines’ System Operations Control center, located outside Chicago, issues an advisory to all United Airlines facilities, including the flight dispatchers. This advisory, which is issued under the name of UAL Chief Operating Officer Andy Studdert, states that Flight 175 has been involved in an accident in New York City, and that the airline’s crisis center has been activated. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26] This appears to be United Airlines’ first proper confirmation that Flight 175 has crashed. However, it will not issue a press release confirming the crash until 11:53 a.m. (see 11:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). [United Airlines, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Rich Miles, United Airlines, Andrew P. Studdert

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Unaware that this aircraft has crashed, United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger sends a warning message to Flight 175. The text message reads: “Beware any cockpit intrusion… Two aircraft in NY hit [World] Trade Center builds.” Ballinger began sending this text message to the 16 transcontinental flights he is monitoring at 9:19 a.m. (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). He is already aware that United Airlines suspects Flight 175 has been hijacked (see (9:01 a.m.-9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and recently learned that a second plane has hit the World Trade Center, but does not yet know this was Flight 175. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 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 was not until 9:22 that it sent out an advisory to its dispatchers stating that Flight 175 had been involved in “an accident” in New York (see 9:22 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

United Airlines issues a press release confirming that Flight 93 has crashed. Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania shortly after 10:00 a.m. (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The release states: “United Airlines has confirmed one of its flights has crashed near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. United Flight 93, a Boeing 757 aircraft, is the flight number involved. The flight originated in Newark and was bound for San Francisco.” The release adds, “United is deeply concerned about a further flight, United Flight 175, a Boeing 767, which was bound from Boston to Los Angeles.” [United Airlines, 9/11/2001] Although Flight 175 hit the World Trade Center at 9:03 (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), United Airlines will not publicly confirm it has crashed until 11:53 a.m. (see 11:53 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: United Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

United Airlines finally issues a press release confirming that Flight 175 has crashed, nearly three hours after this aircraft hit the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). The release states, “United Airlines has now confirmed that two of its aircraft have crashed.” These include “United Flight 175, a Boeing 767 aircraft, [that] departed from Boston at 7:58 a.m. local time, bound for Los Angeles, with 56 passengers onboard, two pilots and seven flight attendants.” [United Airlines, 9/11/2001] United Airlines previously issued a press release, at 11:17, confirming the crash of Flight 93 (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001), but this had stated that the airline was, at that time, only “deeply concerned” about Flight 175. [United Airlines, 9/11/2001] However, at 9:22, the United Airlines System Operations Control manager had issued an advisory to all the airline’s facilities, stating that Flight 175 had been in an accident in New York (see 9:22 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26] And Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, will later claim that United confirmed to the center that Flight 175 was down, “within two or three minutes” (see (9:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

Entity Tags: United Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sends a fax to the White House Situation Room, giving positive identification of the four hijacked aircraft involved in the morning’s attacks. However, two of the four flight numbers it provides are wrong. [Draper, 2007, pp. 143] Yet, by late morning, American Airlines and United Airlines had already issued press releases confirming that the four planes that crashed were flights 11, 175, 77, and 93 (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001, (11:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 11:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; United Airlines, 9/11/2001; United Airlines, 9/11/2001] Journalist and author Robert Draper will later comment that, while there is much heroism on September 11, the FAA’s erroneous fax is an example of how the day is also “marred by appalling haplessness.” [Draper, 2007, pp. 143]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, White House

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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