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Context of '9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001: Flight 93 Requests a New Flight Plan'

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According to an early timeline laid out to CNN by unnamed but “informed defense officials,” the FAA informs NORAD at this time that Flight 93 may have been hijacked. [CNN, 9/17/2001] In public testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2003, NORAD officials will similarly claim that the FAA first reports the possible hijacking of Flight 93 at this time. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Yet this is 12 minutes before the hijacking is meant to have occurred (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 38] One explanation is put forward that could possibly help explain the discrepancy: There are media reports that “investigators had determined from the cockpit voice recorder from United Airlines Flight 93… that one of the four hijackers had been invited into the cockpit area before the flight took off from Newark, New Jersey.” Cockpit voice recordings indicate that the pilots believed their guest was a colleague “and was thereby extended the typical airline courtesy of allowing any pilot from any airline to join a flight by sitting in the jumpseat, the folded over extra seat located inside the cockpit.” [Fox News, 9/24/2001; Herald Sun (Melbourne), 9/25/2001] This would be consistent with passenger phone calls from the plane, describing only three hijackers on Flight 93 (see (9:27 a.m.-10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 120] However, the reports will not be confirmed. The 9/11 Commission Report will dismiss the claim that NORAD was alerted at 9:16, stating, “In public testimony before this Commission in May 2003, NORAD officials stated that at 9:16, NEADS received hijack notification of United 93 from the FAA. This statement was incorrect. There was no hijack to report at 9:16. United 93 was proceeding normally at that time.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 34] No further explanations will be offered for the incorrect timelines. NORAD’s own initial timeline, released on September 18, 2001, will not give a time for when the FAA alerted it to Flight 93. It will only say that the FAA and its Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) “established a line of open communication discussing AA Flt 77 and UA Flt 93.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Flight 93 makes its last normal communication with air traffic control before being hijacked, acknowledging a routine radio transmission from the FAA’s Cleveland Center. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28] Flight 93 checked in with the Cleveland Center a couple of minutes earlier (see 9:24 a.m.-9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). At 9:27, the Cleveland controller, John Werth, alerts it to another aircraft 12 miles away and to its right, at 37,000 feet: “United 93, that traffic for you is one o’clock, 12 miles east, bound three-seven-zero.” Seconds later, Flight 93 responds, “Negative contact, we’re looking, United 93.” Less than a minute after this, the hijackers appear to enter Flight 93’s cockpit (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Gregor, 12/21/2001 pdf file; Longman, 2002, pp. 69; CBS News, 9/10/2006]

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

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Jason Dahl.Jason Dahl. [Source: Publicity photo]According to the 9/11 Commission, less than a minute after Flight 93 acknowledged a routine radio transmission from the FAA’s Cleveland Center (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), John Werth—the controller handling the flight—and pilots of other aircraft in the vicinity of Flight 93 hear “a radio transmission of unintelligible sounds of possible screaming or a struggle from an unknown origin.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; CBS News, 9/10/2006] Someone, presumably Flight 93’s pilot Jason Dahl, is overheard by controllers as he shouts, “Mayday!” [New York Times, 7/22/2004] Seconds later, the controller responds, “Somebody call Cleveland?” Then there are more sounds of screaming and someone yelling, “Get out of here, get out of here.” [Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001; Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Observer, 12/2/2001; MSNBC, 7/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Then the voices of the hijackers can be heard talking in Arabic. The words are later translated to show they are talking to each other, saying, “Everything is fine.” [Newsweek, 12/3/2001] Later, passenger phone calls will describe two dead or injured bodies just outside the cockpit; presumably these are the two pilots. [New York Times, 7/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, John Werth, 9/11 Commission, Jason Dahl

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Shortly before Flight 93 reverses direction and heads east, someone in its cockpit radios in and asks the FAA for a new flight plan, with a final destination of Washington, DC. [ABC News, 9/11/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2001] Jeff Krawczyk, the chief operating officer of a company that tracks aircraft movements, later comments, “We hardly ever get a flight plan change. Very unusual.” [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001] Who it is that makes this request is unclear. The hijacker takeover of Flight 93 occurred around 9:28 a.m. (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001) [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 11] , so it is presumably made by one of the hijackers. Twenty-five minutes later the pilot hijacker will also program a new destination into the plane’s navigational system (see 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FAA’s Cleveland Center notifies the FAA’s Great Lakes Regional Operations Center about the screams and statements it heard from an unknown origin, but that are believed to have come from Flight 93. These transmissions were heard between 9:28 and 9:39 (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] The FAA’s Herndon Command Center and Washington headquarters were alerted to Flight 93 several minutes earlier (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 39]

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

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The hijacker pilot of Flight 93 (presumably Ziad Jarrah) reprograms the plane’s navigational system for a new destination. He dials in the navigational code for Washington’s Reagan National Airport, which is just four miles from the White House, and an arrival time of 10:28 a.m. The 9/11 Commission will say this further indicates that the plane’s intended target is the nation’s capital. [Longman, 2002, pp. 78, 182; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 457; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 45] A minute later, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Cleveland Center will enter a revised flight plan for Flight 93 into the FAA computer system, giving a new destination of Reagan Airport, although the reason she does this is unclear (see 9:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file] Twenty-five minutes earlier, at 9:30 a.m., someone in Flight 93’s cockpit had radioed in and requested a new flight plan from the FAA, with a final destination of Washington (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/14/2001]

Entity Tags: Ziad Jarrah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Cleveland Center enters a new flight plan for Flight 93 into the FAA computer system, giving a new destination of Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. Flight 93 is currently flying in the airspace covered by the Cleveland Center’s Imperial Sector radar position, which is being managed by controller Linda Justice. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file; Lynn Spencer, 2008]
Controller Enters New Flight Plan for Flight 93 - Justice changes the flight’s destination code from “SFO,” the code for San Francisco International Airport, to “DCA,” the code for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001] An FAA chronology will specify that she changes the flight plan “direct HGR [the code for Hagerstown Regional Airport in Maryland] to DCA.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] Another FAA chronology will similarly state that Justice reroutes Flight 93 “direct to Hagerstown direct to Washington National.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 12/6/2001] Flight 93’s tag therefore now reads, “Hagerstown—National,” according to Justice. [9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file]
New Flight Plan Not Due to Communication with Pilot - The reason Justice enters a new flight plan for Flight 93 is unclear. A minute earlier, the hijacker pilot on Flight 93 reprogrammed the plane’s navigational system for the new destination of Reagan Airport (see 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 182; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 457] And according to the St. Petersburg Times, controllers typically only change a plane’s destination when this is requested by the pilots. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001] But one of the FAA chronologies will state that Justice’s change to the flight plan is “not a result of any communication with the pilot.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001]
Flight Plan Changed to Aid Handoff to Washington Controllers - Justice will later explain why she changes the flight plan. She will state that Flight 93 appears to be heading toward the airspace of the FAA’s Washington Center, and so, in “an attempt to expedite the situation,” she enters the change of routing to reflect Hagerstown Airport to Reagan Airport. She will say she does this “only to forward [the] information [about Flight 93] to the sectors the aircraft appeared to be tracking toward.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/12/2001 pdf file] Justice will tell the 9/11 Commission that she changes the routing when she sees Flight 93 is heading eastbound. She will say, “The easiest way to do a handoff is to change the flight plan,” and also say she changes the flight plan “to show that Washington Center was the recipient.” According to Justice, the “controversial step” she takes is “putting in Hagerstown, because the misconception was that she had communicated with the plane and cleared it through.” [9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file] John Werth, another controller at the Cleveland Center, will tell the 9/11 Commission that Justice enters the new destination for Flight 93 “because she knew it would be easier to track the primary [radar track for the aircraft] when the computer has a flight plan to work with.” [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file] After changing the flight plan, Justice calls the Potomac Sector radar position at the Washington Center and tells the controller there to “pull up the data block” for Flight 93. Justice will say it is clear to the Washington Center controller that she has created the new destination in order to make it easier to locate the plane. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/12/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file]
New Flight Plan Causes False Reports of Plane Approaching Washington - According to author Lynn Spencer, the new flight plan creates a “coast track” of Flight 93 on the traffic situation displays at air traffic control facilities. “A coast track,” Spencer will write, “differs from a radar track in that it is not supported by radar returns but rather by a computer-generated, projected course for the flight. Although this track did not appear on controller radar screens, its presence on their [traffic situation displays] allowed Washington controllers to monitor the flight’s progression toward Washington.” According to Spencer, the presence of this coast track leads to incorrect reports of an aircraft approaching Washington in the minutes after Flight 93 crashes. She will write, “A controller in Washington, unaware that the flight had crashed, was calling position reports for the coast track of United 93 to the White House (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001)… as well as the FBI at the Pentagon (where firefighters were evacuated and the firefight suspended in anticipation of a second impact)” (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Lynn Spencer, 2008]

Entity Tags: John Werth, Linda Justice, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

United Airlines official Sandy Rogers calls Ellen King at the FAA’s Command Center to discuss Flight 93. The timing of the call is not known specifically, although it appears to be after the Pentagon was hit and could not be long after Flight 93 is thought to have crashed, which is shortly after 10:00 a.m. (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rogers tells King that Flight 93 has been hijacked, and King responds, “Oh God… thank you,” indicating she was previously unaware of the hijacking. However, the FAA had been aware of the situation since a few minutes after the hijacking took place (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Rogers also says: “It’s over Hagerstown now and you’re not aware of it. It’s heading toward Washington, DC, and we are under a threat of a hijacking on board and this flight is out of our control now heading toward Washington, DC.” Rogers states that United Airlines is “advising the military” about the plane and King also says that the FAA will do the same. [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/14/2003, pp. 37-39 pdf file] However, there are no other reports of Flight 93 ever being over Hagerstown, which is in Maryland. Flight 93 is said to crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and is thought never to reach Maryland. There will be some—apparently mistaken—reports that the plane is still airborne after it is thought to have crashed (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:10 a.m.-10:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), and this may be another such report.

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Ellen King, United Airlines, Sandy Rogers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Hank Krakowski.Hank Krakowski. [Source: Unisys]After seeing Flight 93’s radar track stopping over Pennsylvania, a senior United Airlines official contacts an airport in that area and receives confirmation of what appears to be an airplane crash nearby. Along with other United Airlines managers, Hank Krakowski, United’s director of flight operations, has just been watching Flight 93 on a large screen in the crisis center at the airline’s headquarters, outside Chicago (see (9:36 a.m.-10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). A dispatcher has determined the plane’s last position was south of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, so Krakowski tries phoning the Johnstown airport. However, due to an apparent power failure, there is no reply. He has to call the airport manager’s cell phone number. He asks the manager: “We might have a plane down in your area there. See anything unusual?” The manager reports a black smoke plume visible about 30 miles to the south of the airport. Krakowski thinks, “We just watched one of our airplanes crash.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 214; USA Today, 8/13/2002] Therefore, by 10:15 a.m. according to the 9/11 Commission, United Airlines headquarters has “confirmed that an aircraft [has] crashed near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and [it] believed that this was Flight 93.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 47]

Entity Tags: United Airlines, Hank Krakowski

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Unaware the aircraft has crashed, United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger instructs Flight 93 not to divert to Washington. At 10:10, he sends a text message to Flight 93, stating: “Don’t divert to DC. Not an option.” A minute later, he resends this same message to it. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 46] Someone on Flight 93 had contacted the FAA at 9:30, requesting a new flight plan with the destination of Washington (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001), and at 9:55 the pilot hijacker reprogrammed the plane’s navigational system for the new destination of Washington’s Reagan National Airport (see 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). United Airlines will not confirm that Flight 93 has crashed until around 10:15 (see (10:07 a.m.-10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and will notify its employees of this at 10:17 (see 10:17 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Andy Studdert, the chief operating officer of United Airlines, sends out an operational alert message to the airline’s personnel, informing them of the crash of Flight 93. The message states: “UAL 93-11 EWR-SFO has been involved in an accident. Crisis center has been activated.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 47] Along with other United Airlines managers, Studdert watched Flight 93’s radar track as it came to a halt on a screen in the airline’s crisis center, at its headquarters outside Chicago (see (9:36 a.m.-10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). By 10:15, United had learned from the manager of the Johnstown airport in Pennsylvania of a plume of smoke rising up in the area where Flight 93 crashed (see (10:07 a.m.-10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 77 and 214]

Entity Tags: Andrew P. Studdert, United Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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