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Context of '(9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001: United Airlines Orders Its Flights to Land'

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The United Airlines System Operations Control center.The United Airlines System Operations Control center. [Source: United Airlines]Andy Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, learns that an American Airlines plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and goes to his airline’s operations center to help respond to the incident, but when he gets there he is told that one of his airline’s planes, Flight 175, is missing. Studdert is in a meeting at United Airlines’ headquarters, near Chicago, with Jim Goodwin, the airline’s chairman and CEO; Rono Dutta, the airline’s president; and three or four other individuals. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; Chicago Tribune, 7/16/2003; 9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file] The meeting, in Goodwin’s office, is about union negotiations. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/23/2012] Meanwhile, personnel in the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center have seen the television coverage of the burning North Tower and been informed that the WTC was hit by an American Airlines plane (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Bill Roy, the SOC director, called the adjacent headquarters building and passed on the news to Studdert’s secretary, Maryann Irving.
Managers Are Baffled at the News of the Crash - Irving now runs to Goodwin’s office and, once there, tells Studdert: “Andy, call the SOC. An American plane just went into the World Trade Center.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file] The men in the office, Studdert will later recall, say to each other: “That’s nuts. That can’t happen. There’s no way, under any circumstances, that an airline pilot is gonna hit the World Trade Center.” [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/23/2012] Studdert thinks the plane that hit the WTC “couldn’t have been American Airlines, because that wasn’t an ordinary flight route.” [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file] The men in Goodwin’s office switch on a TV and see the coverage of the WTC on fire.
Manager Learns that a United Airlines Flight Is Missing - Studdert immediately goes to respond to the incident. Although the plane that reportedly hit the WTC doesn’t belong to United Airlines, according to Studdert, “there’s a fraternity… of the airlines, so we would help each other during a crisis.” He heads across the complex to the SOC—the operations center. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/23/2012] The operations center is a room about the size of a football field in which around 300 people are working, tracking planes and pulling up information relating to the airline’s flights. [Longman, 2002, pp. 77] When Studdert arrives there, he says aloud, “Confirm American into the World Trade Center.” [Chicago Tribune, 7/16/2003; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/23/2012] However, someone in the operations center informs him that contact has now been lost with a United Airlines plane, Flight 175. A few minutes later, Studdert is told that a supervisor at the airline’s maintenance office in San Francisco called and said Flight 175 has been reported as hijacked (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; Chicago Tribune, 7/16/2003; 9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 22]
Manager Tells Employees, 'This Is Not a Drill' - Studdert is concerned that personnel in the operations center might think the apparent crisis is a scenario in a training exercise. [Chicago Tribune, 7/16/2003] This is because 12 days ago he held a surprise exercise in which contact was lost with a United Airlines plane flying over the Pacific Ocean and airline personnel were led to believe the aircraft had crashed (see August 30, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Studdert, 5/26/2015 pdf file; Dubuque Telegraph Herald, 11/12/2015] It is possible that personnel in the operations center are indeed confused over whether the current crisis is simulated, as part of another exercise. According to the Chicago Tribune, Studdert senses “disbelief among his employees” and so he tells them, “This is not a drill.” [Chicago Tribune, 7/16/2003] But according to USA Today, “the staff already knows” this is not another exercise. [USA Today, 8/13/2002]
Airline Employees See Second Crash on TV - At 9:03 a.m., Studdert and his colleagues see Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower of the WTC live on television (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] Studdert, however, is unsure whether this second plane to hit the WTC was a United Airlines flight, because the clarity of the image on television is too poor to tell. [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file] Studdert will be involved in activating his airline’s crisis center in response to the attacks (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 pdf file; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/23/2012]

Entity Tags: Andrew P. Studdert, Bill Roy, Jim Goodwin, Rono Dutta, United Airlines, Maryann Irving

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Andrew Studdert.Andrew Studdert. [Source: Rental Equipment Register]United Airlines receives numerous reports about threats and other emergencies, which turn out to be incorrect. This is according to Andrew Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, who spends much of the morning at the airline’s System Operations Control center, near Chicago. [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Two of the flights hijacked in the terrorist attacks—Flight 175 and Flight 93—are United Airlines aircraft. [CNN, 9/12/2001] Studdert will tell the 9/11 Commission that, additionally, throughout the morning “there is a torrent of reported bomb threats” received by the airline. He will add that “explosions are reported at two airports, and there are reports of other threats and other hijackings.” Studdert will refer to “various rumors” the airline has to deal with. One of these is a “call from someone alleging to be the spouse of a flight attendant onboard an inbound flight from Europe, saying that it had been hijacked.” United Airlines “chased down and sweated these rumors until all the airplanes were grounded.” Studdert will say that these reports “turn out to be misunderstandings or hoaxes.” However, he will add, “the presumed threats cannot be dismissed in the high uncertainty of the moment.” [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] United Airlines also temporarily loses communication with several of its planes this morning (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001); numerous other United Airlines aircraft are temporarily reported as missing (see 10:47 a.m.-11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:55 a.m.-11:15 a.m. September 11, 2001); and one United Airlines plane reportedly transmits a distress signal while flying over the Atlantic Ocean (see 11:18 a.m.-12:27 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. S-26 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]

Entity Tags: Andrew P. Studdert, United Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

United Airlines orders its aircraft that have not yet taken off to remain on the ground. However, the exact time and details of this order are unclear. According to the 9/11 Commission, United orders the “ground stop” at an unstated time after about 9:10, when American Airlines had ordered a nationwide ground stop of its aircraft (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10] The Wall Street Journal reports that Andy Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, gives the order for United aircraft to remain “frozen on the ground” at 9:20. However, it only describes this order applying to “all international flights,” so whether it also applies to United’s domestic flights is unclear. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] The FAA will issue an order to all its facilities, initiating a “national ground stop,” at around 9:25 a.m. (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Time, 9/14/2001] At around 9:45, United Airlines will order all its airborne flights to land (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]

Entity Tags: United Airlines, Andrew P. Studdert

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

United Airlines orders all its flights to land at the nearest airport. Andy Studdert, the airline’s chief operating officer, will tell the 9/11 Commission, “At approximately 9:45 I order the entire United fleet grounded, for the first time in United history.” He will add, “Even before this, some individual dispatchers were already grounding their flights.” [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Studdert gives the instruction, “Tell them to get to the nearest airport they can.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] The FAA gives out a similar order to all its facilities around this time (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29] American Airlines ordered its aircraft to land earlier on, at around 9:15 (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31] United Airlines has already ordered a ground stop, preventing any new takeoffs of its aircraft (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10]

Entity Tags: Andrew P. Studdert, United Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

United Airlines temporarily loses communication with three of its aircraft. Andrew Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, will tell the 9/11 Commission that at around 10:00 a.m., the airline loses contact with Flight 399, Flight 415, and Flight 641. Persistent attempts to communicate with these “missing” aircraft are eventually successful. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] At 10:45 a.m., the FAA’s Cleveland Center will report that Flight 641 is on the ground at Detroit Metro Airport in Michigan. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Andrew P. Studdert, United Airlines

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

Nine United Airlines aircraft are reported missing. Andrew Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, will tell the 9/11 Commission that between 10:55 a.m. and 11:15 a.m., United Airlines Flights 57, 103, 634, 1211, 1695, 2101, 2102, 2256, and 2725 are reported as missing. All nine aircraft are eventually located at various airports. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] One of them, Flight 57, is later reported as having landed at Garden City Regional Airport in Kansas. [9/11 Commission, 2004]

Entity Tags: Andrew P. Studdert, United Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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