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

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Personnel at United Airlines’ headquarters, near Chicago, are subjected to a surprise training exercise in which they are led to believe that one of their planes has crashed, and their experience with this exercise allegedly means they will be better able to respond to the 9/11 attacks. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file; Studdert, 5/26/2015 pdf file; Dubuque Telegraph Herald, 11/12/2015]
Manager Is Concerned that the Airline Is Unprepared for an Accident - Andy Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, has been concerned that, since it hasn’t suffered a real accident in over 15 years, United Airlines is unprepared to respond properly should one occur now. “I was worried we’d become cocky,” he will later comment. “We thought it couldn’t happen to us.” Around March this year, therefore, he told the airline’s other managers, “One of these days, I’m gonna come in here and I’m gonna do a no-notice drill.” [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 3/15/2012; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/26/2012] A “no-notice” drill is an exercise that is conducted without its participants being given any formal advance notice of when it will occur. [US Department of Justice, 5/21/2000; Inglesby, Grossman, and O'Toole, 2/1/2001; Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, 10/15/2011]
Pilot Is Told to Pretend His Plane Is Experiencing an Emergency - Today, Studdert holds this no-notice exercise. Only a few people know about it in advance. Studdert tells a United Airlines employee who he will refer to as his “safety guy” to contact the pilot of a flight to Australia and give them some instructions. The pilot is therefore told he needs to call in during his flight and report an emergency. He should say there is an “uncontained number three engine failure, rapid descent, decompression,” but stop talking halfway through the word “decompression” and then go silent. He should also turn off the plane’s transponder. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 3/15/2012; Dubuque Telegraph Herald, 11/12/2015] (A transponder is a device that sends an aircraft’s identifying information, speed, and altitude to air traffic controllers’ radar screens. [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] )
Airline Personnel Think One of Their Planes Has Crashed - The simulated emergency takes places this afternoon. At around 2 o’clock, Studdert is interrupted by his secretary, Maryann Irving, who rushes into his office and tells him a Boeing 747 has lost contact while flying over the Pacific Ocean. In response, he runs to the airline’s operations center. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 3/15/2012] Airline employees believe the apparently troubled aircraft has crashed. Some of them are upset and some become physically ill. [Dubuque Telegraph Herald, 11/12/2015] “There are people throwing up in the hall; there are people crying; there are people just staring out the windows,” Studdert will describe.
Personnel Think the Crisis Is Real for 30 Minutes - Since no one in the operations center is able to contact the apparently troubled aircraft, Studdert opens the airline’s crisis center. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 3/15/2012] The crisis center, according to journalist and author Jere Longman, is “a terraced, theater-like room that resembled NASA’s Mission Control.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 77] Opening it, according to Studdert, is a significant course of action. When this happens, everyone working for the airline becomes responsible either for running the airline or acting to support the management of the emergency. This means that “3,000 people are put on an immediate activation.” [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/23/2012] United Airlines employees believe one of their planes has crashed for about 30 minutes and then Studdert reveals that the apparent catastrophe is just an exercise scenario. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] He gets on the crisis center’s communications link, which, he will say, “has got 170 stations and people all over the country, all over the world,” and announces, “This has been a no-notice drill; there is no event; everything’s fine.”
Employees Are Furious about the Exercise - The reaction to the exercise in the days after it takes place will be particularly bitter and Studdert will face severe criticism for running it. “I had the board members calling; I had the unions demanding I be fired; I had people telling me I’m the most evil person in the world,” he will recall. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 3/15/2012; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/26/2012] Some employees “wanted to kill me,” he will say.
Exercise Has Similarities to the Situation Experienced on September 11 - It is unclear whether Studdert’s exercise has a beneficial or a detrimental effect on the ability of United Airlines to respond to the hijackings 12 days later, on September 11. Studdert will claim that it prepares employees to manage the events of September 11 and reveals weaknesses, such as outdated phone numbers, which are quickly corrected. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/26/2012; Dubuque Telegraph Herald, 11/12/2015] “It’s amazing, after 9/11… how many people came up to me and thanked me [for running the exercise], because we were ready,” he will say. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 3/15/2012] It is possible, however, that it will cause some United Airlines employees to initially think the reports about the terrorist attacks on September 11 are part of another exercise, although accounts are contradictory (see (8:50 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Chicago Tribune, 7/16/2003] The scenario of Studdert’s exercise in fact has some similarities with the situation that operations center personnel have to deal with on September 11. On that day, communication with Flight 175—the first of the two United Airlines planes that are hijacked—will be lost (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001) and the plane will have its transponder code changed, although the transponder will not be turned off (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 20-21] Communication will subsequently be lost with Flight 93—the second United Airlines plane to be hijacked (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001)—and that plane’s transponder will be turned off (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 38-39, 43]
Crisis Center Holds Quarterly Exercises - The United Airlines crisis center usually runs exercises four times a year. Most of these deal with safety issues, but security scenarios are also rehearsed, according to Ed Soliday, the airline’s vice president of safety and security. Typically, the 9/11 Commission will be told, these exercises “are scripted” and based around an act of bioterrorism or an international incident. United Airlines has also practiced hijacking scenarios, according to Soliday, although none of these dealt with the threat of an aircraft being used as a weapon. [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Andrew P. Studdert, Maryann Irving, United Airlines, Ed Soliday

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

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

United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger sends a warning message to the flights he is monitoring, which include Flight 93. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 39] Ballinger is responsible for monitoring 16 transcontinental flights. [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004] Beginning at 9:32, he sends out a text message to these flights: “High security alert. Secure cockpit.” He presumably sends this in response to United Airlines’ notification a minute earlier that there is a potential problem with Flight 93 (see 9:31 a.m.-9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). Ballinger’s message is transmitted to Flight 93 at 9:33, but the plane does not respond. Ballinger apparently informs his colleagues of this lack of response: United Airlines Chief Operating Officer Andy Studdert will later tell the 9/11 Commission that at “approximately 9:30, a United dispatcher reports that we cannot reach Flight 93.” [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 39] Ballinger previously sent out a message at 9:19, warning his flights to “Beware any cockpit intrusion” (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 11]

Entity Tags: Ed Ballinger, 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

Andy Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, tries to devise a plan on how a non-pilot could land a Boeing 757, in case the passengers and crew on Flight 93 are able to retake control of their plane from its hijackers. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/23/2012] At around 9:35 a.m., a flight attendant, later determined to be Sandy Bradshaw, called the United Airlines maintenance office in San Francisco, California, from Flight 93 and reported that her plane had been hijacked (see 9:35 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 40; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant., 4/11/2006 pdf file] Sometime between 9:45 a.m. and 9:50 a.m., the maintenance office called Rich Miles, a manager working in the crisis center at United Airlines’ headquarters, near Chicago, and told him about Bradshaw’s call. Miles immediately passed on the information to others in the crisis center. [9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 43]
Manager and Pilots Discuss How Flight 93 Might Be Landed - The information about Bradshaw’s call apparently prompts Studdert to start developing a plan on how Flight 93 might be landed if its passengers and crew are able to regain control of the aircraft from the hijackers. After he learns about the call, he will later describe, “My mind immediately said, ‘Okay, so if they’re successful, I gotta land them.’” He therefore thinks, “I gotta get some guys working on a protocol on how a non-pilot can land a 757.” He grabs a couple of the airline’s chief pilots who are in the crisis center with him and says to them: “Guys, we may get this plane back. Which one of the flight attendants do you wanna have land this thing?” Studdert will recall that he and the chief pilots then work “on a protocol, which would work as a, what’s called a Cat III [category three] airplane, which means it could land itself if pointed to the right airport.” However, a few minutes later, Studdert and the chief pilots find out that Flight 93 has crashed and so have to abandon their plan. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/23/2012] (Flight 93 reportedly crashes at 10:03 a.m. (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and by 10:15 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission, personnel at United Airlines’ headquarters have “confirmed that an aircraft had crashed” in Pennsylvania and “believed that this was Flight 93.” Studdert is therefore presumably alerted to the crash shortly after it occurs. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 46-47] )
Manager Claims His Airline Was Told about the Plan to Take Back Flight 93 - According to Studdert, Bradshaw told the United Airlines maintenance office in San Francisco that “the crew [of Flight 93] had been killed and that the passengers and the… remaining crew were gonna try to take the flight back.” This is presumably why he works on a plan for how a non-pilot might land the plane. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/23/2012] However, the two employees Bradshaw talked to at the maintenance office will apparently contradict Studdert’s account. They will tell investigators that Bradshaw said her plane had been hijacked and stated where on the plane the hijackers were, that the hijackers had said they had a bomb, had carried knives, and had attacked and killed a flight attendant. The two employees will make no mention, though, of Bradshaw saying the passengers and crew were going to try and retake control of the plane. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 40] A few calls are made from Flight 93 in which the caller mentions the plan to try and retake control of the plane (see (9:47 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 9:50 a.m. September 11, 2001, 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001, Shortly Before 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001, and (Between 9:58 a.m. and 10:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, these are made to the callers’ relatives and a supervisor for GTE Airfone, so Studdert is presumably unaware of them at present. [Longman, 2002, pp. 118, 153-154, 172, 176, 203; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 42, 44-45]

Entity Tags: Andrew P. Studdert

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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