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Context of '9:31 a.m.-9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001: United Airlines, Learning of Potential Problem, Tries to Contact Flight 93'

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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 Flight 23, a Boeing 767 bound from JFK International Airport in New York to Los Angeles, cancels its takeoff and may thus avoid becoming the morning’s fifth hijacked plane. It was scheduled to depart at 8:30 a.m., but was late in pushing back from the gate and is still waiting in line to take off. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 10/20/2001] The plane’s pilots, Tom Mannello and Carol Timmons, have heard a report over their radio that a plane has flown into the World Trade Center. They then receive a text message from United Airlines dispatcher Ed Ballinger, which reportedly states: “We have gone to heightened security. Do not open cockpit doors. Secure the cockpit.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 102-103] This is presumably the message Ballinger sent out at 9:19 (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001), though it seems to be more like a description of the message he sends out at 9:32 (see 9:32 a.m.-9:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 37 and 39]
Pilots Alarmed at Warning - Having never received a warning like this before, the pilots are alarmed. Timmons starts barricading the cockpit door with their suitcases while Mannello grabs the crash ax for protection. Mannello calls the plane’s lead flight attendant to inform her of the threat, and tells her not to open the cockpit door under any circumstances. Soon afterwards, she calls back and informs him: “We [the plane’s flight attendants] just think you should know this because we think it is unusual. We have four young Arab men sitting in first class this morning.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 103] (Other accounts will claim there are three or even six suspicious passengers on the flight. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001; Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004] ) Mannello hasn’t been told what the reported threat is about or if it relates to Arabs, so simply thanks the attendant for the information. Minutes later, the pilots receive a radio message from ground control, announcing, “All aircraft, be advised that the airport is now closed.” A subsequent message announces the airport is being evacuated. Mannello decides to move his aircraft back to the terminal. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 103-104]
Arab Passengers Become Aggressive - After the passengers are told their flight has been canceled, the Arab men become upset. They stand up and start urgently consulting with each other, and then refuse to return to their seats. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 10/20/2001] One official will later describe: “These guys got belligerent, and said something like, ‘We’ve got to be on this plane.’ They expressed a desire to remain on the plane and resisted getting off.” [New York Times, 9/14/2001] According to the Associated Press, “The argument with a member of the flight crew became so heated that the crew member called airport security. But before security arrived, the men had vanished.” [Associated Press, 9/13/2001]
Evidence Indicates Plans for Hijacking Plane - Authorities will later check the men’s unclaimed baggage and find box-cutters, copies of the Koran, and al-Qaeda instruction sheets. [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 105] In 2002, apparently referring to this incident, Lieutenant General Ken Pennie, the deputy commander of NORAD, will state, “We suspect there might have been more than just the four aircraft involved” as targets for the 9/11 attacks. [Globe and Mail, 6/13/2002] The FBI will investigate this incident and go through the flight manifest to determine the names of the Arab men, who are believed to have had ticketed reservations. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 9/14/2001] Investigators will interview the plane’s crew nearly half a dozen times. But no information about the suspicious Arab passengers is ever released to the public. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 105] On September 14, it is reported that investigators believe at least one of these passengers was among a number of individuals taken into custody at JFK and La Guardia Airports the previous day (see September 13-14, 2001). [New York Times, 9/14/2001] However, these detained individuals are soon cleared of any connection with the events of 9/11 and are released. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001] In 2004, Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) will say the suspicious Flight 23 passengers were never found and are likely still at large. [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004]

Entity Tags: Tom Mannello, Kenneth Pennie, Carol Timmons, Ed Ballinger, Mark Steven Kirk

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

John Werth.John Werth. [Source: CBS]Shortly after hearing strange noises from the cockpit of Flight 93, Cleveland air traffic controllers notice the plane has descended about 700 feet. John Werth, the controller who is handling the plane, tells the supervisor nearest to him, “I think we have another one [i.e., another hijacking].” He will repeatedly radio the cockpit over the next four minutes, asking the pilot to confirm the hijacking, but receive no response. At 9:30 a.m., Werth begins asking other nearby flights on his frequency if they’ve heard screaming; several say that they have. [Gregor, 12/21/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; CBS News, 9/10/2006] The Cleveland Center immediately notifies United Airlines’ headquarters of the loss of communication with Flight 93 (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the FAA chain of command is apparently not also immediately informed. And the Cleveland Center will not contact NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) about Flight 93 until 10:07 a.m. (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28 and 30]

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

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FAA’s Cleveland Center notifies United Airlines’ headquarters, near Chicago, that Flight 93 is not responding to attempted radio contacts. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 39] Cleveland Center made its last normal communication with Flight 93 at 9:27 (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28] After the hijacking began at around 9:28, the controller handling Flight 93, John Werth, tried unsuccessfully to re-establish contact with it. [Gregor, 12/21/2001 pdf file; CBS News, 9/10/2006] The lack of response from Flight 93, combined with the plane’s turning to the east (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will lead United to believe, by 9:36 a.m., that it has been hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456]

Entity Tags: United Airlines, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

After United Airlines learns that Flight 93 is not responding to air traffic controllers, it notifies its flight dispatchers of this, and two of its employees try to contact the flight. At about 9:30, the FAA’s Cleveland Center informed the United Airlines headquarters, near Chicago, that Flight 93 was not responding to attempted radio contacts (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). At 9:31, officials at the headquarters inform the airline’s dispatchers—who are responsible for monitoring aircraft in flight—that there is a potential problem with Flight 93. Over the next minute, United’s air traffic control coordinator and another of its employees each send a text message to Flight 93, stating, “ATC looking for you on 133.37.” Flight 93 does not respond to these or any subsequent text messages. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 39]

Entity Tags: United Airlines

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

Having followed a seemingly normal course until now, after reaching the Cleveland area, Flight 93 suddenly makes a sharp turn to the south. It then makes another turn back eastward, cutting through West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle before re-entering Pennsylvania. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 41] Having thus turned 180 degrees, it now heads toward Washington, DC. [CNN, 9/13/2001]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger sends two messages to Flight 93, which he is monitoring, warning its pilots (who in fact are no longer in control of the plane) to secure the cockpit. At 9:40, he sends the text message to Flight 93: “High security alert. Secure cockpit. Two airliner hit NY Trade Center. And 1 aircraft in IAD missing. And one in EWR missing… too. UAL 175/93 missing.” A minute later, he again sends this message to Flight 93, but with “UAL 175/93 found” added at the end. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 43] “IAD” is the code for Washington’s Dulles International Airport, from where Flight 77 took off, while “EWR” is the code for Newark Airport, from where Flight 93 took off, so presumably it is these missing aircraft that Ballinger is referring to. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] Ballinger sent previous warning messages to Flight 93 earlier on, telling it to “Beware any cockpit intrusion” at 9:23 (see 9:23 a.m.-9:26 a.m. September 11, 2001), and to “Secure cockpit” at 9:33 (see 9:32 a.m.-9:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 37 and 39]

Entity Tags: Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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