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(9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Continental Airlines Plane Signals It Is Hijacked Three Times, but Pilot Says It Is Not Hijacked

A Continental Airlines flight transmits a special transponder code three times, indicating to air traffic controllers that it has been hijacked, but the pilot then reports that the plane is fine. At 9:36 a.m., John White, a manager at the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, will report the suspicious incident over the phone to Doug Davis, the special assistant for technical operations in air traffic services at FAA headquarters. White says that Continental Airlines Flight 321, which is flying from Cleveland to Denver and is currently over South Bend, Indiana, has “squawked hijack three times.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 11/4/2003] (Pilots can set their plane’s transponder—a device that sends information about the aircraft to controllers’ radar screens—to squawk a code of “7500,” which is the universal code that signals a plane has been hijacked. [USA Today, 8/12/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17] ) Yet, White says, “we have made contact with the pilot and the pilot has told us everything is okay.” White adds, “We are trying to determine why he squawked hijack.” At 9:48 a.m., asked if anything more is known about the aircraft, White will tell Davis, “I have no update on Continental 321.” An hour later, White will again be talking to Davis about Flight 321. He tells him that it is “on the ground at Peoria,” in Illinois, and that the FBI is “approaching the aircraft at this time.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 11/4/2003] Further details about Continental Airlines Flight 321, and why it wrongly signals it has been hijacked, are unknown.

Entity Tags: Doug Davis, John White

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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