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Context of '9:45 a.m.-9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001: American Airlines Briefly Loses Contact with Third Plane, Receives Message from Cockpit Indicating It Is Hijacked'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event 9:45 a.m.-9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001: American Airlines Briefly Loses Contact with Third Plane, Receives Message from Cockpit Indicating It Is Hijacked. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

American Airlines has problems contacting the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, about the problems with its aircraft, according to four managers working at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, on this day. Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Joe Bertapelle, and Mike Mulcahy will later tell the 9/11 Commission that American Airlines has “a hard time on 9/11 in getting in touch with Herndon.” They will say that “[p]recious minutes were lost in building the communications bridge” between the SOC and the Command Center. The cause of these communication problems is unknown. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] The SOC has known that there are problems on Flight 11 since 8:21 a.m., when Marquis received a call from a supervisor at the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call that had been received from one of the plane’s flight attendants about the emergency taking place (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Presumably the SOC starts trying to contact the FAA Command Center soon after receiving this call. It is known that the SOC will make contact with the Command Center at 9:16 a.m., if not earlier (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9, 15 pdf file] Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, is at least able to reach the FAA’s Boston Center regarding Flight 11 at 8:29 a.m. (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453] The four American Airlines managers will also tell the 9/11 Commission, “In the event that the [American Airlines] SOC was aware that it was the first to know about an incident [with an aircraft], the protocol would have been for the SOC manager on duty [i.e. Marquis] to have immediately autodialed to the Herndon manager on duty [i.e. Ben Sliney] with the information.” However, the FAA “knew what was going on because of the intercepted communications from the cockpit.” [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] (FAA air traffic controllers have been aware of problems with Flight 11 since around 8:14 a.m., when they lost communication with the plane (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and they subsequently hear communications made by the hijackers on the plane, beginning at 8:24 a.m. (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 18-19] )

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Bill Halleck, Joseph Bertapelle, Federal Aviation Administration, Mike Mulcahy

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas.The American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas. [Source: American Airlines]Employees at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, send ACARS text messages to the pilots of the hijacked Flight 11, but receive no response. At 8:23 a.m., a flight dispatcher at the SOC sends an ACARS message to Flight 11. ACARS, meaning Aircraft Communications and Reporting System, is an e-mail system enabling company personnel on the ground to rapidly communicate with those in the cockpit of an in-flight aircraft. The message says: “Good morning.… ATC [air traffic control] looking for you on [radio frequency] 135.32.” No response is received from Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10 pdf file] It is unclear which dispatcher sends this ACARS message. Peggy Houck, the dispatcher responsible for Flight 11, will tell the 9/11 Commission, in 2004, that she tries to reach the flight “via the ACARS system” shortly after 8:20 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] However, when she is interviewed by the FBI later today, Houck will say that “another” American Airlines dispatcher, besides herself, “sent an ACARS message to Flight 11… based upon ATC’s attempts to contact Flight 11.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7] At 8:25 a.m., Bob Marino, an American Airlines air traffic control specialist at the SOC, sends another ACARS message to Flight 11. This says: “Plz contact Boston Center ASAP.… They have lost radio contact and your transponder signal.” Again, no response is received from the plane. Subsequent ACARS messages sent to Flight 11 will also receive no reply. [9/11 Commission, 3/25/2004, pp. 14; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 10 pdf file]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Bob Marino, Peggy Houck

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Gerard Arpey.Gerard Arpey. [Source: American Airlines]Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, learns of the trouble on Flight 11 and then heads to the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center, but he is unable to contact the airline’s president to alert him to the crisis at this time. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file]
Arpey Told about Call from Flight Attendant - At around 8:30 a.m., Arpey, who is in his office at American Airlines’ headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, makes a routine phone call to the nearby SOC. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file] The call is answered by Joseph Bertapelle, the manager of SOC operations coordination/air traffic systems. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] Bertapelle tells Arpey about a phone call the airline has received from Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file] Since 8:18 a.m., Ong has been on the phone with employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and one of those employees has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9 pdf file]
Arpey Wonders if Ong's Call Is Genuine - Bertapelle tells Arpey that Marquis has learned that Ong said there were “bad guys” on her plane and a flight attendant had been stabbed. Arpey wonders if the call from Ong is genuine. Considering the number of “crank” calls the airline receives, he will later comment, he is “conditioned to be somewhat skeptical.” However, when Bertapelle says Ong has reported a cockpit intrusion (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), this information makes Arpey think “that the incident could be the real thing.”
Arpey Unable to Reach Airline's President - Immediately after the call with Bertapelle ends, Arpey tries calling Don Carty, the president of American Airlines, to let him know what is happening. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file] But Carty is at home answering e-mails and so has not yet arrived at his office. Arpey therefore leaves a message, requesting that Carty call him as soon as possible.
Arpey Heads to Operations Center, Learns Details of Hijacking - Arpey briefs his executive assistant on what he has learned about the trouble on Flight 11. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] He then heads to the SOC, along with Dan Huffman, American Airlines’ senior vice president of maintenance and engineering. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] The SOC is about a mile away from the airline’s headquarters, and Arpey will recall that he arrives there at between 8:35 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. After he reaches the SOC, managers there tell him they are now treating Flight 11 as a confirmed hijacking. Arpey is told that the plane’s pilots are still not responding to calls from the flight attendants and that Ong said a passenger in first class had been stabbed, possibly fatally (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). He learns that the FAA has notified the airline that, instead of heading west on its intended flight path, Flight 11 is heading south; the plane’s transponder has been turned off; and the pilots are not responding to radio calls (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Arpey also learns that airline managers are setting up the System Operations Command Center in order to deal with the emergency (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and because they are doing this, he will say, he “knew that they had concluded the incident was real.” [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12 pdf file] As executive vice president of operations, Arpey is responsible for American Airlines’ worldwide flight operations, and he will therefore be directly involved in the airline’s subsequent emergency response efforts and other operational decisions throughout the day. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]

Entity Tags: Gerard Arpey, Don Carty, Dan Huffman, American Airlines, Joseph Bertapelle

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Personnel at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, are panicked when they temporarily lose communication with a third American Airlines flight, and they also receive a text message from the plane mistakenly signaling that it has been hijacked. At 9:45 a.m., according to the Wall Street Journal, the airline loses radio contact with the plane, which is flying from Boston to Seattle. SOC personnel are therefore “convinced it [is] a third hijacking,” following American Airlines Flights 11 and 77.
Pilots Send Message Indicating a Hijacking - The plane with which communication is lost appears to be American Airlines Flight 189. According to Donald Robinson, a dispatcher at the SOC who is currently dealing with transcontinental flights, the airline receives a text message from Flight 189 signaling it has been hijacked. Robinson will later tell the FBI that Flight 189 is the “only known flight that sent a hijack message back to the dispatchers.” This “hijack message” is sent using ACARS, an e-mail system that enables airline personnel on the ground to communicate with those in the cockpit of an in-flight aircraft. After receiving the message, Robinson sends a message back to Flight 189, asking the pilots if they are “squawking” the universal code signifying a hijacking. The normal procedure in these circumstances is to send a series of ACARS messages to the plane so as to verify whether a hijacking is indeed in progress and, if so, to obtain information about it.
Dispatcher Later Suggests Message Was Sent Accidentally - Robinson will tell the FBI he believes the crew of Flight 189 mistakenly sent the message that includes the hijack code because a warning message they received from American Airlines made them fear an impending hijacking. (After it learned of the two plane crashes at the World Trade Center, American Airlines had become concerned for its remaining transcontinental flights, and sent them all a message instructing them to keep their cockpit doors shut.) Robinson says that when pilots type the hijack code into an ACARS message, the message is sent automatically, whereas normally it is necessary to press the send key to transmit an ACARS message. He says he suspects the crew did not realize this, and probably keyed in the code “in order to be ready for a possible problem.” Alternatively, he suggests, “the code was squawked by mistake.” However, this is just speculation, and Robinson says it is “unknown why the cockpit sent this message.”
Communication Restored after 10 Minutes - The loss of communication with the aircraft is due to a “radio glitch,” according to the Wall Street Journal, and everyone at the SOC calms down when radio contact with the flight is restored 10 minutes after it is lost. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Donald A. Robinson Jr.

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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