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Context of ' (Midday) August 27-28, 2005: Delta Airlines Cancels All Sunday Flights'

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The FAA issues a warning to airlines concerning disguised weapons. According to later testimony by National Security Adviser Rice, the FAA is concerned about reports that the terrorists have made breakthroughs in disguising weapons as cell phones, key chains, and pens. (CNN 3/2002; Reuters 5/16/2002 Sources: Condoleezza Rice) However, the major airlines later deny receiving such notification. For instance, a Delta spokesperson states: “We were not aware of any warnings or notifications of any specific threats.” (Park and Press 5/16/2002)

Flight 175 almost collides in mid-air with at least two other planes as it descends towards Manhattan. At the FAA’s New York Center, air traffic controller Chris Tucker sees it turn toward the path of Delta Flight 2315, a Boeing 737 heading southwest at 28,000 feet. He tells the Delta pilot: “Traffic 2 o’clock. Ten miles. I think he’s been hijacked. I don’t know his intentions. Take any evasive action necessary.” The Delta plane begins to turn to get out of the way, but Flight 175 turns as well. According to the Washington Post, the two planes’ radar targets actually merge on the radar screen. Controller Dave Bottiglia later says, “It was a terrifying moment just to watch the two airplanes miss by less than, I think it was 200 feet.” Shortly after this near miss, Flight 175 almost collides with US Airways Flight 542, another 737, flying just below and four miles behind Delta 2315. This plane’s onboard collision alert system sounds an alarm as Flight 175 comes closer and closer to it. Its pilot descends, managing to avoid a collision. According to an early FAA report, after this incident, several New York air traffic controllers speculate that the unknown aircraft heading towards New York City—only later confirmed to be Flight 175—is an emergency and is heading for an airport to land. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; Lane, Phillips, and Snyder 9/17/2001; Adcock 9/10/2002; MSNBC 9/11/2002; Associated Press 9/12/2002) Earlier on, Flight 175 nearly collided with Flight 11 (see (Shortly After 8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and minutes later it will narrowly avoid another collision, with Midwest Airlines Flight 7 (see (9:01 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

John Werth, the air traffic controller at the FAA’s Cleveland Center who is monitoring the now-hijacked Flight 93, has to move Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 and several other aircraft, in order to get them out of Flight 93’s path and avoid a midair collision. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 39; Levin 9/11/2008)
Controller Begins Moving Aircraft - At 9:30 a.m., Werth begins moving other aircraft away from Flight 93 due to the hijacked flight’s failure to acknowledge his radio transmissions. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) Furthermore, as USA Today will describe, Flight 93 “became erratic. It sped up and started gaining on another United [Airlines] flight. Werth commanded the second jet to turn right. Seconds later, Flight 93 turned to the right, too.” (Levin 9/11/2008)
Controller Worried about Possible Collision - Then, between 9:34 a.m. and 9:38 a.m., Flight 93 climbs from 35,000 feet up to 41,000 feet (see (9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and during this period it reverses course and heads back east (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 39, 41) Werth becomes concerned about the possibility of a midair collision. (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file)
Delta 1989 Turns Several Times - As Flight 93 climbs, Werth instructs Delta 1989, which is also in the airspace he is monitoring, to turn right, so as to get away from the hijacked jet. As Flight 93 continues its turn back toward the east, Werth has to move Delta 1989 out of its path. In all, he has to turn the Delta flight several times. (Levin 9/11/2008) Minutes earlier, Cleveland Center concluded incorrectly that Delta 1989, not Flight 93, was the aircraft being hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002) The Delta pilots’ normal responses to his instructions reassure Werth that it is a “safe bet that the Delta flight hadn’t been hijacked.” (Levin 9/11/2008)
Other Aircraft Moved out of Path - According to the 9/11 Commission, while Flight 93 is ascending to 41,000 feet, Werth has to move “several aircraft out of its way,” acting “decisively to clear the other flights in his sector from Flight 93’s path.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 39)

Delta, the second-biggest carrier at New Orleans, cancels its entire schedule for Sunday. The last Delta Flight will take off shortly after midnight tonight. (McCartney 9/2/2005) Other airlines will continue to fly planes until early Sunday Evening (see 1:00 pm August 27, 2005).

All American Airlines, flights scheduled after 1:00 pm today have been cancelled. However, American used larger planes for its last two flights, transporting 300 extra passengers out of the area. (McCartney 9/2/2005)

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