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Profile: Don Carty
Don Carty was a participant or observer in the following events:
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 ]
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] The call is answered by Joseph Bertapelle, the manager of SOC operations coordination/air traffic systems. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 ] 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] 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 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9]
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 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] 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 ] 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 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] 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]
Don Carty. [Source: Publicity photo]Don Carty, the president of American Airlines, calls his airline’s System Operations Command Center (SOCC) in Fort Worth, Texas, and asks if the plane that is reported to have hit the World Trade Center belonged to American Airlines. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] According to author Lynn Spencer, Carty, who is still at home, learned that an American Airlines plane had been hijacked when he received a message from the airline on his pager, which stated, “Confirmed hijacking Flight 11” (see 8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 52] But Carty will tell CNN that he learned of the hijacking in “a call from our operations people.” He will say he’d told the caller that he “would be out immediately,” but then, he will say, “it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I should check whether the press had the story, and I turned on the TV, and almost at the moment I turned on the TV, I saw them talking about something that struck the World Trade Center.” Carty will say that upon seeing the report, “[J]ust in my gut, I knew it was our airplane” that had hit the WTC. [CNN, 11/19/2001] Carty phones Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, who is at the SOCC. He says, “The press is reporting an airplane hit the World Trade Center,” and asks, “Is that our plane?” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Arpey replies that the airline’s personnel do not know. He tells Carty only that they “had confirmed the hijacking of Flight 11, and knew it was flying toward New York City and descending.” [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 ]
American Airlines orders all of its airborne flights to land at the nearest airport. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31] Managers at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas have learned of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. Initially, they mistakenly believed this second plane was American Airlines Flight 77 (see 9:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). Gerard Arpey, the airline’s executive vice president for operations, conferred with other operational managers, and they all agreed that the airline needed to land its aircraft immediately. American Airlines’ president Don Carty then arrives at the SOC and also agrees, telling Arpey, “Do it.” So, at about 9:15, the airline orders all its planes to land at the nearest suitable airport. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] This is the first time an airline has ever ordered all its planes to land. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] The FAA will give out a similar order to all its facilities about 30 minutes later (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29] Around that time, United Airlines will also order its aircraft to land (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] American Airlines ordered a ground stop earlier on that prevented any new takeoffs of its aircraft (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 30-31] Most of its domestic flights will have landed by about 11:50 a.m., though it will take longer to ground its international and trans-Pacific flights. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]
Managers from American Airlines and United Airlines are added by the FAA to a teleconference, but they receive no guidance from top government officials on what to do. According to author Lynn Spencer, at some point after the second aircraft hit the World Trade Center, the executives from the two airlines are “quickly on the phone to FAA headquarters and the FAA Command Center.” They are brought into “a conference call that has now been set up with Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House. The airline executives inform the secretary that they are each dealing with additional aircraft that they are unable to contact. They seek guidance, but there is none.… The nation is under attack, but there is no plan in place, and no guidance is forthcoming from the top as the crisis escalates.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 109] The time when the airline executives join the teleconference is unclear. In Spencer’s account, she places it after United Airlines dispatchers have warned their aircraft to secure their cockpits (see (Shortly After 9:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would mean some time after 9:21. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 37; Spencer, 2008, pp. 109] But Spencer also says that, when the executives join the conference, the “president is still reading to children in a Florida school room” (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would be roughly between 9:05 and 9:15. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39; Spencer, 2008, pp. 109] If Norman Mineta is already participating in the teleconference when the airline executives join it, the time would have to be after around 9:20, which is when Mineta later says he arrived at the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] And Cheney, who Spencer also says is participating in the teleconference when the executives join it, arrives at the PEOC as late as 9:58, according to the 9/11 Commission, although other accounts indicate he arrives there much earlier than this (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40] According to the Wall Street Journal, American Airlines president Don Carty and United Airlines CEO Jim Goodwin are talking on the phone with Mineta (presumably over the conference call) about five minutes before the FAA shuts down all US airspace (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would mean they are participating in the teleconference by around 9:40 a.m. [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001]
Don Carty, the CEO of American Airlines, asks Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to confirm which airplane has hit the Pentagon, but is frustrated when Mineta cannot provide a definite answer. Carty, who is at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Texas, and Mineta, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, are participating in a phone conference call (see (Between 9:22 a.m. and 9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Carty asks Mineta what type of plane hit the Pentagon, to see if it belongs to American Airlines. Receiving no firm answer, he exclaims: “For God’s sake, it’s in the Pentagon. Can’t somebody go look at it and see whose plane it is?” Mineta replies: “They have. You can’t tell.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 186] American Airlines will not learn until later on that the plane that hit the Pentagon was its Flight 77. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] At around 11:18 a.m., it will issue a statement in which it mentions Flight 77 (see (11:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but this statement will only say that Flight 77 is one of two planes the airline has “lost” in “tragic incidents this morning.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001]
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