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Profile: Ed Ballinger

Ed Ballinger was a participant or observer in the following events:

Senior United Airlines personnel are, unusually, not informed about air traffic control communications with Flight 175. At 8:41 a.m., the pilots of Flight 175 reported to air traffic controllers that they heard “a suspicious transmission” from another aircraft during their departure out of Boston (see 8:41 a.m.-8:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet the details of this communication with Flight 175 are not passed on to personnel at the United Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center, just outside Chicago. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 20]
Manager Receives 'No Relevant Information about the Hijackings' - Rich Miles, the manager on duty at the SOC, will later tell the 9/11 Commission that “[w]hile his experience and expectation was that [FAA air traffic control] would communicate to him and to the SOC about ‘strange’ or unusual communications from the cockpit… he could not recall any such communications on 9/11.” He will say that although, “typically, he would receive relevant information from the [air traffic control] system,” he receives “no relevant information about the hijackings” on this day. [9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 pdf file]
Other Airline Personnel Unaware of Flight 175 Communications - None of the other senior United Airlines officials on duty at the SOC are told about the 8:41 a.m. report made by the pilots of Flight 175. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 20] These officials will tell the 9/11 Commission that “the dispatchers and managers at the SOC” are in fact “not aware of any communications” between FAA controllers and Flight 175 this morning. [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file] The 9/11 Commission will describe, “SOC personnel at United that we talked to had no idea of the extent of interaction of the [Flight 175] crew with the saga of [Flight 11].” The Commission will add, “We walked down a list of indicators,” but state, “Until we mentioned them, no one we talked to [at United Airlines] was aware of those occurrences.” [9/11 Commission, 11/17/2003 pdf file]
Controllers Communicate with Pilots, Not Dispatchers - The United Airlines officials will say, however, that, “first and foremost,” FAA controllers “communicated directly with airline pilots, not the dispatchers” at the airline. [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file] Ed Ballinger, the United Airlines dispatcher responsible for Flight 175, will comment that “he did not feel that [air traffic control] was under any obligation to share such information [as the details of the 8:41 a.m. communication] with him, because it didn’t apparently affect the safety of any of his flights.” [9/11 Commission, 4/14/2003 pdf file]
Airline Not Advised to Notify Other Planes about Hijackings - The United Airlines officials who talk with the 9/11 Commission will also recall that “they never received any communication… from the FAA or the air traffic control system advising United to contact its aircraft about the hijackings.” The 9/11 Commission will not offer any explanation for the lack of communication between air traffic control and United Airlines. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 20]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, United Airlines, Rich Miles, Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ed Ballinger.Ed Ballinger. [Source: CNN]At the United Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center outside Chicago, flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger learns that Flight 175 is suspected as being hijacked, and then sends text messages to try and make contact with it. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 23-24] The SOC center has just been contacted by the United Airlines maintenance office in San Francisco, about a call it received from an attendant on Flight 175, who had reported that their plane had been hijacked (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] Subsequently, around 9:01 or 9:02, a dispatch manager at the SOC goes to Ballinger’s desk and informs him of the details of this call. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 23] Ballinger is the flight dispatcher responsible for United’s aircraft flying from the East Coast to the West Coast, which include Flight 175 (and also Flight 93). [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004] At 9:03, he sends an ACARS message to Flight 175: “How is the ride. Anything dispatch can do for you.” (ACARS is an e-mail system that enables personnel on the ground to rapidly communicate with those in the cockpit of an aircraft.) At the same time, the United Airlines air traffic control coordinator also sends an ACARS message to the flight: “NY approach lookin for ya on [frequency] 127.4.” Just after 9:03, unaware it has now crashed into the World Trade Center, Ballinger and the air traffic control coordinator re-send these ACARS messages to Flight 175. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9 and 23-24] Twenty minutes later, Ballinger will remain unaware that Flight 175 has crashed and still be trying to contact it by ACARS (see 9:23 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26] All airlines have a staff of dispatchers like Ballinger who, under FAA rules, are responsible for monitoring aircraft in flight. They follow each flight’s progress, relay safety information, and handle any problems that arise. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 14 and 35] United Airlines dispatchers typically monitor up to two dozen flights at once. [Longman, 2002, pp. 68] Ballinger has 16 transcontinental flights taking off early this morning that he is responsible for. [New York Observer, 6/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Beginning at 9:03, a number of United Airlines flight dispatchers send text messages to several United aircraft, indicating to the pilots that planes have flown into the World Trade Center. But, according to the 9/11 Commission, “These messages provided no details or warnings.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 36] It is not until 9:21 that United dispatchers are told to warn their flights to secure cockpit doors (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] The dispatcher responsible for Flight 175 and Flight 93—Ed Ballinger—begins sending warning messages to the flights he is monitoring at 9:19 a.m., informing them that two aircraft have hit the WTC (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 37] Airline dispatchers have an important part to play in managing aircraft in flight. According to commercial pilot and author Lynn Spencer, under FAA rules, dispatchers “take guardianship of each company aircraft in the sky. They are assigned to a certain number of aircraft and know all there is to know about each: who is flying, who is working the cabin, how many pounds of fuel are onboard, the flight plan, the alternate plan, and anything at all relevant to that flight. If there is a glitch in the system, the pilot talks to the dispatcher, and together they formulate a plan of action.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 35 and 72] United Airlines dispatchers are each responsible for monitoring from ten to 30 flights during a shift, and monitor anything up to two dozen flights at a time. [Longman, 2002, pp. 68]

Entity Tags: United Airlines, Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger begins sending text messages to United’s transcontinental flights that have not yet taken off, notifying them that a ground stop, preventing any further takeoffs, has been ordered for commercial aircraft in the New York area. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 37] FAA air traffic managers prohibited flights into or out of New York after the second plane hit the World Trade Center (see (9:04 a.m.-9:11 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002] Ballinger, who is working at the United Airlines System Operations Control center just outside Chicago, is responsible for monitoring United’s aircraft that are flying from the East Coast to the West Coast. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 23]

Entity Tags: Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

The pilot of Flight 93 sends a routine text message to United Airlines dispatcher Ed Ballinger, who is monitoring the flight. The message reads: “Good mornin‘… Nice clb [climb] outta EWR [Newark airport] after a nice tour of the apt [apartment] courts y [and] grnd cntrl. 20 N EWC At 350 occl [occasional] lt [light] chop. Wind 290/50 ain’t helping. J.” The J is presumably the signature for the pilot, Jason Dahl, who is personally acquainted with Ballinger. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 37]

Entity Tags: Jason Dahl, Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ed Ballinger, the United Airlines flight dispatcher monitoring Flight 93, sends a warning message to this flight, telling the pilots to beware of any cockpit intrusion. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 11] At 9:21, United Airlines instructed its dispatchers to warn their flights to secure their cockpit doors (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001), but Ballinger had already taken the initiative two minutes earlier to begin warning the 16 flights he is monitoring (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). His text message reads: “Beware any cockpit intrusion… Two aircraft in NY hit [World] Trade Center builds.” Because this message is sent out to Ballinger’s 16 aircraft in groups, it is not until 9:23 a.m. that it is transmitted to Flight 93. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 37] The warning is received in the plane’s cockpit one minute later. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 11] Then, at 9:26, Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl responds with the text message, “Ed confirm latest mssg plz [message please]—Jason.” Apart from a routine radio contact with the FAA’s Cleveland Center a minute later (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), this is the last normal communication made from Flight 93’s cockpit before the hijacking occurs. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 38] Ballinger will later complain: “One of the things that upset me was that they knew 45 minutes before that American Airlines [Flight 11] had a problem. I put the story together myself [from news accounts]. Perhaps if I had the information sooner, I might have gotten the message to [Flight] 93 to bar the door.” [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004]

Entity Tags: Jason Dahl, Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Unaware that this aircraft has crashed, United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger sends a warning message to Flight 175. The text message reads: “Beware any cockpit intrusion… Two aircraft in NY hit [World] Trade Center builds.” Ballinger began sending this text message to the 16 transcontinental flights he is monitoring at 9:19 a.m. (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). He is already aware that United Airlines suspects Flight 175 has been hijacked (see (9:01 a.m.-9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and recently learned that a second plane has hit the World Trade Center, but does not yet know this was Flight 175. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 37] United Airlines did not initially realize the second plane to hit the WTC was one of its own (see Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001), and it was not until 9:22 that it sent out an advisory to its dispatchers stating that Flight 175 had been involved in “an accident” in New York (see 9:22 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Ed Ballinger

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

United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger is informed that Flight 93, which he is responsible for monitoring, is heading for Washington, DC. At the United Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center, near Chicago, dispatch manager Mike Barber tells Ballinger that Flight 93 is “off track, heading for DC.” The aircraft has just reversed course (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and, having learned that it is not responding to FAA communications (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), officials at United Airlines headquarters now believe it has been hijacked. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 41] Also at this time, a United dispatcher who is assisting Ballinger sends a text message to Flight 93, asking, “How’s the wx[?]” (what this means is unclear), and, “Can dispatch be of any assistance?” No response is received. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 41]

Entity Tags: Ed Ballinger, Mike Barber

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

United Airlines dispatcher Ed Ballinger sends messages to the flights he is responsible for, telling them to land, and is also informed that Flight 93 is possibly hijacked. At 9:50, Ballinger sends a text message to Flight 93 and United’s other transcontinental flights, instructing them to “land ASP at nearest UAL airport—ORD terrorist.” (“ASP” is presumably short for “as soon as possible”; what “ORD” stands for is unreported.) The message also warns to beware of cockpit intrusion, stating, “No one in to cockpit—Land asp.” Over the next minute, Ballinger sends two more text messages to his flights, advising them to land as soon as possible. He still receives no response from Flight 93. United Airlines ordered that all its aircraft be grounded about five minutes earlier (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 44] However, Ballinger will later say that United dispatchers are told by their superiors, “Don’t tell the pilots why we want them to land.” [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004] Also around this time, Rich Miles, the manager at United’s System Operations Control center, informs Ballinger about a call recently received by United’s maintenance facility in San Francisco, from an attendant on Flight 93, who reported that her plane had been hijacked (see 9:35 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 43]

Entity Tags: Rich Miles, Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Unaware the aircraft has crashed, United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger instructs Flight 93 not to divert to Washington. At 10:10, he sends a text message to Flight 93, stating: “Don’t divert to DC. Not an option.” A minute later, he resends this same message to it. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 46] Someone on Flight 93 had contacted the FAA at 9:30, requesting a new flight plan with the destination of Washington (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001), and at 9:55 the pilot hijacker reprogrammed the plane’s navigational system for the new destination of Washington’s Reagan National Airport (see 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). United Airlines will not confirm that Flight 93 has crashed until around 10:15 (see (10:07 a.m.-10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and will notify its employees of this at 10:17 (see 10:17 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Ed Ballinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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