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Ben Sliney, a former air traffic controller and FAA manager who has been working as a lawyer in the private sector for many years, is offered the position of national operations manager at the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia. The offer is made by Jack Kies, the FAA’s manager of tactical operations. Sliney agrees to return to the FAA but asks to work first as a traffic management specialist at the Command Center, to learn the learn the operational details of the center from the ground up. After six months, Kies will again approach Sliney and offer him the job of national operations manager, and Sliney will accept it. His first day in the post will in fact be September 11. (Spencer 2008, pp. 1-2)
A number of key senior FAA personnel happen to be away from their usual bases this morning, at the time of the attacks.
Bill Peacock, the FAA director of air traffic services, is in New Orleans for a meeting with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). Among his many duties, Peacock is “the ultimate manager of all the air traffic controllers in the country’s system.” He will be transported from New Orleans later in the day in an FAA business jet, one of the few aircraft permitted to fly, and only arrive at FAA headquarters shortly after 5:00 p.m. (Freni 2003, pp. 12 and 70)
Jack Kies, the FAA’s manager of tactical operations, is in Nashua, New Hampshire for a meeting with representatives of the Canadian air traffic control organization. (Freni 2003, pp. 65-66) Consequently Linda Schuessler, the deputy director of system operations, has to take his place in charge of the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia. (Lavey 5/18/2006)
Tony Ferrante, the manager of the FAA’s air traffic investigation arm, is in Chicago to testify at a hearing. He will become frustrated later in the day about being stuck there, knowing he should he at his post in Washington gathering forensic data on the hijackings and crashes. (Freni 2003, pp. 7, 19 and 47-48)
Rick Hostetler, a member of the FAA’s planning and procedures organization, is at the dentist’s in Waldorf, Maryland when the attacks begin. His job includes acting as the FAA’s primary air traffic liaison for the Secret Service, the US Special Operations Command, and the Pentagon. After seeing the second WTC tower hit live on television, reportedly while sitting in the dentist’s chair, he will quickly set out for his duty station at the FAA Command Center. But due to the heavy traffic, his journey will take hours and the attacks will be over by the time he gets there. (Freni 2003, pp. 27, 47 and 90)
Mike Canavan, the director of the FAA’s Office of Civil Aviation Security, is visiting the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He will only make it back to Washington in the evening, on a special Army flight. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) As part of his job, Canavan is the FAA’s hijack coordinator, responsible for requesting military assistance in the event of a hijacking (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17-18)
FAA Administrator Jane Garvey is in a breakfast meeting at the Department of Transportation, in Washington, DC. She will quickly relocate to FAA headquarters soon after the first attack (see (8:48 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Freni 2003, pp. 62-63)
Whether the absence of these senior personnel impairs the FAA’s ability to respond to the attacks is unknown.
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