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Profile: John Hartling

John Hartling was a participant or observer in the following events:

John Hartling.John Hartling. [Source: NBC News]By 8:34 a.m., Flight 11 has entered airspace managed by Boston Center air traffic controller John Hartling. (MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19) Although Boston controller Pete Zalewski, who was managing Flight 11, concluded the plane was hijacked almost ten minutes earlier (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), at the time the blip for Flight 11 appears on Hartling’s radar screen, Hartling is unaware that a hijacking is taking place. According to author Lynn Spencer, the reason is that “The concentration required for the job is so intense that controllers operate on a need-to-know basis. They don’t need to know what’s happening in other controllers’ sectors unless it might affect their own airspace, and distractions are rigorously kept to a minimum.” Tom Roberts, another Boston Center controller, has just been relieved from duty for a scheduled coffee break, and comes over to Hartling’s desk. Referring to Flight 11’s radar track, he tells Hartling, “This—this aircraft, we believe, is hijacked, and he’s last reported at 29,000 feet.” However, Hartling is incredulous. He will later recall that when Roberts says the plane is hijacked, “I didn’t believe him.” This is because “I didn’t think that that stuff would happen anymore, especially in this country.” Hartling continues tracking Flight 11 as it heads toward New York. Although its transponder has been turned off (see (Between 8:13 a.m. and 8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he can tell that, at almost 600 mph, it is flying far faster than the 450 mph it should be moving at. (MSNBC 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 22-24)

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center suggests that Flight 11 is going to crash into the World Trade Center. (The Learning Channel 8/20/2006) Flight 11 is heading southbound toward New York, descending at about 3,200 feet per minute. (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file) John Hartling, a controller at the Boston Center who has been monitoring it (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will later recall, “One of my fellow controllers on the other side of the room, I heard him say, ‘That airplane’s gonna hit the World Trade Center.’” (The Learning Channel 8/20/2006) Flight 11 will crash into the WTC at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file)

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