Profile: John Ogonowski
John Ogonowski was a participant or observer in the following events:
John Ogonowski, who will pilot American Airlines Flight 11—the first plane to hit the World Trade Center—on 9/11, is not originally supposed to be on that flight, but is scheduled to fly it shortly before September 11. The original pilot is Walter Sorenson. But, according to the Georgetown Record, Sorenson is “disappointed when he [is] replaced by Captain John Ogonowski, who [has] seniority over Sorenson and requested to fly [on 9/11].” [Georgetown Record, 9/18/2003; Georgetown Record, 9/7/2005] However, other reports indicate Ogonowski is later unhappy about having to fly on September 11, and tries, unsuccessfully, to switch to another flight. [Public Radio International, 9/13/2002] Thomas McGuinness, who will be the co-pilot of Flight 11 on 9/11, is, like Ogonowski, not originally supposed to be on that flight, but arranges to take it on the afternoon before September 11 (see September 10, 2001). [Peter Scheibner, 8/30/2011; KSAX, 1/20/2012] Pilots on two of the other aircraft hijacked on 9/11 are also not originally scheduled to fly that day, but are booked onto those planes shortly before September 11 (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001 and Shortly Before September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Denver Post, 12/16/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2006]
The last routine communication takes place between air traffic control and the pilots of Flight 11 at 8:13 and 29 seconds. Boston Center air traffic controller Pete Zalewski is handling the flight, and instructs it to turn 20 degrees to the right. Pilot John Ogonowski immediately acknowledges the instruction, but seconds later he fails to respond to a command to climb to 35,000 feet. Zalewski repeatedly tries to reach the pilot over the next ten minutes, even using the emergency frequency, but gets no response (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission concludes that Flight 11 is hijacked at 8:14, or shortly afterwards (see 8:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 10/16/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4]
John Ogonowski. [Source: Associated Press]At some unknown point after the hijacking begins, Flight 11’s talkback button is activated, which enables Boston flight controllers to hear what is being said in the cockpit. It is unclear whether John Ogonowski, the pilot, activates the talkback button, or whether a hijacker accidentally does so when he takes over the cockpit. A controller later says, “The button [is] being pushed intermittently most of the way to New York.” An article later notes that “his ability to do so also indicates that he [is] in the driver’s seat much of the way” to the WTC. Such transmissions continue until about 8:38 a.m. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001; MSNBC, 9/15/2001] However, Ogonowski fails to punch a four-digit emergency code into the plane’s transponder, which pilots are taught to do the moment a hijack situation is known (see (8:13 a.m.-9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Christian Science Monitor, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/13/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001]
The talkback button on Flight 11, which has been periodically activated since around 8:14 a.m., stops around this time. Some have suggested that this indicates that the hijackers replace pilot John Ogonowski at this time. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001; MSNBC, 9/15/2001]
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