Flight 11 takes off from Boston's Logan Airport, 14 minutes after its scheduled 7:45 departure time. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01; ABC News, 7/18/02; Newsday, 9/10/02; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); CNN, 9/17/01; Washington Post, 9/12/01; Guardian, 10/17/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: 9/11 Commission Report, Logan Airport
8:01 a.m.: Flight 93 Is Delayed for 41 Minutes
Flight 93 is delayed for 41 minutes on the runway in Newark, New Jersey. It will take off at 8:42 a.m. The Boston Globe credits this delay as a major reason why this was the only one of the four flights not to succeed in its mission. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B); Boston Globe, 11/23/01; Newsweek, 9/22/01] Apparently, Flight 93 has to wait in a line of about a dozen planes before it can take off. [USA Today, 8/12/02]
Between 8:13-8:21 a.m.): Flight 11 Transponder Turned Off
Flight controller Matt McCluskey stands in the Boston tower where the Flight 11 hijack was first detected.
Shortly after flight controllers ask Flight 11 to climb to 35,000 feet, the transponder stops transmitting. A transponder is an electronic device that identifies a plane on a controller's screen and gives its exact location and altitude. Among other vital functions, it is also used to transmit a four-digit emergency hijack code. Flight control manager Glenn Michael later says, “We considered it at that time to be a possible hijacking.” [MSNBC, 9/15/01; Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01; Associated Press, 8/12/02] Initial stories after 9/11 suggest the transponder is turned off around 8:13 a.m., but Pete Zalewski, the flight controller handling the flight, later says the transponder is turned off at 8:20 a.m. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] The 9/11 Commission places it at 8:21 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, claims the transponder is turned off some time after 8:30 a.m. where the Flight 11 hijack was first detected a.m. [ABC News, 9/11/02]
People and organizations involved: Robert Marr, Glenn Michael, Pete Zalewski
(8:13 a.m.): Flight 11 Hijacked, but Pilot Makes No Distress Call
Flight 11's manifest. Such details on other flights haven't been released. One version of where the hijackers and murdered passenger Daniel Lewin sat is marked, but there are competing versions of the seat numbers.
The last routine communication takes place between ground control and the pilots of Flight 11 around this time. Flight controller Pete Zalewski is handling the flight. Pilot John Ogonowski responds when told to turn right, but immediately afterwards fails to respond to a command to climb. Zalewski repeatedly tries to reach the pilot, even using the emergency frequency, but gets no response. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01; New York Times, 10/16/01; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Flight 11 is apparently hijacked around this time. One flight controller says the plane is hijacked over Gardner, Massachusetts, less than 50 miles west of Boston. [Nashua Telegraph, 9/13/01] The Boston Globe notes, “It appears that the hijackers' entry was surprising enough that the pilots did not have a chance to broadcast a traditional distress call.” It would only have taken a few seconds to press the right buttons. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Yet flight attendant Amy Sweeney appears to witness three of the hijackers storming the cockpit around 8:20 a.m. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01 (C)] This would imply that, at most, one or two hijackers enter the cockpit at this time, before the others do.
People and organizations involved: Madeline ("Amy") Sweeney, Pete Zalewski
8:14 a.m.: Flight 175 Takes Off 16 Minutes Late
Flight 175 takes off from Boston's Logan Airport, 16 minutes after its scheduled 7:58 departure time. [Washington Post, 9/12/01; CNN, 9/17/01; Guardian, 10/17/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); Newsday, 9/10/02]
People and organizations involved: Logan Airport
(After 8:14 a.m.-8:38 a.m.): Flight 11 Pilot Repeatedly Pushes Talk Back Button
At some unknown point after the hijacking begins, the 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 of Flight 11, 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. [MSNBC, 9/15/01; Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01]
People and organizations involved: Boston flight control, John Ogonowski
Two Boston flight controllers, Pete Zalewski and Lino Martins, discuss the fact that Flight 11 cannot be contacted. Zalewski says to Martins, “He won't answer you. He's nordo [no radio] roger thanks.” [Guardian, 10/17/01; New York Times, 10/16/01 (C); CNN, 9/17/01; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Lino Martins, Pete Zalewski
(Before 8:20 a.m.): Hijackers Attack Passenger on Flight 77
Four hijackers get up from their seats and stab or shoot passenger Daniel Lewin, a multimillionaire who once belonged to the Israel Defense Force's Sayeret Matkal, a top-secret counterterrorist unit. Lewin is sitting in front of one of the three hijackers in business class. An initial FAA memo regarding the flight states that Satam Al Suqami shoots Lewin at 9:20 a.m. The time is certainly a typo; perhaps 8:20 a.m. is meant? The killing is mentioned in a phone call from the flight that starts at 8:20 a.m. [UPI, 3/6/02; ABC News, 7/18/02; Washington Post, 3/2/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Daniel Lewin, Satam Al Suqami
8:20 a.m.: Flight 11 IFF Signal Transmission Stops
Flight 11 stops transmitting its IFF (identify friend or foe) beacon signal. [CNN, 9/17/01]
(8:20 a.m.): Boston Flight Control Thinks Flight 11 May Be Hijacked?
According to some reports, Boston flight control decides that Flight 11 has probably been hijacked, but apparently, it does not notify other flight control centers for another five minutes, and does not notify NORAD for approximately 20 minutes. [Newsday, 9/23/01; New York Times, 9/15/01 (C)] ABC News will later say, “There doesn't seem to have been alarm bells going off, [flight] controllers getting on with law enforcement or the military. There's a gap there that will have to be investigated.” [ABC News, 9/14/01] (Note the conflicting account at 8:21 a.m. (see (8:21 a.m.)))
People and organizations involved: Boston flight control
Flight 11 starts to veer dramatically off course. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)]
(8:20 a.m.): Flight 77 Takes Off 10 Minutes Late
Flight 77 departs Dulles International Airport near Washington, ten minutes after its 8:10 scheduled departure time. [CNN, 9/17/01; Washington Post, 9/12/01; Guardian, 10/17/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B)]
(8:21 a.m.): Boston Controller Suspects Something Seriously Wrong with Flight 11, but NORAD Not Notified
Boston flight controller Pete Zalewski, handling Flight 11, sees that the flight is off course and that the plane has turned off both transponder and radio. Zalewski later claims he turns to his supervisor and says, “Would you please come over here? I think something is seriously wrong with this plane. I don't know what. It's either mechanical, electrical, I think, but I'm not sure.” When asked if he suspected a hijacking at this point, he replies, “Absolutely not. No way.” According to the 9/11 Commission, “the supervisor instructed the controller [presumably Zalewski] to follow standard operating procedures for handling a ‘no radio’ aircraft once the controller told the supervisor the transponder had been turned off.” Another flight controller, Tom Roberts, has another nearby American Airlines Flight try to contact Flight 11. There is still no response. The flight is now “drastically off course” but NORAD is still not notified. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] Note that this response contradicts flight control manager Glenn Michael's assertion that Flight 11 was considered a possible hijacking as soon as the transponder was discovered turned off.
People and organizations involved: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Pete Zalewski, Tom Roberts, Glenn Michael
Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong calls Vanessa Minter, an American Airlines reservations agent in North Carolina, using a seatback Airfone from the back of the plane. Ong speaks to Minter and an unidentified man for about two minutes. Then supervisor Nydia Gonzalez is patched in to the conference call as well. Ong says, “The cockpit's not answering. Somebody's stabbed in business class and ... I think there's mace ... that we can't breathe. I don't know, I think We're getting hijacked.” A minute later, she continues, “And the cockpit is not answering their phone. And there's somebody stabbed in business class. And there's ... we can't breathe in business class. Somebody's got mace or something ... I'm sitting in the back. Somebody's coming back from business. If you can hold on for one second, they're coming back.” As this quote shows, other flight attendants relay information from the front of the airplane to Ong sitting in the back, and she periodically waits for updates. She goes on, “I think the guys are up there [in the cockpit]. They might have gone there—jammed the way up there, or something. Nobody can call the cockpit. We can't even get inside.” The first four and a half minutes of the call is later played in a public 9/11 Commission hearing. Ong apparently continues speaking to Gonzalez and Minter until the plane crashes. [New York Observer, 2/11/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey, who has heard more recordings than have been made public, says that some officials on the ground greet her account skeptically: “They did not believe her. They said, ‘Are you sure?’ They asked her to confirm that it wasn't air-rage. Our people on the ground were not prepared for a hijacking.” [New York Times, 4/18/04Sources:Bob Kerrey]
People and organizations involved: Betty Ong, Nydia Gonzalez, Vanessa Minter
8:21 a.m.: Sweeney's Call Reaches American Headquarters, but Managers Cover Up the News
Amy (Madeline) Sweeney.
American Airlines Flight service manager Michael Woodward is listening to Flight 11 attendant Amy Sweeney on the telephone, and he wants to pass on the information he is hearing from her. Since there is no tape recorder, he calls Nancy Wyatt, the supervisor of pursers at Logan Airport. Holding telephones in both hands, he repeats to Wyatt everything that Sweeney is saying to him. Wyatt in turn simultaneously transmits his account to the airline's Fort Worth, Texas, headquarters. The conversation between Wyatt and managers at headquarters is recorded. All vital details from Sweeney's call reach American Airlines' top management almost instantly. However, according to victims' relatives who later hear this recording, the two managers at headquarters immediately begin discussing a cover-up of the hijacking details. They say, “don't spread this around. Keep it close,” “Keep it quiet,” and “Let's keep this among ourselves. What else can we find out from our own sources about what's going on?” One former American Airlines employee who has also heard this recording recalls, “In Fort Worth, two managers in SOC [Systems Operations Control] were sitting beside each other and hearing it. They were both saying, ‘Do not pass this along. Let's keep it right here. Keep it among the five of us.’ ” Apparently, this decision prevents early and clear evidence of a hijacking from being shared during the crisis. Gerard Arpey, American Airlines' executive vice president for operations, soon hears details of the hijacking from flight attendant Betty Ong's phone call (see (8:21 a.m.)) at 8:30 a.m. (see 8:30 a.m.), but apparently, he does not learn of Sweeney's call until much later. Victims' relatives will later question whether lives could have been saved if only this information had been quickly shared with other airplanes. [New York Observer, 6/17/04]
People and organizations involved: American Airlines, Nancy Wyatt, Michael Woodward, Madeline ("Amy") Sweeney
(8:24 a.m.): Boston Flight Controllers Hear Flight 11 Hijacker: We Have Some Planes
Because the talkback button on Flight 11 has been activated, Boston flight controllers can hear a hijacker on Flight 11 say to the passengers: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you will be OK. We are returning to the airport.” Flight controller Pete Zalewski responds, “Who's trying to call me?” The hijacker continues, “Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you'll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.” [Boston Globe, 11/23/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Guardian, 10/17/01; New York Times, 10/16/01; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); New York Times, 9/12/01; Channel 4 News, 9/13/01] Immediately after hearing this voice, Zalewski “knew right then that he was working a hijack” and calls for his supervisor. The frequency of Flight 11 is played on speakers so everyone in Boston flight control can hear. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); Village Voice, 9/13/01]
People and organizations involved: Boston flight control, Pete Zalewski
Boston flight control radar sees Flight 11 making an unplanned 100-degree turn to the south (the plane is already way off course). Flight controllers never lose sight of the flight, though they can no longer determine altitude once the transponder is turned off. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02] Before this turn, the FAA had tagged Flight 11's radar dot for easy visibility and, at American Airlines headquarters at least, “All eyes watched as the plane headed south. On the screen, the plane showed a squiggly line after its turn near Albany, then it straightened.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01] Boston flight controller Mark Hodgkins later says, “I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down.” [ABC News, 9/6/02] However, apparently, NEADS has different radar. When they are finally told about the flight, they cannot find it. Boston has to update NEADS on Flight 11's position periodically by telephone until NEADS finally finds it a few minutes before it crashes into the WTC. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02; ABC News, 9/11/02; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02]
People and organizations involved: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Boston flight control, Mark Hodgkins, Federal Aviation Administration
8:25 a.m.: Boston Flight Control Tells Other Centers About Hijack, but Not NORAD
The Guardian reports that Boston flight control “notifies several air traffic control centers that a hijack is taking place.” But it does not notify NORAD for another 6-15 minutes, depending on the account. [Guardian, 10/17/01] However, the Indianapolis flight controller monitoring Flight 77 claims to not know about this or Flight 175's hijacking twenty minutes later at 8:56 a.m. Additionally, the flight controllers at New York City's La Guardia airport are never told about the hijacked planes and learn about them from watching the news. [Bergen Record, 1/4/04]
People and organizations involved: North American Aerospace Defense Command, La Guardia Airport, Boston flight control