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September 11[]

6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m. Hijackers Arrive at Airports and Board Flights; Computer Screening Program Fails to Stop Them[]

in a template All the alleged 9/11 hijackers reportedly check in at the airports from where they board Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93. [1][2][3] According to the 9/11 Commission, nine of the 19 hijackers are flagged by the CAPPS system before boarding Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93.[4][5][6][7][8] In addition, Mohamed Atta was selected when he checked in at the airport in Portland, for his earlier connecting flight to Boston [see 1]. All of the hijackers subsequently pass through security checkpoints before boarding their flights. [1]

(7:15 a.m.-7:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Hijack Suspects Set Off Airport Alarms; Allowed to Board Anyway[]

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Around 7:15 a.m., Flight 77 hijackers Majed Moqed and Khalid Almihdhar check in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington Dulles International Airport.[9][10]

The FAA has a computer system in place, called CAPPS, which identifies those passengers most likely requiring additional scrutiny by airport security [see 2]. CAPPS selects both men, but the only consequence is that Moqed’s luggage is not loaded onto Flight 77 until after his boarding is confirmed. [11][12]

Dulles Airport has surveillance cameras monitoring its security checkpoints, and video later viewed by the 9/11 Commission shows the two passing through the Main Terminal’s west security screening checkpoint at 7:18 a.m.

When they go through, their carry-on bags fail to set off any alarms, but both men set off the alarm when they pass through the first metal detector. They are directed to a second metal detector, where Almihdhar passes, but Moqed fails again. He is subjected to a personal screening with a metal detection hand wand. This time he is cleared and permitted to pass through the checkpoint.[11][13]

The other three Flight 77 hijackers pass through the security checkpoint about 20 minutes later [see 3]. The 9/11 Commission later concludes that Almihdhar’s passport was “suspicious” and could have been linked to al-Qaeda, but it does not explain why or how. [14]

(7:25 a.m.-7:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Remaining Three Flight 77 Hijackers Check In at Airport; Allowed to Board Despite Security Checkpoint Problems[]

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The 9/11 Commission estimates that Hani Hanjour checks in for Flight 77 at the American Airlines ticket counter at Dulles International Airport some time between 7:25 a.m. and 7:35 a.m. (American Airlines will be unable to locate information confirming his check-in time.) [15] He is selected for additional scrutiny by airport security under the FAA’s CAPPS program [see 4], but this has no consequences.

Brothers Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi, check in at approximately 7:29 a.m. The American Airlines customer service representative, Vaughn Allex makes both of them CAPPS selectees, because one of them cannot provide photo identification and seems unable to understand English, and he finds both of them suspicious. However, the only consequence is that Salem Alhazmi’s luggage is not loaded onto the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded.

Surveillance cameras monitor the security checkpoints at Dulles Airport. According to the 9/11 Commission’s review of security footage, Hani Hanjour passes through the Main Terminal’s west security screening checkpoint at 7:35 a.m. He proceeds through the metal detector without setting off the alarm, and his two carry-on bags set off no alarms when placed on the X-ray belt. The Alhazmis arrive at the same checkpoint a minute later. Salem Alhazmi successfully clears the metal detector, and is permitted through the checkpoint. Nawaf Alhazmi sets off the alarms for both the first and second metal detectors and is subsequently subjected to a personal screening with a metal detection hand wand before being passed. His shoulder bag is swiped by an explosive trace detector and returned without further inspection.[16][17][18]

Immediately after the attacks, when the FAA’s local civil aviation security office investigates the security screening at Dulles on 9/11, it finds the airport’s screeners recall nothing out of the ordinary, and cannot recall any of the passengers they screened having been CAPPS selectees. [17][15]

The 9/11 Commission later concludes that the Alhazmi brothers’ passports are “suspicious” and could have been linked to al-Qaeda, but it does not explain why or how.[citation needed]

  1. 1.0 1.1 9/11 Commission Report,26 July 2004,Page 1, Page 2 , Page 3 , Page 4
  2. . 
  3. 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 27, 89, 93 ]
  4. . 
  5. [WASHINGTON POST, 1/28/2004;
  6. 9/11 Commission Report,26 July 2004,Page 84
  7. . 
  9. 9/11 Commission Report,26 July 2004,Page 2, Page 3
  10. 9/11 Commission August 2004 Staff report,26 August 2004,Page 27
  11. 11.0 11.1 9/11 COMMISSION. 1/27/2004. 
  12. 9/11 Commission August 2004 Staff report,26 August 2004,Page 27, Page 28
  13. 9/11 Commission Report,26 July 2004,Page 3
  14. BALTIMORE SUN. 1/27/2004. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 9/11 Commission August 2004 Staff report,26 August 2004,Page 93
  16. 9/11 COMMISSION (1/27/2004).  or on this wiki at 9/11_Commission_Hearings:Seventh_hearing_transcript
  17. 17.0 17.1 9/11 Commission Report,26 July 2004,Page 3
  18. 9/11 Commission August 2004 Staff report,26 August 2004,Page 27, Page 28

8:13 a.m.-9:28 a.m.[]

In the event of a hijacking, all airline pilots are trained to key an emergency four-digit code into their plane’s transponder. This would surreptitiously alert air traffic controllers, causing the letters “HJCK” to appear on their screens. [1]The action, which pilots should take the moment a hijack situation is known, only takes seconds to perform. [2]Yet during the hijackings of flights 11, 175, 77, and 93, none of the pilots do this. [3]

8:20 a.m. September 11, 2001: Flight 77 Takes Off 10 Minutes Late[]

Flight 77 departs Dulles International Airport, ten minutes after its 8:10 scheduled departure time. [4][WASHINGTON POST, 9/12/2001; [5]CNN, 9/17/2001;[6] GUARDIAN, 10/17/2001; [7]ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/21/2002; [8]9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004]

8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001: Boston Flight Control Tells Other Centers About Hijack, But Not NORAD[]

in a template [2]

Boston Center reportedly “notifies several air traffic control centers that a hijack is taking place.” [9]This is immediately after Boston controllers heard a transmission from Flight 11, declaring, “We have some planes”[see 5], and would be consistent with a claim later made to the 9/11 Commission by Mike Canavan, the FAA’s associate administrator for civil aviation security. He says,

“[M]y experience as soon as you know you had a hijacked aircraft, you notify everyone.… [W]hen you finally find out, yes, we do have a problem, then… the standard notification is it kind of gets broadcast out to all the regions.”[10]

An early FAA report will say only that Boston controllers begin “inter-facility coordination” with New York air traffic control at this time [11], but the New York Times reports that controllers at Washington Center also know “about the hijacking of the first plane to crash, even before it hit the World Trade Center.” [12]

However, the Indianapolis Center flight controller monitoring Flight 77 claims to not know about this or Flight 175’s hijacking twenty minutes later at 8:56 a.m. [see 6]. Additionally, the flight controllers at La Guardia airport are never told about the hijacked planes and learn about them from watching the news. [13] Boston Center also begins notifying the FAA chain of command of the suspected Flight 11 hijacking at this time [see 7], but it does not notify NORAD Wikipedia.png for another 6-15 minutes, depending on the account [see 8].

  1. [CNN, 9/13/2001; NEWSDAY, 9/13/2001; NEWS (PORTUGAL), 8/3/2002; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 17-18]
  2. [CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001]
  3. [CNN, 9/11/2001]
  4. . 
  5. . 
  6. . 
  7. . 
  8. . 
  9. GUARDIAN. 10/17/2001. 
  10. 9/11 COMMISSION (5/23/2003). 
  11. FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (9/17/2001). "Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events". 
  12. NEW YORK TIMES. 9/13/2001. 
  13. BERGEN RECORD. 1/4/2004. 
  1. (see 5:33 a.m.-5:40 a.m. September 11, 2001)
  2. (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001)
  3. (see (7:25 a.m.-7:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001)
  4. (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001)
  5. (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001 Boston Air Traffic Controllers)
  6. (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001)
  7. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001)
  8. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001)

(8:45 a.m.-9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Secret Service Does Not Use Its Stinger Missiles to Protect New York and Washington[]

In New York, the Secret Service has a Stinger Wikipedia.png missile secretly stored in the World Trade Center, to be used to protect the president if the city were attacked when he visits it. Presumably it keeps this is in WTC Building 7, where its field office is. [1][2]

Whether the Secret Service makes any attempt at defending New York from the two attacking planes with its Stinger missile is unknown. The agency is also known to have air surveillance capabilities. These include a system called Tigerwall, which provides “early warning of airborne threats” and “a geographic display of aircraft activity” [see 1]. And according to Barbara Riggs, who is in the Secret Service’s Washington, DC headquarters on this day, the agency is “able to receive real time information about other hijacked aircraft,” through “monitoring radar and activating an open line with the FAA.”[3]

These capabilities would presumably be of use if the Secret Service wanted to defend the World Trade Center. Furthermore, according to the British defense publication Jane’s Land-Based Air Defence, “the American president’s residences in Washington and elsewhere are protected by specialist Stinger teams in case of an aerial attack by terrorist organizations.” [4][5] Knight Ridder has previously reported “several sources” telling it, “Stinger missiles are in the Secret Service’s arsenal.” [6][7] And according to the London Telegraph, the Secret Service is “believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles” ready to defend the White House. [8][9]

Flight 77 reportedly comes within four miles of the White House before turning toward the Pentagon. [10][11]Whether the Secret Service makes any attempt at defending the place with its Stinger missiles is unknown. However, the Washington Post will later claim it is an “urban legend that Stinger missiles are mounted on the White House roof.” [12][13]

(Between 8:48 a.m. and 9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Langley Air Force Base Pilots Learn of WTC Crash[]

At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, the operations manager with the unit that is involved in NORAD’s air defense mission first learns that a plane has hit the World Trade Center in a phone call from his fiancée. He then receives a call from the unit’s intelligence officer, who warns that the pilots at Langley need to “get ready.” [14][15]

The alert unit at Langley Air Force Base is a small detachment from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which is based in Fargo, ND.[16][17] Captain Craig Borgstrom is its operations manager. In the event of an order to scramble the unit’s two F-16s that are kept on “alert,” his job would be to man the battle cab and serve as the supervisor of flying (SOF), being responsible for getting any necessary information about the mission to the pilots. Borgstrom’s fiancée, Jen, calls him at the base and asks, “Did you hear that some airplane just ran into the World Trade Center?” [18][19]This is the first that Borgstrom has heard about the attack.[20] [21] He replies, “Probably some idiot out sightseeing or someone trying to commit suicide in a Cessna 172 Wikipedia.png,” but Jen tells him, “It’s a pretty big fire for a small airplane.”

The chief enlisted manager then enters Borgstrom’s office and informs him that Darrin Anderson, the unit’s intelligence officer, is on the phone from the wing’s base in Fargo, “and needs to talk to you right away.” Borgstrom heads to the main reception desk and takes the call. After asking if Borgstrom is aware of what happened in New York, Anderson tells him, “[W]e think there might be more to this, so you guys get ready.” Borgstrom tells the chief enlisted manager about this call and then heads out toward the alert hangars.

Meanwhile, in one of the hangars, the crew chief goes upstairs with some information for Major Dean Eckmann, who is one of the pilots on alert duty. Eckmann is unaware of events in New York. When his crew chief informs him a plane has hit the WTC, he replies: “Poor, dumb sucker. I hope no one in the building got hurt.” Before Eckmann has a chance to switch on the television to check the news, a Klaxon horn sounds, indicating that the two alert pilots at Langley are to go to “battle stations.” [22][23]According to the 9/11 Commission, this battle stations signal occurs at 9:09 a.m. [see 2][24] Eckmann, along with Borgstrom and another of the unit’s pilots, will take off in order to defend Washington, D.C. at 9:30 a.m.[see 3][25]

8:50 a.m. September 11, 2001: FAA Establishes Phone Bridges, Including with the Military, Earlier than Claimed by 9/11 Commission[]

According to a statement by two high-level FAA officials, “Within minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center, the FAA immediately established several phone bridges [i.e., telephone conference calls] that included FAA field facilities, the FAA command center, FAA headquarters, [Defense Department], the Secret Service, and other government agencies.” The FAA shares “real-time information on the phone bridges about the unfolding events, including information about loss of communication with aircraft, loss of transponder signals, unauthorized changes in course, and other actions being taken by all the flights of interest, including Flight 77. Other parties on the phone bridges in turn shared information about actions they were taken.” The statement says, “The US Air Force liaison to the FAA immediately joined the FAA headquarters phone bridge and established contact with NORAD on a separate line.” [26][27]

Another account says the phone bridges are “quickly established” by the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC). This is a small office at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, which is staffed by three military officers at the time of the attacks [see 4]. It serves as the center’s liaison with the military. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology, the phone bridges link “key players, such as NORAD’s command center, area defense sectors, key FAA personnel, airline operations, and the NMCC.” [28][29] According to an FAA transcript of employee conversations on 9/11, one of the phone bridges, between the FAA Command Center, the operations center at FAA headquarters, and air traffic control centers in Boston and New York, begins before Flight 11 hits the World Trade Center at 8:46 [see 5][30] [31] If these accounts are correct, it means someone at NORAD should learn about Flight 77 when it deviates from its course [see 6]

However, the 9/11 Commission will later claim that the FAA teleconference is established about 30 minutes later [see 7] The Air Force liaison to the FAA will claim she only joins it after the Pentagon is hit [see 8]

8:51 a.m September 11, 2001: Last Radio Contact with Flight 77[]

The last radio contact with Flight 77 is made when a pilot asks for clearance to fly higher. However, six minutes later, the plane fails to respond to a routine instruction. Presumably, it is hijacked during that time. Indianapolis flight control center is handling the plane by this time.[32] [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/16/2001; GUARDIAN, 10/17/2001; BOSTON GLOBE, 11/23/2001;][33]

8:51 a.m.-8:54 a.m. September 11, 2001: Hijackers Take Over Flight 77[]

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The 9/11 Commission says the hijacking of Flight 77 takes place between 8:51 a.m., when the plane transmits its last routine radio communication [see 9], and 8:54 a.m., when it deviates from its assigned course [see 10]. Based on phone calls made from the plane by flight attendant Renee May [see 11] and passenger Barbara Olson [see 12], the commission concludes that the hijackers “initiated and sustained their command of the aircraft using knives and box cutters Wikipedia.png… and moved all of the passengers (and possibly crew) to the rear of the aircraft.” It adds, “Neither of the firsthand accounts to come from Flight 77… mentioned any actual use of violence (e.g., stabbings) or the threat or use of either a bomb or Mace Wikipedia.png.” [34]

People who knew Charles Burlingame, the pilot of Flight 77, will later contend that it would have required a difficult struggle for the hijackers to gain control of the plane from him.[35][36]Burlingame was a military man who’d flown Navy jets for eight years, served several tours at the Navy’s elite Top Gun Wikipedia.png school, and been in the Naval Reserve for 17 years.[37][38]

His sister, Debra Burlingame Wikipedia.png, says, “This was a guy that’s been through SERE [Survival Evasion Resistance Escape Wikipedia.png] school in the Navy and had very tough psychological and physical preparation.” [39][40]

Admiral Timothy Keating Wikipedia.png, who was a classmate of Burlingame’s from the Navy and a flight school friend, says, “I was in a plebe summer boxing match with Chick, and he pounded me.… Chick was really tough, and the terrorists had to perform some inhumane act to get him out of that cockpit, I guarantee you.” [41][42] Yet the five alleged hijackers do not appear to have been the kinds of people that would be a particularly dangerous opponent. Pilot Hani Hanjour was skinny and barely over 5 feet tall.[43][44]

And according to the 9/11 Commission, the “so-called muscle hijackers actually were not physically imposing,” with the majority of them being between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 7 in height, “and slender in build.” [45][46] Senator John Warner Wikipedia.png later says “the examination of his remains… indicated Captain Burlingame was in a struggle and died before the crash, doing his best to save lives on the aircraft and on the ground.” [47][48]

(Shortly After 8:51 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Pentagon Command Center Possibly Knows Flight 77 Is Hijacked, yet NEADS Not Notified[]

An article in the New York Times will later suggest that officials in the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) promptly become aware of the problems with Flight 77, long before NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is alerted to the flight. The article will state, “During the hour or so that American Airlines Flight 77 [is] under the control of hijackers, up to the moment it struck the west side of the Pentagon, military officials in [the NMCC are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/15/2001] This appears consistent with what would be expected under normal procedures. According to the FAA’s acting Deputy Administrator Monte Belger: “Prior to 9/11, FAA’s traditional communication channel with the military during a crisis had been through the National Military Command Center (NMCC). They were always included in the communication net that was used to manage a hijack incident.” He will say that, since the FAA does not have direct dedicated communication links with NORAD, in a hijack scenario the NMCC has “the responsibility to coordinate [the Defense Department]‘s response to requests from the FAA or the FBI.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004 ; 9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004] NEADS reportedly is not alerted to Flight 77 until significantly later: at 9:24 a.m. by some accounts (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001), or, according to other accounts, at 9:34 a.m., when it only learns that Flight 77 is missing (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [NORTH AMERICAN AEROSPACE DEFENSE COMMAND, 9/18/2001; 9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004]

(8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Flight 77 Veers Off Course[]

Flight 77 from Washington begins to go off course over southern Ohio, turning to the southwest. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/12/2001; NEWSDAY, 9/23/2001; 9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004]

8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001: Flight 77’s Transponder Signal Disappears, yet NEADS Is Not Alerted[]

in a template [3]

Flight 77’s transponder is turned off, meaning that the aircraft’s speed, altitude, and flight information are no longer visible on radar displays at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center.[49][50] The unknown Indianapolis Center air traffic controller in charge of Flight 77 watched the plane go off course and head southwest before its data disappeared from his radar screen. He looks for primary radar signals along the aircraft’s projected flight path as well as in the airspace where it had started to turn, but cannot find it. [51] He tries contacting the plane repeatedly, saying “American 77, Indy,” and: “American 77, Indy, radio check. How do you read?” But there is no response.[52][53]

US News and World Report will later comment, “[E]xperts say that an airliner making a 180-degree turn followed by a transponder turnoff should have been a red flag to controllers.” It will quote Robert Cauble, a 20-year veteran of Navy air traffic control, who says: “The fact that the transponder went off, they should have picked up on that immediately. Everyone should have been on alert about what was going on.” [54][55] Yet the Indianapolis Center supposedly does not notify NEADS. According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS will only learn that Flight 77 is missing at 9:34 a.m. [see 13]. [56]

While several air traffic control centers were reportedly informed of the Flight 11 hijacking as early as 8:25 a.m. [see 14], according to the 9/11 Commission, the controller handling Flight 77 does not realize other aircraft have been hijacked, and he is unaware of the situation in New York. He mistakenly assumes Flight 77 has experienced an electrical or mechanical failure. [57] After he informs other Indianapolis Center personnel of the developing situation, they will clear all other aircraft from the plane’s westerly route so their safety will not be affected if Flight 77 is still flying along its original path but unable to be heard.[58][59][60][61]

While NEADS is not alerted about the errant aircraft, a controller at the Indianapolis Center will contact American Airlines at 8:58 to inform it that contact has been lost with Flight 77 [see 15].[61] And an article in the New York Times will indicate that the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) promptly becomes aware of the problems with Flight 77 [see 16]. [62]

  1. . 
  2. [TECH TV, 7/23/2002; WEISS, 2003, PP. 379]
  4. . 
  5. [JANE'S LAND-BASED AIR DEFENCE, 10/13/2000]
  6. . 
  7. [KNIGHT RIDDER, 9/12/1994]
  8. . 
  9. [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 9/16/2001]
  10. . 
  11. [ABC NEWS, 10/24/2001; USA TODAY, 8/13/2002]
  12. . 
  13. [WASHINGTON POST, 4/4/2002]
  14. . 
  15. [SPENCER, 2008, PP. 116-117]
  16. . 
  17. [NEW YORK TIMES, 11/15/2001; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12/27/2006; SPENCER, 2008, PP. 114]
  18. . 
  19. [SPENCER, 2008, PP. 116; TAMPA TRIBUNE, 6/8/2008]
  20. . 
  21. [LONGMAN, 2002, PP. 63]
  22. . 
  23. [LONGMAN, 2002, PP. 64; SPENCER, 2008, PP. 116-117]
  24. 9/11 Commission Report,26 July 2004,Page 24
  25. 9/11 Commission August 2004 Staff report,26 August 2004,Page 16; RIP CHORD, 12/31/2006]
  26. . 
  27. [9/11 COMMISSION, 5/23/2003]
  28. . 
  29. [AVIATION WEEK AND SPACE TECHNOLOGY, 6/10/2002; 9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004]
  30. . 
  31. [FEDERAL AVIATION AUTHORITY, 10/14/2003, PP. 3-10 ]
  32. . 
  33. 9/11 Commission Report,26 July 2004,Page 8
  34. 9/11 Commission Report,26 July 2004,Page 8, Page 9 ,9/11 Commission August 2004 Staff report,26 August 2004,Page 29
  35. . 
  36. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/11/2002]
  37. . 
  38. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12/6/2001]
  39. . 
  40. [JOURNAL NEWS (WESTCHESTER), 12/30/2003]
  41. . 
  42. [CNN, 5/16/2006]
  43. . 
  44. [WASHINGTON POST, 10/15/2001]
  45. . 
  46. [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/16/2004]
  47. . 
  48. [WASHINGTON POST, 12/8/2001]
  49. . 
  51. . [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004]
  52. .  [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/16/2001;
  53. .  NEW YORK TIMES, 10/16/2001]
  54. . 
  55. [US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 10/8/2001]
  56. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 26-27]
  57. [GUARDIAN, 10/17/2001; 9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004]
  58. . 
  59. [FRENI, 2003, PP. 29;
  60. .  9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 460;
  61. 61.0 61.1 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 30 ] 9/11 Commission August 2004 Staff report,26 August 2004,Page 30
  62. [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/15/2001]
  1. (see (September 2000 and after))
  2. (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
  3. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
  4. (see (Between 8:48 a.m. 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001)
  5. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001).
  6. (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
  7. (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
  8. (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
  9. (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001)
  10. (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001)
  11. (see (9:12 a.m.) September 11, 2001)
  12. (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001)
  13. (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001)
  14. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001)
  15. (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001)
  16. (see (Shortly After 8:51 a.m.) September 11, 2001)

(8:56 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Flight 77 Disappears from Indianapolis Center Radar Screens[]

This article has been assessed as havingUnknown importance.

Good scope?NoN Timeline? +YesY wikified? +YesY red links < 10?NoN all red links fixed?NoN referenced?NoN Illustrated?NoN Googled and added info? NoN Checked 9/11 records archives? NoN Checked Wikinews? NoN Checked Wikisource? NoN in a template

According to the 9/11 Commission, “Radar reconstructions performed after 9/11 reveal that FAA radar equipment tracked [Flight 77] from the moment its transponder was turned off at 8:56 [a.m.].” However, for eight minutes and 13 seconds, between 8:56 and 9:05, this primary radar data is not displayed to Indianapolis Center air traffic controllers. “The reasons are technical, arising from the way the software processed radar information, as well as from poor primary radar coverage where American 77 was flying.” [1]

According to the Washington Post, Flight 77 “was hijacked in an area of limited radar coverage.” The Post adds that there are two particular types of radar system. “Secondary” radar “is the type used almost exclusively today in air traffic control. It takes an aircraft’s identification, destination, speed, and altitude from the plane’s transponder and displays it on a controller’s radar screen.” “Primary” radar, on the other hand, “is an older system. It bounces a beam off an aircraft and tells a controller only that a plane is aloft—but does not display its type or altitude. The two systems are usually mounted on the same tower.” Normally, “If a plane simply disappears from radar screens, most controllers can quickly switch on the primary system, which should display a small plus sign at the plane’s location, even if the aircraft’s transponder is not working. But the radar installation near Parkersburg, W. Va., was built with only secondary radar—called ‘beacon-only’ radar. That left the controller monitoring Flight 77 at the Indianapolis Center blind when the hijackers apparently switched off the aircraft’s transponder [see 1], sources said.” [2]

In its final report, the 9/11 Commission will include an elaborate explanation for the loss of primary radar contact with Flight 77, saying it is because “the ‘preferred’ radar in this geographic area had no primary radar system, the ‘supplemental’ radar had poor primary coverage, and the FAA ATC [air traffic control] software did not allow the display of primary radar data from the ‘tertiary’ and ‘quadrary’ radars.” [3] The Commission will note that two managers at the Indianapolis Center[who?] who assist in the search on radar for the missing aircraft do “not instruct other controllers at Indianapolis Center to turn on their primary radar coverage to join in the search for American 77.”. [4]

8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001: Indianapolis Center Informs American Airlines of Loss of Contact with Flight 77[]

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center contacts the American Airlines dispatch office in Texas, and informs it that contact has been lost with Flight 77. The controller is a sector radar associate, whose job is to help with hand-offs and to coordinate with other sectors and facilities. He speaks to American Airlines dispatcher Jim McDonnell. [9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 30 ; SPENCER, 2008, PP. 63] The controller begins, “This is Indianapolis Center trying to get a hold of American 77.” McDonnell asks for clarification, “Who you trying to get a hold of?” and the controller replies: “American 77.… On frequency 120.27.… We were talking to him and all of a sudden it just, uh…” McDonnell interjects: “Okay, all right. We’ll get a hold of him for you.” The call comes to an abrupt end and the controller then continues trying to contact Flight 77. [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/16/2001; SPENCER, 2008, PP. 63-64] Soon after this call, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, Gerard Arpey, will give an order to stop all American flight takeoffs in the Northeast US (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). By 8:59 a.m., American Airlines begins attempts to contact Flight 77 using ACARS (a digital communications system used primarily for aircraft-to-airline messages). Within minutes, some time between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m., American will get word that United Airlines also has lost contact with a missing airliner (presumably Flight 175). When reports of the second WTC crash come through after 9:03 a.m., one manager will mistakenly shout, “How did 77 get to New York and we didn’t know it?” [WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/15/2001; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 454; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 31 ] The sector radar associate at the Indianapolis Center will call American Airlines again about Flight 77 at 9:02, and again speak with McDonnell (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/16/2001] Entity Tags: American Airlines, Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center, Jim McDonnell Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77


Originally taken from the timeline.

  1. [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004]
  2. WASHINGTON POST. 11/3/2001. 
  3. 9/11 Commission Report,26 July 2004,Page 460
  4. [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/17/2004]
  1. (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001)