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John A. Ogonowski (February 24, 1951 – September 11, 2001) was a pilot and an agricultural activist. He was piloting American Airlines Flight 11 when it was hijacked and flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center as part of the 9/11 attacks. A resident of Dracut, Massachusetts, Ogonowski was a leading figure on behalf of farming in Massachusetts, particularly for immigrant farmers from Cambodia,[1] whom he assisted as part of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project.


He went to a school at Keith Academy, Lowell. He was a pilot in the U. S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, flying C-141 transport aircraft.[2] From 1978 to the end of his life, Ogonowski flew airplanes for American Airlines.[3]

He was killed on September 11, 2001, when the airplane he was flying, American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center.[4] It is believed that he was stabbed or his throat was slit before the plane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.[5] Before dying, he managed to engage the aircraft's radio system to allow air traffic control to listen to the terrorists' conversations in the aircraft's cabin.[5] His body was never found.[6]

A remote controlled model aircraft flying field in nearby Tewksbury, Massachusetts has been dedicated to Captain Ogonowski.[7] An alumnus of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, the institution posthumously presented him with an honorary doctorate at the 2003 commencement ceremony at Tsongas Arena. He was also a member of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity. [8]

Ogonowski is survived by his wife Margaret and daughters Laura, Caroline, and Mary Katherine.[4] His younger brother, Jim Ogonowski, who is also an agricultural activist, made an unsuccessful run for the United States House of Representatives in 2007.[9]


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Shortly Before September 11, 2001: Flight 11 Pilot Not Originally Scheduled for that Flight 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] 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] 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). Entity Tags: John Ogonowski, Walter Sorenson Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001: Flight 11 Makes Its Last Communication with Air Traffic Control[]

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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 1]. The 9/11 Commission concludes that Flight 11 is hijacked at 8:14, or shortly afterwards [see 2]. [10] [11] [12] [13]

(After 8:14 a.m.-8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Flight 11 Pilot Repeatedly Pushes Talk Back Button

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] Entity Tags: Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, John Ogonowski Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Flight 11 Pilot Stops Activating Talk Back Button 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] Entity Tags: John Ogonowski Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


  1. "Niki Tsongas Backs Away From Supporter's Attack on Opponent With Notable Family History". Fox News. 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  2. "John Ogonowski: Captain on the Farm". New York Times. 2001-12-03. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  3. Mitchell Zuckoff (2001-09-16). "Reliving the morning of death". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Hanna Rosin and Pamela Ferdinand (2001-09-12). "At Logan Airport, Nobody Saw Plane's Sharp Turn South". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Toby Harnden (2001-09-13). "Hijackers reassured pilot while they stabbed stewardesses". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  6. David Abel (2005-02-25). "Effort to ID Sept. 11 remains ends". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  7. Captain John A. Ogonowski Memorial Model Flying Field" (Pinnacle Street) - Tewksbury, Massachusetts at The 495th R/C Squadron
  8. 2010 Pi Lambda Phi Membership Directory
  9. Edward Mason and Crystal Bozek (2007-10-17). "Tsongas wins tight race". Eagle Tribune. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  10. New York Times. 10/16/2001. 
  11. MSNBC. 9/11/2002. 
  12. 9/11 Commission. 6/17/2004. 
  13. 9/11 Commission Report,26 July 2004,Page 4

External links[]

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