FLIGHT 11 TIMELINE

By Paul Thompson

Other Sections of the Timeline:

The Complete Timeline parts 1 and 2 (excluding Day of 9/11)
The Abridged Timeline (a good place to start)
Introduction and credits, help needed, and links
The latest update

Articles
The Two Ziad Jarrahs
Sept. 11's Smoking Gun: The Many Faces of Saeed Sheikh
Alhazmi & Almihdhar: The Hijackers Who Should Have Been Caught
They Tried to Warn Us
Is There More to the Capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Than Meets the Eye?
An Interesting Day: George Bush Jr. on 9/11
The Failure to Defend the Skies on 9/11

Summaries

9/11 Paymaster Saeed Sheikh
9/11 Mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
ISI Director Mahmood Ahmed
Nabil al-Marabh
Would Be Hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui
Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar
Escape from Afghanistan
Foreign Intelligence Warnings
Randy Glass

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Subdivisions
Part 1: 1979 - 2000
Part 2: Jan. 2001 - 9/11
Part 3: Day of 9/11
Part 4: 9/11 - Dec. 2001
Part 5: Jan. 2002 - present
Day of 9/11
Flight 11
Flight 175
Flight 77
Flight 93
Bush on 9/11


Colored categories:
American Airlines Flight 11. Boeing 767 flying from Boston to Los Angeles. 81 passengers, nine flight attendants, two pilots, Hijackers:
Waleed Alshehri (Seat 2B), Wail Alshehri (Seat 2A), Mohamed Atta (Seat 8D, the likely pilot), Abdulaziz Alomari (Seat 8G) and Satam Al Suqami (Seat 10B).
United Airlines Flight 93. Flying from Newark to San Francisco. 38 passengers (out of 182 seats), five flight attendants, two pilots. Hijackers: Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Ziad Jarrah (the likely pilot) and Saeed Alghamdi (had flight training).
United Airlines Flight 175. Boeing 767 flying from Boston to Los Angeles. 56 passengers, seven flight attendants, two pilots. Hijackers:
Marwan Alshehhi (the likely pilot), Fayez Ahmed Banihammad (Alshehri) (had flight training), Mohand Alshehri (had flight training), Hamza Alghamdi and Ahmed Alghamdi.
American Airlines Flight 77. Boeing 757 flying from Dulles Airport outside Washington to Los Angeles. 58 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots. Hijackers: Khalid Almihdhar (Seat 12B), Majed Moqed (Seat 12A), Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi (Seat 5F), and Hani Hanjour (the likely pilot).
George Bush's movements and sayings.
All other events.

Organization abbreviations:
FAA: US Federal Aviation Administration
NORAD: US North American Aerospace Defense Command
NEADS: Northeast Air Defense Sector, the part of NORAD covering Boston, New York and Washington

All times are Eastern Standard time zone
Flight 11

Approximate times are marked in parentheses.



People flee the WTC smoke
and debris. [Reuters]

Points to keep in mind when you read the below:

The scrambling (sending into the air) of fighter aircraft at the first sign of trouble is a routine phenomenon. During the year 2000, there are 425 "unknowns" - pilots who didn't file or diverted from flight plans or used the wrong frequency. Fighters are scrambled in response 129 times in cases where problems are not immediately resolved. After 9/11, such scrambles go from about twice a week to three or four times a day. [Calgary Herald, 10/13/01] Between September 2000 and June 2001, fighters are scrambled 67 times. [AP, 8/13/02] General Ralph E. Eberhart, NORAD Commander in Chief, says that before 9/11, "Normally, our units fly 4-6 sorties a month in support of the NORAD air defense mission." [FNS, 10/25/01] Statistics on how many minutes fighters take to scramble before 9/11 apparently are not released.

"Consider that an aircraft emergency exists... when: ... There is unexpected loss of radar contact and radio communications with any... aircraft." [FAA regulations]

"If... you are in doubt that a situation constitutes an emergency or potential emergency, handle it as though it were an emergency." [FAA regulations]

"Pilots are supposed to hit each fix with pinpoint accuracy. If a plane deviates by 15 degrees, or two miles from that course, the flight controllers will hit the panic button. They’ll call the plane, saying 'American 11, you’re deviating from course.' It’s considered a real emergency, like a police car screeching down a highway at 100 miles an hour. When golfer Payne Stewart’s incapacitated Learjet missed a turn at a fix, heading north instead of west to Texas, F-16 interceptors were quickly dispatched." [MSNBC, 9/12/01]

"A NORAD spokesman says its fighters routinely intercept aircraft. When planes are intercepted, they typically are handled with a graduated response. The approaching fighter may rock its wingtips to attract the pilot's attention, or make a pass in front of the aircraft. Eventually, it can fire tracer rounds in the airplane's path, or, under certain circumstances, down it with a missile." [Boston Globe, 9/15/01]

"In October [2002], Gen. Eberhart told Congress that 'now it takes about one minute' from the time that the FAA senses something is amiss before it notifies NORAD. And around the same time, a NORAD spokesofficer told the Associated Press that the military can now scramble fighters 'within a matter of minutes to anywhere in the United States.'" [Slate, 1/16/02]

The commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Anatoli Kornukov, says the day after 9/11: "Generally it is impossible to carry out an act of terror on the scenario which was used in the USA yesterday.... As soon as something like that happens here, I am reported about that right away and in a minute we are all up." [Pravda, 9/12/01]

Supposedly, on 9/11, there are only four fighters on ready status in the Northeastern US, and only 14 fighters on permanent ready status in the entire US. [BBC, 8/29/02] However, any number of additional fighters could be in the air or ready to fly at the time the 9/11 attacks begin, but exact numbers are not known.

Additionally, the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC), an office designed to facilitate communications between the FAA and the military, had just been given a secure Internet (Siprnet) terminal and other hardware six weeks earlier, "greatly enhancing the movement of vital information." [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/02]

 



Abdulaziz Alomari and Mohamed Atta go through security in Portland. These are the only released images of any hijackers in airports on 9/11. [FBI] Note the two different time stamps, one in the middle, one at the bottom.

(5:53 a.m.) Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari board a Colgan Air flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston. They are filmed going through security in Portland. This is the only footage of the hijackers in airports on 9/11, and it's not even one of the suicide flights. [Time, 9/24/01] [5:45, New York Daily News, 5/22/02, 5:45, FBI, 10/4/01, 5:53, Miami Herald, 9/22/01, strangely, the photos show two time stamps, one showing 5:45, the other showing 5:53]

(6:00 a.m.) Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari's flight from Portland, Maine to Boston takes off. [FBI, 10/4/01] Two passengers later say Atta and Alomari board separately from each other, keep quiet, and don't draw attention to themselves. [Washington Post, 9/16/01, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/16/01]

6:50 a.m. Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari's flight from Portland arrives on time at Boston's Logan Airport. [The book Inside 9-11: What Really Happened, 2/02]

(7:45 a.m.) Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari board Flight 11. Atta's bags contain airline uniforms and many other remarkable things, but are checked through to his final destination, making them unusable for the attacks. The bags are not loaded onto the plane in time and are later found by investigators. [Boston Globe, 9/18/01] But at least two other hijackers on Flight 11 are able to use stolen uniforms and IDs to board the plane. [Sunday Herald, 9/16/01] There is speculation that the bags were meant to be left behind and found. [New Yorker, 10/1/01] How can Atta have been sure the bags would not be checked onto the plane unless a confederate working in the airport makes sure the bags are not loaded?

(Before 7:59 a.m.) Hijacker Mohamed Atta on Flight 11 calls hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in Flight 175 as both planes sit on the runway. They confirm the plot is on. ["Just before 8:00," Time, 8/4/02] Do investigators know what was said in this call or are they just guessing, and if they do, what does that say about their data collection abilities?


Flight 11's intended and actual routes. [USA Today] Why did the plane go so far northwest (before turning south),
for seemingly no reason?

(7:59 a.m.) Flight 11 takes off from Boston's Logan Airport, 14 minutes after scheduled departure. [7:45 (actually the scheduled time), Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01, 7:59, ABC News, 7/18/02, 7:59, CNN, 9/17/01, 7:59, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:00, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:00, AP, 8/19/02, 8:00, Newsday, 9/10/02]

8:13 a.m. The last routine communication between ground control and the pilots of Flight 11. The pilot responds when told to turn right. But almost immediately afterwards he fails to respond to a command to climb. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01, 8:13:31, New York Times, 10/16/01]


American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767.

(8:13 a.m.) Flight 11 is 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] Does the hijacking involve all of the hijackers from the beginning, or only one hijacker who is already in the cockpit when the hijacking begins, with the rest joining in later? The storming of the cockpit doesn't appear to happen until after 8:21, yet communication with ground control stops now. Fifteen minutes after takeoff, Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01, "A few minutes into the flight," ABC News, 7/18/02] As the Boston Globe put it, "It appears that the hijackers' entry was surprising enough that the pilots did not have a chance to broadcast a traditional distress call," a button that would have taken only a few seconds to press. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01]


Flight 11's manifest. Such details on other flights haven't been released. [Edited, from AP and Sydney Morning Herald]

(After 8:13 a.m.) Shortly after flight controllers ask Flight 11 to climb to 35,000 feet, the transponder stops transmitting. The transponder is the electronic device that identifies the jet on the controller's screen, gives its exact location and altitude, and also allows a four-digit emergency hijack code to be sent. Air traffic manager Glenn Michael says later, "We considered it at that time to be a possible hijacking." ["When given permission to climb to 35,000 feet," AP, 8/12/02, "8:13:47 — 46R: AAL11, now climb maintain FL350," New York Times, 10/16/01, shortly after trying emergency frequencies, Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01] "Just moments" after radio contact is lost (which is discussed by flight controllers at 8:15), the transponder is turned off. [MSNBC, 9/15/01] NORAD officially says it is not notified the plane is hijacked until 8:40 - 27 minutes later, though one NORAD employee contradicts this (see 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.). [NORAD, 9/18/01] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector, later claims the transponder is turned off some time after 8:30. [ABC News, 9/11/02]

(After 8:14 a.m.) At some point after the hijacking begins, the pilot of Flight 11, John Ogonowski, activates the talk-back button, enabling Boston flight controllers to hear what is being said in the cockpit. A controller says, "The button was being pushed intermittently most of the way to New York." An article later notes that "his ability to do so also indicates that he was in the driver's seat much of the way" to the WTC. Such transmissions continue until about 8:38. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01, MSNBC, 9/15/01]

(8:15 a.m.)  Boston flight control tries but fails to contact the pilots of Flight 11, even using emergency frequencies. [8:14, Guardian, 10/17/01] A Boston flight controller states of Flight 11, "He won't answer you. He's nordo roger thanks". Nordo means "no radio." [8:15, New York Times, 10/16/01, "over the Hudson river," CNN, 9/17/01]

8:20 a.m. Flight 11 stops transmitting its IFF (identify friend or foe) beacon signal. [CNN, 9/17/01]

(8:20 a.m.)  Flight 11 starts to veer dramatically off course around this time. [USA Today flight path image, on this page] Recall that if a plane goes two miles off course, it should be considered an emergency situation. [MSNBC, 9/12/01]

(8:20 a.m.) Boston flight control decides that Flight 11 has probably been hijacked, but apparently it doesn't notify other flight control centers for another five minutes, and don't notify NORAD for about another 20 minutes. ["About 8:20," Newsday, 9/23/01, "about 8:20," New York Times, 9/15/01] ABC News will later say, "There doesn't seem to have been alarm bells going off, traffic 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]


Daniel Lewin.

(Before 8:21 a.m.) Four hijackers get up from their seats and stab or shoot passenger Daniel Lewin, who once belonged to the Israel Defense Force, Sayeret Matkal, a top-secret counter-terrorist unit. He was sitting in front of one of the three hijackers in business class. This could have happened even before 8:13, but logically seems to have come not much before 8:21. A very preliminary FAA memo says Lewin is shot by Satam Al Suqami at 9:20. Clearly the time is a typo; perhaps 8:20 is meant? [ABC News, 7/18/02, UPI, 3/6/02, Washington Post, 3/2/02] Perhaps Lewin just happened to be there, and, with his past training, tried to be a hero and stop the hijack? Did the hijackers have guns or is the FAA memo wrong?

(8:21 a.m.) Inside Flight 11 and near the back of the plane, flight attendant Betty Ong calls Vanessa Minter at American Airlines reservations in North Carolina, using a seatback GTE Airfone. She begins relaying information to manager Craig Marquis at American Airlines' operations center in Fort Worth, but she can't transfer the call. Another supervisor named Nydia Gonzales also listens in from 8:27. Ong talks for 25 minutes, until the plane crashes. The FBI says that only the first four minutes were recorded, but won't release the tape. Other flight attendants relay information about what is happening in the front. She says the hijackers sprayed something in the first-class cabin to keep people out of the front of the plane. It burns her eyes and she is having trouble breathing. In hushed tones, she tells of a passenger dead (presumably Daniel Lewin) and a crew member dying. ["25 minute phone call until crash," ABC News, 7/18/02, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, USA Today, 8/13/02]


Flight attendants Amy Sweeney (left) and Betty Ong (right).

(8:21 a.m.) Another Flight 11 attendant, Amy Sweeney, calls American Airlines ground manager Michael Woodward and speaks calmly to him for 25 minutes until the plane crashes. Supposedly the call is not recorded but Woodward took notes. [ABC News, 7/18/02] However, the Boston Globe says it has a transcript of the call. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Her first comment is, "Listen, and listen to me very carefully. I'm on Flight 11. The airplane has been hijacked." She identifies four hijackers (not the five said to be on the plane) and gives the seat numbers for them. Even before the plane crashes, staff are able to determine the names, phone numbers, addresses, and credit card information for these four hijackers, including Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari. She reports that two flight attendants have been stabbed and a passenger has had his throat slashed. She says the hijackers seem to be of Middle Eastern descent. ["Over the next 25 minutes," ABC News, 7/18/02, AP, 10/5/01]

(After 8:21 a.m.) While flight attendant Amy Sweeney is relating details on the phone about the hijackers, the men are storming the front of the plane. She says they "just gained access to the cockpit." It's probable she calls just after the storming begins, and it is during this struggle when the hijackers stab the two first-class flight attendants nearest to the cockpit, Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin. Sweeney says the hijackers have a bomb with yellow wires attached. [ABC News, 7/18/02, Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01] Could it be that one of the hijackers was posing as a pilot passenger and thus had been able to be in the cockpit as an observer, as happened on some of the hijacker's test run flights? If so, he would have begun the hijack around 8:13, but would only received reinforcements and had Mohamed Atta take over the flying of the plane around now. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01, AP, 10/5/01, ABC News, 7/18/02] This would explain why Sweeney reported four hijackers, not five.


Flight 11 pilot John Ogonowski.

(8:24 a.m.) The pilot of Flight 11, John Ogonowski, activates the talk-back button, enabling Boston flight controllers to 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." A controller 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." [8:24:38, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:24:38, New York Times, 10/16/01, 8:24, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, 8:28, New York Times, 9/12/01, before 8:28, Channel 4 News, 9/13/01] Immediately after hearing this voice, the controller "knew right then that he was working a hijack." [Village Voice, 9/13/01] Ben Sliney, the FAA's National Operations Manager, soon hears of the message "We have some planes" and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. [USA Today, 8/13/02] The transponder beacon and radio have been off for 10 minutes, the flight has been off course for about four minutes and only now he knows it's a hijack? Even so, no one notifies NORAD for another 14 minutes?

8:25 a.m. Boston flight controllers notify other flight control centers of the Flight 11 hijacking, but supposedly they don't notify (NORAD for another 6 or 15 minutes (see 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.). [8:25:00, Guardian, 10/17/01] Why isn't NORAD also notified at this time? Note that this means the controllers working Flights 77 and Flight 93 would have been aware of Flight 11's hijacking from this time. [Village Voice, 9/13/01]

8:28 a.m.  Boston flight control radar sees Flight 11 making an unplanned 100-degree turn to the south (they're already way off-course). Flight controllers say they never lost sight of the flight, though they could no longer determine altitude once the transponder was turned off. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01] 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 Center could still track it on primary radar...." [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Boston flight controller Mark Hodgkins later says, "I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down." [ABC, 9/6/02] Clearly, an early report stating, "Boston airport officials said they did not spot the plane's course until it had crashed, and said the control tower had no unusual communication with the pilots or any crew members" [Washington Post, 9/12/01], is incorrect, as is another account that says flight controllers only find Flight 11 at 8:42. [Newsday, 9/10/02] But apparently NEADS, part of NORAD, has different radar, and even at 8:40 they cannot find Flight 11. Boston has to periodically update NEADS on Flight 11's position by telephone until NEADS finally finds it a few minutes before it crashes into the WTC. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, ABC News, 9/11/02, Newhouse News, 1/25/02]

8:31 a.m. NORAD employee Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins later says that Boston flight control notifies NORAD of Flight 77's hijacking at this time, not at 8:40 as has been widely reported, even by Deskins previously (see 8:40 a.m.). [ABC News, 9/11/02] Another later report states, "Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD." [ABC News, 9/14/02] If Deskins' most recent account is right, Boston flight controllers wait about 10 minutes after they are sure Flight 11 was hijacked before notifying NORAD. Otherwise, Boston waits about 20 minutes.

8:33 a.m. Flight controllers hear a hijacker on Flight 11 say to the passengers: "Nobody move, please, we are going back to the airport. Don't try to make any stupid moves." [8:33, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, 8:33:59, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:33:59, New York Times, 10/16/01]


Air National Guard troops at NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) try to locate hijacked aircraft. [Aviation Week and Space Technology]

(8:36 a.m.) On Flight 11, flight attendant Betty Ong reports that the plane tilts all the way on one side and then becomes horizontal again. Flight attendant Amy Sweeney then reports on her phone that the plane has begun a rapid descent. ["About 15 minutes" after the calls began, ABC News, 7/18/02]

8:37 a.m. Flight controllers ask the Flight 175 pilots to look for a lost American Airlines plane 10 miles to the south - a reference to Flight 11. They respond that they can see it. They are told to keep away from it. [8:37:08, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:37, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, the incident is not included in New York Times flight controller transcript of New York Times, 10/16/01]

(8:38 a.m.) Flight 11 pilot John Ogonowski's periodic activation of the talk-back button, begun around 8:14, stops around this time. It is suggested that means this is when the hijackers replace him as pilot. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01, MSNBC, 9/15/01]


NORAD commander Larry Arnold. [Code One]

(8:40 a.m.) Boston flight control supposedly notifies NORAD that Flight 11 has been hijacked (another account says it happens earlier (see 8:31 a.m.). [8:38, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:38, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:40, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:40, AP, 8/19/02, 8:40, Newsday, 9/10/02] This is about 20 minutes after traffic control noticed the plane had its transponder beacon and radio turned off. Such a delay in notification would be in strict violation of regulations. Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell, a member of the Air National Guard at NEADS, part of NORAD, takes the call from Boston Center. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, Newhouse News, 1/25/02] He gives the phone to Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins, regional Mission Crew Chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise: "I picked up the line and I identified myself to the Boston Center controller, and he said, we have a hijacked aircraft and I need to get you some sort of fighters out here to help us out." Deskins then tells Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, "I have FAA on the phone, the shout line, Boston Center. They said they have a hijacked aircraft." Marr then calls Major General Larry Arnold at NORAD's command Center in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and says, "Boss, I need to scramble [fighters at] Otis [Air National Guard Base]." Arnold later says, "I said go ahead and scramble them, and we'll get the authorities later." [ABC News, 9/11/02] Deskins later says that initially she and "everybody" else at NEADS thought the call was part of the Vigilant Guardian exercise. After the phone call she had to clarify to everyone that it was not a drill. [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, also says that when he hears of the hijacking at this time, "The first thing that went through my mind was, is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?" [ABC News, 9/11/02]

(8:40 a.m.) Major Daniel Nash (codenamed Nasty) and Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy (codenamed Duff) are the two F-15 pilots who would scramble after Flight 11 and then Flight 175. Nash says that at this time, a colleague at the Otis Air National Guard Base tells him that a flight out of Boston has been hijacked, and to be on alert. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] NEADS senior technician Jeremy Powell also later says that he telephones Otis Air Base and tells it to upgrade its "readiness posture." [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Duffy also says he is told in advance about the hijacking by the FAA in Boston. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Nash and Duffy put on their flight gear and get ready. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] They are already halfway to their jets when "battle stations" are sounded. Duffy briefs Nash on what he knows, and, "About 4-5 minutes later, we [get] the scramble order and [take] off." [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] If this is true, why isn't the order to scramble given when the FAA called the pilots, instead of six minutes later? And even stranger, why does it take another six minutes (8:52) for the fighters to take off, if they had been given a heads up warning to get ready? Had the order to scramble been given now, there would be plenty of time for these fighters to reach New York before Flight 175.

8:41 a.m. The pilots of Flight 175 tell ground control about Flight 11, "We figured we'd wait to go to your center. We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure out of Boston. Someone keyed the mike and said: 'Everyone stay in your seats.' It cut out." [8:41, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:41, Newsday, 9/10/02, 8:41:32, New York Times, 10/16/01] An alternate version: ''We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure from B-O-S [Boston's airport code]. Sounds like someone keyed the mike and said, 'Everyone, stay in your seats.''' [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] The last transmission from Flight 175, still discussing this message, comes a few seconds before 8:42. [New York Times, 10/16/01] Presumably Flight 175 is hijacked within the next minute.


F-15 pilot Major Daniel Nash. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02]

(8:45 a.m.) Just prior to the crash of Flight 11, flight attendant Amy Sweeney is asked on the phone if she can recognize where she is. She says, "I see the water. I see the buildings. I see buildings," then after a pause, a quiet "Oh, my God!" Mere seconds later the line goes dead. Meanwhile, flight attendant Betty Ong ends her call repeating the phrase "Pray for us" over and over. Apparently there is quiet instead of screaming in the background. [ABC News, 7/18/02]

(8:46 a.m.)  Two F-15 fighters are ordered to scramble from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts to find Flight 11, approximately 190 miles from the known location of the plane and 188 miles from New York City. Fighters in nearer bases are not scrambled. This is six to fifteen minutes after NORAD has been told the plane was hijacked (see 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.), 29 minutes after losing contact with the plane. [8:39, Channel 4 News, 9/13/01, 8:44, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:44, Washington Post, 9/15/01, 8:44, Los Angeles Times, 9/17/01, 8:46, NORAD, 9/18/01] Supposedly, the scramble order comes after only one phone call - the decision is made to act first and get clearances later. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] So why did it take 6-8 minutes to issue the order? According to the two pilots, Major Daniel Nash and Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, they are geared up and walking toward their planes when this alarm to scramble sounds. As soon as they strap in, the green light to launch goes on, and they're up even before their jets' radar kicks in. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] Yet, supposedly, it takes six more minutes for them to launch.


Flight 11 hits the WTC North Tower at 8:46. [Gamma Press] Note that few images exist of this hit.

8:46 a.m.  Flight 11 slams into the north tower, 1 World Trade Center. Investigators believe it still had about 10,000 gallons of fuel and was traveling 470 mph. [New York Times, 9/11/02] Approximately 2662 people are killed on the ground between this crash and the crash of Flight 175. [AP, 8/19/02] [8:45, CNN, 9/12/01, 8:45, New York Times, 9/12/01, 8:46 (based on seismic data), New York Times, 9/12/01, 8:46, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:46, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:46, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:46, AP, 8/19/02, 8:46, USA Today, 9/3/02, 8:46, USA Today, 8/13/02, 8:46, Newsday, 9/10/02, 8:47:00, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:48, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 8:46:26, New York Times, 9/11/02, 8:46:26, seismic records]


The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash [Reuters]

(Between 8:46 - 9:03 a.m.) As soon as Boston flight controllers hear news that a plane might have hit the WTC, they know it was Flight 11. They have been tracking it continually since it began behaving erratically. It takes "several minutes" for Boston to report to NORAD that Flight 11 is responsible. [New York Times, 9/13/01 (F), Newhouse News, 1/25/02] However, flight controllers in New York City complain that they aren't given a conclusive report of what happened to Flight 11 until just before Flight 175 crashes at 9:03. "We had 90 to 120 seconds; it wasn't any 18 minutes," says one controller, referring to the actual elapsed time between the two crashes. Another controller says: "They dove into the airspace. By the time anybody saw anything, it was over." [New York Times, 9/13/01 (F)]


A typical F-15.

8:52 a.m. Two F-15s take off from Otis ANG Base, six minutes after being ordered to go after Flight 11, which has already crashed. [8:52, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:52, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:53, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:52, Washington Post, 9/15/01, 8:52, ABC News, 9/11/02] This is 38 minutes after flight controllers lost contact with the plane. They go after Flight 175 instead. According to Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, one of the pilots, before takeoff, a fellow officer had told him "This looks like the real thing." He says, "It just seemed wrong. I just wanted to get there. I was in full-blower all the way." A NORAD commander has said the planes were stocked with extra fuel as well. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Full-blower is very rare - it means the fighters are going as fast as they can go. An F-15 can travel over 1875 mph. [Air Force News, 7/30/97] Duffy later says, "As we're climbing out, we go supersonic on the way, which is kind of nonstandard for us." He says his target destination is over Kennedy airport in New York City. [ABC News, 9/11/02] According to Major Gen. Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, "The pilots [fly] 'like a scalded ape,' topping 500 mph but [are] unable to catch up to the airliner." [Dallas Morning News, 9/16/01] ABC News later says, "The fighters are hurtling toward New York at mach 1.2, nearly 900 miles per hour." [ABC News, 9/11/02] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold says they head straight for New York City at about 1100 to 1200 mph. [MSNBC, 9/23/01 (C), Slate, 1/16/02] "An F-15 departing from Otis can reach New York City in 10 to 12 minutes, according to an Otis spokeswoman." [Cape Cod Times, 9/16/01] At an average speed of 1125 mph, they would reach the city in 10 minutes - 9:02. So if NORAD commander Arnold's speed is correct, these fighters should reach Flight 175 just before it crashes. Yet according to the NORAD timeline [NORAD, 9/18/01], these planes take about 19 minutes to reach New York City, traveling less than 600 mph.

9:06 a.m.  All air traffic facilities nationwide are notified that the Flight 11 crash into the WTC was probably a hijacking. [House Committee, 9/21/01, Newsday, 9/23/01]


WTC north tower collapses at 10:28. The collapse takes only about four seconds. [Reuters]

10:28 a.m.  The World Trade Center's north tower collapses. It was hit by Flight 11 at 8:46. [10:28, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 10:28, CNN, 9/12/01, 10:28, New York Times, 9/12/01, 10:28, AP, 8/19/02, 10:28 (based on seismic data), New York Times, 9/12/01, 10:29, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 10:28:31, seismic records] The death toll could have been much worse - an estimated 15,000 people made it out of the WTC to safety. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/02]