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Air traffic in the northeast United States at 8:47 am ET, September 11, 2001 (Source: FAA Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, September 11, 2001) [Note: The plane identified as AAL11 in this image is an approximation done by the National Security Archive. It is unclear in the original FAA document which exact image the FAA was identifying as AAL11, however this is close approximation of the location of AAL11 in this FAA document.]

FAA Believed Second 9/11 Plane Heading
Towards NY for Emergency Landing

Released 9/11 Hijacking Reports Further
Detail Confused U.S. Response

Documents Referenced in 9/11 Commission Report

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 165

For further information:
Barbara Elias - 202/994-7000
Graphics by Jamie Noguchi, Research Assistant

Posted - September 9, 2005

The September 11th Sourcebooks

Washington, D.C., September 9, 2005 - Ten minutes after American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) controllers in New York saw United Airlines Flight 175 heading "right towards the city," [p.13] but thought it was aiming for an emergency landing at a New York airport, according to FAA documents released this week under the Freedom of Information Act and posted on the web by the National Security Archive. Minutes later, Flight 175 hit the south tower of the World Trade Center.

The FAA documents, which are referenced extensively in Chapter 1 of The 9/11 Commission Report, provide further detail on the report's chronology of the hijackings and its overall observation that the FAA was woefully unprepared and disorderly in its response to the attack. Distracted by Flight 11, the FAA notified the military at about 9:03 am that Flight 175 had been hijacked, almost the exact time the plane crashed into the second World Trade Center tower. Records show Flight 175 first exhibited signs of distress at 8:46 am.

Previously undisclosed, these documents contain minute-by-minute accounts of unfolding events as experienced by FAA officials, including radar reports and extensive chronologies tracking the larger U.S. government response to the attacks from September into late October 2001.

Unsettling quotes from hijackers on radio transmissions are also included in the documents. Passengers on flight 11 were told at 8:24 am, "we have some planes just stay quiet and you'll be ok we are returning to the airport." [see p. 4] The Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center heard a "radio transmission, mostly unintelligible… with sounds of possible screaming or a struggle and a statement, "get out of here, get out of here,"" [p. 20] from United Airlines Flight 93 at 9:28 am, before hearing "another mostly unintelligible, stated words that may sound like, "captain…bomb on board…our demands, …remain quiet."" [p. 21]


Documents
Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

Document 1: FAA record, Chronology ADA-30, Sept. 11, 2001 (FAA representatives joining at 9:40) [Excised] [Referenced Chapter 1, The 9/11 Commission Report, "We Have Some Planes," footnote 189]

This 25-page chronology of government proceedings from September 11, 2001 to September 26, 2001 discusses specific FAA personnel and the roles each played in managing the crisis. The document also notes the involvement of various members of congress and executive branch officials attempting to work together towards a coordinated response.

Document 2: FAA record, New England Region Daily Log, Sept. 11, 2001 [Referenced Chapter 1, The 9/11 Commission Report, "We Have Some Planes," footnote 112]

Filled with handwritten notes, this chronology details FAA actions in the northeast in response to the 9/11 hijackings. It describes a USN (Navy) FAA military representative being alerted of a possible hijacking at 8:36 am; 10 minutes later, at 8:46 am, American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Document 3: FAA report, Administrator's Fact Book, July 2001 [Referenced Chapter 1, The 9/11 Commission Report, "We Have Some Planes," footnote 92]

The FAA Administrator's Fact Book in effect for September 11, 2001 provides answers to FAA and transportation safety organizational questions. The September 11 attacks led directly to the strengthening and reorganization of the transportation security system.

Document 4: FAA report, Chronology of the September 11 Attacks and Subsequent Events Through October 24, 2001, undated [Referenced Chapter 1, The 9/11 Commission Report, "We Have Some Planes," footnote 62]

An FAA chronology of events pertaining to the terrorist attacks and subsequent events through October 24, 2001 that includes details about the first unplanned FAA shut-down of civil aviation, the later reopening of airspace, congressional efforts to compensate airlines, warnings to pilots that entering restricted airspace could lead to the use of deadly force against their aircraft, measures taken to secure cockpit doors, and air strikes in Afghanistan.

An interesting element of the chronology is the 8:43 am FAA notice to NORAD that UA175 had been hijacked. This directly contradicts The 9/11 Commission Report (Chapter 1, page 23) and the FAA's own Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, which both state the FAA failed to alert NORAD to UA175 until about the same time the flight crashed into the World Trade Center between 9:03 and 9:05 am.

Document 5: FAA report, Executive Summary, Chronology of a Multiple Hijacking Crisis, September 11, 2001, Sept. 17, 2001 [Referenced Chapter 1, The 9/11 Commission Report, "We Have Some Planes," footnotes 40, 41]

An FAA executive summary of the major events of September 11, 2001, this report also contains a bulleted synopsis of actions taken by the government to manage the crisis.

Document 6: FAA report, Report of Aircraft Accident, Nov. 13, 2001 [Referenced Chapter 1, The 9/11 Commission Report, "We Have Some Planes," footnote 59]

This official FAA Report of Aircraft Accident for American Airlines Flight 11 specifies the number of fatalities at 81 and property damage to include the destruction of the World Trade Center's North Tower. Weather data reports mostly sunny skies, but records a new smoke plume drifting southeast following the crash. The document also includes a detailed chronology of Flight 11.

Document 7: FAA report, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events: September 11, 2001, Sept. 17, 2001 [Referenced Chapter 1, The 9/11 Commission Report, "We Have Some Planes," footnote 44]

The most comprehensive chronology of the hijackings released by the FAA in this series, this report contains factual records, observations from FAA officials and general official commentary seeking to better explain events. Remarking on United Flight 175, the report observes, "The controller communicating with UL175 was also monitoring the flight track of AAL11. Based on coordination received from ZBW [Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center] indicating a possible highjack, most of the controller's attention was focused on AAL11." Although difficult to read due to the poor quality of the document, the report also contains radar diagrams of the planes and a useful summary chart of all four hijacked flights that provides an overview of events as they unfolded.

Document 8: TSA report, Criminal Acts Against Civil Aviation for 2001, Aug. 20, 2002 [Referenced Chapter 1, The 9/11 Commission Report, "We Have Some Planes," footnote 61]

This 69-page report compiled by the Transportation Security Administration details all criminal acts against non-military aircraft in 2001 and includes useful statistics, trends, and analyses of unlawful attacks on or around aircraft from 1997 to 2001 around the world.

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