American Airlines Flight 11


American Airlines Flight 11
American Airlines Flight 11

AA 11 flight path from Boston to New York City
Hijacking summary
Date Tuesday, September 11, 2001 (2001-09-11)
Type Terrorism hijacking
Site World Trade Center
Passengers 81 (including 5 hijackers)
Crew 11
Fatalities All 92 in aircraft, and approximately 1,600 (including jumpers and emergency workers) at the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Survivors 0
Aircraft type Boeing 767-223ER
Operator American Airlines
Tail number N334AA
Flight origin Logan International Airport
Destination Los Angeles International Airport
Sideview of 767 on climbout against a pale blue sky. A blue, white and red cheat-line runs the full length of the fuselage, above which says "American". The vertical tail sports two "A"s, between which is a simplified eagle.
An American Airlines 767-200ER

American Airlines Flight 11 was American Airlines' daily scheduled morning transcontinental flight from Logan International Airport, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles International Airport, in Los Angeles, California. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, the aircraft flying this route—a Boeing 767-223ER—was hijacked by five al-Qaeda terrorists and deliberately crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, as part of the September 11 attacks.

Fifteen minutes into the flight, the hijackers injured at least three people, forcibly breached the cockpit, and overpowered the captain and first officer. Mohamed Atta, an al-Qaeda member and trained pilot, took over the controls. Air-traffic controllers noticed the flight was in distress when the crew was no longer responding. They realized the flight had been hijacked when Mohammad Atta mistakenly transmitted his announcements for passengers to air traffic control. On board, flight attendants Amy Sweeney and Betty Ong contacted American Airlines, and provided information about the hijackers and injuries to passengers and crew.

The aircraft crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 08:46 local time; the impact killed all 92 people aboard, including the hijackers, plus an unconfirmed number in the building's impact zone. Many in the streets witnessed the strike; the Naudet brothers and Pavel Hlava captured the impact on video. Wolfgang Staehle had a webcam set up that captured the impact through a series of photographs. Before the hijacking was confirmed, news agencies began to report on the incident and speculated that the crash had been an accident. The impact and subsequent fire caused the North Tower to collapse, which resulted in hundreds of additional casualties. During the recovery effort at the World Trade Center site, workers recovered and identified dozens of remains from Flight 11 victims, but many body fragments could not be identified.

Contents

Flight

The American Airlines Flight 11 aircraft was a Boeing 767-223ER delivered in 1987, registration number N334AA.[1] The capacity of the aircraft was 158 passengers, but the September 11 flight carried 81 passengers and 11 crew members. This was a light load at 51 percent capacity, but higher than the average load factor for Flight 11 on Tuesday mornings of 39 percent in the months preceding September 11.[2] The 11 crew members were Captain John Ogonowski, First Officer Thomas McGuinness, and flight attendants Barbara Arestegui, Jeffrey Collman, Sara Low, Karen Martin, Kathleen Nicosia, Betty Ong, Jean Roger, Dianne Snyder, and Amy Sweeney.[3]

In all, 92 people on board were killed,[4] including David Angell (the creator and executive producer of the television sitcom Frasier), his wife Lynn Angell, and actress Berry Berenson.[5] Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane had been scheduled to be on the flight but arrived at the airport late.[6]

Boarding

Atta (blue shirt) and Omari at Portland International Jetport, passing through security on the morning of 9/11

Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the attacks, and a fellow hijacker, Abdulaziz al-Omari, arrived at Portland International Jetport at 05:41 Eastern Daylight Time on September 11, 2001. They boarded Colgan Air Flight 5930, which was scheduled to depart at 06:00 from Portland, Maine, and fly to Boston, Massachusetts. Both hijackers had first class tickets with a connecting flight to Los Angeles; Atta checked in two bags, Omari none.[2] When they checked in, the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) selected Atta for extra luggage scrutiny, but he boarded without incident.[7] The flight from Portland departed on time and arrived in Boston at 06:45. Three other hijackers, Waleed al-Shehri, Wail al-Shehri, and Satam al-Suqami, arrived at Logan Airport at 06:45, having left their rental car in the airport parking facility. At 06:52, Marwan al-Shehhi, the hijacker pilot of United Airlines Flight 175, made a call from a pay phone in Logan Airport to Atta's cell phone.[2][8]

Since they were not given boarding passes for Flight 11 in Portland, Atta and Omari checked in and went through security in Boston.[9] In the rushed check-in after the flight from Portland, airline officials did not load Atta's bags on Flight 11.[10][11] Suqami, Wail al-Shehri, and Waleed al-Shehri also checked in for the flight in Boston. Wail al-Shehri and Suqami each checked one bag; Waleed al-Shehri did not check any bags.[2] CAPPS selected all three for a detailed luggage check.[12] As the CAPPS' screening was only for luggage, the three hijackers did not undergo any extra scrutiny at the passenger security checkpoint.[13]

By 07:40, all five hijackers were aboard the flight, scheduled to depart at 07:45.[8][14] Mohamed Atta sat in business class seat 8D with Abdulaziz al-Omari in 8G and Suqami in 10B. Waleed al-Shehri and Wail al-Shehri sat in first class seats 2B and 2A.[12] The aircraft taxied away from Gate B32[15] and departed Logan International Airport at 07:59 from runway 4R after a 14-minute delay.[16][17]

Hijacking

"Okay, my name is Betty Ong. I'm [Flight Attendant] Number 3 on Flight 11. Our Number 1 got stabbed. Our purser is stabbed. Nobody knows who stabbed who and we can't even get up to business class right now because nobody can breathe. And we can't get to the cockpit, the door won't open."
Flight attendant Betty Ong to the American Airlines emergency line.[18]

The 9/11 Commission estimated that the hijacking began at 08:14, when the pilots stopped responding to requests from the Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center (Boston ARTCC).[8] It is believed that Waleed al-Shehri made the first move. At 08:13:29, as the aircraft was passing over central Massachusetts at 26,000 feet (7,900 m), the pilots responded to a request from Boston ARTCC to make a 20-degree turn to the right. At 08:13:47, Boston ARTCC told the pilots to ascend to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet (11,000 m) but received no response.[17] At 08:16, the aircraft leveled off at 29,000 feet (8,800 m)[17] and shortly thereafter deviated from its scheduled path. Boston ARTCC made multiple attempts to talk to Flight 11 without reply,[8] and at 08:21, the flight stopped transmitting its Mode-C transponder signal.[17]

According to flight attendants Amy Sweeney and Betty Ong, who contacted American Airlines during the hijacking, the hijackers had stabbed flight attendants Karen Martin and Barbara Arestegui and slashed the throat of passenger Daniel Lewin.[19][20][21] Lewin, an Internet entrepreneur, had served as an officer in the elite Sayeret Matkal special operations unit of the Israeli military.[22][23] Lewin was seated in 9B, and Suqami was directly behind him in 10B.[24] The 9/11 Commission suggested that Suqami may have stabbed and killed Lewin after he attempted to stop the hijacking.[8] Lewin was believed to be the first fatality in the 9-11 attacks.[23][25] During a four-minute call to the American Airlines operations center, Ong provided information about lack of communication with the cockpit, lack of access to the cockpit, and passenger injuries.[26] She provided the seat locations of the hijackers, which later helped investigators to determine their identities.[26]

At 08:23:38, Atta tried to make an announcement to the passengers, but pressed the wrong button and sent the message to Boston ARTCC.[27] Air traffic controllers heard Atta announce, "We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you'll be O.K. We are returning to the airport." At 08:24:56, he announced "Nobody move. Everything will be okay. If you try to make any moves, you'll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet."[17] As before, Atta thought he was speaking to only the passengers, but his voice was picked up and recorded by air traffic controllers. After the transmissions by Atta and the inability to contact the airliner, air traffic controllers at Boston ARTCC realized the flight had been hijacked.[28] At 08:26, the plane turned south.[17] At 08:32, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, notified FAA headquarters.[8]

At 08:33:59, Atta announced, "Nobody move, please. We are going back to the airport. Don't try to make any stupid moves."[17] At 08:37:08, the pilots of United Airlines Flight 175 verified Flight 11's location and heading to flight control.[29] Boston ARTCC bypassed standard protocols and directly contacted the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York.[8] NEADS called on two F-15 fighter jets at Otis Air Force Base in Bourne, Massachusetts, to intercept. Officials at Otis spent a few minutes getting authorization for the fighters to take off.[8] Atta completed the final turn towards Manhattan at 08:43.[17] The order to dispatch the fighters at Otis was given at 08:46, and the F-15s took off at 08:53.[8][28] By that time, American Airlines Flight 11 had already crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Of the four hijacked aircraft on 9/11, the nine minutes of advance notification about the hijacking of Flight 11 was the most time that NORAD had to respond before the aircraft crashed into its target.[30]

Crash

We are in rapid descent ... we are all over the place. Oh, my God, we are too low!

—Amy Sweeney, a stewardess aboard Flight 11, moments before the crash[31]

At 08:46:30,[32] Mohamed Atta intentionally crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the northern facade of the North Tower (Tower 1) of the World Trade Center.[17] The aircraft, traveling at about 404 knots (465 mph; 748 km/h) and carrying about 10,000 U.S. gallons (38,000 L) of jet fuel, hit between the 93rd and 99th floors of the North Tower.[33]

Witnesses saw the plane flying at low altitude over Manhattan and thought the aircraft was in distress. Lieutenant William Walsh of the FDNY (who appears in the documentary film 9/11) witnessed the aircraft: "We were under the impression – he looked like he was going down, but we didn't hear any mechanical difficulty. We couldn't figure out why an American Airlines plane would be so low in downtown Manhattan. We sort of expected him to veer off and go into the Hudson. But he just rose a little bit, his altitude, leveled off, and he was headed straight for the Trade Center. So just before he got to the Trade Center it seemed as though he gained power. We were just watching this airplane on target for the World Trade Center. All of a sudden, boom! He disappears into the Trade Center."[34]

A high-rise tower covered by debris on two of its faces. In the lower left corner is a similar building.
Jules Naudet filmed the impact of Flight 11 as it crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

The damage caused to the North Tower destroyed any means of escape at the impact zone or above it. All stairwells and elevators from the 92nd floor up were rendered impassable,[35] trapping 1,344 people.[35] According to the Commission Report, hundreds were killed instantly by the impact; the rest were trapped and died from the subsequent fire and smoke, the eventual collapse, or (in some cases) after jumping or falling from the building.[36] Elevator shafts channeled burning jet fuel through the building.[37] At least one elevator shaft carried burning fuel downward, exploding on the 77th floor, the 22nd floor, and at street level on the West Side Lobby.[38]

Jules Naudet, a French cameraman, and Pavel Hlava, a Czech immigrant, videotaped the crash.[39][40] A webcam set up by Wolfgang Staehle at an art exhibit in Brooklyn to take images of Lower Manhattan every four seconds also captured images of Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower.[41] A WNYW newscamera left rolling on the ground also captured audio of the crash and video of the immediate aftermath.

News organizations at first reported an explosion or incident at the World Trade Center. CNN broke into a commercial at 08:49 with the headline that read "World Trade Center Disaster". Carol Lin, who was the first anchor to break the news of the attacks, said:

Yeah. This just in. You are looking at obviously a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. CNN Center right now is just beginning to work on this story, obviously calling our sources and trying to figure out exactly what happened, but clearly something relatively devastating happening this morning there on the south end of the island of Manhattan. That is once again, a picture of one of the towers of the World Trade Center.[42]

Later, in an on-air phone call from his office at the CNN New York bureau, CNN vice-president of finance Sean Murtagh reported that a large passenger commercial jet had hit the World Trade Center.[42] Eventually, other television networks interrupted regular broadcasting with news of the crash. President George W. Bush was arriving at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. Initial news reports speculated that the crash had been an accident until United Airlines Flight 175, another Los Angeles–bound Boeing 767, crashed into the South Tower at about 09:03.

Aftermath

photograph of aircraft landing gear found amid debris.
Landing gear from Flight 11 found at West and Rector streets[43]

After the crash, the North Tower burned and collapsed. Although the impact itself caused extensive structural damage, the long-lasting fire ignited by jet fuel was blamed for the structural failure of the tower.[44][45][46] In addition to the aircraft passengers and building occupants, hundreds of rescue workers also died when the tower collapsed.[47] Cantor Fitzgerald L.P., an investment bank on floors 101–105 of the World Trade Center One, lost 658 employees, considerably more than any other employer.[48]

Rescue workers at the World Trade Center site began to discover body fragments from Flight 11 victims within days of the attack. Some workers found bodies strapped to airplane seats and discovered the body of a flight attendant with her hands bound, suggesting the hijackers might have used plastic handcuffs.[49][50] Within a year, medical examiners had identified the remains of 33 victims who had been on board Flight 11.[51] They identified two other Flight 11 victims, including the lead flight attendant Karen Martin, after body fragments were discovered near Ground Zero in 2006.[52][53] In April 2007, examiners using newer DNA technology identified another Flight 11 victim.[54] The remains of two hijackers, potentially from Flight 11, were also identified and removed from Memorial Park in Manhattan.[55] The remains of the other hijackers have not been identified and are buried with other unidentified remains at this park.[56]

Suqami's passport survived the crash and landed in the street below. Soaked in jet fuel, it was picked up by a passerby who gave it to a New York City Police Department (NYPD) detective shortly before the South Tower collapsed.[57][58] Investigators retrieved Mohamed Atta's luggage, which had not been loaded onto the flight. In it they found Omari's passport and driver's license, a videocassette for a Boeing 757 flight simulator, a folding knife, and pepper spray.[11] In a recording found months later in Afghanistan, al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, took responsibility for the attack. The attack on the World Trade Center exceeded even bin Laden's expectations: he had expected only the floors above the plane strikes to collapse.[59] The flight recorders for Flight 11 and Flight 175 were never found.[60]

After the attacks, the flight number for flights on the same route with the same takeoff time was changed to American Airlines Flight 25. These flights now use a Boeing 737 instead of a Boeing 767. An American flag is flown on the jet bridge of gate B32 from which Flight 11 departed Logan Airport.[61]

See also

References

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  2. ^ a b c d "Staff Report – "We Have Some Planes": The Four Flights — a Chronology" (PDF). National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. http://www.archives.gov/research/9-11/staff-report-sept2005.pdf. Retrieved 2008-05-25. 
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  4. ^ Lagos, Marisa; Walsh, Diana (2006-09-11). "S.F. firefighters, others honor peers who died on 9/11". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/09/11/MNGM0L3EBG20.DTL. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
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  9. ^ Kehaulani Goo, Sara (2005-02-13). "Papers Offer New Clues On 9/11 Hijackers' Travel". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19784-2005Feb12.html. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  10. ^ Dorman, Michael (2006-04-17). "Unraveling 9–11 was in the bags". Newsday. http://www.newsday.com/news/unraveling-9-11-was-in-the-bags-1.591192.  (subscription required)
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  13. ^ "The Aviation Security System and the 9/11 Attacks – Staff Statement No. 3" (PDF). National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. http://www.9-11commission.gov/staff_statements/staff_statement_3.pdf. Retrieved 2008-05-25. 
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