AA11 – ZBW timeline until 08:37

This is a comprehensive, but incomplete timeline to demonstrate the communication flow within ARTCC Boston (ZBW) and from ZBW to other FAA entities, as the events around AA 11 unfolded. This timeline is not intended to present a continuous narrative of the events in ZBW, but to document certain lines of communication.
I tried to rely on primary data (ATC audios and radar data) whenever possible, but I certainly missed some important Tapes, so I might update this timeline with further primary data in the future. I call these data, ATC audios and radar data, “primary sources” for their reliability, and all the rest “secondary sources”, no degradation intended. The secondary sources are important for a full picture, and everyone should check them out. Often, I will just summarize an information from the source(s), which usually means that I lacked time and patience to transcribe or copy it. Everyone is invited to check the sources I give for accuracy of my claims.
I’ll provide a link to the source when first mentioned in this timeline, and I’ll list all sources in one as an annex to this timeline.

08:05:32 Radio contact between AA 11 and ZBW, Position 47R (ATC Stephen Roebuck) established; routine communication.
Primary source: ZBW Tape recording for R47 position:

08:05:32 AA 11 Boston Center, good morning. American 11 with you, passing through one-one-thousand through one-four-thousand.
08:05:36 47R American 11, Boston Center. Good morning. Climb maintain flight level [FL] 230 proceed Chester.

Secondary sources: NTSB, ATC-Report, p. 13; NTSB, AA 11 Flight Path Study, p. 5; Stephen Roebuck, 9/11 Commission Memorandum For The Record (MFR), p. 1; Stephen Roebuck, Personnel Statement for the FAA, p. 14; Richard Beringer MFR, p. 2

08:09:17 Radio contact between AA 11 and ZBW, Position 46R (ATC Peter Zalewski) established; Zalewski advises AA 11 to climb to 28,000 ft., then 29,000 ft. altitude.
Primary Source, ZBW Tape Recording for 46R position:

08:09:17 AA 11: Boston Center, good morning, American 11 with you through one-nine-zero for two-three-zero.
08:09:22 46R: American 11, Boston roger. Climb and maintain FL280.
08:09:25 AA 11: 280 American 11.
[…]
08:10:13 46R: American 11, climb maintain FL290.
08:10:16 AA 11: 290 American 11.

Secondary Sources: ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2; FAA, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 4; NTSB, ATC-Report, p. 13; NTSB, AA 11 Flight Path Study, p. 5; Pete Zalewski MFR, p. 1; Pete Zalewski, Personnel Statement, p. 1

Between 08:10 and 08:13 Further routine communication between ZBW 46R and AA 11

Primary Source: ZBW Tape Recording for 46R position
Secondary Sources: ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2; FAA, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 4; NTSB, ATC-Report, p. 13; NTSB, AA 11 Flight Path Study, p. 5 et seq.; 9/11 Commission Staff Report, p. 7

08:13:28 Zalewski advises AA 11 to turn 20 degrees to the right, AA 11 acknowledges

Primary Source: ZBW Tape Recording for 46R position:

08:13:28 46R: American 11, turn twenty degrees right.
08:31:31 AA 11: Twenty right, American 11.

Secondary Sources: ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2; FAA, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 4; NTSB, ATC-Report, p. 13; NTSB, AA 11 Flight Path Study, p. 6; 9/11 Commission Staff Report, p. 7′ Pete Zalewski MFR, p. 1′ Pete Zalewski Personnel Statement, p. 1

08:13:47 Zalewski advises AA 11 to climb to 35,000 ft. altitude, AA 11 doesn’t respond (NORDO) and doesn’t climb; Zalewski repeatedly tries to reach AA 11

Primary Source: ZBW Tape Recording for 46R position:

08:13:47 46R: American 11, climb maintain FL350.
08:13:57 46R: American 11, climb maintain FL350.
08:14:08 46R: American 11, Boston.
[…]
08:14:33 46R: American One One, the American on the frequency. How do you hear me?

RADES radar data

Secondary Sources: ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2; FAA, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 4; NTSB, ATC-Report, p. 13; NTSB, AA 11 Flight Path Study, pp. 2, 6; 9/11 Commission Staff Report, p. 7; Pete Zalewski MFR, p. 1; Pete Zalewski Personnel Statement, p. 1; Moussaoui Trial Stipulation, p. 1 et seq.

Between 08:13 and 08:24 Zalewski repeatedly tries to reach AA 11

Primary Source: ZBW Tape Recording for 46R position

Secondary Sources: ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2; FAA, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 4; NTSB, ATC-Report, p. 13; NTSB, AA 11 Flight Path Study, p. 6; 9/11 Commission Staff Report, p. 7; Pete Zalewski MFR, p. 1; Pete Zalewski Personnel Statement, p. 1

08:14 AA 11 starts to slightly turn to the right, possibly based on Zalewski´s advice 30 seconds before

Primary Source: RADES radar data

Secondary Sources: FAA, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 4; NTSB, AA 11 Flight Path Study, p. 3; NTSB, Recorded Radar Data Study all Four Aircraft, p. 13

08:14:45 Zalewski informs Brazilino Martens, ATC at ZBW 38R, that AA 11 started to turn to the right, but went NORDO and probably won’t climb to 35,000 ft. (AA 11 reaches 29,000 ft. altitude shortly thereafter, and levels off there)

Primary Source, ZBW Tape Recording for 46R position:

38R: This is Athens.
46R: This is Boston, I turned American 20 left and I was going to climb him. He will not respond to me now at all.
38R: Looks like he’s turning right.
46R: Yeah, I turned him twenty right.
38R: Oh, OK.
46R: And he’s only going to, I think, 29.
38R: OK.
46R: [Inaudible]
38R: Sure, that’s fine.
46R: But I’m not talking to him.
38R: He won’t answer you, he’s NORDO. Roger, thanks.

Secondary Sources: ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2; FAA, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 4; NTSB, ATC-Report, p. 13; NTSB, AA 11 Flight Path Study, p. 6; 9/11 Commission Staff Report, p. 7; Brazilino Martens MFR, p. 1

Shortly after 08:14 Martens informs Shirley Kula, Supervisor at 38R position, about AA 11 (who then instructs several attempts to reach AA 11)

Secondary sources: Shirley Kula MFR, p. 1:

On 9/11 Kula was notified from 46R that AA11 took a 20 degree turn but did not change elevation to the instructed Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet).

Shirley Kula Personnel Statement, p. 1; ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2

08:14-08:40 Controllers and their supervisors try to handle the situation as it starts to get worse. Several other controllers are notified, try to contact AA 11 through flights on the same frequency; controllers start to divert their flights around AA 11; attempts are made to contact AA 11 through SFO ARINC and the airline’s ACARS system; the flight plan for AA 11 gets changed to reflect the course change; etc. All these activities show how professional the staff at ZBW handled the situation, but I’ll just mention a few of them, and skip most of it, for brevity. People interested should listen to the ZBW Sector recordings for this particular time frame, read the relevant FAA and American Airlines MFRs and FAA reports/timelines presented here.
An insight can be found in the FAA´s AA 11 Aircraft Accident Report, pp. 2 et seq.

~08:20:50 AA 11 stops broadcasting a transponder signal, i.e. from then on the plane could be tracked just as a primary-only (without the data block which gives altitude, destination etc.)

Primary source: RADES Radar Data

Secondary Sources (half of them rounded up to 08:21): ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2; FAA, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 4; NTSB, AA 11 Flight Path Study, p. 1; 9/11 Commission Staff Report, p. 9; Moussaoui Trial Stipulation, p. 2; 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, Memorandum for the FBI, p. 3
About the loss of transponder without an exact determination of the time:
Pete Zalewski MFR, p. 1; Pete Zalewski Personnel Statement, p. 2; Brazilino Martens MFR, p. 1; Shirley Kula Personnel Statement, p. 2; John Hartling MFR, p. 1

08:21 Zalewski informs his Area Supervisor John Schippani about the situation

Secondary sources: Pete Zalewski MFR, p. 1

As these factors persisted and Zilowski still did not hear from the pilot of AA 11, he noted that the situation was highly unusual. When the transponder had first shut off, Zilowski had told his supervisor, John Shippani, quietly. He then explained to Shippani what he had done to attempt to communicate with AA 11. At this point hijacking had not occurred to Zilowski. He kept track of AA 11 ‘s primary, and still had no reading on its altitude.

Pete Zalewski Personnel Statement, p. 2; ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2; John Schippani MFR, p. 1

Shortly after 08:21 ZBW Traffic Management Unit (TMU) staff becomes aware of the situation

Secondary sources: Joseph Cooper, Traffic Management Unit Coordinator:

On 9/11, Cooper first heard from Pete Pesquili in Area B that AA 11 had lost communication capabilities and radar. The next step was for one of the TMU personnel to contact company. Cooper remembers thinking it odd that an air carrier would loose both at once. TMU pulled the call sign for AA 11 to monitor the flight. Controllers were alerted to move air craft away from the possible route of AA 11 since the altitude was unknown, and the last registered altitude was FL 290.

William Dean, Traffic Management Unit Specialist:

Athens Sector D38 called with a report of unusual situation involving a flight with no transponder and NORDO. Dean stated that NORDO wasn’t very unusual prior to 9111, but that no transponder signal was. Shirley Kula informed Dean that the last known altitude for AA 11 was FL 290, but Dean does not recall if the flight was off course yet at this point. He assumed though that since Kingston was informed the flight was of course.

08:24:38 Two transmissions are broadcasted, indicating the hijack of AA 11

Primary source, ZBW Tape Recording for 46R position:

08:24:38 [AA 11] We have some planes. Just stay quite, and you’ll be OK. We are returning to the airport.
08:24:26 46R: And, uh, who’s trying to call me here?
08:24:53 46R: American 11, are you trying to call?
08:24:57 [AA 11] Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you’ll endanger yourselves and the aircraft. Just stay quiet.

Secondary Sources: ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2; FAA, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 4 et seq.; NTSB, ATC-Report, p. 13; NTSB, AA 11 Flight Path Study, p. 6; 9/11 Commission Staff Report, p. 10; Moussaoui Trial Stipulation, p. 3
About the transmissions without an exact determination of the time: Pete Zalewski MFR, p. 1 et seq.; Pete Zalewski Personnel Statement, p. 2; John Hartling MFR, p. 1; John Shippani MFR, p. 1; Joseph Cooper MFR, p. 1 et seq.

08:24/08:25 Several actions in ZBW emerge

- Zalewski immediately informs his supervisor John Shippani about the hijack
Secondary source: Pete Zalewski MFR, p. 2

Zilowski could not distinguish the message in the first transmission. It was the second transmission that he heard clearly. He “screamed” to his supervisor, and told him of the hijack. He put AA 11 on the loudspeaker for the section.

Cf. Pete Zalewski Personnel Statement, p. 2; John Schippani MFR, p. 1

- John Shippani informs TMU and OMIC about the hijack of AA 11

Secondary sources: Daniel Bueno, Traffic Management Supervisor:

Bueno first became aware of a possible hijacking from Area C Operation Supervisor (OSIC), John Schippani. Area C covers airspace of Flight Level 240 (24,000 feet) to FL600 at and to the west of Boston, Massachusetts. Bueno paged Terry Biggio, who has Operations Manager in Charge (OMIC) at the time. The possible hijack was identified to Bueno and Biggio as American Airlines 11 by Schippani, who was informed from the air traffic controller (ATC) covering Sector 46 (R46), Peter A. Zalewski.

Terry Biggio, Operations Manager (OMIC):

On 9/11, Daniel Bueno paged Biggio, who came to the TMU and was briefed by Jon Schippani and Bueno. They showed Biggio AA 11 on the 46R radar display, which was being worked by Peter Zalewski at the time.

Cf. ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2; Dan Bueno Personnel Statement, p. 2

- Robert Jones is asked to review the Tape recording and decipher the transmissions

Secondary source: Robert Jones, Quality Assurance Officer:

Based off his notes, Jones stated that at 1224UTC Area C reported a possible hijack. Jones went to 46R (Pete Zilowski). Jones then went to review the recording. He relayed the recording information to the Watchdesk. He confirmed that an “Arab” voice stated “we have some planes”. Jones relayed this to Biggio immediately.
At 122456UTC Jones relayed another communication. At 1233359UTC Jones relayed the final communication. Jones estimates all three communications were told to Biggio at some point between 1233-1237 UTC.

Cf. Terry Biggio MFR, p. 1; Pete Zalewski MFR, p. 2; Pete Zalewski Personnel Statement, p. 2

08:26-08:28 AA 11 turns south, i.e. is heading towards NYC now

Primary source: RADES radar data

Secondary sources: FAA Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 5; NTSB, AA 11 Flight Path Study, p. 2; 9/11 Commission Staff Report, p. 11
About the southerly turn without an exact determination of the time: Terry Biggio MFR, p. 1; Dan Bueno MFR, p. 2; Shirley Kula MFR, p. 1′ Brazilino Martens MFR, p. 1; John Shippani MFR, p. 1; Pete Zalewski MFR, p. 2; Alan Miller MFR

08:27:50 ZBW informs ATCSCC Herndon about the possible hijacking of AA 11, loss of transponder, course change & NORDO

Primary source: ZBW Tape recording from TMU, SWVX Position

08:27:50 CCEAST Command Center East, Tony.
08:27:53 ZBWTMU Hi Tony, good morning, Boston Center. I got a situation here with American one-one, Boston Departure to LAX. We believe it’s a possible hijack situation.
(Dialogue continues, listen to the Tape, if you’re interested.)

Secondary sources: FAA Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 5; 9/11 Commission Staff Report, p. 11; Moussaoui Trial Stipulation, p. 3; ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2; Robert Jones MFR, p. 1; Dan Bueno MFR, p. 1 et seq.; Dan Bueno Personnel Statement, p. 2; Jim Ratkus MFR, p. 1; Denzel Simmonds MFR, p. 1

Between 08:29 and 08:30 ZBW informs adjacent ARTCCs ZNY and ZOB about AA 11 through a teleconference established by ATCSCC Herndon

Primary source: ZBW Tape recording from TMU, SWVX Position

Secondary sources: 9/11 Commission Staff Report, p. 11; ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2; FAA Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 5; Dan Bueno Personnel Statement, p. 2; Charles Alfaro MFR, p. 1; Leo Wolbers MFR, p. 2

08:30 ZBW OMIC Terry Biggio informs Regional Operations Center (ROC) about AA 11

Secondary sources: ZBW Record of Facility Operations, p. 2
About the ROC information without an exact determination of the time:
Terry Biggio MFR. p. 1 et seq.
John Shippani MFR, p. 2
Jennifer Donahue MFR, p. 1
Barry O’Connor MFR
, p. 1 et seq.

08:34:32 ZBW staff decides not to wait until the military gets informed through the FAA-NMCC-NORAD chain of command, and Dan Bueno calls FAA Cape Cod TRACON (responsible for Otis AFB departures) to inform them about AA 11 and establish contact with Otis AFB

Primary source: ZBW Tape recording from TMU, SWVX Position

08:34:32 CAPE 1 Cape TRACON.
08:34:41 ZBWTMU Yeah, hi. Are you able to … able to talk to Otis on this line?
[Dialogue continues, listen to the Tape, if you’re interested.]

Secondary sources: ZBW Racord of Facility Operations, p. 2; Dan Bueno MFR, p. 2; Dan Bueno Personnel Statement, p. 3; John Shippani MFR, p. 1; 9/11 Commission Staff Report, p. 12; Boston Center Briefing MFR, p. 4; Timothy Duffy MFR, p. 1; Daniel Nash MFR, p. 1; Michael Kelly MFR, p. 2

08:37:54 Joseph Cooper, ZBW TMU Coordinator, directly calls NEADS

Primary source: ZBW Tape Recording for 160 MOS position:

ZBWTMU Hi. Boston Center TMU. We have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.
NEADS [Jeremy Powell] Is this real-world or exercise?
ZBW No, this is not an exercise, not a test.

Secondary sources: ZBW Records of Facility Operations, p. 2; 9/11 Commission Staff Report, p. 13; NEADS MCC/T Log, p. 2 (~2 minute delay); FAA Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, p. 5 (based on the NEADS logs); Joseph Cooper MFR, p. 2; Colin Scoggins MFR, p. 1; Colin Scoggins Personnel Statement, p. 1; Jeremy Powell MFR, p. 3; Dawne Deskins MFR, p. 4

List of used sources

RADES radar data

Tapes from ARTCC Boston (ZBW): Sector 47R position; Sector 46R position; TMU SVWX position; TMU MOS position

ZBW Record of Facility Operations
FAA, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events
FAA, American 11 Aircraft Accident Report

NTSB, AA 11 ATC-Report
NTSB, AA 11 Flight Path Study
NTSB, Recorded Radar Data Study all Four Aircraft

Pete Zalewski, 9/11 Commission Memorandum For The Record (MFR)
Terry Biggio MFR
Robert Jones MFR
Alan Miller MFR
Jennifer Donahue MFR
Barry O’Connor MFR
Boston Center Briefing MFR
Steven Roebuck MFR
Colin Scoggins MFR
Brazilino Martens MFR
Shirley Kula MFR
John Hartling MFR
John Schippani MFR
Joseph Cooper MFR
William Dean MFR
Daniel Bueno MFR
Jim Ratkus MFR
Denzel Simmonds MFR
Jeremy Powell MFR
Dawne Deskins MFR
Timothy Duffy MFR
Daniel Nash MFR
Michael Kelly MFR
Charles Alfaro MFR
Leo Wolbers MFR
Richard Beringer MFR
Stephen Roebuck, Personnel Statement for the FAA

Pete Zalewski, Personnel Statement
Shirley Kula, Personnel Statement
Dan Bueno, Personnel Statement
Colin Scoggins, Personnel Statement

NEADS MCC/T Log

9/11 Commission Staff Report

Moussaoui Trial Stipulation

84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, Memorandum for the FBI

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