On Sept. 11, 2001, the Boeing 767 left Boston's Logan Airport at 8 a.m., headed for Los Angeles. The flight carried 81 passengers and a crew of 11. Forty-six minutes after takeoff, terrorists flew the plane into the World Trade Center's North Tower.
8 a.m. Takeoff from Logan Airport.
8:13 An air traffic controller at the FAA's Boston Center directed the flight to turn "20 degrees right," which the flight acknowledged. This was the last transmission to which the flight responded. Over the next few minutes, the controller sent a series of instructions and made repeated attempts to contact the pilot.
8:21 American 11 turned off its transponder, making it difficult to track the plane. The controller told his supervisor he thought something was seriously wrong. The supervisor instructed the controller to follow standard operating procedures for a "no radio" aircraft. The controller asked American Airlines to attempt to contact the plane. As the plane went off route, the controller began moving other aircraft out of its path.
8:24 American 11 sent the following transmissions:
American 11: We have some planes. Just stay quiet, and you'll be O.K. We are returning to the airport.
The controller only heard something unintelligible; he did not hear the specific words "we have some planes."
American 11: Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves, you'll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.
The controller recognized at this point the flight had been hijacked.
8:25 FAA Boston Center managers started notifying their chain of command that American 11 had been hijacked.
8:28 Boston Center notified FAA command center in Herndon, Va., that American 11 had been hijacked and was heading toward New York Center's airspace.
8:32 Command Center notified FAA headquarters of a possible hijacking. A teleconference was set up with Herndon, Boston, New York and Cleveland FAA centers.
8:34 Boston Center received a third transmission:
American 11: Nobody move please. We are going back to the airport. Don’t try to make any stupid moves.
At this point, Boston attempted to notify the military through the FAA's Cape Cod Center.
8:37 From the Boston Center, the military — through NEADS (the Northeast Air Defense Sector) — receives its first notification that American 11 had been hijacked:
FAA: 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: Is this real-world or exercise?
FAA: No, this is not an exercise, not a test.
NEADS orders to battle stations two F-15 alert aircraft at Otis Air Force Base, 153 miles away from New York City. The air defense of America begins with this call.
8:46 Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold orders the aircraft to deploy, and calls NORAD (North American Air Defense Command) headquarters to report. NEAD responds, "I don't know where I'm scrambling these guys to. I need a direction, a destination." Because the hijackers had turned off the plane's transponder, NEADS personnel spent the next minutes searching their radar scopes for the elusive primary radar return.
8:46:40 American 11 flies into the World Trade Center North Tower.
8:50 NEADS learns that a plane had hit the WTC.
8:53 Otis AFB fighters are airborne, heading toward Long Island coast.
9:08 Uncertain of what to do, the Otis fighters are told to "hold as needed."
Summary: NEADS was notified nine minutes before American 11 hit the North Tower. That was the most notice the military would receive that morning of any of the four hijackings.