The flight path of AA 11

American Airlines Flight 11 was a scheduled U.S. domestic passenger flight from Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles International Airport. It was hijacked by five Islamic terrorists and deliberately crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City as part of the September 11, 2001, attacks. Fifteen minutes into the flight, the hijackers injured at least three people, forcefully breached the cockpit, and overpowered the pilot and first officer. Mohamed Atta, who was a known member of al-Qaeda,[1][2] and trained as a pilot, took over the controls. Air traffic controllers noticed the flight was in distress when the crew stopped responding to them. They realized the flight had been hijacked when Atta mistakenly transmitted announcements to air traffic control. On board, two flight attendants 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. Many people in the streets witnessed the collision, and Jules Naudet captured the impact on video. News agencies began to report on the incident soon after and speculated that the crash had been an accident. The impact and subsequent fire caused the North Tower to collapse, which resulted in thousands 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 other body fragments could not be identified.


The American Airlines Flight 11 aircraft was a Boeing 767-223ER, registration number N334AA.[3] The capacity of the aircraft was 158 passengers but the September 11 flight carried only 81 passengers and 11 crew members. Although this was a light load at 51 percent capacity, the average load factor for Flight 11 on Tuesday mornings had been 39 percent in the months preceding September 11.[4] The 11 crew members included pilot 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 Madeline Sweeney.[5]


File:Atta in airport.jpg
Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the attacks, and a fellow hijacker, Abdulaziz al-Omari, arrived at Portland International Jetport, in Portland, Maine, at 05:40 Eastern Standard 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, California; Atta checked in two bags, al-Omari none.[4] When they checked in, the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) selected Atta for extra luggage scrutiny, but he boarded without incident.[6] 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.[4][7]

Since they were not given boarding passes for Flight 11 in Portland, Atta and Omari checked in and went through security in Boston.[8] In the rushed check-in after the flight from Portland, airline officials did not load Atta's bags on Flight 11.[9][10] 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.[4] CAPPS selected all three for a detailed luggage check.[11] As the CAPPS' screening was only for luggage, the three hijackers did not undergo any extra scrutiny at the passenger security checkpoint.[12]

By 07:40, all five hijackers were aboard the flight, scheduled to depart at 07:45.[13][7] 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 respectively.[11] The aircraft taxied away from Gate 26 and departed Logan International Airport at 07:59 from runway 4R after a 14-minute delay.[14][15]


"Okay, my name is Betty Ong. I'm 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.[16]

The 9/11 Commission estimated that the hijacking began at 08:14, when the pilots stopped responding to requests from the Boston Air Traffic Control center (BATC).[7] At 08:13:29, as the aircraft was passing Template:Convert over central Massachusetts, the pilots responded to a request from BATC to make a 20-degree turn to the right. At 08:13:47, BATC told the pilots to ascend to a cruising altitude of Template:Convert but got no response.[15] At 08:16, the aircraft leveled off at Template:Convert[15] and shortly thereafter deviated from its scheduled path. BATC made multiple attempts to talk to Flight 11 but got no reply,[7] and at 08:21, the flight stopped transmitting its Mode-C transponder signal.[15]

According to flight attendants Madeline 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.[17][18][19] Lewin, an Internet entrepreneur, had served as an officer in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit of the Israeli military.[20] Lewin was seated in 9B, and Suqami was directly behind him in 10B.[21] The 9/11 Commission suggested that Suqami may have stabbed and killed Lewin after he attempted to stop the hijacking.[7] 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.[22] She provided the seat locations of the hijackers, which later helped investigators to determine their identities.[22]

At 08:23:38, Atta tried to make an announcement to the passengers but pressed the wrong button and sent the message to BATC.[23] Air traffic controllers heard Atta announce, "We have some planes, just stay quiet and you'll be okay. 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".[15] As before, Atta thought he was speaking only to 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 BATC realized the flight had been hijacked.[24] At 08:26, the plane turned south.[15] At 08:32, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, notified FAA headquarters.[7]

At 08:33:59, Atta announced, "Nobody move please, we are going back to the airport, don't try to make any stupid moves".[15] At 08:37:08, the pilots of United Airlines Flight 175 verified Flight 11's location and heading to flight control.[25] BATC bypassed standard protocols and directly contacted the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York.[7] NEADS called on two F-15 fighter jets at Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, to intercept. Officials at Otis spent a few minutes trying to get authorization for the fighters to take off.[7] Flight 11 made a final turn towards Manhattan at 08:43.[15] The order to dispatch the fighters at Otis was given at 08:46, and the F-15s took off at 08:53.[7][24] 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.[26]


At 08:46:40, the hijackers deliberately crashed Flight 11 into the northern facade of the North Tower (Tower 1) of the World Trade Center.[15] The aircraft, traveling at about 404 knots, about Template:Convert, and carrying about Template:Convert of jet fuel, hit between the 93rd and 99th floors of the North Tower.[27] David Angell (the creator and executive producer of Frasier) and his wife, along with actress Berry Berenson, were among the passengers killed.[28] In all, 92 people on board were killed.[29]

Witnesses saw the plane flying at low altitude over Manhattan and thought the aircraft was in distress. Port Authority police officer William Ross stated, "I was trying to observe the plane, as closely as I could, for smoke, fire or any type of vapor trail. There was none. The landing gear was up and the doors that house the gear were closed. The plane was, as I stated, traveling south and moving at a high rate of speed. It was flying level and straight. The pilot did not appear to be fighting to maintain control of the aircraft".[30] Lieutenant William Walsh of the Fire Department of New York City also 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."[31]

A WNYW news camera several blocks away from the towers was covering the mayoral primaries did not capture the actual image of the plane or impact but did record clear audio of the crash.

The damage caused to the North Tower destroyed any means of escape from above the impact zone. All stairwells and elevators from the 92nd floor up were rendered impassable,[32] trapping 1,344 people.[32] 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.[33] Elevator shafts channeled burning jet fuel through the building.[34] 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.[35]

Jules Naudet, a French cameraman, and Pavel Hlava, a Czech immigrant, filmed the crash.[36][37] 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.[38]

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.[39]

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.[39] Eventually, all 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 when aides informed him of the crash. The president remarked, "This is pilot error. It's unbelievable that somebody would do this. The guy must have had a heart attack."[40] Initial news reports speculated that the crash had been an accident until Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower at 09:03.[41]


File:Landing gear aa11.jpg

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.[43][44][45] In addition to the aircraft and building occupants, hundreds of rescue workers also died when the tower collapsed.[46] Cantor Fitzgerald L.P., an investment bank on floors 101–05 of One World Trade Center, lost 658 employees, considerably more than any other employer.[47]

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 may have used plastic handcuffs.[48][49] Within a year, medical examiners had identified the remains of 33 victims who had been on board Flight 11.[50] They identified two other Flight 11 victims, including the lead flight attendant Karen Martin, after body fragments were discovered near Ground Zero in 2006.[51][52] In April 2007, examiners using newer DNA technology identified another Flight 11 victim.[53] The remains of two hijackers, potentially from Flight 11, were also identified and removed from Memorial Park in Manhattan.[54] The remains of the other hijackers have not been identified and are buried with other unidentified remains at this park.[55]

Suqami's passport survived the crash and landed on the street below. The passport, soaked in jet fuel, was picked up from the street by a passerby who gave it to a New York City Police Department (NYPD) detective shortly before the South Tower collapsed.[56][57] Investigators retrieved Mohamed Atta's luggage that was not loaded onto the flight. In Atta's luggage they found al-Omari's passport and driver's license, a videocassette for a Boeing 757 flight simulator, a folding knife, and pepper spray.[10] In a recording found months later in Afghanistan, al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, seemed to take credit for the attack and said he believed the towers would collapse.[58] The flight recorders for Flight 11 and Flight 175 were never found.[59]

After the attacks, the flight number for flights on the same route at the same takeoff time was changed to American Airlines Flight 25, and a Boeing 757 was used instead of a Boeing 767. An American flag was flown on the jet bridge from which Flight 11 departed Logan Airport.[60]

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