The flights that crashed

Seattle Times news services

American Airlines Flight 11: The Boeing 767 got out on time at 7:59 a.m., with little notice or incident — one of 220 flights that took off from Boston between 7 and 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Flight 11 began on its normal path from Boston northwest toward central New York, radar shows. But about a half-hour into the flight, somewhere near Albany, the plane took a sharp turn and headed south, following the course of the Hudson River straight to New York City.

About 8:45 a.m. the plane became the first of two aircraft to crash into the World Trade Center, smashing into the North Tower.

Boston airport officials said they did not spot the plane’s course until it had crashed, and said the control tower had no unusual communication with the pilots or any crew members.

American Airlines Flight 77: About an hour after takeoff from Washington's Dulles International Airport on Tuesday morning, the Boeing 757 headed for Los Angeles became a massive missile aimed at the nation's capital.

By 9:45 a.m., when the diving plane carved out a massive chunk of the Pentagon, its passengers had experienced unspeakable terror.

Barbara Olson, the former federal prosecutor who became a prominent TV commentator during the impeachment of President Clinton, called her husband twice in the final minutes. Her last words to him were "What do I tell the pilot to do?"

On the ground, air traffic controllers watching Flight 77's progress westward suddenly lost touch with the plane, which disappeared from radar screens and cut off radio contact.

Controllers had time to warn the White House that the jet was aimed directly at the president's mansion and was traveling at full throttle. But the unidentified pilot then executed a tight pivot and the jet fell below radar level, sources said.

Flight 77 then dove into the Pentagon, carving a hole in the nation's defense headquarters six stories high and 200 feet wide.

United Airlines Flight 93: The San Francisco-bound passenger jet that crashed in western Pennsylvania shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday had been diverted from its planned flight path and was heading in the general direction of Washington when it plunged to earth, killing all 45 people aboard.

Flight 93, originating in Newark, N.J., followed a seemingly normal course until it reached Cleveland, where it suddenly made a sharp turn south, followed by another turn toward the southeast, according to Federal Aviation Administration radar tracking reports. The reports were published on the Web by Flight Explorer at

Eyewitnesses near the crash scene said the plane, a Boeing 757-200 loaded with more than 11,000 gallons of fuel for the six-hour flight, flew low and then suddenly fell from the sky, producing a huge fireball and a 10-by-20-foot crater in a field near the rural Pennsylvania town of Shanksville, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

Westmoreland County emergency dispatchers said they received a last-ditch 911 cell phone call from a passenger at 9:58 a.m., just minutes before the crash. Dispatch supervisor Glenn Cramer told the Associated Press that the call came from a passenger who had locked himself inside one of the plane’s lavatories. "We are being hijacked, we are being hijacked," Cramer quoted the caller from a transcript of the call.

The caller described the plane as "going down," Cramer told AP. "He heard some sort of explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane, and we lost contact with him."

United Airlines Flight 175: A Boeing 767, loaded with fuel but more than half empty, left the ground 14 minutes after its 8 a.m. scheduled departure Tuesday.

Like American Airlines Flight 11, which left Boston just a few minutes earlier, the United flight had a routine departure, said Joseph Lawless, head of security at the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Less than 30 minutes into a journey that was to have taken six hours, Flight 175 took a sharp turn south into central New Jersey, near Trenton, an unusual diversion for a plane heading west, airline employees said. It then headed directly toward Manhattan.

Somewhere between Philadelphia and Newark — less than 90 miles from Manhattan — Flight 175 made its final radar contact, according to a statement released by United Airlines. About the same time, American Flight 11 struck the north tower of the World Trade Center, setting off a massive explosion.

At 9:03, just 49 minutes after departure, United Flight 175 plowed into the south tower.

Privacy Statement
Copyright © 2001 The Seattle Times Company