ryu2
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9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:06 am

Hi, I read some threads here about 9/11 that were very interesting on how did the passengers flying get notified of 9/11 and having to land/divert. A lot of pilots said "mechanical failure", and others said "US airspace is closed" but without reason.

But how were the pilots notified by ATC? How much did they pilots know before they landed?

What were the words used by ATC to notify pilots? Did ATC tell about the attacks specifically, or generally? Or did they just say "emergency"?

Did the planes on 9/11 commanded to land at specific airport by ATC or could they choose which airport to land at?

Also in general when a plane diverts or turns back, who is responsible for planning a new route? Pilot, ATC or dispatch?
 
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Stitch
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:09 am

"United 93" shows that UA93 did receive a warning about "possible cockpit encursions" from (I am assuming) UA Flight Operations over their text messaging system (sorry, but I don't know the formal designation) prior to being taken over.
 
Newark777
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:15 am

Quoting Stitch (Reply 1):
Flight Operations over their text messaging system (sorry, but I don't know the formal designation)

It's called ACARS, and I know a lot of other planes were notified in this manner as well.

Harry
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OPNLguy
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:38 am

Here is the US (the Part 121 operators), the flight dispatchers on duty were pumping out ACARS messages to their flights left and right.

Keep in mind that ATC's first order of business is the separation of traffic. If a flight was headed from AAA to BBB, and (once the "ATC Zero" order came out to purge the airspace) ATC wanted the flight to go to XXX based upon its position relative to XXX at the time, that wasn't necessarily the right place to send it. XXX might not have been suitable based on the aircraft type, airport facilities, and other variables, and ATC's desire to have the flight at XXX didn't relieve the dispatch from his/her role in exercising operational control. Most of the places that ATC wanted flights to go to were indeed usuable, but in some cases they were not, and coordination took place between the dispatcher, PIC, and ATC to use YYY instead of XXX.

As far as the type of info sent to the crews, I'm a believer in the more the better, since it usually eliminates the need for follow-up questions. If I had only one aircraft in the air, multiple Qs and As wouldn't be a problem, but when you have 10-20 in the air, you'd find yourself wasting time with alot of repetitive message traffic.

As an example, back when SWA1248 ran off at MDW, I had 6 other flights headed to MDW, and I told them all the same thing, i.e.,the full story: a company flight was off the end of 31C and in the street, it took out the localizer for 31C (so no approach to 31C), the weather was below minimums (with that ILS gone), that the airport was closed by the City until further notice, and to expect diversion instructions shortly. I also advised them that I had 6 flights headed there, and that I'd be diverting then in order of operational priority (desired diversion point, fuel state, customer service considerations, etc.) and that someone would be diversion #1 and someone would have to be diversion #6, and to keep ACARS/radio traffic to a minimum. Out of these 6, I gave new routes to the diversion point to about 3, as time permitted, but the other 3 coordinated with ATC for their new routes.

A similar situation (one generating the need for mass communications) occurred a few months ago when Los Angeles ARTCC in Palmdale had a power failure that wiped out their radar and radios. They went "ATC Zero" and were not taking handoffs from adjacent facilities. Once again, ACARS was used heavily to alert the crews to the problem (and that it was a power failure, and not something more ominous), and we ended up diverting scads of flights. The only ones I had were from the Pac NW-PHX, (which transit LA Center), but I did give them new routes that took them east, into Salt Lake and Denver ARTCCs, which kept them out of LA's airspace.

ACARS is a great thing...  Wink
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OPNLguy
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:42 am

Quoting Stitch (Reply 1):
"United 93" shows that UA93 did receive a warning about "possible cockpit encursions" from (I am assuming) UA Flight Operations over their text messaging system (sorry, but I don't know the formal designation) prior to being taken over.

Here's a link that shows how United's dispatcher (of both 175 and 93) put ACARS to other good uses that morning, especially if you were on flight 23...

http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/entity.jsp?id=1521846767-15

[Edited 2006-09-10 18:48:25]
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fxramper
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:49 am

As stated, its the Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System.

I read an article about a NW Sr International Captain doing his last haul the morning of 9/11. He took off from NRT and got the message almost immediately. Had to fly all the way across the Pacific not knowing what was going on. He landed at LAX in a different world.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ACARS
 
EMBQA
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Mon Sep 11, 2006 2:07 am

Quoting Ryu2 (Thread starter):
But how were the pilots notified by ATC?

Pilots were informed by the controller they were talking to that an 'ATC Zero' had been issued and that all planes were to land. At that point the controllers started landing the planes. It was no big secret what was going on. Anyone flying that day was well informed something was up just by listening to the chatter on the freq's.....
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planecrazy2
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Mon Sep 11, 2006 3:10 am

Does anyone have more information about the people fleeing from UA23?
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futurecaptain
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Mon Sep 11, 2006 12:51 pm

Quoting Ryu2 (Thread starter):
Did the planes on 9/11 commanded to land at specific airport by ATC or could they choose which airport to land at?

I know here in OK the general aviation planes were simply told to land at the nearest airport. (most are considering it only takes about 1000' to take-off again  Smile ). Alot of people were stranded in smaller airports around the area for a few days.
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lincoln
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:03 pm

A about two years ago there was a fascinating series of articles in (the online edition of) USA Today either written by or about a crew flying across the Pacific (IIRC) on 9/11 and their reactions when they got the "Beware possible cockpit intrusion" ACARS message.

I wish I could find it again.
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kevi747
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:39 pm

I once flew with a woman who had saved the ACARS message from her flight on Sept. 11th. She shared it with us and it went something like this:

It started out by saying that there had been a plane crash in NYC. A little later it said the airplane was possibly AA or UA. Then later it said to beware of security breaches. Then further down it just kept repeating "Land now, Land now, Land now."
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OPNLguy
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:47 pm

Quoting Planecrazy2 (Reply 8):
Does anyone have more information about the people fleeing from UA23?

Just this...FWIW...

http://www.house.gov/list/hearing/il10_kirk/news040414_flight.html
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b777a340fan
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Tue Sep 12, 2006 12:52 am

Quoting Stitch (Reply 1):
"United 93" shows that UA93 did receive a warning about "possible cockpit encursions" from (I am assuming) UA Flight Operations over their text messaging system (sorry, but I don't know the formal designation) prior to being taken over.

I also recently watched United 93 and I would recommend the movie for an insight on how the day went on. If my memory serves me well, all United flights were texted, as Stitch mentioned, to verify whether all flights were "alright". All flights were closely monitored to weed out any suspicious ones that were veering off path. And pilots were also notified of the incidents at the WTC and the Pentagon and to watch for possible cockpit intrusions. The sad part that I couldn't get was why the FAA/United didn't do anything when the pilot didn't respond to the texts and/or calls. It took them awhile to figure things out. Obviously, when the pilot doesn't respond....something must be wrong.
 
fxra
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Tue Sep 12, 2006 2:09 am

Quoting B777A340Fan (Reply 13):
The sad part that I couldn't get was why the FAA/United didn't do anything when the pilot didn't respond to the texts and/or calls. It took them awhile to figure things out. Obviously, when the pilot doesn't respond....something must be wrong.

There was really not much either ATC or UAL dispatch could do. Other than clear traffic around the suspicious aircraft and repeatedly call. Keep in mind, that this was such an unprecedented event, no one ever thought you actually at some point need to clear every airplane out of the sky. I wasn't working as a dispatcher at that point, but I know several who were and to hear them speak of the massive confusion.. its easy to understand how it might take some time to realize one of your 50 or so flights hasn't answered, especially as you are in the process of diverting every one of those 50 planes.

ANd againonce you do know... what can you do after you've notified the proper authorities. Wait and pray.
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b777a340fan
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Tue Sep 12, 2006 3:55 am

Quoting Fxra (Reply 14):
ANd againonce you do know... what can you do after you've notified the proper authorities. Wait and pray.

That is true.... I'm sure watching it unveil itself on the movie screen is quite different from actually being there at the heat of the moment, I was just hoping something could've been done, that's all....
 
swissy
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Tue Sep 12, 2006 7:12 am

Actually I spoke to 2 crews from AA, one from FRA and the second one form Manchester IIRC both did not exactly know what happen at the time, they were advised by ATC to land asap so they went down the list of airports in Ontario which still could handle 67's and the rest...... we all know,

Cheers,
 
RDUDDJI
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RE: 9/11: How Were Pilots Notified While Flying?

Tue Sep 12, 2006 7:28 am

I used to have a beach house near an AA 757/67 Captain who was flying that day. He kept a copy of his ACARS printout that said something to the effect of: "Airline Security Program Compromised, Land Immediately". I always thought it was kind of vague, but that was probably all the Dipatchers were told to say at that time.
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