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Don Jeffroy was a Boston Center air traffic controller.

TimelineEdit

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8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001: Boston Air Traffic Controllers Hear Flight 11 Hijacker Say, ‘We Have Some Planes,’ but Uncertain of Origin of Transmission Edit

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Because the talkback button on Flight 11 has been activated, Boston Center air traffic controllers can hear a hijacker on board say to the passengers: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you’ll be OK. We are returning to the airport.” [1][2]

Air traffic controller Pete Zalewski recognizes this as a foreign, Middle Eastern-sounding voice, but does not make out the specific words “we have some planes.” He responds, “Who’s trying to call me?” Seconds later, in the next transmission, the hijacker continues: “Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.”[3][4][5]

Bill Peacock, the FAA director of air traffic services, later claims, “We didn’t know where the transmission came from, what was said and who said it.” David Canoles, the FAA’s manager of air traffic evaluations and investigations, adds: “The broadcast wasn’t attributed to a flight. Nobody gave a flight number.”[6] Similarly, an early FAA report will state that both these transmissions came from “an unknown origin.” [7]

Zalewski asks for an assistant to help listen to the transmissions coming from the plane, and puts its frequency on speakers so others at Boston Center can hear. Because Zalewski didn’t understand the initial hijacker communication from Flight 11, Terry Biggio,the manager of Boston Center instructs Bob Jones, [8] the center’s quality assurance specialist to “pull the tape” of the transmission, listen to it carefully, and then report back. They do this, and by about 9:03 a.m. Terry Biggio will report having deciphered what was said in the first hijacker transmission [see 1][4][5]

Fellow Boston controller Don Jeffroy also hears the tape of the hijacker transmissions, though he doesn’t state at what time. He says: “I heard exactly what Pete [Zalewski] heard. And we had to actually listen to it a couple of times just to make sure that we were hearing what we heard.” [9] At some point, Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, gets word of the “We have some planes” message, and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. American Airlines Executive Vice President for Operations Gerard Arpey Wikipedia is also informed of the “strange transmissions from Flight 11” at some point prior to when it crashes at 8:46 a.m. [10] Boston Center will receive a third transmission from Flight 11 about ten minutes later [see 2].

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