Aviation Accidents

Nine Eleven – The Greatest Tragedy in Aviation History

When asked about the biggest crash in the history of commercial aviation, most people tend to reply with the horrid tragedy of the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and Pentagon, which took place on September eleventh 2001 (9.11.2001). This series of occurrences was one of the most tragic and heartbreaking events in the near history, causing thousands of innocent people to lose their lives. Let’s dig in to “Nine Eleven”.

The series of occurrences that took place in 9/11 are widely known by many people, but the aviation side of the crashes aren’t as widely known, and this side of the story also hides many interesting and tragic facts and truths on its behind. Today, we are going to look into the series of events that took place during that day, leading to the biggest terrorist attack of all times.

By Whom Were These Attacks Carried Out

We all know that the terrorist attacks that took place on September eleventh 2001 were organized by Al-Qaeda, a middle-eastern terrorist organization that was founded during the Soviet-Afghan war by Osama bin Laden. But who exactly were those who hijacked the four commercial airlines and carried out the brutal attacks?

Osama Bin Laden,
Osama Bin Laden
image source: History.com

Four planes were hijacked on September eleventh 2001, two of which belonged to United Airlines, while the two others belonged to American Airlines. Below is generic information about these four airliners:

  1. American Airlines Flight 11 – Boeing 767-223ER (Boston Logan International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport)

The aircraft assigned for flight 11 for American Airlines on September eleventh 2001 was a Boeing 767 which was planned to take off from Boston Logan International Airport at 8.00 from runway 4R. The first captain of the aircraft was John Ogonowski, who was assisted by the first officer Thomas Mcguinness. The aircraft was hijacked by Mohammed Atta, Abdulaziz Al-Omari, and their associates at around 8.14, just before ground control was able to communicate with it for the last time. The hijackers had possibly killed one of the flight crew during the take-over, and they rerouted the airliner to New York.

After not being able to get response from the airliner and the realized change in the course of the airplane, two F-15 Eagles were launched from New York to intercept the airliner, but it was nothing helpful at this point.

About 30 minutes after the hijacking, at 8.46, the airliner crashed into the northern tower of the World Trade Center, killing 92 people onboard (5 of which were terrorists, in addition to the flight crew of 11 people), and about 1600 people on the ground, inside the building and on the nearest streets.

  1. United Airlines Flight 175 – Boeing 767-222 (From Boston Logan International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport)

The second hijacked airplane, which struck the southern tower of the World Trade Center was a United Airlines Boeing 767 which took off from the same airport as the other airplane that struck the World Trade Center. The airplane was controlled by the first captain Victor Saracini and the first flight officer Michael Horrocks during the flight. It took off from Boston Logan Airport at 8.14, and was overtaken by the terrorist attackers Hamza al-Gamdhi, Ahmed al-Gamdhi, and their associates at around 8.45. The flight control noticed the irregularity around 8.51. From then on, ground control continuously tried to get in contact with the 767, but the attempts weren’t successful.

About 45 minutes after the take-off, at 09.03, the airliner struck the southern tower of the World Trade Center, killing 65 people onboard and around 900 people on the ground.

  1. American Airlines Flight 77 – Boeing 757-223 (From Washington Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport)

The third plane of the terrorist attack, a Boeing 757-223 piloted by the first captain Charles Burlingame and the first flight officer David Charlebois. The plane took off from runway 30 at Washington Dulles International Airport at 8.20.

The airplane got hijacked by the Al-Qaedan terrorist group around 08.54, just minutes after the first plane crashed into the northern tower of the World Trade Center, and a minute or two after the second airplane was realized to be hijacked. The Al-Qaedan hijacker group led by Hani Hanjour took over the airplane and changed its course to the pentagon. At this point, after the plane was realized to be hijacked, many attempts to communicate with the airplane and recourse it resulted in failure, and the airplane crashed into the western wing of the Pentagon building at 09.37, one hour and 17 minutes after the take-off.

64 people onboard (5 of which were hijackers) and 125 people inside the Pentagon building were killed on impact, and there were over a hundred heavy injuries.

  1. United Airlines Flight 93 – Boeing 757-222 (From Newark International Airport to San Francisco International Airport)

The fourth hijacked plane, which was the only unsuccessful attempt on reaching its target was a Boeing 757 operated by United Airlines, of which the first captain was captain Jason Dahl, which was assisted by his first flight officer LeRoy Homer Jr. The airplane took off from Newark International Airport at around 08.42. The airplane took off as delayed as there was heavy airport congestion. Shortly after, all the active flights were warned for possible hijacking attempts, due to the two recent events which had just taken place after the 757’s take-off.

46 minutes after the take-off, at 09.28, the hijacking attempt took place on the fourth airplane, just minutes after the first two planes hit their targets, killing thousands of people. The plane was hijacked by a group of Al-Qaeda terrorist, which were led by Ziad Jarrah. About 29 minutes after the hijacking, around 09.57, the passengers had already realized what was happening, and decided to revolt. After 6 minutes of complete chaos, the terrorist controlling the airplane crashed the airliner near Indian Lake and Shanksville in Pennsylvania, thanks to the efforts of the passengers. If it had not been for the passengers of Flight 93, the airliner was going to hit the U.S. Capitol Building, probably resulting in additional hundreds of fatalities. 44 people were killed during the crash of the airplane, 4 of which were Al-Qaedan hijackers.

Nine Eleven Flight chart

Source: United States Federal Bureau of Investigation
Downloaded: wikimedia – 16.07.2022

This tragic series of incidents changed the civil aviation world from its roots, recreating the security standards and procedures for the industry. Nine Eleven, the date 9.11.2001 is still remembered with great pain even today, and families and friends of the thousands that lost their lives on that day still mourn their losses.

At the end of this tragic day, the total count of lost lives was over 2996, most of which were civilians. After the series of events that took place on 9/11, the American government took steps to end Al-Qaeda, and partly succeeded in this purpose. Even today, the tragedy of 9/11 hasn’t been forgotten, and many people suffer from the traumas that day left on them. The American government and society are still respectfully commemorating their lost national heroes and civil casualties on September 11th every year. In the aviation industry, this series of incidents caused many changes in terms of security and procedural steps. Today, although the terror considerably decreased around the globe, the threat for the innocent lives of people still remains in many areas of the world.

As aviationfile, we pay our respects to the lives lost on September 11th 2001, and wish that nothing similar to this tragedy happens in the future.

Nine Eleven Memorial
Nine Eleven Memorial Museum – 09.11.2001