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From the cockpits

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From The Doomed Cockpits
NEW YORK, Oct. 16, 2001

(AP) Minutes before American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the World Trade Center, a voice from the plane's cockpit said: "Nobody move, please; we are going back to the airport. Don't try to make any stupid moves."

The unidentified voice, apparently one of the hijackers, was captured in transcripts of communications between airplanes and controllers published Tuesday by The New York Times. The transcripts offer new details about how controllers and other officials came to realize multiple hijackings were in progress on the morning of Sept. 11.

In the transcript from Flight 11, an air traffic controller called repeatedly for a response from the plane, which had gone silent. Then he heard the voice from the cockpit, telling people not to move and saying: "We have some planes. Just stay quiet, and you'll be OK. We are returning to the airport."

The man was transmitting on the frequency monitored by pilots and air traffic controllers, apparently because he thought he was talking to the passengers or because one of the crew had activated the radio microphone.

Even the crew of United Airlines Flight 175, the other plane that slammed into the trade center, had heard something amiss on Flight 11.

The United plane had left Boston for Los Angeles at 8:14 a.m., 14 minutes after Flight 11 left the same airport. When Flight 11 went silent and an air traffic controller had asked other pilots to help find it, the Flight 175 pilot responded at 8:41 a.m.

"We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure from BOS," the pilot reported. "Sounds like someone keyed the mike and said, `Everyone stay in your seats."'

Five minutes later, Flight 175 became the next victim: It took an errant turn off its scheduled course and ceased communication with the ground. "There's no transponder, no nothing, and no one's talking to him," a controller said.

At 8:50 a.m., an unidentified pilot said over the common frequency: "Anybody know what that smoke is in Lower Manhattan?" Flight 11 had struck the north tower of the World Trade Center. Flight 175 struck the other tower minutes later.

Meanwhile, American Flight 77, the Washington-to-Los-Angeles plane that crashed into the Pentagon, lost radio contact with the ground at 8:56 a.m. "We called company. They can't even get ahold of him," one controller said.

United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth plane hijacked, apparently received a warning of the earlier hijackings during its ill-fated flight, the Times said. It had taken off from Newark, N.J., at 8:42 a.m. and was bound for San Francisco.

After United 175 was confirmed to have been hijacked, a dispatcher at United's operations center near Chicago's O'Hare International Airport sent the message to all the planes he was monitoring, including Flight 93. It was a text message coming by radio green letters on a black background that said, "Beware, cockpit intrusion."

One of the pilots apparently turned to the e-mail unit that carried the warninfrom Chicago, touched a button that made the screen display a keyboard and typed a one-word reply: "Confirmed."

The first sign that Flight 93 also was hijacked came at 9:28 a.m., when background cockpit noise was heard, the Times said.

The flight crashed in a field western Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m., and there has been speculation that those aboard fought the hijackers and managed to bring the plane down short of its intended target in Washington.

MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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