!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
ARINC was a participant or observer in the following events:
The ARINC San Francisco Communications Center. [Source: ARINC]ARINC, a company that provides a backup communications capability for airborne flights, tries unsuccessfully to contact the hijacked Flight 11. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 26-27; 9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 ] Peggy Houck, a flight dispatcher at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, calls ARINC in San Francisco and says she needs “to get a hold of” Flight 11. Houck says Flight 11 is “ACARS-equipped” but not responding to ACARS messages (see 8:23 a.m.-8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 24-25; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7] (ACARS is a text messaging system that enables airline personnel to communicate with the pilots of an in-flight aircraft. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 14-17; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] ) The ARINC employee Houck talks to says they will try to contact Flight 11 using ACARS, and then “SELCAL him.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 24-25] (“SELCAL,” short for “selective calling,” is a technique that, by causing a chime to sound in the cockpit of an aircraft, lets the crew know that a ground radio operator wants to communicate with them. [International Virtual Aviation Organisation, 4/2/2006; Aviation Spectrum Resources, Inc., 9/14/2011, pp. 2-1, 4-1 ] ) However, ARINC’s attempts at contacting Flight 11 are unsuccessful. ARINC calls Houck back to let her know this. The ARINC employee says ARINC has “SELCALd” Flight 11 and sent ACARS messages to the plane, but without getting any response. The employee also says that ARINC called the FAA’s Boston Center, which has been handling Flight 11, and asked if it could relay a message to Flight 11, but the Boston Center replied that it “couldn’t at this time.” After Houck says she would like ARINC to keep trying to contact Flight 11, the employee ends the call, telling her, “I’ll advise the operators to keep on trying.” Houck will later recall that by this time, she has received “no messages or other communications from Flight 11, and had received nothing from the crew to indicate any trouble on board.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 26-27; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7]
The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, is informed that a Korean Airlines plane is a possible hijacking, although the aircraft is in fact fine. [CNN, 8/14/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 256-257] Korean Airlines Flight 85, a Boeing 747 with 215 people on board, is on its way from Seoul, South Korea, to New York. It is heading for a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska, and is currently several hundred miles west of Alaska, over the North Pacific.
Pilots Sent Message Signifying Hijacking - The alarm has been raised by ARINC, a Maryland company that airlines pay to transmit text messages to and from their planes. In response to the morning’s terrorist attacks, the company had begun scanning every communication it had transmitted on this day, in a search for other hijacked aircraft. It found a message sent by the pilots of Flight 85 to the Korean Airlines headquarters at 11:08 a.m. that included the letters “HJK,” which is the code signaling a hijacking. ARINC officials are concerned the message was a coded plea for help, and so alert the FAA to it. In response to this notification, the FAA informs air traffic controllers in Anchorage of the suspicious flight, and alerts NORAD to it (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 257]
Reason for Message Unclear - The reason the Flight 85 pilots used the code for a hijacking in their ARINC message when their plane is not hijacked is unclear. Korean Airlines administrator Michael Lim will suggest the “HJK” code was intended as a question rather than a warning, but this was unclear in the message because pilots are unable to type question marks into ARINC messages. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002] David Greenberg, the Korean Airlines operations chief, will say the pilots’ message was “innocent, part of a routine discussion on where to divert the flight after airspace in the United States had been closed.” He will add that the pilots used the hijack code “to refer to the hijackings that day.” [USA Today, 8/12/2002] Author Lynn Spencer will similarly suggest that the crew of Flight 85 had “simply been trying to relay to controllers their awareness of the hijackings on the East Coast.” She will add: “It was an odd idea for the pilots to have, and contrary to their training. But for whatever reason—perhaps because of some language or communication barrier, or some training failure—they made a very dangerous bad call.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 279]
Flight 85 Redirected to Canada - At 1:24 p.m., the pilots of Flight 85 will set their plane’s transponder to indicate that the flight has been hijacked (see 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). The plane will be directed away from Anchorage (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001) and escorted by fighter jets to Whitehorse Airport in Canada, where it lands at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). Only then will officials be able to confirm that the aircraft has not been hijacked (see September 12, 2001). [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/12/2001; Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 16, 18 ; USA Today, 8/12/2002]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.