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Profile: Rich Miles
Rich Miles was a participant or observer in the following events:
Senior United Airlines personnel are, unusually, not informed about air traffic control communications with Flight 175. At 8:41 a.m., the pilots of Flight 175 reported to air traffic controllers that they heard “a suspicious transmission” from another aircraft during their departure out of Boston (see 8:41 a.m.-8:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet the details of this communication with Flight 175 are not passed on to personnel at the United Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center, just outside Chicago. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 20]
Manager Receives 'No Relevant Information about the Hijackings' - Rich Miles, the manager on duty at the SOC, will later tell the 9/11 Commission that “[w]hile his experience and expectation was that [FAA air traffic control] would communicate to him and to the SOC about ‘strange’ or unusual communications from the cockpit… he could not recall any such communications on 9/11.” He will say that although, “typically, he would receive relevant information from the [air traffic control] system,” he receives “no relevant information about the hijackings” on this day. [9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 ]
Other Airline Personnel Unaware of Flight 175 Communications - None of the other senior United Airlines officials on duty at the SOC are told about the 8:41 a.m. report made by the pilots of Flight 175. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 20] These officials will tell the 9/11 Commission that “the dispatchers and managers at the SOC” are in fact “not aware of any communications” between FAA controllers and Flight 175 this morning. [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 ] The 9/11 Commission will describe, “SOC personnel at United that we talked to had no idea of the extent of interaction of the [Flight 175] crew with the saga of [Flight 11].” The Commission will add, “We walked down a list of indicators,” but state, “Until we mentioned them, no one we talked to [at United Airlines] was aware of those occurrences.” [9/11 Commission, 11/17/2003 ]
Controllers Communicate with Pilots, Not Dispatchers - The United Airlines officials will say, however, that, “first and foremost,” FAA controllers “communicated directly with airline pilots, not the dispatchers” at the airline. [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 ] Ed Ballinger, the United Airlines dispatcher responsible for Flight 175, will comment that “he did not feel that [air traffic control] was under any obligation to share such information [as the details of the 8:41 a.m. communication] with him, because it didn’t apparently affect the safety of any of his flights.” [9/11 Commission, 4/14/2003 ]
Airline Not Advised to Notify Other Planes about Hijackings - The United Airlines officials who talk with the 9/11 Commission will also recall that “they never received any communication… from the FAA or the air traffic control system advising United to contact its aircraft about the hijackings.” The 9/11 Commission will not offer any explanation for the lack of communication between air traffic control and United Airlines. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 20]
Jim Goodwin. [Source: Chicago Tribune]Rich Miles, the manager at the United Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center just outside Chicago, receives a call from a supervisor at United’s maintenance office in San Francisco, informing him that Flight 175 has been reported as hijacked. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 22] The maintenance office received a call minutes earlier from a flight attendant on United 175, who said their plane had been hijacked (see 8:52 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7-8] When the supervisor tells Miles about this, he initially responds, “No, the information we’re getting is that it was an American 757.” (The FAA has just informed United Airlines that the plane that hit the World Trade Center was a hijacked American Airlines 757 (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) But the supervisor insists, “No, we got a call from a flight attendant on 175.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] Miles notifies his boss Bill Roy, the SOC director, about this information. Roy then contacts United’s CEO Jim Goodwin and its chief operating officer Andy Studdert, who are in a meeting at the airline’s headquarters, located next to the SOC. Roy then begins the process of activating the crisis center at the United headquarters, which will take about 30 minutes to complete. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 22]
United Airlines activates its crisis center, from where it will respond to the terrorist attacks. [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 22] Personnel at United Airlines’ System Operations Control (SOC) center, near Chicago, learned that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center when they saw the television coverage of the incident. Minutes later, they were informed that the WTC was hit by a hijacked American Airlines plane (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Shortly before 9:00 a.m., a supervisor at the airline’s maintenance office in San Francisco, California, called the SOC—the operations center—and said a United Airlines plane, Flight 175, had been reported as hijacked (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 21-22] United Airlines’ usual procedure when there is a crisis involving one of its aircraft is to isolate that aircraft and move the handling of it to the crisis center, so as not to disrupt operations in the rest of the system.
Crisis Center Is Activated in about 30 Minutes - The crisis center, which is located just off the operations center, is apparently activated sometime around 9:00 a.m. It takes about 30 minutes for staffers to assemble and fully activate it. When the center is activated, a representative from every division of the airline’s corporate structure has to report to it, and once they arrive they have predetermined duties they are required to carry out. Clipboards are therefore distributed to operations center staffers, which show a list of people who are needed in the crisis center that they have to call. A phone bridge is set up with the airline’s other crisis centers, which are activated around this time in San Francisco and Denver, Colorado. [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 22] Patti Carson, United Airlines’ vice president of human resources, will later recall that after they see the live television coverage of Flight 175 crashing into the WTC at 9:03 a.m. on a screen in the operations center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), “Without exchanging a word, every crisis team member in the room walked the 10 or 15 steps to the airline’s crisis center and took their positions.” [HR (.com), 7/1/2005]
Opening the Center Is 'the Single Most Significant Thing You Do' - The crisis center is “a terraced, theater-like room that resembled NASA’s Mission Control,” according to journalist and author Jere Longman. On one wall is a large screen on which United Airlines’ flights are displayed. [Longman, 2002, pp. 77; USA Today, 8/12/2002] Other screens in the center show CNN and other TV news channels. [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 ] Opening the crisis center, according to Andy Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, “is the single most significant thing you do [at an airline], because once that happens… everybody in an airline has a second job and that second job is to either run the airline… or act to support the crisis.” Once the center has been opened, “3,000 people are put on an immediate activation,” Studdert will say. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/23/2012]
Different People Later Claim to Have Activated the Center - It is unclear when exactly the crisis center is activated and who activates it. Bill Roy, the SOC director, will say he is responsible for activating the center and he does this shortly after he learned a plane had crashed into the WTC. This is presumably sometime around 8:50 a.m. or shortly after. Roy will say that by around 9:00 a.m., he and his colleagues are in the process of activating the center. [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] But Rich Miles, the SOC manager, will indicate that he activates the center and he does this apparently at around 9:00 a.m. He will say that after they saw the television coverage of the burning WTC and then learned that the North Tower was hit by an American Airlines plane, staffers in the operations center discussed what to do and considered whether to open the crisis center. One member of staff went into the center, and started turning on computers and other equipment. Miles will recall that after the supervisor at the airline’s maintenance office in San Francisco called, shortly before 9:00 a.m., with the news that Flight 175 had been reported as hijacked, he begins activating the center. [9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 21-22]
COO Is Authorized to Activate the Crisis Center - Other accounts will suggest that Studdert is responsible for activating the crisis center. Studdert will recall that sometime after 9:00 a.m., when he arrived at the operations center (see (8:50 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he realizes that the airline is “in a crisis, and we immediately activate the crisis center.” [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/23/2012] Furthermore, Ed Soliday, United Airlines’ vice president of safety and security, will indicate that Studdert is one of only a few people with authority to activate the crisis center. He will say that although the airline’s usual protocol is to obtain a “vote of three” before opening the center, both Studdert and he are empowered to order it activated on their own say-so. Since Soliday will arrive at United Airlines’ headquarters at around 9:35 a.m., this would suggest that only Studdert could order that the crisis center be activated on his own at the current time. [9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 ]
Center Remains Operational for Three Weeks - The crisis center will remain in operation around the clock every day for the next three weeks. It will provide United Airlines personnel around the country with instant access to resource providers and key decision makers. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] The center was previously activated just 12 days ago, when Studdert ran a surprise “no-notice” exercise in which United Airlines personnel were led to believe that one of their planes had crashed (see August 30, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 ; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/26/2012; Dubuque Telegraph Herald, 11/12/2015]
Rich Miles, the manager of United Airlines’ System Operations Control center, located outside Chicago, issues an advisory to all United Airlines facilities, including the flight dispatchers. This advisory, which is issued under the name of UAL Chief Operating Officer Andy Studdert, states that Flight 175 has been involved in an accident in New York City, and that the airline’s crisis center has been activated. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26] This appears to be United Airlines’ first proper confirmation that Flight 175 has crashed. However, it will not issue a press release confirming the crash until 11:53 a.m. (see 11:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). [United Airlines, 9/11/2001]
United Airlines dispatcher Ed Ballinger sends messages to the flights he is responsible for, telling them to land, and is also informed that Flight 93 is possibly hijacked. At 9:50, Ballinger sends a text message to Flight 93 and United’s other transcontinental flights, instructing them to “land ASP at nearest UAL airport—ORD terrorist.” (“ASP” is presumably short for “as soon as possible”; what “ORD” stands for is unreported.) The message also warns to beware of cockpit intrusion, stating, “No one in to cockpit—Land asp.” Over the next minute, Ballinger sends two more text messages to his flights, advising them to land as soon as possible. He still receives no response from Flight 93. United Airlines ordered that all its aircraft be grounded about five minutes earlier (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 44] However, Ballinger will later say that United dispatchers are told by their superiors, “Don’t tell the pilots why we want them to land.” [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004] Also around this time, Rich Miles, the manager at United’s System Operations Control center, informs Ballinger about a call recently received by United’s maintenance facility in San Francisco, from an attendant on Flight 93, who reported that her plane had been hijacked (see 9:35 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 43]
Rich Miles, the manager of United Airlines’ System Operations Control center outside Chicago, tries to initiate the “lockout” procedure for Flight 93, which would acknowledge an emergency on the flight and safeguard information about it, but he is unable to do so. At some time between 9:45 a.m. and 9:50 a.m., the United Airlines maintenance facility in San Francisco contacted Miles about a call it had just received from an attendant on Flight 93, reporting that her plane had been hijacked (see 9:35 a.m. September 11, 2001). In response, Miles attempts to initiate a lockout of Flight 93. Lockout is a standard procedure for airlines in safety and security incidents, which isolates information about a flight so the case can be managed by the airline’s top leadership, and protects the identities of the passengers and crew. But Miles is unable activate this procedure. According to the 9/11 Commission, this is because United Airlines has already conducted a lockout of Flight 175 (see (9:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and its computer system is not presently set up to deal simultaneously with two such procedures. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12-13 and 43]
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