“It filtered over to me that there was a hijack,” he recalls. “We were trying to follow protocol and get communications reestablished – to see if someone was listening to our commands. That didn’t happen. Then things began to get worse.”
About then, as required, he handed over his air space to the next controller as his shift ended. But as he waited and watched, word of multiple hijackings began to emerge, he says. Other off-duty controllers began to arrive at the facility to help out.
They included Tom Morin, a founder of the National Air Traffic Controllers' Critical Incident Stress Management team, which helps controllers deal with their high-stress work environment.
“In this building we knew as soon as that guy spoke that it was a hijack and, in retrospect, I don’t think we couldn’t have done any better than we did,” says the 23-year Boston Center veteran.
In the minutes after it became clear a hijack was underway – and that Flight 11 had veered off course and was headed down the Hudson River Valley toward New York City – Colin Scoggins was pulled from other duties and told to alert the military.
While Federal Aviation Administration headquarters worked through formal protocols, notifying layers of higher ups in Washington, Mr. Scoggins says he decided to circumvent standard FAA protocols. An air space procedures and military specialist at Boston Center, he instead called directly to three nearby military bases for backup.