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Commission Sensitive


Event: Federal Aviation Administration Headquarters
Type of event: Interview with May Avrey
Date: Thursday, March 25, 2004
Special Access Issues: None
Prepared by: Geoffrey Brown
Team Number: 8
Location: FAA HQ, Washington, D.C.
Participants - Non-Commission: David Weeguard, FAA Legal Counsel
Participants - Commission: John Azzarello, Miles Kara, Dana Hyde, Geoffrey Brown
Note: Please refer to the recorded interview for further details.


Avrey started her career in the Telecommunications Center of the FAA in 1978.
She became the Manager of the Washington Operations Center (WOC) in 1991. Avrey is
now under the Director of Security Operations.

The WOC, prior to September 11, 2001 (9/11), was responsible for collecting data
on aircraft accidents, incidents, and operational statistics from its country wide reporting
structure (the FAA Regions). They reported this data to department executives, which at
times included reporting responsibilities to the White House, FBI and military. It was a
twenty four hour operation, always staffed by two personnel.

Hijacking role:

Prior to 9/11 the WOC provided information to the "office of primary interest"; so
in the case of a hijacking the WOC was required to pass information to the FAA Aviation
Security division - who have the primary responsibility, working in concert with the
other offices of the FAA, of bringing the hijacking crisis to a safe resolution.

There was a set list of individuals to be notified in the case of a crisis. The
individuals notified include the Administrator through to the Secretary of Transportation.
The manager of the WOC is responsible for notification, but ultimately the Administrator
and the Deputy Administrator have final say as to who is notified.

Other areas around the WOC: 1) The Aviation Command (or crisis) Center (ACC)
- where security responds, this area includes communication capabilities with largely the
operations center personnel in control of those communications. Each position has multi-
line phones and Secure Telephone Units (STUs); and 2) A SCIF office for secure

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Communications capabilities:

In order to pass notifications in the case of a hijack they used speed dial programs
on from the phone. There were phones and television feeds from the WOC into the
administrative office conference room, from which they can monitor ongoing activities of
their operations staff. The network had a conference bridge with a 240 dynamic port
capability. This conference capability handles multiple phone conferences.

In the case of a hijacking the WOC staff is responsible for notifying the
appropriate agencies separately before FAA Civil Aviation Security (ACS) makes the
decision to establish a Primary Net teleconference.

Avrey's reporting structure:

Avrey reported to Dan Noel, the Manager of Emergency Operations. Noel

reported directly to the Deputy Administrator's (Monte Belger) staff. Since 9/11, Belger
created the Director of Emergency Operations position, which bypasses staff and reports
directly to the Deputy Administrator.

Pre-9/11 hijacking protocol:

In the event of a hijacking, the WOC would look towards the FAA Regional
Office for information. If it was decided that it was an actual event, the WOC would
speak with the ACS and ACS would make the decision to set up a Primary or Tactical
net. ACI, the intelligence division of aviation security (intelligence watch), a twenty-four
hour operation that had overlapping shifts, would also be involved. Avrey noted that a
report of a hijack could come through the intelligence watch, one of the air traffic centers
or through a media report.

Tactical net - establishing the tactical net is dependent on ACS' decision on who
and what entities need to be informed of an event. The person running the Aviation
Command Center (ACC) makes the decision of who is on the Tactical net. The Primary
net has an established list of agencies. These organizations have operations centers, and
that is where any calls are filtered. The Secret Service is one such organization, and on
9/11 their twenty-four hour operation center was notified.

Live hijack exercise:

Avrey was a participant in the management of a live hijacking exercise referred to

as Polar Star. [Commission staff believes this may be the NORAD/FAA Twin Star
exercise that occurred in the 1990s] She was only an observer, and did not have any
responsibilities for operational decisions. The exercise proceeded based on the
documentation on hijacking procedures. They tested their conference bridge and use of
the ACC, as well as tested the communication capability with the FAA Facilities and
Regions. Avrey informed Commission staff that there was a "hotwash" of the exercise.

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She could not recall details of this document, but does recall it discussed the various
"injects" from the agency. This was the largest of the exercises, since it involved the
Canadians, an air carrier, and the FBI.

She believes there have been a number of exercises of this type. She believes
Commission staff could speak to security staff personnel for more information on
hijacking exercise. The Deputy Administrator staff was responsible for developing these


Avrey experienced the Lufthansa event and its coordination, and recalls it being a
"protracted event" that involved considerable amount of coordination between NORAD,
the FAA and the Canadians.


Avrey reported to work at 7:OOAM for a staff change. There were two people on
duty, and she and Sharon Battle were contacted by Jessie McGee. McGee informed her of
a call from New England Region regarding a possible hijack. McGee briefed her on the
call and the actions he took. His first action was to call ACI (FAA Civil Aviation
Intelligence), and establish a conference between ACI, the New England Region and
WOC. She does not know who at the ACI was on duty at that time. She knew how to
operate the bridge and the equipment so she was able to answer calls, but Battle and
McGee made most of the telephone notifications. The WOC received a "flood" of "extra"
volunteer staffing. She tried to manage the executives and the information they received.
Belger arrived "relatively early in this process", as well as a security executive, and a
public affairs executive.

Avrey does not recall if a Tactical net was established, but she believes that a
Primary net was (staffed) by the ACC.

The list of notifications was split between Sharon Battle and Jessie McGee, and
they had discretion on how the notifications were started dependent upon the credibility
of the information. The first report was of one hijacking "with an open.. .with a keyed
microphone". She did not know if the information was passed that it was the pilot or the
hijacker that keyed the microphone, nor does she know quickly thereafter the information
arrived that there were more hijacks.

Avrey was not involved in building the Primary net conference, and believes the
direction to set up this net came from the intelligence watch supervisor. Avrey does not
know if Boston Center (ZBW) was entered into the net initially, and commented that
typically the WOC has a facilities log that would record which entities became net

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Avrey recalls that the WOC did not receive a report of a second hijacking until
after CNN broadcast United Airlines Flight 175 striking the World Trade Center.
[9:03AM (approx.)] She did not specifically connect the ongoing hijacking that they were
monitoring to the aircraft that struck the WTC, and does not recall anyone in the WOC
equating the previous at the time. Avrey does recall both the Pentagon and the White
House were evacuated after the attacks at the WTC. She does recall Shirley Miller was in
Belger's office providing updates to executives. She believes Belger was in his office as

SVT (Secure Video Teleconference):

Avrey believes the SVT (Secure Video Teleconference) was activated at 9:40AM.
According to her memory Marshal Smith, Sharon Battle or Jessie McGee operated the
room. She does not know who was involved in the conversation in the SCIF. They retain
an access log for the room. Avrey noted there could be a call that could last days, but
there can be many conference calls within this period of time. She believes the system
was "brought up and stayed up", but that the participants fluctuated. She recalls Griffith,
Belger, the administrator, and Flaherty (DoT chief of staff) all participated.

Details on log entries:

Avrey commented that there was no consistent approach to logging times on the
morning of 9/11, and thus no true way of verifying the accuracy of the log entries. She
believes that public affairs personnel were at the WOC since, depending on whom the
responders are, if PA needs a bridge to speak to the media, they would not pipe the
conference bridge into the room. She recalls FAA Public Affairs wanted to inform the
press of the ongoing circumstance. But they decided not to allow the press to cover the
crisis management.

Other personnel:

Mike Wikert was an operations division coordinator from ACS who worked for
Lee Longmire. Janice Johnson was another operations officer. Louis and Corcoran are
also operations officers.

Avreys does not recall assigning specific functions to the incoming personnel.
Battle, who was in charge of the shift, would have made those assignments.

She believes that security requested the ACI room be opened because of an
overflow in the need for work space. Scott Hubbard (ADA-20), who worked on Dan
Knoll's staff, assisted in capturing times for the chronology "later in the morning" on

Avrey commented that Belger was "in and out" of the room, Longmire was
makingthe management decisions on the net, and Cannoles was in the air traffic
conference suite operating his won teleconference.

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Avrey noted that Doug Davies "was up and down the hallway (between Cannoles
room and the operations facility) constantly". She does not know if much other
information was ongoing on their net that was not air traffic related. Avreys believes Jeff
Griffith participated in at least one SVT call.

She recalls speaking with public affairs, Laura Brown, numerous times on 9/11.

Avrey did not write anything herself about the attacks. She did not participate in a
post-9/11 report. Within the month of September 2001 Belger had already tasked Hatfield
with assessing how to change the facility.

Primary Net:

Some personnel in the room where Longmire was operating this call were from
his staff, intelligence officers. The primary net feeds into the ACC as well.

Post 9/11:

In the wake of 9/11 the WOC realized it needed to supplement its staffing, and
hired a retired operations officer, and some supervisors. The minimum is a supervisor and
two operations managers on duty at all times in the WOC.

The FAA Facilities, Regions, and Command entities, and the same
responsibilities from the military are tied into the DEN line now which was brought up
initially on 9/11. A New York Center (ZNY) representative was appointed to collect air
traffic information and report it to air traffic control executives through the line.

Avrey does not know of new offices being added to the notification list post 9/11.

They now have another MLP (secret line) that sits on the air traffic desk so the
person managing the DEN line can also speak offline with NORAD. Air traffic
established this desk post-9/11.

The notifications occur now for most events over a wireless paging system.

Avrey believes the WOC performed "a good job managing the information.. .they
got when they got it", which is noteworthy considering the "off the scope" nature of the
attacks. They collected information and set up conferences for others. Her opinion is that
her staff did "exactly what they were trained to do". Avrey believes the information the
received was timely.

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