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9/11 airline operations manager charged in sex sting

world Updated: Jun 30, 2015 07:20 IST

AP
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An American Airlines operations manager who was among the few people to learn of the first 9/11 hijacking before the jet struck the World Trade Center has been arrested near Pittsburgh in an online child-sex sting.

Ray Howland is charged with arranging a sexual encounter with a woman and a 10-year-old girl and sent explicit messages after posting online that he was "looking for a family or a couple of girls" for sex while in town on business.

Howland, 55, of Arlington, Texas, was actually communicating with an undercover agent from the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, prosecutors said.

He was arrested Friday in Moon Township, about 13 miles northwest of downtown Pittsburgh, and charged with criminal attempt to commit rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and other offenses.

He remained jailed Monday on $150,000 bail pending a July 7 preliminary hearing. Online court records didn't list a lawyer to comment on the charges.

American Airlines said it is cooperating fully with law enforcement and would not comment on Howland's case. In a statement, the airline said it holds employees to the "highest level of ethical standards."

"Employees who violate these standards are subject to disciplinary action, which may include immediate termination," the airline said.

Howland has worked in aircraft operations for more than 30 years and is a licensed private pilot, according to his LinkedIn page. He has been with American Airlines since 1989, moving from flight dispatcher to various supervisory roles to senior manager for integrated operations control in 2008.

As a front-line supervisor at American's system operations control center in Fort Worth, Texas, Howland received some of the first panicked calls from employees at Logan International Airport in Boston reporting the hijacking of Flight 11 on Sept. 11, 2001. The calls are mentioned in the notes section of the 9/11 Commission report.

Transcripts show Howland telling Logan employees to keep the hijacking to themselves minutes before the Los Angeles-bound Boeing 767 hit the World Trade Center's North Tower.

"We don't want this getting out," Howland says, according to the transcripts. "We're aware of the situation. We're dealing with it right now. So let us deal with it."

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