How To Steal An Airliner *AND* Fake a Hijacking — pt. 2

Monday, September 27, 2004

Before reading this text, please consult the timeline given in Part I to get a better comprehension of the context.

The embarking of the "hijackers"

The conclusion that some of the terrorists boarded airplane N334AA, the later Flight 11, on September 10 already, is basically a Holmesian approach: if we try to assess the simultaneous presence of the hijacker car (the white Misubishi) and the hijacked plane (N334AA) at Logan Airport, we have to consider two possibilities:

A) If the two facts are not correlated, the most likely explanation is that some fellow "hijackers" arrived at Logan and were picked up by the Mitsubishi crew. But the whole bunch of "hijackers", section Boston, had already spread over different hotels in the city. They had been in Boston since at least the 9th.

B) If the two facts are correlated (and this is what lay detectives from the youthful Harry Potter fan to the 80 years old Agatha Christie fan would assume, as well as their professional counterparts), the most likely explanation is the one already presented: A complice of the "hijackers" gave them a ride to the airport, and they embarked on N334AA.

The airline crew tag that was found in the car later points to version B, too. The "hijackers" were apparently quite familiar with airline matters and procedures.

The preparation flights

Apart from the naked BTS data, there are no informations available of what happened on Flight 197 (BOS-SFO) and 198 (SFO-BOS), the preceding flights of N334AA. A report from Fox News, however, suggests that the "hijackers" might have had - legal - access to the cockpit:

The hijackers aboard the doomed flights may not have had to force their way into the cockpits after all. Fox News has learned that investigators believe that on at least one flight, one of the hijackers was already inside the cockpit before takeoff. Law enforcement sources tell Fox News there is evidence gathered from cockpit voice recordings suggesting that at least one of the hijackers was posing as a pilot and was thereby extended the typical airline courtesy of allowing any pilot from any airline to join a flight by sitting in the jump seat, the folder over extra seat, located inside the cockpit. Fox News, 9/24/01

So the possibility that one "hijacker" was allowed to sit on the cockpit jumpseat of Flight 198 from San Francisco to Boston is not too far-fetched. The fact that a hijacker was "posing as a pilot", according to cockpit voice recordings, fits very well into the scenario of the stolen airliner, although we don't know whether this happened on N334AA.

The departure

The departure of Flight 11 is a big mystery, since there is clear evidence for two different airplanes with this number in the morning of September 11. (see Flight 11 - The Twin Flight).

One plane departed from Gate B-32 at 7:45 a.m. The controller records of Flight 11 show that there were pilots in the cockpit capable of flying big airliners. However, no reports or documents are available to prove that it picked up passengers.

The other plane was waiting at Gate B-26, and some people from the passenger list - Al Filipov and Richard Ross, for instance -, were about to take it. If it departed from the gate at all - this is not sure -, it was definitely later than 7:45.

Karen Booth took Flight 1019 to San Juan, scheduled departure 6:55. The tail number of her plane was N321AA, a Boeing 767 like N334AA. These widebody airplanes depart from Terminal B, Pier B (Gates 30-36). So she witnessed the arrival of N334AA/Flight 198 at the adjacent Gate 32 at 6:03 a.m., falsely believing it came from L.A. (it was San Francisco).

This minor error of Mrs. Booth is followed by a bigger one: she thinks the people joining the passengers of her flight in the waiting area intended to take Flight 11. But they came in before she boarded her plane, i.e. between 6:00 and 6:30, much too early for Flight 11 whose departure was scheduled for 7:45. I have also attempted in vain to find out the young women in the rolling chair among the passengers of Flight 11. Most likely she and the remaining people were to fly to Orlando on Flight 1543, scheduled for 7:25.

Still lacking evidence for any people boarding N334AA, the strange circumstances at Logan Airport are consistent with our conjecture that the "hijackers" have been on the plane before it arrived in Boston, and somehow managed to stay on board and steal it from the airport.

The flight

The most suspicious actions of the "hijackers" point to a fake rather than a real hijacking:

- deviation from course: they didn't choose the shortest way to their destination; just to the contrary, they first moved away from it.

- the messages to the passengers: these were allegedly meant for the passengers ("stay quiet and make no stupid moves"), but they pressed the wrong button "by mistake" so the air controllers could hear every word. Note that this "mistake" was a big blunder if they didn't want to be detected, so we must assume they were ill-prepared - or they WANTED to attract the air controllers' attention.

- the disabling of the transponder: for real hijackers, this makes no sense at all since the plane was still visible to the controllers. But if their intention was to attract attention, it was just the right thing to do.

- the intermittent pressing of the radio button: the best explanation for this behavior is again attracting attention. Speculations that John Ogonowski, the original pilot, tried to inform the controllers are obsolete because he would not have been in control of the airplane anyway when these transmissions occurred (between 8:28 and 8:38).

None of this points shows that there have been passengers on N334AA.

The only available "proofs" for the presence of passengers aboard N334AA, the two phone calls from Amy Sweeney and Betty Ong, contain to many inconsistencies and contradictions to be taken for serious. The only thing these odd calls prove is that their purpose was to pretend a hijacking, yielding additional confirmation that it was not a REAL hijacking.

The overflight

The first outside word that controllers received was that a small twin-engine plane had hit one tower of the World Trade Center. They thought it was a twin-engine Cessna that had taken off earlier from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to fly south under "visual flight rules," meaning the plane was not under direct air traffic control. Washington Post, 9/16/01

What we learn from this report is:

- New York air controllers were aware of a small plane, coming from the North and heading toward New York City;

- they though it was a twin-engined Cessna;

- this small plane was flying low, under "visual flight rules";

- it didn't send a radar signal after the first WTC crash - otherwise the controllers wouldn't have suspected that it had hit the tower.

Stewart International, a military airport, is not far away from Poughkeepsie. Frank Levi has emphasized that the path of Flight 11 goes directly over the airport, allowing the possibility that it was involved in the plane swap.

A well-done analysis of the plane that hit the North Tower has been presented by "Marcus". Meanwhile, N334AA crossed the air space of New York City some thousand feet higher.

The phantom flight

In The Secret Hijacking I have described the peculiar failure of air controllers from Cleveland ARTCC - according to the 9/11 report - to spot a not existing airplane and forward an exact position to other departments wihout having a clue of this position.

Just as a sidenote, Washington ARTCC controllers observed a radar blip of Flight 93 after its crash, too:

In contrast, controllers at the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center had much more warning that something was wrong. Those controllers, who handled American Airlines Flight 77, which dived into the Pentagon, knew about the hijacking of the first plane to crash, even before it hit the World Trade Center, those involved said. That was more than an hour before they watched another hijacked plane, United Flight 93, cross their radar screen on its way to the Pentagon. New York Times, 9/13/01 Flight 93 was never in or near the airspace of Washington ARTCC.

But Cleveland and Washington controllers were not the only ones to make such a blunder - according to the 9/11 report, again. Controllers from New York ARTCC did the same:

At 8:48, while the controller was still trying to locate American 11, a New York Center manager provided the following report on a Command Center teleconference:

Manager, New York Center: Okay. This is New York Center. We’re watching the airplane. I also had conversation with American Airlines, and they ’ve told us that they believe that one of their stewardesses was stabbed and that there are people in the cockpit that have control of the aircraft, and that’s all the information they have right now.

The New York Center controller and manager were unaware that American 11 had already crashed. 9/11 report, page 21

We encounter the same phenomenon - although the radar blip of Flight 11 allegedly had vanished at 8:46, the controller in response was still "watching" it, meaning it was under control.

Strangely, Washington ARTCC controllers showed the same blackout concerning Flight 11 (their second in toto) - according to the 9/11 report, again:

At 9:21, NEADS received a report from the FAA:

The mention of a “third aircraft ” was not a reference to American 77. There was confusion at that moment in the FAA. Two planes had struck the World Trade Center, and Boston Center had heard from FAA headquarters in Washington that American 11 was still airborne. We have been unable to identify the source of this mistaken FAA information.

— 9/11 report, p.26

Confronted with these reports, we have two possibilities.

Either we accept the view of the 9/11 report - then we have to establish a collective epidemic blackout of several air controllers in charge, fantasizing non-existent radar blips.

Or we keep our trust in the ability of the air controllers to do their job properly, i.e. to watch existent radar signals and not fantasize non-existent ones. Then the conclusion that Flight 11 did not crash into the WTC is compelling. This means, of course, that the story of Flight 11 has to be rewritten completely, and this is what I'm doing here.

An audio tape with statements from five New York Center controllers could shed some light on what they were observing on their radar screens. Unfortunately, a FAA manager named Kevin Delaney took the tape, crushed it with his hands, cut the tape into little pieces, and distributed them on different trash bins. New York Times, 5/7/04

Tom Brokaw from NBC interviewed several air controllers one year after the attacks. The controller who was responsible for Flight 11 in New York Airspace - Jim Bottoglia - claimed that the radar blip of the plane "disappeared" at 8:46. But I'm not ready to revive the blackout theory because of his statement. It is much more likely that he preferred not to be the first one to declare in a popular TV show that the official 9/11 story is rubbish.

The landing

From the talk between FAA and NEADS quoted in the previous section, it is possible to determine roughly the position and direction of Flight 11 at 9:21. It was over Southern New Jersey - or even more south - and heading for Washington. These data are consistent with the possibility that it landed at Reagan Airport at 9:37. But why this speculation?

A lot of people are wondering whether the Pentagon was really struck by a Boeing 757 because of the small impact hole, the lacking debris and the fact that no footage from the numerous surveillance cameras has been published. They are convinced that a smaller plane or a missile crashed into the building.

Several witnesses, however, say that they saw a big airliner from American Airlines going down there. This has led Dick Eastman to the conviction that in the same moment the unknown object hit the Pentagon, the original Flight 77 flew over the building at low altitude, making people believe that it was the attacking jet, but in fact landed at the nearby Reagan Airport.

If this theory is true, the decoy airplane might well have been Flight 11, not Flight 77. This is even more likely, as it would have been more difficult to hide the crowd of passengers of Flight 77 afterwards than the two or maybe three thieves of N334AA.

Interestingly, the BBC has once (and only once) sent footage from a plane diving into the Pentagon. For Joe Vialls this is proof that Flight 77 has hit the Pentagon. Eastman argues that the airplane on this videotape is a Boeing 757-223 because the wings are too long compared with the fuselage. Being neither a video researcher nor an aircraft buff, I present the pictures here, not without to mention that a Boeing 767-223 has a bigger wings/fuselage length ratio than a 757-223. N334AA was a 767-223.

Who's done it?

On September 10, 2001, a white Mitsubishi coming from Boston left Highway 90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike) at exit 13. The driver refused to pay the 3 $ fee at the toll booth and rushed away. The name of the driver, according to the operator: Mohammed Atta. New York Newsday, 9/30/01

There can be little doubt that he was right. He had recognized Atta from the FBI photos and noticed the car's number. It was the same Mitsubishi that was later found at Logan Airport. The description of the driver's behavior matches very well the Atta we know from Daniel Hopsicker's "Welcome to Terrorland": he was very unfriendly and unreasonably drove away without paying a ridiculous amount as if he WANTED to be noticed. He has shown such kind of behavior very often in Florida.

The operator mentioned no other people in the car, so Atta was obviously alone. Although the time of day is not reported, we may assume that he was coming back from the airport after unloading the "hijackers" there. This conclusion is not compelling, but likely due to the fact that the Massachusetts Turnpike goes straight to Logan Airport.

But if Atta was the driver of the car and conveyed the "hijackers" to the airport, who has stolen N334AA then?

Prime suspects are all the Middle Eastern men who spent the days before September 11 at different hotels in Boston. A very worthful hint is the fact that the Mitsubishi was seen at the airport for the first time on September 6. A necessary condition for a "hijacker" to be linked to the car is that he was already in Boston on that day. There are contradictory reports of the whereabouts of the ten Boston "hijackers" and when they arrived in Boston (I will address this question in a later article), but nearly all of them arrived after the 6th. Abdul-Aziz Al-Omari's and Satam Al-Suqami's arrival is not clear - the 6th or the 7th -, neither the hotel where they resided.

The only ones who arrived definitely BEFORE the 6th are the brothers Waleed and Wail Al-Shehri. They checked in at the Park Inn in Newton, a Boston suburb. Boston Globe, 9/23/01 The check-in day was September 5. The Providence Journal, 9/23/01, USA Today, 9/14/01

So the Al-Shehri brothers are the prime suspects as they were the earliest in Boston. And this is not the only suspicious point:

The Boston Herald, quoting an anonymous source, reported that five Arab men had been identified as suspects, including one who was a trained pilot. The Herald said two of the men, including the pilot, were brothers with passports traced to the United Arab Emirates. Associated Press, 9/13/01

Since the attack, much of the investigation has revolved around the flight schools, including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, a well-regarded institution that produces more than one-fourth of all the commercial airline pilots in the country. Waleed Al Shehri, 25, is a 1997 graduate of Embry-Riddle. He also was among the hijackers on the first plane to hit the World Trade Center. St Petersburg Times, 9/15/01

It looks like we have hit the bull's eye. The Waleed Al-Shehri portrayed in these reports fulfills all necessary conditions to fly a big airliner and perform the maneuvers to fake a hijacking. He was accompanied by his brother Wail, probably also familiar with airplanes.

But - on September 15, a pilot of Morocco Airlines named Waleed Al-Shehri declared in Casablanca, Morocco, that he was not one of the hijackers - the best proof was, of course, that he was alive and well. The suspicion was dropped at once. BBC, 9/23/01

So do we have to drop the Al-Shehri hypothesis too since they were "muscle hijackers" (9/11 report) without a higher education who have stolen the identity of the pilots?

Paul Thompson has collected some loose facts concerning the matter. Because every line of his improvised essay is well written and carries substantial information, I close this section with a strong recommendation to read

The Mystery of Hijacker Waleed Alshehri

Final assessment

Until now, there have been basically three theories of Flight 11:

1) Flight 11 started with crew and passengers as planned. Five Middle Eastern men hijacked the airplane, seized the cockpit and directed it into the WTC.

2) Flight 11 started with crew and passengers as planned. At one point, it was electronically hijacked from outside and remotely directed into the WTC, leaving the pilots no means to prevent the crash. This scenario is promoted, among others, by Mark Robinowitz.

3) Flight 11 started with crew and passengers as planned. At one point, the plane was "swapped": the pilot made an emergency landing at a secret airport, maybe because he was persuaded by someone that a bomb was on board. An unmanned remote control plane replaced the radar signal of the original one and crashed into the WTC. This scenario has been promoted in different versions, by Leonard Spencer , A. K. Dewdney, Frank Levi, and Christian C. Walther (chapter 10, in German).

In Part I, I have already summarized the numerous improbable assumptions and contradictions of Scenario 1, the official story. This is the most unlikely scenario by far.

Scenario 2 fails to explain the strange circumstances at Boston Airport and the outlasting radar signal of Flight 11 after the North Tower crash. It is not consistent with video footage and witness statements suggesting that the tower was hit by a smaller plane, and, most important, it provides no actual evidence which supports its own position. It is not sufficient to show the potential possibility to take over the complete control of an airliner from outside. The proponents of this theory should collect concrete hints that this was ACTUALLY happening on September 11. They have failed to do that so far.

The Scenarios of Point 3 are based on a plane swap like the "Stolen Airliner". They have a much broader empirical base than Scenario 2. However, they don't address Boston Airport and the radar blip south of New York.

These are the most important documents available for Flight 11: - Media reports from 9/11
- Statements of witnesses
- Radio Transcripts Pilot-ATC
- Flight Explorer Software
- Communication within FAA or between FAA and NEADS as documented by the 9/11 report
- BTS and other data bases
- Video footage

The more a scenario is able to avoid deviations from these documents, the more it gains credibility. The more a scenario is forced to assume that documents are partially ore completely faked, the more unlikely it is. Notwithstanding certain documents ARE probably faked (the phone calls, for instance) - but too many fakes require too many involved people to yield a credible scenario, so it is to postulate that their number should be minimized.

In this regard, the scenario I've introduced here is very close to the available documents.

I would like to thank researchers A.K. Dewdney, Dick Eastman, Nico Haupt, Gerard Holmgren, Daniel Hopsicker, Frank Levi, Mark Robinowitz, Leonard Spencer, Paul Thompson, Joe Vialls, Christian C. Walther, and Marcus for delivering the raw material for this text.