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Context of 'February 8-March 12, 2001: 9/11 Hijacker Hanjour Practices on Boeing 737 Simulator, but Has Problems'

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9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi tells two associates, Mohdar Abdullah and FBI informant Abdussattar Shaikh, that he has re-entered flight training, but it is unclear if this is true. He calls Abdullah twice in December 2000/January 2001, initially saying that he is in San Francisco and will have flight training there, but he later says that he has moved to Arizona and both he and hijacker Hani Hanjour are in flight training. He also calls Shaikh to say that he and Hanjour are to have flight training in Arizona. Alhazmi lived with Shaikh for several months, but moved out in the middle of December (see May 10-Mid-December 2000 and December 12, 2000-March 2001). [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 276; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223] Hanjour is known to undergo flight training in Arizona at this time (see January-February 2001 and February 8-March 12, 2001). There is no known public record of Alhazmi training to be a pilot at this time, although there is other evidence Alhazmi trained to be a pilot (see November 25, 2007).

Entity Tags: Mohdar Abdullah, Nawaf Alhazmi, Abdussattar Shaikh

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Hani Hanjour, from a 2000 US visa application.
Hani Hanjour, from a 2000 US visa application. [Source: 9/11 Commission]In January 2001, the Arizona flight school JetTech alerts the FAA about hijacker Hani Hanjour. No one at the school suspects Hanjour of terrorist intent, but they tell the FAA he lacks both the English and flying skills necessary for the commercial pilot’s license he has already obtained. For instance, he had taken classes at the University of Arizona but failed his English classes with a 0.26 grade point average. A JetTech flight school manager “couldn’t believe he had a commercial license of any kind with the skills that he had.” A former employee says, “I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon. He could not fly at all.” They also note he is an exceptionally poor student who does not seem to care about passing his courses. [New York Times, 5/4/2002; CBS News, 5/10/2002] An FAA official named John Anthony actually sits next to Hanjour in class and observes his skills. He suggests the use of a translator to help Hanjour pass, but the flight school points out that goes “against the rules that require a pilot to be able to write and speak English fluently before they even get their license.” [Associated Press, 5/10/2002] The FAA verifies that Hanjour’s 1999 pilot’s license is legitimate (see April 15, 1999), but takes no other action. However, his license should have been rejected because it had already expired in late 1999 when he failed to take a manadatory medical test. [Associated Press, 9/15/2001; CBS News, 5/10/2002] An Arizona FAA inspector later says, “There should have been a stop right then and there.” He will claim that federal law would have required Hanjour to be re-examined. [Associated Press, 6/13/2002] In February, Hanjour begins advanced simulator training, “a far more complicated task than he had faced in earning a commercial license.” [New York Times, 6/19/2002] The flight school again alerts the FAA about this and gives a total of five alerts about Hanjour, but no further action on him is taken. The FBI is not told about Hanjour. [CBS News, 5/10/2002] Ironically, in July 2001, Arizona FBI agent Ken Williams will recommend in a memo that the FBI liaison with local flight schools and keep track of suspicious activity by Middle Eastern students (see July 10, 2001).

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, John Anthony, Pentagon, Hani Hanjour, JetTech

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour practices on a Boeing 737-200 simulator for a total of 21 hours at the JetTech International flight school in Phoenix, Arizona. Hanjour also attends ground school and pays just under $7,500 for the training. Despite only completing 21 of his originally scheduled 34 hours of simulator training, according to the FBI this is the best-trained of the four hijacker pilots (see Spring-Summer 2001). However, an instructor comments: “Student made numerous errors during performance… including a lack of understanding of some basic concepts… Some of the concepts involved in large jet systems cannot be fully comprehended by someone with only small prop plane experience.” [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia; Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 pdf file] The school contacts the FAA to warn it of Hanjour’s poor English and flying skills (see January-February 2001).

Entity Tags: Hani Hanjour, JetTech

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to an associate of the 9/11 hijackers, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and flight school owner Rudi Dekkers, the hijackers have more training on large jets than the FBI will disclose. The FBI will say that the four hijacker pilots never fly real large jets before 9/11 and have a total of approximately 17 sessions on large aircraft simulators, mostly on older models:
bullet Both Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi each take two sessions lasting 90 minutes on a Boeing 727 simulator and one session on a simulator for a Boeing 767, the type of aircraft they fly on 9/11 (see December 29-31, 2000);
bullet Ziad Jarrah, who flies a Boeing 757 on 9/11, has five sessions on 727s and 737s (see December 15, 2000-January 8, 2001);
bullet Hani Hanjour, who flies a Boeing 757 on 9/11, practices for a total of 21 hours on a Boeing 737-200 simulator (see February 8-March 12, 2001).
When he learns what the FBI believes is the extent of the hijackers’ training, bin al-Shibh will complain in a fax sent to a reporter after 9/11: “How do aviation experts evaluate the skill with which the aircraft were flown, especially the Pentagon attack—accurate and professional as it was? Is it credible that the executers had never before flown a Boeing? Is it credible they only had some lessons on small twin-engine aircrafts and some lessons on simulators?” Referring to the period in early 2001 after the pilots spend a few hours practicing on simulators, bin al-Shibh will say, “What they needed was more flying hours, more training on simulators of large commercial planes such as Boeing 747s and Boeing 767s, as well as studying security precautions in all airports.” However, apparently bin al-Shibh does not mention exactly when or where such additional training took place, if in fact it did. [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 24-6, 38, 134] Interviewed two days after 9/11, Dekkers, at whose flight school Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi initially trained (see July 6-December 19, 2000), will comment, “After the training they had here they went to another flight school in Pompano Beach and they had jet training there, simulator or big planes, but there is where they conducted the training to do what they had to do.” Dekkers will say that he has heard this “from several directions.” However, the Pompano Beach school is not named. [Dekkers, 9/13/2001]

Entity Tags: Ziad Jarrah, Rudi Dekkers, Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Hani Hanjour

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi purchases a World aeronautical chart covering the northeastern United States from a store in Phoenix, Arizona. In addition, he purchases a National Geographic road atlas, a Unique Media map of the US, and a Unique Media map of New York City. He also purchases flight deck videos around this time (see November 5, 2000-June 20, 2001). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 31 pdf file] Alhazmi is living with hijacker Hani Hanjour, who is in pilot training (see January-February 2001 and February 8-March 12, 2001). Alhazmi also says he is learning to be a pilot at this time (see (December 2000-January 2001)).

Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Todd Lewis.Todd Lewis. [Source: NBC]After air traffic controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport notice an unidentified aircraft, later determined to be Flight 77, approaching Washington on their radar screens (see (Between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001), they initially think it is a military fighter plane, due to its high speed and the way it is being flown. [ABC News, 10/24/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] Yet the alleged hijacker pilot of Flight 77 has been known for his poor flying skills. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001; New York Times, 5/4/2002]
Aircraft Performs Elaborate Maneuver - The Dulles controllers are unable to identify the plane because its transponder—which transmits identifying information about an aircraft to radar screens—has been turned off (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001] It is flying at almost 500 miles per hour while approaching Washington, and then performs a rapid downward spiral, “dropping the last 7,000 feet in two and a half minutes,” before hitting the Pentagon (see 9:34 a.m.- 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CBS News, 9/21/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002]
Moving 'Like a Military Aircraft' - Controller Danielle O’Brien will later recall: “The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air traffic controllers, that that was a military plane. You don’t fly a 757 in that manner. It’s unsafe.” [ABC News, 10/24/2001] Another controller, Todd Lewis, will recall: “[N]obody knew that was a commercial flight at the time. Nobody knew that was American 77.… I thought it was a military flight. I thought that Langley [Air Force Base] had scrambled some fighters and maybe one of them got up there.… It was moving very fast, like a military aircraft might move at a low altitude.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
Alleged Pilot 'Could Not Fly at All' - Yet many people who have met Hani Hanjour, the hijacker allegedly at the controls of Flight 77, considered him to be a very poor pilot (see October 1996-December 1997, 1998, February 8-March 12, 2001, and (April-July 2001)). Just a month previously, an airport refused to rent him a single-engine Cessna plane because instructors there found his flying skills so weak (see Mid-August 2001). [Gazette (Greenbelt), 9/21/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001] And an employee at a flight school Hanjour attended earlier in the year will later comment: “I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon. He could not fly at all” (see January-February 2001). [New York Times, 5/4/2002]

Entity Tags: Hani Hanjour, Todd Lewis, Danielle O’Brien, Washington Dulles International Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Before crashing into the Pentagon, Flight 77 performs a rapid downward spiral, flying almost a complete circle and descending 7,000 feet in two and a half minutes. [CBS News, 9/21/2001]
330-Degree Turn - At 9:34 a.m., Flight 77 is about 3.5 miles west-southwest of the Pentagon. But, at an altitude of around 7,000 feet, it is flying too high to hit its target. [CBS News, 9/21/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001; National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 pdf file] Based on an analysis of radar data and information from the plane’s flight data recorder, a 2002 National Transportation Safety Board report will describe the maneuver the aircraft then performs: “[Flight 77] started a right 330-degree descending turn to the right. At the end of the turn, the aircraft was at about 2,000 feet altitude and four miles southwest of the Pentagon. Over the next 30 seconds, power was increased to near maximum and the nose was pitched down in response to control column movements.” The aircraft accelerates to about 530 miles per hour as it closes in on the Pentagon. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 pdf file]
Controllers Watch on Radar - Air Traffic Controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport follow Flight 77 on their radar screens as it performs this maneuver. Danielle O’Brien will later recall: “John, our supervisor, relayed verbatim, ‘OK, he’s 12 miles west, he’s moving very fast eastbound.… Eleven miles west.’ And it was just a countdown. Ten miles west, nine miles west.… And it went six, five, four, and I had it in my mouth to say three, and all of a sudden the plane turned away. In the room it was almost a sense of relief.” [ABC, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001] Todd Lewis will recall that the aircraft “was heading right towards a prohibited area in downtown Washington.… Then it turned south and away from the prohibited area, which seemed like a momentary sigh of relief, and it disappeared. But it was going away from Washington, which seemed to be the right thing.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] However, O’Brien will continue: “[T]he plane turned back. He continued in the right-hand turn, made a 360-degree maneuver.… We lost radar contact with that aircraft. And we waited. And we waited.” [ABC, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001]
Maneuver Indicates Advanced Flying Skills - According to CBS News, “The steep turn” made by Flight 77 “was so smooth… sources say, it’s clear there was no fight for control going on.” The “complex maneuver suggests the hijackers had better flying skills than many investigators first believed.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001] Aviation experts will conclude that this maneuver was the work of “a great talent… virtually a textbook turn and landing.” [Washington Post, 9/10/2002] Due to the aircraft’s high speed and the way it is being flown, Dulles Airport controllers mistake it for a military fighter jet (see (9:25 a.m.-9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Yet the hijacker allegedly at the controls, Hani Hanjour, was considered to be a very poor pilot at numerous flight schools he attended (see October 1996-December 1997, 1998, January-February 2001, February 8-March 12, 2001, (April-July 2001), and Mid-August 2001). [Washington Post, 9/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Todd Lewis, National Transportation Safety Board, Danielle O’Brien, John Hendershot, Washington Dulles International Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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