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Context of 'February 15, 2001: 9/11 Hijacker Atta and Alshehhi Offered Jobs as Co-Pilots with New Florida Airline'

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Rudi Dekkers.Rudi Dekkers. [Source: Peter Muhly / Agence France-Presse]9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi move from New York to Venice, Florida. [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/16/2001] They arrive at Huffman Aviation, a flying school at Venice Municipal Airport, on July 1, according to the school’s owner Rudi Dekkers, inquiring about taking lessons there. They are reported to also check out a flight school in Oklahoma at the beginning of this month (see July 2-3, 2000). They then return to Huffman—on July 3 according the Dekkers—and begin flight instruction, subsequently enrolling in the school’s Accelerated Pilot Program. When they register at the school, Atta and Alshehhi use their real names. Dekkers later states that they say they are unhappy with a flying school they attended up north, though he gives no details about the identity of this school. It will later be claimed that Atta and Alshehhi attended a flight school in Punta Gorda before moving to Venice (see Before July 2000). However, Punta Gorda is south, not north, of Venice. Paying by check, Atta will give $18,703.50 in total for his lessons, while Alshehhi gives $20,917.63. The money necessary to cover their training is sent to them in a series of transfers from Dubai (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000). [Washington Post, 9/19/2001; Washington Post, 9/30/2001; US Congress, 3/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 224; St. Petersburg Times, 7/25/2004] Huffman’s owner Rudi Dekkers has what the St. Petersburg Times will describe as “a long history of troubled businesses, run-ins with the Federal Aviation Administration and numerous lawsuits.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/25/2004] After 9/11 he will face even more lawsuits (see August 23, 2001-April 2004).

Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Mohamed Atta, Huffman Aviation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Steve Kona.Steve Kona. [Source: Sarasota Herald Tribune]While attending Huffman Aviation flight school in Venice, Florida, alleged 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi move into a small, furnished two-bedroom house in Nokomis, about ten miles north of Venice, which they rent for $550 per month. Noting that Atta and Alshehhi also drive a ten-year-old car, Steve Kona, who owns the house, later says, “This house is nothing extravagant at all… It’s not like they were living in a $3,000-a-month rental home and driving a Mercedes.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/20/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/2001] Kona says, “Atta I never met.” But he talks to Alshehhi “two or three times because I’d go to mow the grass. He was very friendly.” The pair refuses Kona’s offer of free cable TV, don’t use the house’s air conditioning, even in the middle of summer, and leave the place in spotless condition. Although they rent the house for as long as six months, Jeff Duignan, who lives next door, later says, “I never saw them, and when you don’t see them you don’t worry about them.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/14/2001; Miami Herald, 9/15/2001; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/2001; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2006] This apparent absence could be explained by the fact that, according to several witnesses, over about this same duration they live in an apartment in Venice (see (Mid-July 2000 - Early January 2001)). Atta and Alshehhi were evicted from their previous address, in Venice (see Early July 2000). When Rudi Dekkers, the owner of Huffman Aviation, testifies before Congress in 2002, he will claim, “After their eviction there was no mention of where they were staying.” [US Congress, 3/19/2002] No explanation is ever given as to why they have two separate residences at the same time. However, a private consumer database will later reveal that Atta had 12 addresses, including two places where he lived and ten safe houses, so the Nokomis address could possibly be one of these safe houses (see Mid-September 2001). Interestingly, another hijacker, Ziad Jarrah, also has a second residence he never stays at while he attends flight school in Venice (see (June 28-December 2000)).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Jeff Duignan, Steve Kona

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Rudi Dekkers, who owns the Venice, Florida flight school attended by 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, sets up his own commuter airline called Florida Air (FLAIR), which flies out of Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. FLAIR, which also goes by the name Sunrise Airlines, will only be in service for a couple of months in 2001, and eventually has its operating authority revoked by the Department of Transportation. [Venice Gondolier Sun, 3/3/2001; Transportation, 2/14/2002, pp. 6963 pdf file; Venice Gondolier Sun, 1/25/2003; St. Petersburg Times, 7/25/2004] Yet, at the same time as he is establishing FLAIR, Dekkers fails to pay his rent for Huffman Aviation flight school on time six months in a row, from February to July 2001, blaming this partly on tight cash flow. [Charlotte Sun, 9/13/2001] According to the 9/11 Commission, at some point in their flight training Rudi Dekkers offers Atta and Alshehhi jobs as co-pilots for FLAIR. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 38 pdf file] Yet they are supposed to have completed training at Huffman Aviation two months earlier, in December 2000, after which Dekkers claims he never saw them again. [US Congress, 3/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 227; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 17 pdf file] Considering he reportedly offers him a job with his airline, it seems odd that Dekkers later claims having much disliked Atta when he was at Huffman. He will say he thought Atta was “very arrogant,” and that “My personal feeling was Atta was an asshole first class… I just didn’t like the guy… Sometimes you have that impression from when you meet people in the field and that was my first impression.” [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/21/2001; BBC, 12/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Mohamed Atta, Florida Air, Rudi Dekkers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The crash of Arne Kruithof’s plane at Venice Municipal Airport.The crash of Arne Kruithof’s plane at Venice Municipal Airport. [Source: Public domain]Within the space of seven months, the owners of two Venice, Florida flight schools attended by several of the alleged 9/11 suicide pilots are separately in serious air accidents. On June 26, 2002, Arne Kruithof, whose Florida Flight Training Center was attended by Ziad Jarrah, survives a crash at the Venice Municipal Airport. He is a passenger in a twin-engine plane, which suddenly pulls to the left when about 50 feet off the runway and the pilot is unable to regain control. All the passengers are uninjured, but the plane is damaged extensively. [Venice Gondolier Sun, 6/29/2002] On January 24, 2003, Rudi Dekkers, whose Huffman Aviation was attended by Marwan Alshehhi and Mohamed Atta, crashes his helicopter. He is flying to work early in the morning for a meeting with a competitor, to sell his flight school to them. Ten minutes after takeoff, his engine cuts out and he crashes into a river. He is rescued from the ice-cold water by a friend and fellow helicopter pilot who pulls him to shore. He arrives in Venice later in the day, and is able to proceed with the sale of Huffman Aviation. Two days earlier, the Associated Press had announced that Dekkers was to be arrested on felony fraud charges (see August 23, 2001-April 2004). [Associated Press, 1/22/2003; Associated Press, 1/24/2003; Venice Gondolier Sun, 1/25/2003; Naples Daily News, 1/25/2003; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 1/28/2003] In 2011, Dekkers will say that he is convinced someone tried to kill him, although he doesn’t know who. “The fuel lines were cut.” [Miami Herald, 5/5/2011]

Entity Tags: Rudi Dekkers, Huffman Aviation, Arne Kruithof

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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