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Context of 'September 14, 2001-2002: Contrary Accounts of Flight 93’s Speed Raise Questions'

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In the weeks following 9/11, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) assists the FBI in its response to the attacks. Over 60 NTSB employees work at the scenes of the crashes—the Pentagon, Pennsylvania, and New York—and at the board’s headquarters in Washington, DC, helping to identify aircraft parts, searching for and analyzing the flight recorders, and assisting the victims’ families. [National Transportation Safety Board, 9/13/2001; US Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce, 6/25/2002] However, unusually, none of the four planes that crashed are the subject of formal NTSB investigations. According to Vern Grose, a highly respected air disaster analyst and former NTSB member: “First of all, after any aircraft crash, the NTSB [normally] launches what they call a ‘go team’ within two hours and that go team will have up to twelve people on it. Specialists in airframe, in engines, in electronics, in human factors. And these folks all go to the scene—they isolate the scene. From that point on, it’s the NTSB’s responsibility.” But with the crashes on 9/11, Grose says, “it’s my understanding that it did not occur exactly like that. They may have launched an NTSB crew, but it never took the same course a normal investigation would have.” [Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 40-41] The NTSB says that, because the four crashes were “criminal acts,” the FBI is consequently the “lead investigative agency.” [National Transportation Safety Board, 9/13/2001] Therefore, the NTSB will later state that it “did not determine the probable cause” of any of the four crashes, “and does not plan to issue a report or open a public docket.” [National Transportation Safety Board, 3/7/2006; National Transportation Safety Board, 3/7/2006; National Transportation Safety Board, 3/7/2006; National Transportation Safety Board, 3/7/2006] However, even under these circumstances, Grose calls the lack of NTSB investigation “unacceptable.” He says, “Though the NTSB statute states the leadership of the investigation will defer to the FBI, the NTSB has still completed formal investigations into crashes deemed criminal acts.” It previously did so, for example, in the case of EgyptAir Flight 990, in which a pilot crashed a plane in an apparent suicide attempt (see October 31, 1999). [Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 41] The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette complains about the unconventional investigative process, specifically in relation to Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. It says that, while the NTSB is “a small government agency whose procedures are fairly open,” with the FBI instead handling the investigation, “everything, even the most minute details, are being kept under strict lock and key.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/4/2001] As well as the lack of an NTSB investigation, attempts at conducting a precise grid search of the Flight 93 crash site will be overruled by the FBI (see September 16, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 262]

Entity Tags: RobertMoomo, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Vern Grose

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

It is initially reported that Flight 93 was traveling fairly slowly when it crashed on September 11. Days after the attacks, the New York Times reports that Flight 93 “slammed into the ground at a speed that law enforcement authorities said might have approached 300 miles an hour.” [New York Times, 9/14/2001] Another newspaper reports, “Flight 93 slammed into the earth nose-first at over 200 mph, according to estimates by the National Transportation Safety Board and other experts.” [News Journal (Wilmington, DE), 9/16/2001] However, by 2002 it is being reported that the plane crashed going nearly 600 mph. [Longman, 2002, pp. 212] “It could have even broken the sound barrier for a while,” says Hank Krakowski, who was United Airlines’ director of flight operations on September 11. [New York Times, 3/27/2002] The design limits of the plane are 287 mph when flying below 10,000 feet. [Longman, 2002, pp. 208]

Entity Tags: RobertMoomo, Hank Krakowski

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bruce Ivins working as a Red Cross volunteer in 2003.Bruce Ivins working as a Red Cross volunteer in 2003. [Source: Associated Press]During a several day search of a pond near Frederick, Maryland, by FBI investigators for clues to the anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001), Scientist Bruce Ivins is there with the investigators, working as a Red Cross volunteer. Ivins will commit suicide in 2008 after coming under scrutiny as the FBI’s main suspect in the anthrax attacks (see July 29, 2008). The pond search is highly publicized at the time, and is an unsuccessful effort to find evidence connecting the attacks to Steven Hatfill, the FBI’s main suspect at the time (see December 12-17, 2002). The pond is near USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory where Ivins works and Hatfill used to work. As a Red Cross volunteer, Ivins serves coffee, donuts, and snacks to FBI agents and other investigators in a military tent. He is eventually removed after officials realize he is an anthrax researcher who could compromise the investigation. Apparently, Ivins is a regular Red Cross volunteer at the time. Miriam Fleming, another Red Cross volunteer working at the pond search, will later recall that Ivins “was kind of goofy, but he was always in a good mood. He seemed so normal.” [New York Times, 8/7/2008]

Entity Tags: Miriam Fleming, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bruce Ivins, Steven Hatfill

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

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