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Context of '10:02 a.m. September 11, 2001: Cockpit Voice Recording Ends Early?'

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Key events of Flight 93 (times are based on a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette map and otherwise interopolated).Key events of Flight 93 (times are based on a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette map and otherwise interopolated). [Source: Yvonne Vermillion/ MagicGraphix.com] (click image to enlarge)Apparently, the only cockpit voice recording recovered undamaged from any of the 9/11 crashes is from Flight 93. It recorded on a 30-minute reel, which means that the tape is continually overwritten and only the final 30 minutes of any flight is recorded, though in practice sometimes the tape is slightly longer. Flight 93’s recording lasts 31 minutes and begins at this time. [Longman, 2002, pp. 206-207; CNN, 4/19/2002; Hartford Courant, 4/19/2004] According to one account, it begins seconds before the plane is hijacked. [Washington Post, 11/17/2001] However, the version of the tape later played for the victims’ relatives begins “too late to pick up the sounds of the hijackers’ initial takeover.” [MSNBC, 4/18/2002]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A hijacker in the cockpit of Flight 93 apparently suggests holding up the plane’s fire axe to the peephole in the cockpit door in the mistaken belief that the passengers will be able to see it and be scared by it. [Longman, 2002, pp. 209-210] The cockpit voice recording from Flight 93 will later reveal that, speaking in Arabic, one of the hijackers in the cockpit says to another: “The best thing: The guys will go in, [you] lift up the [unintelligible], and they put the axe into it. So, everyone will be scared.” The other hijacker replies, “Yes” and then the first hijacker repeats, “The axe.” Seconds later, he says: “Let him look through the window. Let him look through the window.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12/4/2003; McMillan, 2014, pp. 100] Federal officials will explain to the relatives of passengers and crew members on Flight 93 what they believe was happening at this time. The hijackers, journalist and author Jere Longman will describe, “in a bumbling manner, suggested holding the axe up to the peephole in the cockpit door, believing incorrectly that the riled passengers could see through the other end.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 209-210] Over the next couple of minutes, the cockpit voice recorder will pick up the sound of three knocks on the cockpit door, followed by the sound of the door opening and closing on two occasions. What exactly is happening at these times is unknown. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12/4/2003]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

One of the hijackers in the cockpit asks if anything is going on, apparently meaning outside the cockpit. “Fighting,” the other says. [Longman, 2002, pp. 210] An analysis of the cockpit flight recording suggests that the passenger struggle actually starts in the front of the plane (where Mark Bingham and Tom Burnett are sitting) about a minute before a struggle in the back of the plane (where Todd Beamer is sitting). [Observer, 12/2/2001] Officials later theorize that the Flight 93 passengers reach the cockpit using a food cart as a battering ram and a shield. They claim digital enhancement of the cockpit voice recorder reveals the sound of plates and glassware crashing around 9:57 a.m. [Newsweek, 12/3/2001]

Entity Tags: Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The cockpit voice recording of Flight 93 was recorded on a 30-minute reel, which means that the tape is continually overwritten and only the final 30 minutes of any flight would be recorded. The government later permits relatives to hear this tape. Apparently, the version of the tape played to the family members begins at 9:31 a.m. and runs for 31 minutes, ending one minute before, according to the government, the plane crashes. [Longman, 2002, pp. 206-207; CNN, 4/19/2002] The New York Observer comments, “Some of the relatives are keen to find out why, at the peak of this struggle, the tape suddenly stops recording voices and all that is heard in the last 60 seconds or so is engine noise. Had the tape been tampered with?” [New York Observer, 6/20/2004]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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