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Context of 'November 24, 1996: Passenger Plane Suicide Attack Narrowly Averted'

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A hijacked airliner crashes into the shallow waters off the coast of a resort in the Comoros Islands.A hijacked airliner crashes into the shallow waters off the coast of a resort in the Comoros Islands. [Source: SIPA] (click image to enlarge)Several Ethiopians take over a passenger airliner and let it run out of fuel. Hijackers fight with the pilot as they try to steer the plane into a resort on a Comoros Islands beach in the Indian Ocean, but seconds before reaching the resort the pilot is able to crash the plane into shallow waters instead, 500 yards short of the resort. One hundred and twenty-three of the 175 passengers and crew die. [New York Times, 11/25/1996; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/26/1996; Houston Chronicle, 11/26/1996]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An advertisement for ‘The Lone Gunmen.’An advertisement for ‘The Lone Gunmen.’ [Source: Fox]The pilot episode of a short-lived Fox television program involves a scenario chillingly similar to the 9/11 attacks that occur six months later. In the episode of The Lone Gunmen, which is a spin-off of the popular show The X-Files, a small, radical faction within the US government takes over a large passenger jet plane from the ground, using remote control, and then tries to crash it into the World Trade Center. Their intention is to blame the attack on foreign terrorists and therefore revive the arms race. Their plot is thwarted at the last moment, with the pilots regaining control of the plane and steering it upwards over the Twin Towers. [Knight Ridder, 9/14/2001; Jack Myers Report, 6/20/2002 pdf file] In the program, the plane is destined for Boston, where two of the hijacked aircraft will in fact take off from on September 11. [Fox Television, 3/4/2001; Boston Globe, 9/12/2001] One of its stars, Bruce Harwood, will later call the storyline a “strange awful coincidence,” and add, “[W]ho knows if it was the source of inspiration for September 11.” [Mirror, 11/26/2002] Ratings are good for the show, with 13 million people watching it. [TV Guide, 3/9/2001] Yet despite the similarity to the actual attacks on the WTC, there will be very little commentary about this after September 11. Media commentator Jack Myers will observe, “This seems to be collective amnesia of the highest order.” [Jack Myers Report, 6/20/2002 pdf file] A best selling 1994 novel by Tom Clancy had similarly included a large passenger jet used as a weapon, being deliberately crashed into the US Capitol building (see August 17, 1994). [Newsday, 5/20/2002]

Entity Tags: Jack Myers, World Trade Center, Bruce Harwood

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Personnel and aircraft at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana are participating in the annual US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) when the first crash at the World Trade Center is reported on television. [US Department of Defense, 5/1997; Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002]
Nuclear Weapons Are Being Loaded onto Bombers - Global Guardian is based around the scenario of a rogue nation attacking the United States with nuclear weapons. At Barksdale, according to journalists Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, air crews taking part in the exercise have been “pulling nuclear bombs and missiles out of their heavily guarded storage sites and loading them aboard B-52s” this morning. Real, live nuclear weapons are being used, but “their triggers [are] not armed.” [Schmitt and Shanker, 2011, pp. 22] “We were in the midst of this big annual exercise called Global Guardian. They loaded all the bombers, put the submarines out to sea, put the [intercontinental ballistic missiles] at nearly 100 percent,” Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale, will later recall. “It was routine, you did it every year,” he will add. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Officers Realize America's Security Is at Risk - Colonel Mike Reese, director of staff for the 8th Air Force, is monitoring several television screens at the base as part of the exercise when he sees CNN cut into coverage of the first crash at the WTC, two minutes after it happens (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). He will see the second hijacked plane crashing into the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). He will recall that at this point: “[W]e knew it wasn’t a mistake. Something grave was happening that put the nation’s security at risk.”
Exercise Participants Switch to Defending the Base - The New Orleans Times-Picayune will describe how awareness of the real attacks impacts those participating in the exercise, stating: “Immediately their focus turned to defense, securing Barksdale, Minot [North Dakota], and Whiteman [Missouri] air force bases, where dozens of aircraft and hundreds of personnel were involved in the readiness exercise ‘Global Guardian.’ The exercise abruptly ended as the United States appeared to be at war within its own borders.” [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002]
Air Force Becomes Concerned about a Plane Being Crashed into the B-52s - The Air Force will be particularly concerned that terrorists might try to crash a hijacked plane into the B-52s with nuclear weapons on board that are on the tarmac at Barksdale. Although an attack of this kind would not set off a nuclear blast, it could cause a large explosion. “You would destroy half of Bossier City, Louisiana, with the explosions,” Al Buckles, Stratcom’s deputy director for operations, will comment. He will add: “That would have been a way to really cripple us. All these nuclear weapons were exposed.” [Omaha World-Herald, 9/9/2016] Four A-10s, aircraft not designed for air-to-air combat, from Barksdale’s 47th Fighter Squadron, will be placed on “cockpit alert,” the highest state of readiness for fighter pilots. “Within five minutes,” according to the Times-Picayune, “the A-10s, equipped only with high-intensity cannons, could have been launched to destroy unfriendly aircraft, even if it was a civilian passenger airliner.” Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Walker, commander of the 47th Fighter Squadron, and a novice pilot still in training will be sitting in their jets, ready to take off, when they are ordered back to the squadron office. They will be told they are no longer practicing. Walker will recall: “We had to defend the base against any aircraft, airliner, or civilian. We had no idea. Would it fly to the base and crash into the B-52s or A-10s on the flight line?” [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] When Air Force One with President Bush on board takes off from Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:55 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), it will initially have no fixed destination. But after a short time, it will begin heading toward Barksdale Air Force Base and land there at 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39, 325]

Entity Tags: Barksdale Air Force Base, Edmund Walker, Thomas Keck, Global Guardian, Mike Reese, Alfred Buckles

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to the later-recovered Flight 93 cockpit voice recording, around this time one hijacker in the cockpit says to another, “Let the guys in now.” A hijacker says, “Should we let the guys in?” and another says, “Inform them, and tell him to talk to the pilot. Bring the pilot back.” It’s not clear if this is a reference to an original pilot or a hijacker pilot. According to one description of passenger Todd Beamer’s call from the plane, a flight attendant can be overheard in the background saying that two men lying on the floor in first class are the plane’s captain and co-pilot, indicating that they are already dead (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). But it is not possible to determine the fate of the two pilots from the cockpit voice recording, and investigators will be unsure as to whether they were killed or allowed to live. [Longman, 2002, pp. 199 and 208-209; Associated Press, 4/12/2006]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

On Flight 93, Jeremy Glick is still on the phone with his wife, Lyz. He tells her that the passengers are taking a vote if they should try to take over the plane or not. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] He later says that all the men on the plane have voted to attack the hijackers. [Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001] When asked about weapons, he says they don’t have guns, just knives. This appears to contradict an earlier mention of guns. His wife gets the impression from him that the hijacker standing nearby, claiming to hold the bomb, would be easy to overwhelm. [Longman, 2002, pp. 153-154]

Entity Tags: Jeremy Glick, Lyz Glick

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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