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Context of '(Between 9:30-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Cockpit Voice Recording Begins'

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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

The sound of fighting can be heard from the cockpit of Flight 93 as passengers apparently begin a sustained attempt to retake control of the plane. Passengers on Flight 93 begin their revolt at 9:57 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 9:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Observer, 12/2/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 13]
Hijacker Wonders if a Fight Is Taking Place - The cockpit voice recording from the plane will later reveal that hijackers in the cockpit, apparently aware of what is happening, start discussing the noise coming from outside the cockpit door around this time. Speaking in Arabic, one of them asks: “Is there something? A fight?” Another hijacker responds, “Yeah.” The sound of a light knock on the cockpit door is then picked up by the cockpit voice recorder, followed by the sound of the door opening. The sound of a male screaming in the distance is picked up, along with the sound of fighting in the background. One of the hijackers then apparently starts praying, saying: “Allah is greatest. Allah is greatest. Oh guys! Allah is greatest.” He then exclaims: “Oh Allah! Oh Allah! Oh, the most gracious!”
Hijacker Says to Hold the Cockpit Door Closed - As the sound of fighting continues, a person identified in an FBI transcript of the cockpit voice recording as a “native English-speaking male”—presumably one of the passengers—says: “In the cockpit! In the cockpit!” One of the hijackers, still speaking in Arabic, apparently comments on the passengers’ attempt to break into the cockpit. “They want to get in there,” he says. He then issues the instruction: “Hold [the door], hold from the inside. Hold from the inside. Hold.”
Passengers Struggle against the Hijackers - A male passenger then exclaims, “Stop him!” Apparently referring to the passengers, one of the hijackers says: “There are some guys. All those guys.” A male passenger says, “Let’s get them!” With the sound of fighting continuing in the background, one of the hijackers says, “Trust in Allah and in him.” In the space of 15 seconds, the cockpit voice recorder then picks up the sound of “a loud metal-to-metal snap,” the sound of a “loud thump,” a “series of very loud crashes,” and the sound of glasses and plates breaking. A hijacker shouts, “Ah!” and then the crashing sounds end. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12/4/2003; McMillan, 2014, pp. 102-103]
Investigators Will Determine that a 'Great Struggle' Occurs - The 9/11 Commission will suggest that the sounds picked up by Flight 93’s cockpit voice recorder at this time indicate that “a great struggle began at the back of the airplane and progressed toward the front.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 45] David Novak, the lead prosecutor in the case of al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, will theorize what happened, based on the cockpit voice recording, saying that the passengers have advanced into the cockpit, using a food cart as a shield. Officials will suggest that the crashing sounds that are picked up by the cockpit voice recorder “could have come as passengers hurled plates and glasses, or as the dishes fell from a meal cart when the plane’s wings began rocking,” according to journalist and author Jere Longman. [Longman, 2002, pp. 270-271]

Entity Tags: David Novak

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

The FBI reveals that it knows what is on the Flight 93 black boxes, but refuses to release the transcript or audio recording. Families of the victims have requested to hear the cockpit voice recording, but the FBI says, “[W]e do not believe that the horror captured on the cockpit voice recording will console them in any way.” [CNN, 12/21/2001] Accuracy in Media immediately submits a Freedom of Information Act request to have the transcript released, but the FBI turns it down because a release “could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.” The Philadelphia Daily News asks, “What enforcement proceedings?” and suggests the FBI may be covering up a shootdown of the plane. [Philadelphia Daily News, 12/28/2001] The recordings are later played, but only in private to victims’ relatives and the 9/11 Commission.

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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