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Profile: Clearwater Airpark
Clearwater Airpark was a participant or observer in the following events:
Clearwater Airpark. [Source: Douglas R. Clifford / St. Petersburg Times]9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi reportedly spend at least 30 minutes practicing landing a single-engine plane at Clearwater Airpark, Florida, after it has closed for the night. This is according to Daniel Pursell, the chief instructor at Huffman Aviation, the Venice flight school attended by the two during the latter half of 2000 (see July 6-December 19, 2000). What they are doing at Clearwater is unknown. Their activities draw the attention of a police aide acting as a night watchman, who leaves a voice message at Huffman complaining about the incident. The plane is subsequently identified as having been rented by Atta and Alshehhi. Pursell, along with fellow instructor Thierry Leklou, reprimands them when they return to Venice the following morning. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the two leave Huffman shortly afterwards. This incident first surfaces publicly in 2006, when Pursell testifies at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. However, others will dispute his allegations. Local police say no incident reports were filed describing the event, and neither the FAA nor city have any record of unauthorized landings during this period. According to Bill Morris, Clearwater’s marine and aviation director, a police aide would have called for backup and recorded the plane’s details in a log, rather than calling Huffman. He says even if the aide had wanted to contact the plane’s owner, it would have been impossible to ascertain who this was at night, as allegedly occurred, because the FAA’s offices would have been closed. [CNN, 3/23/2006; St. Petersburg Times, 3/30/2006; Clearwater Citizen, 4/6/2006] Furthermore, Atta and Alshehhi supposedly finished training at Huffman Aviation in December 2000, and the school’s owner Rudi Dekkers will claim Huffman last heard from them around the end of that month. [US Congress, 3/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 17 ] However, a similar incident to this is known to have occurred previously, where Atta and Alshehhi abandoned one of Huffman’s planes at Miami International Airport (see December 26, 2000). [CNN, 3/23/2006] And according to the 9/11 Commission, after passing their instrument rating airplane tests on November 6, 2000, the pair was “able to sign out planes. They did so on a number of occasions, often returning at 2:00 and 3:00 A.M. after logging four or five hours of flying time.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 15 ] The St. Petersburg Times reports that Atta and Alshehhi “would rent a plane from Huffman and be gone for days at a time, Pursell said. They could fly to 20 airports across the state and never be noticed.” [St. Petersburg Times, 3/30/2006]
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