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Profile: Pan Am International Flight School

Pan Am International Flight School was a participant or observer in the following events:

The Pan Am Boeing 767 flight simulator used by the hijackers.The Pan Am Boeing 767 flight simulator used by the hijackers. [Source: FBI]Having finished their flight training at Huffman Aviation and passed their commercial pilot license tests (see August 14-December 19, 2000), future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi spend December 29 and 30 at the SimCenter flight school at Opa-Locka Airport, near Miami. Saying they want to join an Egyptian airline and need experience in a large plane, they each pay $1,500 in cash and spend six hours, split over the two days, training in the school’s Boeing 727 simulator. Henry George, the school’s owner who trains them, will later describe their training as a “mini, mini introduction,” and say they spend most of their time practicing maneuvers and turns. George will describe Atta and Alshehhi as “average pilots,” and say they are “quite ordinary. They were respectful and quiet almost to the point of being shy.” [New York Times, 9/15/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/2001; Aviation International News, 11/2001; BBC, 12/12/2001] The FBI will claim that Atta and Alshehhi spend December 31 at Pan Am International, also in Opa-Locka, training on a Boeing 767 simulator there. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant, 3/7/2006] Yet no other reports, including the 9/11 Commission Report, will mention this. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel will specifically claim the alleged hijackers “never approached Pan Am,” although it will not say how it arrived at this conclusion. It will point out that, in contrast to the 767s Atta and Alshehhi allegedly pilot on 9/11, the 727 the two men train to fly at the SimCenter “is a rather old three-engine jet with an old-fashioned cockpit, including a cramped instrument panel loaded down with small dials, knobs, and gauges.… But the 767 and 757 have highly sophisticated ‘glass cockpits,’ featuring video screens and digital readouts, and requiring an advanced level of computer skills.” Furthermore, according to Steven Wallach, an aviation consultant and former airline captain, if the hijackers “took the controls at high altitude and a long distance from their targets, then they likely had considerable training in a 767 or 757. They would have had to descend and navigate to Washington and New York. They would have had to know how to operate the autopilot, as well as other intricate functions.” However, “if the hijackers took over the controls at the last moment, that would indicate a minimum of 767-757 training.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/22/2001] SimCenter owner Henry George will claim: “I suppose Atta had just enough training to keep the plane in the air—how to make turns and move it up and down. He could not, however, have taxied a 757 or 767 from the gate, got it airborne, or landed it safely.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/14/2001]

Entity Tags: SimCenter, Henry George, Pan Am International Flight School, Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Pan Am International Flight School.Pan Am International Flight School. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)Although some staff at the Pan Am International Flight School became a little suspicious of Zacarias Moussaoui before he arrived (see August 11-15, 2001), within two days of his arrival at the school, Moussaoui’s behaviour makes his assigned instructor Clancy Prevost highly suspicious. This is because:
bullet Moussaoui has only flown for under 60 hours, whereas the second least experienced student Prevost ever had had 10 times as many hours. This lack of experience means Moussaoui does not really understand the instruction; [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/9/2006]
bullet When Moussaoui is asked what his goal is, he tells Prevost he wants to fly a 747 from London to New York, the same goal he gave in his original e-mail to the flight school. [Rake, 5/2005] This raises fears he has plans to hijack such a flight; [US Congress, 10/17/2002]
bullet When Prevost relates a story about a charter flight in the Middle East where getting the doors open was a problem, the story causes Prevost to ask Moussaoui whether he is a Muslim and Moussaoui replies in a strange tone, “I am nothing.” This makes Prevost worry so much that he ends the session, goes back to his motel, and calls the flight school to express his reservations about Moussaoui. He talks to his manager in the morning and says, “We’ll care [about having trained Moussaoui] when there’s a hijacking and he knows how to throw the switches and put them in the right position and all the lawsuits start coming in when they figure out we taught him how to do this”;
bullet Prevost then goes into a supervisors’ meeting and recommends calling the FBI, but becomes even more upset when he is told Moussaoui paid for his training in $100 bills.
As Moussaoui does not learn much during the day, Prevost invites him to observe a simulator session that evening, which Moussaoui does with interest. The following day Prevost meets the FBI, which has now been alerted by the school, and shares his feeling it would be a good idea to do a background check on Moussaoui. The FBI subsequently arrests Moussaoui (see August 16, 2001). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/9/2006] Some claims later made about Moussaoui in the media may be inaccurate:
bullet He is said to mostly practice flying in the air, not taking off or landing. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 12/21/2001; New York Times, 2/8/2002; Slate, 5/21/2002; New York Times, 5/22/2002] However, he is arrested after ground instruction and never flies the simulator, so it is unclear how this could happen. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/9/2006] 9/11 Congressional Inquiry staff director Eleanor Hill will also later say that the reports saying he only wanted to pilot a plane in the air are untrue. [US Congress, 9/24/2002] In addition, the 9/11 Commission will comment, “Contrary to popular belief, Moussaoui did not say he was not interested in learning how to take off or land”; [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004]
bullet It will be reported that he appears not to understand French, despite being from France, and does not specify the Middle Eastern country he says he comes from. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 12/21/2001; Washington Post, 1/2/2002] However, at the trial Prevost will recall that Moussaoui spoke good French and that Moussaoui told him he had both French and Moroccan passports. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 3/9/2006]
Prevost will later receive a controversial $5 million reward from the US Department of State’s Reward for Justice program. [Newsweek, 1/30/2008]

Entity Tags: Clancy Prevost, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Zacarias Moussaoui, Pan Am International Flight School

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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