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Profile: Tim Nelson

Tim Nelson was a participant or observer in the following events:

Hugh Sims (left) and Tim Nelson (right).Hugh Sims (left) and Tim Nelson (right). [Source: Flysouth and Andy King / Associated Press]Flight engineer Tim Nelson and pilot Hugh Sims, who work at the Pan Am International Flight School where Zacarias Moussaoui trains to fly a Boeing 747-400, are immediately suspicious of Moussaoui, and their suspicions continue to grow after his arrival because:
bullet He sends unusual emails that are signed “zuluman tangotango” and laced with grammatical errors, even though he says he is a British businessman; [CNN, 3/2/2006] His e-mails also include abnormal comments such as, “E[mail] is not secure;” [Newsweek, 10/1/2001]
bullet He pays most of his $8,300 fee in hundred dollar bills. This makes Nelson suspicious, because he thinks cash is hard to track; [New York Times, 2/8/2002; Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 4/24/2005; CNN, 3/2/2006]
bullet He is alone, whereas most trainees arrive in groups; [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 4/24/2005]
bullet He says he wants to fly a 747 not because he plans to be a pilot, but as an “ego boosting thing.” However, within hours of his arrival, it is clear he is “not some affluent joyrider,” as he is shabbily dressed; [New York Times, 2/8/2002; New York Times, 10/18/2002; Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 4/24/2005]
bullet In addition, it is unusual that he has no aviation background, very little experience, and no pilot’s license. All other pilots at the center, even “vanity pilots”—wealthy individuals who just want the thrill of flying a large jet—have many times more flying hours than Moussaoui and are all licensed; [US Congress, 10/17/2002; Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 4/24/2005; Rake, 5/2005]
bullet He has flown for 57 hours at flight school in Oklahoma, but not yet flown solo, which is unusual. The school’s manager of pilot training, Alan McHale, will later comment, “My worst student was a grandma, and I got her to solo after 21 hours;” [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 4/24/2005]
bullet He is not just buying a one-period joyride, but a whole course; [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 4/24/2005]
bullet He seems determined to pack a large amount of training in a short period for no apparent reason; [New York Times, 2/8/2002]
bullet He is “extremely” interested in the operation of the plane’s doors and control panel. [US Congress, 10/17/2002] He also is very keen to learn the protocol for communicating with the flight tower, despite claiming to have no plans to become an actual pilot; [New York Times, 2/8/2002]
bullet He talks to some Syrian airline pilots training at the facility, and the pilots tell Nelson that Moussaoui is fluent in Arabic. Nelson, who is already worried Moussaoui might be up to no good, thinks, “One more red flag;” [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 4/24/2005; CNN, 3/2/2006]
bullet The school’s accountant complains that Moussaoui’s payment is a couple of hundred dollars short, but that he does not have a credit card with him, even though he says he is an international businessman; [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 4/24/2005] and
Nelson thinks back to an incident in Japan when the captain was stabbed to death and the killer then flew the plane for 45 minutes before the co-captain regained control. He is concerned Moussaoui might perform a suicide hijacking, “Here’s the problem: You’ve got an aircraft that weighs upwards of 900,000 pounds fully loaded and carries between 50,000 and 57,000 gallons of jet fuel. If you fly it at 350 knots [about 400 miles per hour] into a heavily populated area, you’re going to kill a boatload of people.” After talking to instructor Clancy Prevost, who is also suspicious of Moussaoui (see August 13-15, 2001), both Sims and Nelson independently decide to call the FBI and Moussaoui is arrested soon after the calls are made (see August 16, 2001). [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 4/24/2005]

Entity Tags: Tim Nelson, Zacarias Moussaoui, Alan McHale, Hugh Sims

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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