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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Q&A: Learning to fly a plane
How easy was it for those who hijacked the US aeroplanes to learn to fly?

BBC News Online spoke to an instructor at Florida's biggest flying school, to find out what it would take to control an aircraft like the 767.

What do you need to learn to fly at a school like yours?

Money. You can walk in off the street and do it, but it'll cost you $45,000 to do the full course.

You do not need any experience?

Like most schools in Florida we train people at all levels, many from scratch.

Do you carry out any vetting procedures?

The last thing we're looking for is potential terrorists

Flying instructor
There is no background check required for the training - if you've got the cash you can become a pilot. The last thing we're looking for are potential terrorists.

Why do people go to Florida?

Florida is the centre of the world's aviation training. There are more than 100 schools here, the weather is good for training and it tends to be much cheaper than elsewhere.

What kind people train at schools like yours?

Anyone and everyone. We get 19 and 20-year-olds who don't want to go to college and because the aviation job market has been so good here, we get people as old as their mid to late 40s retraining.

Do you get many students from overseas?

Lots of our students come from abroad because it's so much cheaper.

What does the training involve?

Students train in small single-engine aircraft and in the more advanced stages they move onto twin-engine aircraft. They can then move onto the simulators to train for the larger jets such as the 767. The simulators are so advanced you wouldn't have to step into a 767 to learn how to fly one.

How difficult is it?

It's not the most difficult thing in the world to fly an aircraft. If you are fairly switched on, with good hand-eye co-ordination, you can do the basic training in as little as two months.

Could you learn from a manual?

That would be very difficult but you can get fairly advanced flight simulators for an ordinary pc. There's one for the 767, that takes you through how the instruments work and how to work what's called the Flight Management Computer (FMC), which is what allows most modern aircraft to navigate from point A to point B.

How much training do you think these hijackers had?

I would say the guy in the second 767 which hit the World Trade Centre was pretty experienced - unless it was luck. He didn't just fly at the building, he manoeuvred it to cause maximum damage.

He put the aircraft into a 'slip', which is when you roll the aircraft wings but keep the nose aligned with the building and that requires you to roll the aircraft using one set of controls but keep the nose pointed in the same direction using the rudders. That's not something you can pick up from manuals.

How difficult would it have been for them to do what they did?

Not very difficult at all. As long as you can fly straight and level and you know how the controls operate the aircraft and have some idea how the aircraft is going to respond, flying straight into a building is not difficult.

Those aircraft were probably flying on autopilot and had the Flight Management Computer programmed. Knowing how to disengage that and reprogramme it to get from where they were to where they wanted to go would have been the most difficult thing.

See also:

14 Sep 01 | Americas
Nations grieve for US terror victims
14 Sep 01 | Americas
Manhunt widens beyond US borders
14 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair pledges action against terror
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