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Last Updated: Friday, 23 July, 2004, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Extract: 'We have some planes'

The report from the bipartisan commission set up to investigate the 11 September 2001 terror attacks describes in detail how the hijackings unfolded, and what is known of the final moments on board the four flights.


Among the travellers were Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz al-Omari, who arrived at the airport in Portland, Maine.

Atta and Omari boarded a 0600 flight from Portland to Boston's Logan International Airport.

When he checked in for his flight to Boston, Atta was selected by a computerised pre-screening system known as Capps (Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-screening System), created to identify passengers who should be subject to special security measures.

Under security rules in place at the time, the only consequence of Atta's selection by Capps was that his checked bags were held off the plane until it was confirmed that he had boarded the aircraft...

Atta and Omari arrived in Boston at 0645.

None of the checkpoint supervisors recalled the hijackers or reported anything suspicious regarding their screening
Seven minutes later, Atta apparently took a call from Marwan al-Shehhi, a long-time colleague who was at another terminal at Logan Airport.

They spoke for three minutes. It would be their final conversation.

Between 0645 and 0740, Atta and Omari, along with Satam al-Suqami, Wail al-Shehri and Waleed al Shehri, checked in and boarded American Airlines Flight 11, bound for Los Angeles...

None of the checkpoint supervisors recalled the hijackers or reported anything suspicious regarding their screening.

While Atta had been selected by Capps in Portland, three members of his hijacking team - Suqami, Wail al Shehri, and Waleed al Shehri - were selected in Boston.

Their selection affected only the handling of their checked bags, not their screening at the checkpoint.

All five men cleared the checkpoint and made their way to the gate for American 11...

They boarded American 11 between 0731 and 0740. The aircraft pushed back from the gate at 7:40...

Captain John Ogonowski and First Officer Thomas McGuinness piloted the Boeing 767.

It carried its full capacity of nine flight attendants. Eighty-one passengers boarded the flight with them (including the five terrorists).

The plane took off at 0759.

Just before 0814, it had climbed to 26,000ft, not quite its initial assigned cruising altitude of 29,000ft...

At that same time, American 11 had its last routine communication with the ground when it acknowledged navigational instructions from the FAA's air traffic control (ATC) centre in Boston.

Sixteen seconds after that transmission, ATC instructed the aircraft's pilots to climb to 35,000ft.

Most likely Wail al Shehri and Waleed al Shehri... stabbed the two unarmed flight attendants
That message and all subsequent attempts to contact the flight were not acknowledged...

Reports from two flight attendants in the coach cabin, Betty Ong and Madeline "Amy" Sweeney, tell us most of what we know about how the hijacking happened.

As it began, some of the hijackers - most likely Wail al Shehri and Waleed al Shehri, who were seated in row two in first class - stabbed the two unarmed flight attendants who would have been preparing for cabin service.

We do not know exactly how the hijackers gained access to the cockpit; FAA rules required that the doors remain closed and locked during flight...

At the same time or shortly thereafter, Atta - the only terrorist on board trained to fly a jet - would have moved to the cockpit from his business-class seat, possibly accompanied by Omari.

As this was happening, passenger Daniel Lewin, who was seated in the row just behind Atta and Omari, was stabbed by one of the hijackers - probably Satam al Suqami, who was seated directly behind Lewin.

Lewin had served four years as an officer in the Israeli military. He may have made an attempt to stop the hijackers in front of him, not realising that another was sitting behind him.

The hijackers quickly gained control and sprayed Mace, pepper spray, or some other irritant in the first-class cabin, in order to force the passengers and flight attendants toward the rear of the plane.

They claimed they had a bomb.

About five minutes after the hijacking began, Betty Ong contacted the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, via an air phone to report an emergency aboard the flight...

At 0819, Ong reported: "The cockpit is not answering, somebody's stabbed in business class - and I think there's Mace - that we can't breathe - I don't know, I think we're getting hijacked."

At 0823, the dispatcher tried unsuccessfully to contact the aircraft.

Six minutes later, the air traffic control specialist in American's operations centre contacted the FAA's Boston Air Traffic Control Centre about the flight...

Nobody move. Everything will be okay. If you try to make any moves, you'll endanger yourself and the airplane
Boston Centre knew of a problem on the flight in part because just before 0825 the hijackers had attempted to communicate with the passengers.

The microphone was keyed, and immediately one of the hijackers said: "Nobody move. Everything will be okay. If you try to make any moves, you'll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet."

Air traffic controllers heard the transmission; Ong did not. The hijackers probably did not know how to operate the cockpit radio communication system correctly, and thus inadvertently broadcast their message over the air traffic control channel instead of the cabin public-address channel.

Also at 0825, and again at 0829, Amy Sweeney got through to the American Flight Services Office in Boston but was cut off after she reported someone was hurt aboard the flight.

Three minutes later, Sweeney was reconnected to the office and began relaying updates to the manager, Michael Woodward.

At 0826, Ong reported that the plane was "flying erratically".

A minute later, Flight 11 turned south.

American also began getting identifications of the hijackers, as Ong and then Sweeney passed on some of the seat numbers of those who had gained unauthorised access to the cockpit.

Passengers in coach were under the impression that there was a routine medical emergency in first class
Sweeney calmly reported on her line that the plane had been hijacked; a man in first class had his throat slashed; two flight attendants had been stabbed - one was seriously hurt and was on oxygen while the other's wounds seemed minor; a doctor had been requested; the flight attendants were unable to contact the cockpit; and there was a bomb in the cockpit...

At 0838, Ong [said] that the plane was flying erratically again...

The aircraft was in a rapid descent.

At 0841, Sweeney told Woodward that passengers in coach were under the impression that there was a routine medical emergency in first class...

At 0844... Sweeney reported: "Something is wrong. We are in a rapid descent... we are all over the place."

Woodward asked Sweeney to look out the window to see if she could determine where they were.

Sweeney responded: "We are flying low. We are flying very, very low. We are flying way too low."

Seconds later she said, "Oh my God we are way too low."

The phone call ended.

At 08:46:40, American 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.


In another Logan terminal, Marwan al-Shehhi, joined by Fayez Banihammad, Mohand al-Shehri, Ahmed al-Ghamdi, and Hamza al-Ghamdi, checked in for United Airlines Flight 175, also bound for Los Angeles.

A couple of Shehhi's colleagues were obviously unused to travel; according to the United ticket agent, they had trouble understanding the standard security questions, and she had to go over them slowly until they gave the routine, reassuring answers.

Shehhi and his team... boarded United 175 between 0723 and 0728...

Captain Victor Saracini and First Officer Michael Horrocks piloted the Boeing 767, which had seven flight attendants. Fifty-six passengers boarded the flight.

United 175 pushed back from its gate at 0758 and departed Logan Airport at 0814.

By 0833, it had reached its assigned cruising altitude of 31,000ft...

At 0842 the United 175 flight crew completed their report on a "suspicious transmission" overheard from another plane (which turned out to have been Flight 11) just after takeoff.

The first operational evidence that something was abnormal... came at 0847, when the aircraft changed beacon codes twice within a minute
This was United 175's last communication with the ground.

The hijackers attacked sometime between 0842 and 0846.

They used knives (as reported by two passengers and a flight attendant), Mace (reported by one passenger), and the threat of a bomb (reported by the same passenger).

They stabbed members of the flight crew (reported by a flight attendant and one passenger).

Both pilots had been killed (reported by one flight attendant)...

The first operational evidence that something was abnormal on United 175 came at 0847, when the aircraft changed beacon codes twice within a minute.

I think they've taken over the cockpit - an attendant has been stabbed - and someone else up front may have been killed. The plane is making strange moves
Peter Hanson
Passenger on United 175
At 0851, the flight deviated from its assigned altitude, and a minute later New York air traffic controllers began repeatedly and unsuccessfully trying to contact it.

At 0852, in Easton, Connecticut, a man named Lee Hanson received a phone call from his son Peter, a passenger on United 175.

His son told him: "I think they've taken over the cockpit - an attendant has been stabbed - and someone else up front may have been killed. The plane is making strange moves. Call United Airlines -tell them it's Flight 175, Boston to LA."...

Also at 0852, a male flight attendant called a United office in San Francisco, reaching Marc Policastro.

The flight attendant reported that the flight had been hijacked, both pilots had been killed, a flight attendant had been stabbed, and the hijackers were probably flying the plane...

At 0858, the flight took a heading toward New York City.

At 0859, Flight 175 passenger Brian David Sweeney ... called his mother, Louise Sweeney, told her the flight had been hijacked, and added that the passengers were thinking about storming the cockpit to take control of the plane away from the hijackers.

At 0900, Lee Hanson received a second call from his son Peter: "It's getting bad, Dad - a stewardess was stabbed - they seem to have knives and Mace - they said they have a bomb - it's getting very bad on the plane - passengers are throwing up and getting sick - the plane is making jerky movements - I don't think the pilot is flying the plane - I think we are going down - I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building - don't worry, Dad - if it happens, it'll be very fast - my God, my God."

The call ended abruptly. Lee Hanson had heard a woman scream just before it cut off.

He turned on a television, and in her home so did Louise Sweeney.

Both then saw the second aircraft hit the World Trade Center.

At 09:03:11, United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center.


At 0715... Khalid al-Mihdhar and Majed Moqed, checked in at the American Airlines ticket counter for Flight 77, bound for Los Angeles.

Within the next 20 minutes, they would be followed by Hani Hanjour and two brothers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Salem al-Hazmi.

Hani Hanjour, Khalid al-Mihdhar, and Majed Moqed were flagged by Capps.

The Hazmi brothers were also selected for extra scrutiny by the airline's customer service representative at the check-in counter.

The only consequence of their selection was that their checked bags were held off the plane until it was confirmed that they had boarded
He did so because one of the brothers did not have photo identification nor could he understand English, and because the agent found both of the passengers to be suspicious.

The only consequence of their selection was that their checked bags were held off the plane until it was confirmed that they had boarded the aircraft...

At 0718, Mihdhar and Moqed entered the security checkpoint.

Mihdhar and Moqed placed their carry-on bags on the belt of the X-ray machine and proceeded through the first metal detector.

Both set off the alarm, and they were directed to a second metal detector... After Moqed set it off, a screener wanded him. He passed this inspection...

The hijackers used knives... and moved all the passengers (and possibly crew) to the rear of the aircraft...

Nawaf al-Hazmi set off the alarms for both the first and second metal detectors and was then hand-wanded before being passed...

The video footage indicates that he was carrying an unidentified item in his back pocket, clipped to its rim...

The aircraft was a Boeing 757 piloted by Captain Charles F Burlingame and First Officer David Charlebois.

There were four flight attendants... the flight carried 58 passengers.

American 77 pushed back from its gate at 0809 and took off at 0820.

At 0846, the flight reached its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000ft. Cabin service would have begun.

At 0851, American 77 transmitted its last routine radio communication. The hijacking began between 0851 and 0854...

The hijackers used knives (reported by one passenger) and moved all the passengers (and possibly crew) to the rear of the aircraft (reported by one flight attendant and one passenger)...

A passenger reported that an announcement had been made by the "pilot" that the plane had been hijacked...

At 0854, the aircraft deviated from its assigned course, turning south.

Two minutes later the transponder was turned off and even primary radar contact with the aircraft was lost...

At 0912, Renee May called her mother, Nancy May, in Las Vegas.

She said her flight was being hijacked by six individuals who had moved them to the rear of the plane. She asked her mother to alert American Airlines...

[Barbara Olson] reported that the flight had been hijacked, and the hijackers had knives and box cutters
At some point between 0916 and 0926, Barbara Olson called her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States.

She reported that the flight had been hijacked, and the hijackers had knives and box cutters... About a minute into the conversation, the call was cut off.

Solicitor General Olson tried unsuccessfully to reach Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Shortly after the first call, Barbara Olson reached her husband again. She reported that the pilot had announced that the flight had been hijacked, and she asked her husband what she should tell the captain to do.

Ted Olson asked for her location and she replied that the aircraft was then flying over houses.

Another passenger told her they were travelling north-east.

The Solicitor General then informed his wife of the two previous hijackings and crashes...

At that point, the second call was cut off.

At 0929, the autopilot on American 77 was disengaged; the aircraft was at 7,000ft and approximately 38 miles west of the Pentagon...

At 0934... American 77 was then five miles west-southwest of the Pentagon and began a 330-degree turn.

At the end of the turn, it was descending through 2,200ft, pointed toward the Pentagon and downtown Washington.

The hijacker pilot then advanced the throttles to maximum power and dove toward the Pentagon.

At 09:37:46, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, travelling at approximately 530mph.


Between 0703 and 0739, Saeed al-Ghamdi, Ahmed al-Nami, Ahmad al-Haznawi, and Ziad Jarrah checked in at the United Airlines ticket counter for Flight 93...

Haznawi was selected by Capps. His checked bag was screened for explosives and then loaded on the plane...

The four men boarded the plane between 0739 and 0748...

At 0842, United Airlines Flight 93 took off from Newark (New Jersey) Liberty International Airport bound for San Francisco.

The aircraft was piloted by Captain Jason Dahl and First Officer Leroy Homer, and there were five flight attendants.

Thirty-seven passengers, including the hijackers, boarded the plane.

Scheduled to depart the gate at 0800, the Boeing 757's takeoff was delayed because of the airport's typically heavy morning traffic...

When it left the ground at 0842, the flight was running more than 25 minutes late...

Around 0900, the FAA, American, and United were facing the staggering realisation of apparent multiple hijackings...

The captain or first officer could be heard declaring "Mayday" amid the sounds of a physical struggle in the cockpit
At 0903, they would see another aircraft strike the World Trade Center. Crisis managers at the FAA and the airlines did not yet act to warn other aircraft.

At the same time, Boston Centre realised that a message transmitted just before 0825 by the hijacker pilot of American 11 included the phrase, "We have some planes"...

United's first decisive action to notify its airborne aircraft to take defensive action did not come until 0919, when a United flight dispatcher, Ed Ballinger, took the initiative to begin transmitting warnings to his 16 transcontinental flights: "Beware any cockpit intrusion - two a/c [aircraft] hit World Trade Center."

One of the flights that received the warning was United 93...

At 0926, the pilot, Jason Dahl, responded with a note of puzzlement: "Ed, confirm latest mssg plz - Jason."

The hijackers attacked at 0928.

While travelling 35,000ft above eastern Ohio, United 93 suddenly dropped 700ft.

Eleven seconds into the descent, the FAA's air traffic control centre in Cleveland received the first of two radio transmissions from the aircraft.

During the first broadcast, the captain or first officer could be heard declaring "May Day" amid the sounds of a physical struggle in the cockpit.

The second radio transmission, 35 seconds later, indicated that the fight was continuing.

The captain or first officer could be heard shouting: "Hey get out of here - get out of here - get out of here."

On the morning of 9/11, there were only 37 passengers on United 93 - 33 in addition to the 4 hijackers...

We believe it is... likely that Jarrah, the crucial pilot-trained member of their team, remained seated and inconspicuous until after the cockpit was seized...

At 0932, a hijacker, probably Jarrah, made or attempted to make the following announcement to the passengers of Flight 93: "Ladies and Gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit."

The flight data recorder... indicates that Jarrah then instructed the plane's autopilot to turn the aircraft around and head east.

At least two callers from the flight reported that the hijackers knew that passengers were making calls but did not seem to care
The cockpit voice recorder data indicate that a woman, most likely a flight attendant, was being held captive in the cockpit.

She struggled with one of the hijackers who killed or otherwise silenced her...

Shortly thereafter, the passengers and flight crew began a series of calls...

At 0939, the FAA's Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Centre overheard a second announcement indicating that there was a bomb on board, that the plane was returning to the airport, and that they should remain seated.

While it apparently was not heard by the passengers, this announcement, like those on Flight 11 and Flight 77, was intended to deceive them.

Jarrah, like Atta earlier, may have inadvertently broadcast the message because he did not know how to operate the radio and the intercom.

To our knowledge none of them had ever flown an actual airliner before.

At least two callers from the flight reported that the hijackers knew that passengers were making calls but did not seem to care... It might not have occurred to him that they were certain to learn what had happened in New York, thereby defeating his attempts at deception.

At least 10 passengers and two crew members shared vital information with family, friends, colleagues, or others on the ground.

All understood the plane had been hijacked.

They said the hijackers wielded knives and claimed to have a bomb.

The hijackers were wearing red bandanas, and they forced the passengers to the back of the aircraft.

Callers reported that a passenger had been stabbed and that two people were lying on the floor of the cabin, injured or dead - possibly the captain and first officer.

One caller reported that a flight attendant had been killed...

During at least five of the passengers' phone calls, information was shared about the attacks that had occurred earlier that morning at the World Trade Center.

Five calls described the intent of passengers and surviving crew members to revolt against the hijackers.

According to one call, they voted on whether to rush the terrorists in an attempt to retake the plane.

They decided, and acted.

At 0957, the passenger assault began. Several passengers had terminated phone calls with loved ones in order to join the revolt...

The cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds of the passenger assault muffled by the intervening cockpit door...

In response, Jarrah immediately began to roll the airplane to the left and right, attempting to knock the passengers off balance.

The recorder captured the sounds of loud thumps, crashes, shouts, and breaking glasses and plates
At 09:58:57, Jarrah told another hijacker in the cockpit to block the door.

Jarrah continued to roll the airplane sharply left and right, but the assault continued.

At 09:59:52, Jarrah changed tactics and pitched the nose of the airplane up and down to disrupt the assault.

The recorder captured the sounds of loud thumps, crashes, shouts, and breaking glasses and plates.

At 10:00:03, Jarrah stabilised the airplane.

Five seconds later, Jarrah asked, "Is that it? Shall we finish it off?"

A hijacker responded, "No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off."

The sounds of fighting continued outside the cockpit.

Again, Jarrah pitched the nose of the aircraft up and down.

At 10:00:26, a passenger in the background said, "In the cockpit. If we don't we'll die!"

Sixteen seconds later, a passenger yelled, "Roll it!"

Jarrah stopped the violent manoeuvres at about 10:01:00 and said, "Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!"

He then asked another hijacker in the cockpit, "Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?" to which the other replied, "Yes, put it in it, and pull it down."

The passengers continued their assault and at 10:02:23, a hijacker said, "Pull it down! Pull it down!"

The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them.

The airplane headed down; the control wheel was turned hard to the right.

The airplane rolled onto its back, and one of the hijackers began shouting "Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest."

With the sounds of the passenger counter-attack continuing, the aircraft ploughed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 mph, about 20 minutes' flying time from Washington, DC.

Jarrah's objective was to crash his airliner into symbols of the American republic, the Capitol or the White House.

He was defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United 93.

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