"Hani Hanjour, 29, is believed to have been the pilot of Flight 77." -BBC (09/28/01) "Hanjour, the only suspect on Flight 77 the FBI listed as a pilot." -NewsDay (09/23/01)
How experts and officials described the way Flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon…
1. "But just as the plane seemed to be on a suicide mission into the White House, the unidentified pilot executed a pivot so tight that it reminded observers of a fighter jet maneuver…Aviation sources said the plane was flown with extraordinary skill, making it highly likely that a trained pilot was at the helm, possibly one of the hijackers." -Washington Post (9/12/01)
2. "The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air traffic controllers, that that was a military plane," says O’Brien. "You don’t fly a 757 in that manner. It’s unsafe."…"And it went six, five, four. And I had it in my mouth to say, three, and all of a sudden the plane turned away. In the room, it was almost a sense of relief. This must be a fighter. This must be one of our guys sent in, scrambled to patrol our capital, and to protect our president, and we sat back in our chairs and breathed for just a second," says O’Brien.
But the plane continued to turn right until it had made a 360-degree maneuver." – ABC (10/24/01)
3. "Q: How could terrorists fly these? Were they trained?
A: Whoever flew at least three of the death planes seemed very skilled. Investigators are impressed that they were schooled enough to turn off flight transponders — which provide tower control with flight ID, altitude and location. Investigators are particularly impressed with the pilot who slammed into the Pentagon and, just before impact, performed a tightly banked 270-degree turn at low altitude with almost military precision." -Detroit News (9/13/01)
4. "New radar evidence obtained by CBS News strongly suggests that the hijacked jetliner which crashed into the Pentagon hit its intended target."
"But the jet, flying at more than 400 mph, was too fast and too high when it neared the Pentagon at 9:35. The hijacker-pilots were then forced to execute a difficult high-speed descending turn."
"Radar shows Flight 77 did a downward spiral, turning almost a complete circle and dropping the last 7,000 feet in two-and-a-half minutes."
"The steep turn was so smooth, the sources say, it’s clear there was no fight for control going on. And the complex maneuver suggests the hijackers had better flying skills than many investigators first believed." -CBS (9/21/01)
5. "To pull off the coordinated aerial attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Tuesday, the hijackers must have been extremely knowledgeable and capable aviators, a flight expert said.
By seizing four planes, diverting them from scheduled flight paths and managing to crash two into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and a third into the Pentagon, they must have had plenty of skill and training.
It was not known how the hijackers slipped through airport security checkpoints with their weapons.
There are no indications that any of the airline crews activated a four-digit code alerting ground controllers that a hijacking was in progress." -CNN (9/12/01)
How Hani Hanjour’s flight instructors described his piloting abilities…
1. "Mr. Hanjour, who investigators contend piloted the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon, was reported to the aviation agency in February 2001 after instructors at his flight school in Phoenix had found his piloting skills so shoddy and his grasp of English so inadequate that they questioned whether his pilot’s license was genuine.
Ms. Ladner said the Phoenix staff never suspected that Mr. Hanjour was a hijacker but feared that his skills were so weak that he could pose a safety hazard if he flew a commercial airliner.
Staff members characterized Mr. Hanjour as polite, meek and very quiet. But most of all, the former employee said, they considered him a very bad pilot. "I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon," the former employee said. "He could not fly at all." -New York Times (5/04/02)
2. "Months before Hani Hanjour is believed to have flown an American Airlines jet into the Pentagon, managers at an Arizona flight school reported him at least five times to the FAA.
They reported him not because they feared he was a terrorist, but because his English and flying skills were so bad…they didn’t think he should keep his pilot’s license. "I couldn’t believe he had a commercial license of any kind with the skills that he had." Peggy Chevrette, Arizona flight school manager." -CBS News (5/10/02)
3. "The hijacker believed to have steered American Airlines Flight 77 on its fatal path toward the Pentagon recently honed his rusty flying skills at a small Maryland airport, and more than a year ago sought training at a flight school in Arizona.
At Freeway Airport in Bowie, Md., 20 miles west of Washington, flight instructor Sheri Baxter instantly recognized the name of alleged hijacker Hani Hanjour when the FBI released a list of 19 suspects in the four hijackings. Hanjour, the only suspect on Flight 77 the FBI listed as a pilot, had come to the airport one month earlier seeking to rent a small plane.
However, when Baxter and fellow instructor Ben Conner took the slender, soft-spoken Hanjour on three test runs during the second week of August, they found he had trouble controlling and landing the single-engine Cessna 172. Even though Hanjour showed a federal pilot’s license and a log book cataloging 600 hours of flying experience, chief flight instructor Marcel Bernard declined to rent him a plane without more lessons.
In the spring of 2000, Hanjour had asked to enroll in the CRM Airline Training Center in Scottsdale, Ariz., for advanced training, said the center’s attorney, Gerald Chilton Jr. Hanjour had attended the school for three months in late 1996 and again in December 1997 but never finished coursework for a license to fly a single-engine aircraft, Chilton said.
When Hanjour reapplied to the center last year, "We declined to provide training to him because we didn’t think he was a good enough student when he was there in 1996 and 1997," Chilton said." – Newsday (09/23/01)
4. "Even as he pursued the flight training he would need for his final act, instructors found him withdrawn, slow to pick up a feel for the cockpit.
Over five years, Hanjour hopscotched among flight schools and airplane rental companies, but his instructors regarded him as a poor student, even in the weeks before the attacks.
Federal Aviation Administration records show he obtained a commercial pilot’s license in April 1999, but how and where he did so remains a lingering question that FAA officials refuse to discuss. His limited flying abilities do afford an insight into one feature of the attacks: The conspiracy apparently did not include a surplus of skilled pilots.
"He had only the barest understanding what the instruments were there to do."
During three months of instruction in late 1996, Duncan K.M. Hastie, CRM’s owner, found Hanjour a "weak student" who "was wasting our resources."
"The impression I got is he came and, like a lot of guys, got overwhelmed with the instruments." He used the simulator perhaps three or four more times, Fults said, then "disappeared like a fog."
Instructors once again questioned his competence. After three sessions in a single-engine plane, the school decided Hanjour was not ready to rent a plane by himself." – Cape Cod Times (10/12/02)
5. "Instructors at a flying school in Phoenix, Arizona express concern to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials about the poor English and limited flying skills of one of their students, Hani Hanjour.
They believe his pilot’s license may be fraudulent. The FAA finds it is genuine – but school administrators tell Mr. Hanjour he will not qualify for an advanced certificate." -BBC (5/17/02)
6. "Instructors at the school told Bernard that after three times in the air, they still felt he was unable to fly solo and that Hanjour seemed disappointed.
Published reports said Hanjour obtained his pilot’s license in April 1999, but it expired six months later because he did not complete a required medical exam. He also was trained for a few months at a private school in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1996, but did not finish the course because instructors felt he was not capable.
Hanjour had 600 hours listed in his log book, Bernard said, and instructors were surprised he was not able to fly better with the amount of experience he had." -Prince George’s Journal (9/18/01)
7. "School officials confirmed that Hanjour received three months of instruction during 1996 and 1997 and had put down a deposit for additional training in 1997, but did not attend those classes."
"The Federal Aviation Administration’s directory shows that Hanjour was licensed as a commercial pilot for single-engine aircraft in Taife, Saudi Arabia. CRM provides instruction in larger commercial jets, training that could have been used by a terrorist to guide a Boeing 757 on a kamikaze attack."
"The bureau identified Hanjour as the only pilot among the five suspects aboard American Airlines Flight 77…"
"Although Hanjour left a paper trail from Phoenix to Tucson to Florida to the Middle East, his life seems to have been ghostly. No close friends or acquaintances have surfaced, and Valley Muslim leaders said they have never heard of him." -The Arizona Republic
8. Wes Fults, the manager of the flight simulator, says Hanjour has “only the barest understanding what the instruments were there to do.” After using the simulator four or five times, Hanjour disappears from the school. [Washington Post, 10/15/2001]
9. On April 15, 1999, he is certified as a multi-engine commercial pilot by Daryl Strong in Tempe, Arizona. Strong is one of many private examiners independently contracted with the FAA. A spokesperson for the FAA?s workers union will later complain that contractors like Strong “receive between $200 and $300 for each flight check. If they get a reputation for being tough, they won’t get any business.” Hanjour’s new license allows him to begin passenger jet training at other flight schools, despite having limited flying skills and an extremely poor grasp of English. [Government Executive, 6/13/2002; Associated Press, 6/13/2002]
10. After 9/11, the FBI will appear to investigate how Hanjour got his license and questions and polygraphs the instructor who signed off on his flying skills. The Washington Post will note that since Hanjour’s pilot skills were so bad, how he was ever able to get a license “remains a lingering question that FAA officials refuse to discuss.” [Washington Post, 10/15/2001; CBS News, 5/10/2002]
The FBI knew about Hanjour before 9/11
1. "A paid FBI informant told ABCNEWS that three years before Sept. 11, he began providing the FBI with information about a young Saudi who later flew a hijacked passenger plane into the Pentagon.
Aukai Collins, the informant, said he worked for the FBI for four years in Phoenix, monitoring the Arab and Islamic communities there. Hani Hanjour was the hijacker Collins claimed to have told the FBI about while Hanjour was in flight training in Phoenix.
Twenty hours after ABCNEWS first requested a response, the FBI issued an "emphatic denial" that Collins had told the agency anything about Hanjour, though FBI sources acknowledged that Collins had worked for them.
Collins said the FBI knew Hanjour lived in Phoenix, knew his exact address, his phone number and even what car he drove. "They knew everything about the guy," said Collins.
Once in Phoenix, in 1996, the FBI asked Collins to focus on a group of young Arab men, many of whom were taking flying lessons, including Hanjour, Collins said.
"They drank alcohol, messed around with girls and stuff like that," Collins told ABCNEWS. "They all lived in an apartment together, Hani and the others."
The FBI in Phoenix either failed to monitor Hanjour’s communications or Hanjour himself practiced extraordinary skill in hiding his intentions ? because the FBI never regarded him as a threat.
"I can’t figure it out either," said Collins, "how they went from their back yard to flying airplanes into buildings."
Congress cannot figure it out either, as it continues to demand answers from the FBI." -ABC (5/24/02)
2. An FAA official named John Anthony sits next to Hanjour in class and observes his skills. He suggests the use of a translator to help Hanjour pass, but the flight school points out that goes “against the rules that require a pilot to be able to write and speak English fluently before they even get their license.” [Associated Press, 5/10/2002] The FAA verifies that Hanjour’s 1999 pilot’s license is legitimate (see April 15, 1999), but takes no other action. However, his license should have been rejected because it had already expired in late 1999 when he failed to take a manadatory medical test. [CBS News, 5/10/2002; Associated Press, 9/15/2001] An Arizona FAA inspector later says, “There should have been a stop right then and there.” He will claim that federal law would have required Hanjour to be re-examined. [Associated Press, 6/13/2002] In February, Hanjour begins advanced simulator training, “a far more complicated task than he had faced in earning a commercial license.” [New York Times, 6/19/2002] The flight school again alerts the FAA about this and gives a total of five alerts about Hanjour, but no further action on him is taken. The FBI is not told about Hanjour. [CBS News, 5/10/2002]