Flight 93

Original New Hampshire newspaper article dated September 13th,

Thursday, September 13, 2001

FAA worker says hijacked jetliners almost collided
before striking World Trade Center

By ALBERT McKEON, Telegraph Staff


<b>Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup</b><br>Several Nashua police officers block the entrance to the Boston Air Traffic Control Center on Northeastern Boulevard in Nashua Tuesday morning where they rushed shortly after two passenger aircraft that departed from Boston crashed into the World Trade Center buildings in New York.

Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup
Several Nashua police officers block the entrance to the
Boston Air Traffic Control Center on Northeastern
Boulevard in Nashua Tuesday morning where they rushed
shortly after two passenger aircraft that departed from
Boston crashed into the World Trade Center buildings in
New York.


The two hijacked jets that sliced
into the World Trade Center nearly crashed into each
other before reaching New York City, according to a
Federal Aviation Administration employee who works in
the Nashua control facility.

FAA air traffic controllers in
Nashua have learned through discussions with other
controllers that an F-16 fighter stayed in hot pursuit
of another hijacked commercial airliner until it crashed
in Pennsylvania, said the employee, who spoke on the
condition of anonymity.

By 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the
military had taken control of U.S. airspace, the
employee said. The jet crashed into a field at 10:37

The incidents fell in line with a
handful of incredible and unprecedented events that
unfolded in America on Tuesday, said the employee, who
worked in the control center that fateful morning. The
center is one of 20 FAA facilities that monitor
long-distance flights once they leave airports.

The morning’s surreal moments
included a controller, who had just arrived for work,
discovering that his wife’s American Airline flight was
involved in the day of terror, the employee said.

Controllers never expected that the
terrorists who hijacked the plane had their sights set
on the north tower of the World Trade Center, the
employee said.

Even as the tower burned, controllers
still hadn’t concluded that another hijacked plane –
United Airlines Flight 175 – would slam into the other
New York skyscraper, the employee said.

The terrorists, however, nearly had
their plans dashed when the two planes almost collided
outside the city, the employee said. "The two aircraft
got too close to each other down by Stewart"
International Airport in New Windsor, N.Y., the employee

Controllers have also learned
that an F-16 fighter closely pursued hijacked United
Airlines Flight 93 until it crashed in southwestern
Pennsylvania, the employee said.

Although controllers don’t have
complete details of the Air Force’s chase of the Boeing
757, they have learned the F-16 made 360-degree turns to
remain close to the commercial jet, the employee said.

"He must’ve seen the whole
thing," the employee said of the F-16 pilot’s view of
Flight 93’s crash.

One air traffic controller – with the
help of an assistant – monitored the flight patterns of
the two jets that toppled the World Trade Center, the
employee said. He directed American Airlines Flight 11
and United Airlines Flight 175 – both Boeing 767 jets
that had Boston to Los Angeles routes, the employee

The same controller handled Egypt Air
Flight 990 when it crashed off the coast of
Massachusetts in 1999, the employee said. Hijackers
gained control of American Airlines Flight 11 around
Gardner, Mass., the employee said. "American was just
flying around, doing what it wanted," the employee said
of the jet’s approach to New York.

United Airlines Flight 175 remained
in the hands of its pilots until Albany, N.Y., the
employee said. Terrorists apparently seized United
Airlines Flight 93 late in its interrupted route, the
employee said.

The controller in charge of flights
11 and 175 noticed the American Airlines plane had
encountered difficulties when its transponder – the
device that sends an electrical radar pulse to air
traffic control centers – shut off, the employee said.
At that point, the plane veered from its course west,
the employee said.

Soon after, the controller realized a
hijacker stood in the cockpit when the plane’s captain –
John Ogonowski of Dracut, Mass. – turned on his
microphone, the employee said. Ogonowski activated the
microphone so the FAA could hear the terrorists’
threats, the employee said.

The controller heard someone
instruct, "’Nobody do anything stupid’" and no one would
get hurt, the employee said. After that, the controller
heard no more conversations, the employee said.

"That’s all that was heard," the
employee said. When it became apparent the plane had
fallen into the hands of hijackers, a third controller
began helping the controller and his assistant, a
procedure followed during all hijackings, the employee
said. FAA controllers also notified concerned government
organizations such as the military, the employee said.

Then, controllers shut down all other
air traffic quickly, the employee said.

But many of the aircraft didn’t
immediately answer FAA calls, the employee said.

Planes flying through the Nashua
center’s airspace on their way to Georgia or Florida
were told to land at other airports and avoid the
airspace of the hijacked flights, the employee said.

The controller spoke with United
Airlines Flight 175 for quite some time after terrorists
took command of American Airlines Flight 11, the
employee said. FAA controllers never expected Flight 175
to hit the second World Trade Center tower because of
that sustained contact with the crew, the employee said.

"It’s not in anyone’s mind they’re
hitting a target," the employee said. "When somebody
takes a plane over, they try to negotiate a release with
money," the employee said.

Many controllers also watched events
unfold on the control center’s television, the employee

"After the first plane hit, nobody
imagined it would happen again," the employee said. "We
all thought that was it. It totally caught everybody off

The controller is "pretty disturbed"
that he lost both planes, the employee said. He handled
both flights because they shared similar routes on their
intended journey to Los Angeles, the employee said.

Other controllers will handle the
disasters in other ways, the employee said.

But controllers can feel rather
helpless after such a tragedy because they "are just a
voice in the air," the employee said. "You can’t do

Controllers will rally around each
other, the employee said. Controllers are very
supportive of one another, the employee said.

They are "like family – sitting
shoulder to shoulder 40 hours a week," the employee

The employee wouldn’t identify the
controller who lost his wife, or her name.

She was a businesswoman who had just
missed her flight the night before, the employee said.

"We’re waiting to see what happens
next," the employee said of the country’s concern about
the potential of more terrorist air attacks. "It pretty
much opens the door to a bunch of stuff going on," the
employee said of the terrorists’ use of planes as

Albert McKeon can be reached at


FBI’s later explanation for the white jet was that a passing
civilian Fairchild Falcon 20 jet was asked to descend from
34,000ft to 5,000ft some minutes after the crash to give
co-ordinates for the site. The plane and pilot have never
been produced or identified. Susan Mcelwain says a Falcon 20
was not the plane she saw.


FBI insists there was no military plane in the area but at
9.22am a sonic boom – caused by a supersonic jet – was
picked up by an earthquake monitor in southern Pennsylvania,
60 miles away from Shanksville.


Lee Purbaugh: There was another plane," Lee said. "I didn’t
get a good look but it was white and it circled the area
about twice and then it flew off over the horizon."


Tom Spinelli: "I saw the white plane," "It was flying around
all over the place like it was looking for something. I saw
it before and after the crash."


Dennis Decker, 5) Rick Chaney: About a mile north on
Buckstown Road, Dennis Decker and Rick Chaney were at work
making wooden pallets when they heard an explosion and came
running outside to watch a large mushroom cloud spreading
over the ridge." As soon as we looked up, we saw a midsized
jet flying low and fast," Decker said. "It appeared to make
a loop or part of a circle, and then it turned fast and
headed out. " Decker and Chaney described the plane as a
Lear-jet type, with engines mounted near the tail and
painted white with no identifying markings. "If you were
here to see it, you’d have no doubt," Decker said. "It was a
jet plane, and it had to be flying real close when that 757
went down. If I was the FBI, I’d find out who was driving
that plane. "


Robin Doppstadt: Robin Doppstadt was working inside her
family food-and-supply store when she heard the crash. When
she went outside, she said, she saw a small white jet that
looked like it was making a single circle over the crash
site. "Then it climbed very quickly and took off. "


Dale Browning who witnessed the white plane, "the damndest
darn thing", remarked:

"Everybody’s seen this thing in the sky, but no one can tell
us what it is."


Jim Brant: Mr. Brant and two of his employees arrived at the
site in minutes , hoping to help survivors. He said he
noticed a white plane, perhaps a jet, circling the wreckage.
"It reminded me of a fighter jet," he said. He said it
stayed there for one or two minutes before leaving. "The
plane had no markings on it, either civilian or military."


John Feegle: "It didn’t look like a commercial plane,"
Feegle said. "It had a real goofy tail on it, like a high
tail. It circled around, and it was gone." "The aircraft
appeared to have an unusually tall vertical stabilizer."




Kathy Blades and her son ran outside after the crash and saw
the jet, with sleek back wings and an angled cockpit, race


Here is the text as it
once appeared at PittsburghLive.com (Pittsburgh’s website)
on Friday September 14th, 2001. The first page still online:


Authorities deny Flight 93
was shot down by F-16

By Richard Gazarik and Robin Acton

Federal investigators hope the flight data recorder recovered from United Airlines Flight 93 will reveal what caused the Boeing 757 jetliner to crash into an abandoned Somerset County strip mine in a deadly sequence of terrorist attacks. FBI Agent William Crowley announced Thursday afternoon that investigators using heavy equipment found the recorder in a crater at the crash site near Lambertsville in Stonycreek Township.

The device that electronically records the aircraft’s instruments in the final moments before a plane crashes was packaged for transport to
Washington, D.C., for analysis by officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, Crowley said.

Searchers yesterday also found one of the hijacked jetliner’s engines. But by evening, the cockpit voice recorder had not been recovered. Meanwhile, speculation continued to swirl around reports that a military fighter jet was seen in the vicinity immediately after the crash.

According to the Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph, FAA employees at an air-traffic control center near Boston learned from controllers at other facilities that an F-16 “…stayed in hot pursuit” of the 757.

By 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Air Force had taken control of all U.S. airspace, the unidentified controller told the Telegraph. A few minutes later, the Boeing crashed in Stonycreek Township.

The F-16 made 360-degree turns to stay close to the 757, the Telegraph reported. “He must’ve seen the whole thing,” the FAA employee said of the
F-16’s pilot.

Crowley confirmed that there were two other aircraft within 25 miles of the United flight that were heading east when it crashed, scattering debris over 8 miles. He did not know the types of planes, nor could he discuss the altitudes at which they were flying.

Military planes sometimes “shadow” airliners that are in trouble or have lost radio communications, as part of efforts to re-establish contact.

An Air Force spokeswoman at North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado, Capt. Adriane Craig, said the military could neither confirm nor deny whether an airplane was following the United 757. Neither NORAD nor the Air Force releases information about where its jets are flying at any given time, or what their patrol routes are over metropolitan areas, Craig said.

Crowley discounted rumors that the military shot down the jetliner in a sparsely populated area to keep it away from the White House and other
possible targets in Washington, D.C.

"There was no military involvement," Crowley said.

NORAD issued its own denial yesterday afternoon, "confirm(ing) that
the United
Airlines jetliner that crashed outside Somerset … was not downed
by a U.S.
military aircraft."

"NORAD-allocated forces have not engaged with weapons any aircraft,
Flight 93," the statement said.

A Canadian aviation expert told the Tribune-Review that the concept
of a U.S.
Air Force jet shooting down the 757 "seems a bit bizarre."

"It’s not a very palatable piece of news for the American public,"
said Victor
Ujimoro, a professor of aviation management at the University of

Although Ujimoro said he doubted the rumor was true, he could
understand why "it
may not be too far-fetched of a hypothesis to entertain."

"There (were) already other aircraft hitting the Trade Center,"
Ujimoro said.
"The third plane flew from Dulles to the Pentagon, and the fourth
plane (Flight
93) is possibly going to Camp David."

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday,
Bush’s nominee for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said
fighters and other
aircraft were mobilized Tuesday in response to the hijackings.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers emphatically denied that Flight 93 was
shot down.

"The armed forces did not shoot down any aircraft," he said. "When
it became
clear what the threat was, we did scramble fighter aircraft, AWACS
aircraft and tanker aircraft to begin to establish orbits in case
other aircraft
showed up in the FAA system that were hijacked, but we never
actually had to use

Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the terrorists
had a bomb
on board the plane, the FBI’s Crowley said.

"We have no information to lead us either way. We need them (the
recorders) to determine if that happened," he said.

Crowley said evidence recovery teams will continue to look for the
cockpit voice
recorder. Known as "black boxes," the recorders are encased in
orange containers
designed to withstand the impact of a crash.

The flight data recorder can tell investigators such things as the
speed of the
aircraft, its altitude, the amount of fuel and the position of its
rudders and
flaps. Impact is supposed to trigger a transponder that emits an
signal that enables searchers to track its location on the ground.

Crowley said the recorders from Flight 93 did not send out any
emissions. It was
discovered by an "integrated search team" of state police and
investigators using heavy equipment to unearth the device from the
crater cut
into the ground on impact.

The discovery of the flight data recorder and cockpit voice
recorders are
critical to determining the cause of the crash, according to U.S.
Rep. John
Murtha, a Johnstown Democrat, who visited the scene Wednesday

Murtha said he was told that conversations overheard by air traffic
at the Cleveland FAA center revealed that there was a struggle going
on inside
the cockpit, perhaps between members of the flight crew and the
hijackers armed
with plastic knives and boxcutters.

"We have not seen anything to contradict this," Crowley added.

A passenger, Mark Bingham, 31, of San Francisco, Calif., was able to
Westmoreland County 911 and tell a communications officer that the
plane had
been hijacked and the terrorists had a bomb.

There was a sound of an explosion before 911 lost contact with

An evidence collection team comprising technicians from several
federal law enforcement agencies has been working since Tuesday,
parts of the airplane and human remains, as well as searching for
the recorders.

Forensic archaeologists and anthropologists were among experts who
came to the
site yesterday to aid investigators in searching the wide debris
field to help
retrieve potential evidence and human remains.

Crowley said the FBI and NTSB have not determined whether a bomb
exploded inside
the aircraft before it crashed. Residents of nearby Indian Lake
reported seeing
debris falling from the jetliner as it overflew the area shortly

State police Maj. Lyle Szupinka said investigators also will be
searching a pond
behind the crash site looking for the other recorder and other
debris. If
necessary, divers may be brought in to assist search teams, or the
pond may be
drained, he said.

Szupinka said searchers found one of the large engines from the
aircraft "at a
considerable distance from the crash site."

"It appears to be the whole engine," he added.

Szupinka said most of the remaining debris, scattered over a
perimeter that
stretches for several miles, are in pieces no bigger than a

"If you were to go down there, you wouldn’t know that was a plane
crash," he
continued. "You would look around and say, `I wonder what happened
here?’ The
first impression looking around you wouldn’t say, `Oh, looks like a
plane crash.
The debris is very, very small.

"The best I can describe it is if you’ve ever been to a commercial
When it’s covered and you have papers flying around. You have papers
around and bits and pieces of shredded metal. That’s probably about
the best way
to describe that scene itself."

Tribune-Review staff writer Jason Togyer and The Associated Press
contributed to
this story.

Additional Links:

Listen to a sample audio of air traffic control communicating with flight United


Flight 93 Crash Exposed! Rare Footage Never… by NLW911