How the FBI and 9/11 Commission Suppressed Key Evidence about Hani Hanjour

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A good article I found.

By Mark H. Gaffney

July 07, 2009 “ICH” — The evidence was crucial because it undermined the official explanation that Hani Hanjour crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at high speed after executing an extremely difficult top gun maneuver. But to understand how all of this played out, let us review the case in bite-size pieces…

In August 2004 when the 9/11 Commission completed its official investigation of the September 11, 2001 attack, the commission transfered custody of its voluminous records to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).[1] There, the records remained under lock and key for four and a half years, until last January when NARA released a fraction of the total for public viewing. Each day, more of the released files are scanned and posted on the Internet, making them readily accessible. Although most of the newly-released documents are of little interest, the files I will discuss in this article contain important new information.

As we know, the 9/11 Commission did not begin its work until 2003–––more than a year after the fact. By this time a number of journalists had already done independent research and published articles about various facets of 9/11. Some of this work was of excellent quality. The Washington Post, for example, interviewed aviation experts who stated that the plane allegedly piloted by Hani Hanjour [AA Flight 77] had been flown “with extraordinary skill, making it highly likely that a trained pilot was at the helm.”[2] Yet, strangely, when other journalists investigated Hani Hanjour they found a trail of clues indicating he was a novice pilot, wholly incapable of executing a top gun maneuver and a successful suicide attack in a Boeing 757. By early 2003 this independent research was a matter of public record, which created a serious problem for the 9/11 Commission…

By all accounts Hani Hanjour was a diminutive fellow. He stood barely five feet tall and was slight of build. As a young man in his hometown of Taif, Saudi Arabia, Hanjour cultivated no great dreams of flying airplanes. He was satisfied with a more modest ambition: he wanted to become a flight attendant. That is, until his older brother Abulrahman encouraged him to aim higher. Even so, Hani Hanjour’s aptitude for learning appears to have been rather limited. Although he resided in the US for about 38 months over a ten-year period that ended on 9/11, Hanjour never learned to speak or write English, a telling observation about his capacity for learning. As we will discover, he actually flunked a written test for a driver’s license just weeks before 9/11.

While it is true that Hanjour trained at various flight schools in the US, the evidence shows he was a perpetual novice. Hanjour dropped out of his first school, the Sierra Academy of Aeronautics, located in Oakland, after attending only a few classes. Next, he enrolled at Cockpit Resource Management (CRM), a flight school in Scottsdale, Arizona. But his performance as a student at CRM was less than adequate. Duncan K.M. Hastie, owner of the school, described Hanjour as “a weak student” who was “wasting our resources.”[3]

After several weeks, Hanjour withdrew from the program, then returned in 1997 for another short period of instruction. This on and off pattern of behavior was typical of the man. Hastie says that over the next three years Hanjour called him at least twice a year, and each time wanted to return for more training. By this time, however, it was obvious to Hastie that his erstwhile student had no business in a cockpit. Hastie refused to let Hanjour come back. “I would recognize his voice,” Hastie said. “He was always talking about wanting more training. Yes, he wanted to be an airline pilot. That was his stated goal. That’s why I didn’t allow him to come back. I thought ‘You’re never going to make it’.”[4]

Rejected by CRM, Hanjour enrolled at nearby Sawyer Aviation, also located in the Phoenix area. Wes Fults, a former instructor at Sawyer, later described it as the school of last resort. Said Fults: “it was a commonly held truth that, if you failed anywhere else, go to Sawyer.” Fults remembers training Hanjour, whom he describes as “a neophyte.” He says Hani “got overwhelmed with the instruments” in the school’s flight simulator. “He had only the barest understanding of what the instruments were there to do,” said Fults. “He [Hanjour] used the simulator three or four times, then disappeared like a fog.”[5] I must emphasize to the reader, I am not making this up. Other accounts by Newsday, the New York Times, as well as the FOX network, all confirm that Hani Hanjour was at best a novice pilot.

Evading the Language Requirement

In fact, because fluency in English is required to qualify for a US pilot’s license, Hanjour’s atrocious English should have barred him from ever obtaining a license. But it seems that Hanjour exploited a loophole in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) system, which for years has outsourced the pilot certification process. According to a June 2002 story in the Dallas Morning News, Hanjour was certified in April 1999 as an “Airplane Multi-Engine Land/Commercial Pilot” by Daryl Strong, one of the FAA’s 20,000 designated pilot examiners.[6] Although an FAA official later defended the agency’s policy of using private contractors, a critic, Heather Awsumb, took issue with it. Awsumb is a spokesperson for the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) Union, which represents more than 11,000 FAA and Defense Department employees. She pointed out that the FAA does not have anywhere near enough staff to oversee its 20,000 designated inspectors, all of whom have a financial interest in certifying as many pilots as possible. It seems that Hanjour evaded the language requirement by finding an examiner willing to ignore the rule. Said Awsumb: “They receive between $200 and $300 for each flight check. If they get a reputation for being too tough, they won’t get any business.” According to Awsumb, the present system allows “safety to be sold to the lowest bidder.”[7]

Later, Hanjour’s horrible English prompted one flight school, Jet Tech, to question the authenticity of his FAA-approved pilot’s license. Jet Tech was another school in the Phoenix area where Hanjour sought continuing instruction. Peggy Chevrette, operation manager at Jet Tech, later told FOX News: “I couldn’t believe that he had a license of any kind with the skills that he had.”[8] She explained that Hanjour’s English was so bad it took him five hours to complete an oral exam that normally should have taken about two.

But it wasn’t just his poor English that failed to impress. In his evaluation the Jet Tech flight instructor wrote that the “student [Hanjour] made numerous errors during his performance and displayed a lack of understanding of some basic concepts. The same was true during review of systems knowledge….I doubt his ability to pass an FAA [Boeing 737] oral at this time or in the near future.” The 737 instructor concluded his evaluation with a final entry: “He [Hanjour] will need much more experience flying smaller A/C [aircraft] before he is ready to master large jets.”[9] The 9/11 Commission  Report fails to discuss or even mention this negative written evaluation, even while presenting Hanjour’s substandard performance in a Boeing 737 simulator as sufficient evidence that Hanjour could fly a Boeing 757, an even larger plane![10] The wording of the final report succeeds in giving this impression, however dubious, even while obscuring the facts: an amazing achievement of propaganda.

Early in 2001, Peggy Chevrette, the operation manager at Jet Tech, contacted the FAA repeatedly to convey her concerns about Hanjour. Eventually John Anthony, a federal inspector, showed up at the school and examined Hanjour’s credentials. But Anthony found them in order and took no further action. The inspector even suggested that Jet Tech provide Hanjour with an interpreter. This surprised Chevrette because it was a violation of FAA rules. “The thing that really concerned me,” she later told FOX News, “Was that John had a conversation in the hallway with Hani and realized what his skills were at that point and his ability to speak English.”[11] Evidently, the inspector also sat in on a class with Hanjour.

FOX News was unable to reach John Anthony for comment, but FAA spokesperson Laura Brown defended the FAA employee. “There was nothing about the pilot’s actions” she said, “to signal criminal intent or that would have caused us to alert law enforcement.”[12] This is true enough. The Jet Tech staff never suspected that Hani Hanjour was a terrorist. According to Marilyn Ladner, vice-president Pan Am International, the company that owned Jet Tech, “It was more of a very typical instructional concern that ‘you really shouldn’t be in the air’.”[13] Although Pan Am dissolved its Jet Tech operation shortly after 9/11, a former employee who knew Hanjour expressed amazement “that he [Hanjour] could have flown into the Pentagon. [because] He could not fly at all.”[14]

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