Everyone knows about the four airliners that crashed on September 11th 2001, but do you know why it took air traffic controllers so long to understand what was happening?
The decoy flight of September 11th 2001
By Roger Vizi
On the morning of September 11th 2001, America awoke to the horrific news that four airliners had been hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the forth plane was forced down in Summerset County Pennsylvania.
Many questions have been raised about how this could happen? Maybe this article will shed some light in this question.
At 1:30 a.m. Pacific time, Air Cargo flight 33 took off from Los Angeles bound for JFK airport in New York. It was September 11th 2001, and the sky was clear and dark.
Three officers were on the flight deck guiding the cargo plane to New York. None of them were prepared for what was about to happen.
On the ground at the loading station, two men of Mid Eastern nationality loaded a cargo container with food and weapons. Among this cargo were three other men of the same nationality. They were to be loaded onto the plane and their container placed close to the cockpit. Their mission was to hijack this cargo plane and keep it in the air and have the attention of the air traffic controllers in New York and Boston focused on them so the real mission could be accomplished.
The three men in the cargo container listened to the conversation that was taking place in the cockpit. They would wait until the plane was handed off to Chicago control before making their move. They remained calm and silent in the darkness of their container until the proper time. They were not true soldiers, and had no training in flying a plane. They were selected for this mission based on their willingness to do whatever it took for the others to accomplish this mission. This included the willingness to die for what they believed in, and to help bring America to their knees.
They listened as the first officer acknowledged the hand off to Chicago control. They waited until he confirmed the hand off, then they prepared to start their mission. Loading their automatic weapons, they bust from the canvas covered container and stormed the flight deck through the open door. One of the men took up a position outside of the cockpit in case he was needed as a back up.
Keep this plane flying on course or I will shoot all of you! one of the men shouted pointing his weapon at the head of the captain.
What do you want with us? the captain inquired.
You will know soon enough. Just keep flying this plane, and do not let on to the controllers that we are on board until you are handed off to New York control, then I will tell you what to say.
The plane continued on its course flying over the Mid West until Chicago control advised the first officer to contact New York control. The two men watched as the first officer turned the dial on the radio control to the frequency that would connect them with New York control.
Give me your headset!
The first officer removed the headset and handed it over to the first man. None of them had spoken their names in English, and when they did speak to each other the crew could not understand what was being said. All they could do was wait until some demand was made.
He put on the headset and adjusted the microphone and pressed the button.
New York control, this is Air Cargo flight 33. We have taken control of this aircraft and demand clearance to orbit New York and Boston. We have not harmed the flight crew yet, but we are prepared to execute them if our demands are not met. He released the button and waited for their return message.
In the air traffic control center at JFK International airport, senior controller Josh Williams listened to the demands for the hijackers. He was shocked to hear that someone would hijack an air cargo plane and decided to grant their demands to buy more time.
Air Cargo flight 33, this is New York control. Your demands are granted. Remain on your current heading and speed and we will be back with you soon with further instruction.
On the flight deck, the first hijacker smiled as the message was passed on to him. This will be a great day for our country my friends, he said turning to his fellow hijackers.
The hijackers looked at their watches. It was now 7:37 a.m. and they were quickly approaching the point in their mission where they would have to become more aggressive with the controllers. The whole mission hinged on making sure the flight crew stayed alive and did as they were told. They had no intention of killing any of them. They were needed as much as the hijackers so noone on the ground would suspect the true intent of the others involved in the mission.
New York control, this is Air Cargo flight 33. We demand a course change to Boston.
Josh Williams had contacted his supervisor and advised him of the situation. He in turn had contacted the NTSB and the FBI so they were aware of the hijacking.
Stan, the hijackers are demanding a course change to Boston. What do you want me to do?
Vector them around New York over the ocean to Boston. I'll call and let them know whats coming their way.
Josh nodded his head and prepared to give the instructions.
Air Cargo flight 33, vector to Boston granted. Turn right heading 325 and descend to one-one thousand. Contact Boston center on 113.65.
We have been given a new course and altitude. Drop to 11,000 and turn right to course 325. We are also pilots, so do not try anything or we will shoot you both!
He watched as the captain began turning the plane to a heading of 325 and felt the plan start to descend. He was bluffing and he could not let on that he had no flying experience. He had been trained in navigation and could read the charts. He had been taken over this part of the flight many times over the past two years in preparation for this moment. It was imperative to the mission that Boston controllers were kept busy with them until the proper moment when they would change course for New York so they would have a visual confirmation that their mission was complete.
Boston control, this is Air Cargo flight 33. We have hijacked this plane, and are willing to kill everyone on board if our demands are not met. Do you understand?
Understood. We have been apprised of the situation and are standing by.
We want to fly a left downwind at an altitude that we can see the flights that are departing. We also demand to change frequencies to Boston departure when we are in position. We will switch back to your frequency when we are ready to change course.
Understood. Descend to two thousand five hundred and change to a heading of 260. At captains discretion, turn to left downwind for runway 33.
You have your instructions, captain. Now do as you have been instructed.
You're going to put us on a collision course with all of the other aircraft in the area.
That is not your concern. Just do as you are told or be shot!
The hijacker looked at his watch again. It was 7:55 a.m. The captain knew something was going to happen soon as the hijackers were getting agitated more and more by the minute. As they turned on the heading of 260, they were able to see the flights departing from Boston. The hijacker changed frequencies to Boston departure and began listening to the departing flights. Why was he so interested in these flights? What was the reason for hijacking an air cargo plane? All of these answers would soon become clear.
As the hijacker listened to the departing flights, he pushed his way to the captains window as American flight 11 was cleared for departure. He watched as the plane accelerated down the runway and pulled its nose toward the sky.
Turn and follow that American flight that just took off.
That will take me right over the airport in restricted air space!
Follow that plane or die! the hijacker demanded while pointing at the departing American flight.
The captain did as he was instructed, and began deviating from their flight plan. He knew departure would be calling soon when they were spotted on radar.
Air Cargo flight 33, turn left immediately. You are deviating from your flight plan, and heading into restricted air space.
Do not answer any more calls.
The hijacker reached down and turned off the transponder that the air traffic controllers used to identify each flight. Without this information, they had no idea who the flight was.
In the Boston control center, chief controller Bob Johnson watched as the transponder numbers disappeared from his screen.
Jesus Christ, they turned off the transponder on flight 33!
Hey Bob, the American flight that just departed has done the same thing!
What the hell is going on? You better alert New York control that we have two flights coming their way that have no transponder information showing so they can divert flights.
The call was placed to New York control to alert them that the hijacked Air Cargo flight and an American flight were heading their was with no identification.
Should we suspend take offs until this is straightened out?
No, let the others go. We can see where they are on the screen. Just alert them to be watching for them.
At 8:40 a.m. New York control watched as one of the planes starting turning to the right over New York City. It was descending at a rapid rate. When it leveled off, at slightly over 1,000 feet, a sick feeling came over Josh as he watched the plane heading for the heart of the city. There was nothing he could do but wait for the news that a plane had crashed into the city. All attempts to warn the flight had gone unanswered.
In the cockpit of Air Cargo flight 33, the hijackers had instructed the pilot to stay back from the American flight. As their watches read 8:45 a.m. they made the crew look out the front cockpit window. They could see the New York skyline and the twin towers were in the middle of the window. Suddenly, they noticed the shiny skin of the American flight heading straight for the North tower.
My god! They're going to crash in to the tower! the captain gasped.
Just then, they huge fire ball exploded in front of their eyes. At the same time, all three hijackers leaped for joy, their mission had been a success!
As the flight crew watched in horror, the three hijackers stepped back into the cargo bay, put their guns to their heads, and pulled the triggers in unison.
Eighteen minutes later, United flight 175 crashed into the South tower. Forty minutes after that, American flight 77 missed the White House and crashed into the Pentagon. Twenty-Seven minutes after the Pentagon explosion, United flight 93 crashed into a field in Summerset County Pennsylvania after several brave passengers attempted to take control of the aircraft from the hijackers. While some may say they did not succeed in taking control back, their brave act may have saved many lives in Washington.
Was there truly a fifth plane that acted as a decoy to hide the true mission that was to take place, or is this just a story of fiction? No one will know for sure as the flight was diverted to an undisclosed destination, and the flight crew disappeared as well.