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United Airlines Flight 93

United Airlines flight 93 was a flight that flew from Newark International Airport (now known as Newark Liberty International Airport) in Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco International Airport, which is located between the cities of Millbrae and San Bruno, California, near San Francisco.

On September 11, 2001, the aircraft on the flight was one of the four planes hijacked as part of the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. It was the only one of the four planes that did not crash into a building.

Table of contents
1 Background
2 Passenger and crew phone calls
3 Black box recording
4 Terrorist admissions
5 Unresolved matters
6 Aftermath
7 Internal links
8 External links


The other three planes hijacked that day were on the following flights: American Airlines flight 11, United Airlines flight 175 and American Airlines flight 77.

The hijackers were Ziad Jarrah, Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Al Haznawi and Ahmed Alnami. (See also the complete list of hijackers.)

The plane was N591UA, a Boeing 757-222 on a morning route from Newark Liberty International Airport (then Newark International Airport) in Newark, New Jersey near New York, New York to San Francisco International Airport near San Francisco, California(EWR-SFO). It had 182 seats but was only carrying 37 passengers (including the hijackers) and 7 crew members. Some early accounts say 38 passengers - this was apparently due to the fact that one passenger had booked two seats. The four hijackers were seated in first class.

At about 9:28 AM., when both towers of the World Trade Center had already been hit, flight controllers in Cleveland overheard some commotion from flight 93's cockpit: first screams and two cries of "Get out of here!", then a 40 second gap, then more screams and a further cry of "get out of here!" and then a voice saying something like "bomb on board". The flight controllers tried to contact the pilot and received no reply. At 9:35 AM the flight reversed direction and began flying eastwards at a low altitude. Air traffic controllers overheard a man with a Middle Eastern accent saying "This is your captain. There is a bomb on board. We are returning to the airport." It is probable that the hijackers mistook the cockpit microphone for the public-address system. Shortly before 10 AM the plane again changed direction, this time south-east towards Washington, DC.

It crashed into a reclaimed coal-mining area near Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania and Shanksville, Somerset County, Pennsylvania at 10:03 AM. Other accounts give 10:06 and 10:10 AM as the time of impact. According to eyewitness statements, the plane was upside down and swaying when it crashed nose-first into the field. It landed at an estimated speed of 575 miles per hour and left a crater about 35 metres deep. There were no survivors.

Authorities have since ruled that the deaths of the hijackers were suicides and that the deaths of the 40 others were homicides.

Speculation existed for a long time that the target of Flight 93 was the White House or the Capitol. Had the plane struck either building, it would have killed no one else other than those on board the plane. Both buildings had been evacuated by 9:45 AM.

Passenger and crew phone calls

Much of what happened on the plane has been derived from the many phone calls made by passengers and crew, mainly through mobile phones. This was in marked contrast to the other three planes, where few phone calls were made. It has thus been possible to assemble a detailed yet incomplete picture of what happened on board through these calls.

All said that there were three rather than four hijackers. This has been interpreted as meaning that one of them (probably Jarrah, who was seated in the front row (seat 1B) and who is accepted as being the pilot) entered the cockpit right away and did not reemerge. He was thus not seen by the others on the plane.

In the passenger area, three hijackers wearing red bandannas herded most of the passengers and crew to the back of the plane. Two were armed with knives and the third held a box that supposedly contained a bomb. The remaining passengers were kept in the first class area. One male passenger was stabbed, probably before the herding started. This person was never named or described in the phone calls, but is believed by authorities to be Mark Rothenberg, the only first-class passenger who did not make a phone call. The pilot and first officer were also stabbed, probably during the takeover of the cockpit, and were critically wounded or dead. The passengers and crew became aware through the phone calls of what had happened to Flights 11, 175 and 77. Eventually, it led to a decision to make an attempt to take over the flight from the hijackers on or about 9:58 AM.

One first-class passenger, Tom Burnett, called his wife four times about the hijacking; she alerted the FBI. He described the death of the male passenger, asked about the other planes and stated at the end of the fourth call that "Don't worry. We're going to do something."

Another first class passenger, Mark Bingham, rang his mother and reported that three hijackers had taken over the plane. He gave little detail of them. He was apparently cut off at the end of his brief call, and did not return any of the phone calls sent to him by friends and family.

A coach-class passenger, Jeremy Glick, called his wife in New York and reported that three "Iranian looking" men had hijacked the plane, one of whom had a red box strapped to his waist which they claimed to be a bomb. Jeremy asked his wife if it was true that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, as he had heard from other passengers. He then stated that he was going to participate in the charge.

Todd Beamer, another coach-class passenger, tried to place a credit card call through a phone located on the back of a plane seat but was routed to a customer-service representative instead, who passed him on to supervisor Lisa Jefferson. Beamer reported that one passenger was dead, and, later, that the pilot and first officer were wounded. He was also on the phone when the plane made its turn in a south-easterly direction, a move that had him briefly panicking. Later, he told the operator that some of the plane's passengers were planning "to jump" the hijackers. The last words Jefferson heard from the plane were "Are you ready guys? Let's roll." (She later called the FBI.)

Other persons who made phone calls to relatives include passenger Honor Wainio and flight attendants CeeCee Lyles and Sandra Bradshaw. They all mentioned charges to the cockpit by way of final words. Reference was also made by the flight attendants to using boiling water on the hijackers.

Several persons such as Glick, Beamer and Lyles put their phones down but did not hang up as they went away. This enabled those on the other end to listen to what happened next, but little could be heard or understood other than screams.

Black box recording

The black box recorder was recovered on the afternoon of September 13, and has yielded additional information about the final half hour of the flight. In April 2002, in an unprecedented action, the cockpit sound recording was played by the FBI to relatives of the victims of the hijackers.

Its full contents have not been made public for legal reasons. However, media reports of the tape indicate that the charge by the passengers and crew did take place. The tape was reported to have contained voices saying "Allah Akbar" (Arabic for "God is great"), English shouts that included "Let's get them!" and "Cockpit!" then screaming and other sounds followed by silence. Sounds of crockery smashing have led to the belief that a food-trolley was used as a battering-ram to force the cockpit door open.

A woman can be heard pleading for her life at the start of the tape. The hijackers themselves appear to have all retreated into the cockpit prior to the charge, and they can be heard praying, reassuring themselves, and discussing on separate occasions whether to use a fireaxe in the cockpit on those outside or to cut off the oxygen to quell the charge.

United States investigators later released findings on August 8, 2003 from the recorder, which indicated that Jarrah was told by a fellow hijacker to crash the plane because of the passenger uprising in the cabin.

Terrorist admissions

Additional information about the planning and execution of the Flight 93 hijacking came to light following the capture of Khalid Mohammed and Ramzi Binalsibh in separate raids in 2003 and 2002, and an exclusive interview with al Jazeera journalist Yosro Fauda in September 2002.

For a long time, the intended destination of the hijackers was undetermined. Initial, unfounded reports were that its target was Camp David. But this was unoccupied on September 11.

Later, it was generally accepted that its intended target was meant to be in or around Washington, DC. Many accounts stated that it was the White House or the Capitol, but these had never been confirmed. According to terrorist Abu Zubaydah, captured in March 2002, the intended target was the White House. However, other al-Qaeda sources had named the Capitol.

The admissions by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed indicate that the target was indeed the Capitol. During the planning of the attacks, in which Ziad Jarrah played a significant part, the Capitol was referred to as the "Faculty of Law". Plans to crash the White House had been considered, but were dropped because of difficulty in spotting and approaching it from the air.

It had been intended that there would be a fifth hijacker on Flight 93, and Binalsibh would have been that fifth hijacker. However, because of repeated failures in gaining entry to the US, his participation as a hijacker was cancelled. He assisted instead in organisation and the managing of finances.

Unresolved matters

The recording, statements and phone calls have left some questions unanswered.

One unresolved matter is about the timing of the terrorists. The plane left Newark about 40 minutes late, because of congested runways. Whether the hijackers took this delay into account or not remains unclear. If they were operating 40 minutes behind schedule, then it was intended by those responsible that the plane arrive in Washington from the north as early as 9:40 AM, on or about the same time as Flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon.

A second uncertain area is the precise time of impact. US authorities insist that it was 10:03 AM , and the black box recording supports this. At least one phone call, that of Jeremy Glick, also ended at 10:03 AM. Yet seismological stations reportedly recorded a tremor consistent with a plane crash at 10:06 AM (more precisely, 10:06:05). Nothing was recorded at 10:03 AM.


All those on board Flight 93 were nominated for a Congressional Gold Medal for valor on September 19, 2001. This has not been granted, but they have been the subject of numerous other honors, including a Government memorial passed on September 10 2002. On September 24, 2001, a special meeting for the families of Flight 93's victims was held by President Bush at the White House.

The flight route designation, for future flights on the same route, was renumbered from Flight 93 to Flight 81 in October 2001 out of respect for those who died. Amongst the first passengers to fly this route was Lisa Beamer, wife of Todd Beamer.

Todd Beamer's "let's roll" phrase has become a national catchcry, with President Bush himself using it in several speeches.

Shanksville became much more well-known as the result of the crash. It now has a special council, run by the Somerset County Flight 93 Coordinator, that handles Flight 93 matters such as visitors gifts and memorial services.

The crash was commemorated in ceremonies, public and private, on September 11 2002 and 2003 at the field where the plane crashed.

Internal links

There have been claims that US authorities shot down Flight 93 to stop it reaching Washington. These have not been proven. The topic is covered under September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack/Misinformation and rumors

See September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack/Plane_casualties for the flight manifest.

See Also

External links

There are a large number of websites on the internet that deal with Flight 93 and its passengers and crew. A small sample of these is below.


News articles