Dulles International Airport

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spaceIn 1950, Congress passed the second Washington Airport Act, which provided for, "...the construction, protection, operation and maintenance of a public airport in or in the vicinity of the District of Columbia. Former President Dwight Eisenhower chose a location 26 miles west of Washington, DC in 1958, and construction began. The airport is named after the late former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. The airport has been an economic benefit for the surrounding community as it provides 15,000 jobs. Current expansion plans predict the airport will soon be able two handle 55 million passengers per year.

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Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi

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spaceSelected by Osama Bin Laden in early 1999, al-Midhar(above left) was so excited to participate in the September 11th attacks he had already gotten a US Visa by the time Bin Laden had chosen him for one of the flights. He entered the United States in January of 2000, but returned to Yemen to see his family later in the year. While he was out of the country, the CIA linked him with al-Qaeda, but they did not share this information with the proper authorities. In July of 2001, he never should have been allowed back in the country, entered the US. By the time he participated in the September 11th terrorist attacks, al-Midhar had participated in military action in Bosnia in 1995 and was linked to the USS Cole bombing in 1998.

spaceMany consider Nawaf al-Hazmi second in command to Mohammad Atta on September 11th. Like al-Midhar, he had been placed on a government watch list for his suspected role in the USS Cole bombing, but officials found that he had already entered the country. The FBI began looking for al-Hazmi in August of 2001. Al-Hazmi was also one of three of the 19 hijackers who overstayed his visa by the time of the attacks. Along with al-Midhar, he was issued a new visa by the US State Department because they did not know the CIA had placed them on a terror watch list.

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spaceNawaf al-Hazmi’s ID card(above left) that was recovered from the Pentagon. The United States visa cards(above right) for al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar after the fire was extinguished. The visa cards are representative of the miscommunication between departments. The CIA and FBI had a chance to cooperate in the months leading up to the attacks, but instead fought over territorial issues.

Hani Hanjour
spaceHanjour came to the United States in 1990. He trained for a pilot’s license in Scottsdale, Arizona, but did not receive it because his instructor deemed he was not proficient enough to be a pilot. He eventually obtained a commercial pilot's license in 1999, but it was revoked six months later because he did not complete the required medical exam that went with the license. He then returned to Saudi Arabia to obtain a job as a pilot. After no such job was available, he traveled to Afghanistan. It is likely that this is the location he was selected by al-Qaeda to pilot the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77.
spaceOn May 21st, 2001, Hanjour rented a hotel room in Paterson, NJ where he and the other hijackers lived until August of 2001. During that summer he practiced flying at Caldwell Flight Academy in Fairfield, New Jersey. On September 10th, 2001, the hijackers checked into the Marriott Residence Inn in Herndon, Virginia. Flight 77 contained 53 passengers, 6 crewmembers and 5 hijackers. Hanjour's name does not appear on the passenger manifest for Flight 77, yet somehow he was able to get on the plane.

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aaaaaaaaaaadadadadadadadaddadadadadadaddadadadadadadaddadadadaddHanjour and Moqed at a First Union National Bank
adadadaddadadadadadadadadadfssdadaddfadfadfasdfasdfasdfasaasasdfsadfATM in Laurel, Maryland on 9/5/01.

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Salem al-Hazmi's identification card

spaceSalem al-Hazmi was recruited to partake in the attack as part of the group who physically took over the place. It is likely he was recruited to participate by his older brother Nawaf. He had a criminal record while he lived in Saudi Arabia. Most of his infractions involved petty theft, although he drank alcohol regularly which violated the laws of Islam. About three months before the attacks, he gave up drinking and theft and lead a more disciplined Muslim lifestyle. By 1999, the FBI had learned about his terrorist connections, but he was never placed on a terrorist watch list.

Leading up to the attack
spaceDuring a training flight, Hanjour had the opportunity to fly the “Hudson Corridor”, a low altitude path that allows passengers a closeup view of the New York City skyline. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Hanjour asked to fly the corridor again, “but his instructor declined a second request because of what he considered Hanjour’s poor piloting skills.”

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Passenger view of Hudson Corridor

Airport Checkpoints/Takeoff
spaceOn the morning of September 11th, 2001, the five hijackers of Flight 77 arrived at Dulles International Airport near Washington, DC. At 7:18am EST, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Majed Moqed arrived at a passenger security checkpoint. Both of the hijackers set off metal detectors and as a result, entered a secondary screening process. The alarm kept going off for Moqed, so he was scanned with a hand wand metal detector. The security screener never figured out what it was that set off the alarm, however, even if the 4-inch utility knife had been detected, it was legal at the time to bring on to a flight as a carry on item.

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from left to right: Nawaf al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Midhar, Hani Hanjour walking
through security at Dulles Airport. Al-Midhar and al-Hazmi had been placed
on a watch list, but airport security was not aware of this fact at the time.

spaceAt 7:29am EST, Hani Hanjour arrived at the security checkpoint. The al-Hazmi brothers each reached the security checkpoint at 7:35am EST. Each hijacker was manually searched with a metal detector, and was selected for extra screening of their checked bags. The checked bags of Moqed and Salem al-Hazmi were deemed suspicious, and therefore were held off the plane until the two boarded. At the time, holding suspicious bags until their owner boarded the plane was accepted procedure to avoid allowing bags with bombs in them onto planes.

spaceBy 7:50am EST, all five hijackers were on the plane. All hijackers were in first class. Hanjour, Salem and Nawaf al-Hazmi were in seats 1B, 5E and 5F, while Moqed and al-Mihdhar were in 12A and 12B. The flight took off at 8:20am EST from Gate D26 with 6 crew members and 58 passengers.

Flight Attendants/Passnegers
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spaceAt 9:12am EST, flight attendant Renee May contacted her mother, who lived in Las Vegas. She asked her mother to call American Airlines, which she did. Renee was a generous person, who according to her fiancé David Spivock, knitted blankets for many of her friends. May, who had been engaged for about a month, was considering quitting her job as flight attendant after a 15-year career. Spivock recalled, "She was just so alive...She was the nicest person I [have] ever met."
spaceBetween 9:16 to 9:26am EST, Barbara Olson called her husband to explain the hijackers used box cutters and knives to take control of the plane. After a minute, the call cut off. She called him again later to tell him the new pilot had announced to the passengers the flight had been hijacked. It was at this point the people on board Flight 77 learned about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Olson was scheduled to fly out of town on Monday, September 10th, but stayed until Tuesday morning to have breakfast with her husband. Tuesday, September 11th, was his birthday.

spaceAt 8:50am EST, Indianapolis Center instructed Flight 77 to climb, and it did. This was the final communication air traffic control would have with the plane. It is estimated that the hijacking occurred between 8:51am and 8:54am EST while the plane was over eastern Kentucky. Hani Hanjour served as the pilot while the others sent the passengers to the back of the plane. The flight deviated from its flight pat at 8:54am EST, and at 8:56am EST turned off its transponder. The controller in Indianapolis did not know of the New York City attacks at the time, and thought Flight 77 was experiencing mechanical failure and had crashed. At 9:00am EST, Indianapolis Center notified other agencies that the flight likely crashed, and at 9:08am EST, they notified Air Force Search and Rescue at Langley Air Force Base as well as the West Virginia State Police.

spaceAt 9:20am EST, Indianapolis Center learned of the other two hijackings, and changed its assumption that Flight 77 had crashed. They then contacted some FAA field facilities and American Airlines. At 9:21am EST, the FAA contacted NEADS and engaged in a confusing dialog(above left) about the identify of the missing flight. At 9:23am EST, the Mission Crew Commander from NEADS ordered(above right) fighter jets from Langley Air Force Base to fly to Washington, DC. At 9:30am EST, the fighter jets from Langley were redirected to Baltimore to intercept a flight they incorrectly believed to be Flight 11 heading towards Washington. At 9:32am EST, Dulles controllers find "a primary radar target tracking eastbound at a high rate of speed" to which Reagan International airport sends an unarmed C130-H cargo plane to follow it.

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space“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. You don’t fly a 757 in that manner. It’s unsafe.” – Danielle O’Brien(above left), air traffic controller at Dulles International Airport speaking about the actions of Flight 77. The aerial maneuver(above middle) taken by Hani Hanjour to line up Flight 77 to hit the Pentagon. An aerial view of a map of the Pentagon(above right) with the impact zone indicated by the red arrow.

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spaceAt 9:37:44am EST, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 530 miles per hour, killing everyone on board. During its rapid descent, the plane knocked over a number of lampposts on its way to the Pentagon. The plane took about 8/10ths of a second to fully crash into the building, and as it did, a fireball 200 feet high rose into the morning sky. The Pentagon section that was hit had recently been renovated at a cost of $250 million. 125 people inside the Pentagon were killed.

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spaceAlthough no footage of the plane crashing into the Pentagon exists, there is a series of still images taken by a Pentagon security camera(image above right, video below left) that captures the fractions of seconds right before and after the plane struck the building. In the video above left, Aziz el-Hallan discusses the moment Flight 77 flew above his cars and into the Pentagon. In the video below right, a grainy video from a Doubletree Hotel surveillance camera shows the explosion as Flight 77 hits the Pentagon, but it does not show the crash itself.

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spaceAlthough a Citgo Gas(above left) station right across the street from the Pentagon captured on its security camera(above right) a flash of light created from the crash, it was not of substantial use in the investigation.

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spaceImmediately after the crash, military and civilian volunteers began rescue efforts. When firefighters arrived, they took over and instructed the volunteers to stand down since they were not equipped for rescue efforts. With the entire crash site in flames, rescue efforts were difficult.

spaceAdded to the difficulty of rescuing people at the crash site was the uncertainty that rescue workers did not know if another attack was imminent. Most of those rescued were found within 30 minutes of the crash. At 10:15am EST, the top floors of the Pentagon collapsed. It would be another 23 hours and 30 minutes until firefighters could fully extinguish the estimated 2,000o F blaze. To give perspective on the heat, the highest recorded temperature on earth occurred in Libya in 1922…it was 136o F. Watch the video above for a brief timeline of the attack.


Flight 77 Questions
1. What measures are taken to search Salem al-Hazmi and Nawaf al- Hazmi?
2. If you ran an airport, what security measures would you take?
3. Describe events leading up to the hijacking
4. Provide background information about the innocent people caught in the hijacking.
5. What events occurred during the hijacking?
6. Describe the crash and aftermath.
7. Do you feel we would know more about the crash if there were video evidence of the crash of Flight 77 instead of just still images?