Whereas the 9/11 Commission suggested that, because he “persevered”, Hanjour “completed the initial training”, thus leading the public to the conclusion that his skills had advanced accordingly, the Times offered a very different account: “Ultimately administrators at the school told Mr. Hanjour that he would not qualify for the advanced certificate. But the ex-employee said Mr. Hanjour continued to pay to train on a simulator for Boeing 737 jets. ‘He didn’t care about the fact that he couldn’t get through the course,’ the ex-employee said. Staff members characterized Mr. Hanjour as polite, meek and very quiet. But most of all, the former employee said, they considered him a very bad pilot. ‘I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon,’ the former employee said. ‘He could not fly at all.’”
Another Times article similarly noted that when Hanjour enrolled in February 2001 “at a Phoenix flight school for advanced simulator training to learn how to fly an airliner, a far more complicated task than he had faced in earning a commercial license”, his “instructors thought he was so bad a pilot and spoke such poor English that they contacted the Federal Aviation Administration to verify that his license was not a fake”.
According to FAA inspector Michael Gonzales, when Pan Am International Flight Academy contacted the FAA to verify that Hanjour’s license was valid, “There should have been a stop right then and there.” The Associated Press reported that Gonzales “said Hanjour should have been re-examined as a commercial pilot, as required by federal law.” But that was not done. Instead, the FAA inspector who “even sat next to the hijacker, Hani Hanjour, in one of the Arizona classes” and “checked records to ensure Hanjour’s 1999 pilot’s license was legitimate” concluded that “no other action was warranted” and actually suggested that Hanjour get a translator to help him complete his class. “He offered a translator,” said the school’s manager, who “was surprised” by the suggestion. “Of course, I brought up the fact that went against the rules that require a pilot to be able to write and speak English fluently before they even get their license.”
As with the fact that multiple visa applications from Hanjour should have been denied, the 9/11 Commission made no mention of any of this. One would think that a commission tasked with investigating the events of 9/11 with the goal of assessing what went wrong and fixing the system to prevent any loss of life in the future would have looked into who issued Hanjour visas in Jeddah and why the red flags were ignored. One would think that misconduct from FAA officials and contractors that allowed a terrorist to improperly obtain certification to fly a plane would also not be outside of the purview of the investigation – yet the Commission’s report is absolutely silent on this.
Turning to the footnote for the claim that Hanjour “completed” training at Jet Tech, one can read (emphasis added): “For his training at Pan Am International Flight Academy and completion by March 2001, see FBI report ‘Hijackers Timeline,’ Dec. 5, 2003 (Feb. 8, 2001, entries…)”. But turning to that source, the FBI timeline does not state that Hanjour “completed” the training, only that he “ended” the course on March 16. The truth is that, as the Washington Post reported, “Hanjour flunked out after a month” at Jet Tech. Offering corroboration for that account, the Associated Press similarly reported that “Hanjour did not finish his studies at JetTech and left the school.”
The 9/11 Commission additionally noted that Hanjour had later gone to Air Fleet Training Systems in New Jersey and “requested to fly the Hudson Corridor” along the Hudson River, which passed the World Trade Center. He was permitted to fly the route once, “but his instructor declined a second request because of what he considered Hanjour’s poor piloting skills”, the Commission admits. However, the report continues, “Shortly thereafter, Hanjour switched to Caldwell Flight Academy in Fairfield, New Jersey, where he rented small aircraft on several occasions during June and July. In one such instance on July 20, Hanjour – likely accompanied by Hazmi – rented a plane from Caldwell and took a practice flight from Fairfield to Gaithersburg, Maryland, a route that would have allowed them to fly near Washington, D.C. Other evidence suggests Hanjour may even have returned to Arizona for flight simulator training earlier in June.”
But here, the pattern of deception continues by omission of other relevant facts. The report does not explain that when Hanjour was permitted to fly the Hudson Corridor in May of 2001, unlike his subsequent rental flights, it was with an instructor on a check ride, and not a solo flight. By saying his instructor there “considered” Hanjour’s skills to be poor, the 9/11 Commission implied this was merely a subjective judgment, but that others considered him perfectly capable. Although it would have been a standard practice, there’s no indication from FBI records that Caldwell actually required him to go on a check ride before renting the plane. Even more significantly, the 9/11 Commission omitted altogether the fact that, while Hanjour was allowed to rent from Caldwell Flight Academy, he was rejected yet again by yet another school shortly thereafter that the record shows did require a check ride.
In August 2001, less than one month before 9/11, Hanjour took flight lessons at Freeway Airport in Bowie, Maryland. As the New York Times observed, Hanjour “still seemed to lack proficiency at flying”. When he showed up “asking to rent a single-engine plane”, he attempted three flights with two different instructors, and yet “was unable to prove that he had the necessary skills” to be allowed to rent the plane. “He seemed rusty at everything,” said Marcel Bernard, the chief flight instructor at the school. The Washington Post similarly reported that to “the flight instructors at Freeway Airport in Bowie”, Hanjour “was just a bad pilot.” And “after supervising Hanjour on a series of oblong circles above the airport and Chesapeake Bay, the instructors refused to pass him because his skills were so poor, Bernard said. ‘I feel darn lucky it went the way it did,’ Bernard said, crediting his instructors for their good judgment and high standards.” The London Telegraph also reported that Hanjour claimed to have 600 hours of flight time, “but performed so poorly on test flights that instructors would not let him fly alone.” Newsday reported that when flight instructors Sheri Baxter and Ben Conner took Hanjour on three check rides, “they found he had trouble controlling and landing the single-engine Cessna 172.” The Los Angeles Times reported, “‘We have a level of standards that we hold all our pilots to, and he couldn’t meet it,” said the manager of the flight school. Hanjour could not handle basic air maneuvers, the manager said.”
The deception does not end with this rather egregious omission. As noted, the 9/11 Commission also suggested that Hanjour obtained further training in a flight simulator, again, in an apparent attempt to exaggerate his training. But a review of the records shows that the preponderance of evidence indicates Hanjour was actually in New Jersey throughout the time period in question in June. FBI records show that on May 31, 2001, after having been rejected at Air Fleet Training Systems, Hanjour rented a Cessna 172 at Caldwell Flight Academy, where he “made an error taxing [sic] the airplane upon his return.” On June 6, he rented a single-engine aircraft. The FBI placed him in Paterson, New Jersey, on June 10. Then he rented a plane again on June 11, 18, and 19. The FBI has Hanjour (along with Nawaf Al-Hazmi) obtaining a mailbox at Mailboxes, Etc. in Fort Lee, New Jersey, on June 26, and opening a bank account and making an ATM withdrawal in New Jersey on June 27.
Somewhere in there, the 9/11 Commission would have the public believe that “evidence suggests” Hanjour again trained on a simulator in Arizona. To begin with, the simulator at the Sawyer School of Aviation in Phoenix was for small aircraft and was nothing like the cockpit of a Boeing 757 – another fact omitted by the Commission. But this perhaps becomes a moot point when one realizes that the evidence shows Hanjour never left New Jersey. Turning to the footnote for this claim, the Commission stated that documents from Sawyer “show Hanjour joining the flight simulator club on June 23, 2001”. But, the footnote acknowledges, “the documents are inconclusive, as there are no invoices or payment records for Hanjour, while such documents do exist for the other three” who joined the club at that time. The actual evidence thus demonstrates clearly that while Hanjour may have signed up (something which may have been possible over the phone or via the internet), he did not actually attend. The footnote further acknowledges that “Documentary evidence for Hanjour, however, shows that he was in New Jersey for most of June, and no travel records have been recovered showing that he returned to Arizona after leaving with Hazmi in March.”
The second piece of “evidence” that “suggests” Hanjour took further flight simulator training is a Sawyer employee who “identified Hanjour as being there during that time period, though she was less than 100 percent sure.” The FBI document cited in the footnote for that claim was obtained by Intelwire.com, but it is almost entirely redacted, so it’s impossible to verify the actual nature of this eyewitness testimony. But another document cited further into the same footnote also refers to the eyewitness from Sawyer, who described the four men who had joined the club. The first “UNSUB” (unidentified subject) was “short and stocky”. The second was 5’9″-5’10″, 170 pounds, and “medium build”. The third was 5’8″, 170 pounds, and “medium build”. And the fourth was 5’6″-5’7″ with a beard and mustache. Other eyewitness descriptions for Hanjour offered in the same FBI document have him as being no more than 5’6″ (one witness from Arizona Aviation, the document notes, “confirmed that he was only about 5’0″ tall”), 140-150 pounds, and very slight and thin, with short, curly hair. This clearly rules out the first three subjects, leaving only the detail-lacking fourth description as being the only one possibly matching Hanjour’s description. But the details given are far too vague to suggest a positive identification, particularly given the witness’s own admission that she wasn’t sure if it was Hanjour.
Even more significantly, that same FBI document reveals that it was not during the FBI’s initial interview with the witness that she identified that fourth “unsub” as Hanjour, as the 9/11 Commission report implies by citing the report from the FBI’s initial interview for that claim in the footnote. Rather, it was later, during a second interview that occurred after the names and images of the hijackers had been shown repeatedly in the media that she picked Hanjour’s out of a photo lineup. The FBI summary of that later interview states that according to the witness, Hanjour “has the same general characteristics and is very similar appearing as the person she saw at Sawyer…. However, she could not be 100% sure.”
The third and final piece of “evidence” is another witness who identified Hanjour as being “in the Phoenix area during the summer of 2001”, citing the FBI document just discussed, which is redacted enough that this claim cannot be readily verified. But the document does show additionally that Hanjour’s membership was good only from June 23 until August 8, at which time it expired.
Thus, the 9/11 Commission would have the public believe that sometime after June 19, Hanjour went from the east coast to Arizona without leaving any paper trail (i.e. airline or car rental records, ATM withdrawals, etc.), signed up for a two-week flight simulator club on June 23 without leaving any record he ever actually paid or even showed up (whereas records did exist for other members), only to change his mind and return again to be back in New Jersey with Nawaf Al-Hazmi three days later. In other words, what the evidence actually suggests is that the eyewitness testimony is unreliable and that, contrary to the Commission’s assertion, Hanjour never left New Jersey during that time.
There is a clear pattern of misleading and untruthful statements in the 9/11 Commission’s final report that cannot be dismissed as mere error. Rather, the evidence is incontrovertible that the Commission willfully and deliberately sought to present a falsified story of the alleged hijacker Hani Hanjour; not to relate the facts to the public, but rather to cement a legend in the public mind; not to investigate and draw conclusions based on the facts, but to start with a conclusion – the official account of 9/11 – and manipulate the facts to suit the government’s own conspiracy theory.