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Context of 'March-April 2001: 9/11 Hijacker Atta Visits Tennessee Airport; Asks About Nearby Chemical Plant and About Buying Plane'

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Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi report their passports missing; Ziad Jarrah reports his missing in February 2000. (Lipka 9/28/2001; Der Spiegel 2002, pp. 257-58) Alshehhi receives a replacement passport on December 26, 1999. (Kennedy 9/20/2001)

According to the FBI and 9/11 Commission, 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi move temporarily to Georgia on January 25, 2001, staying briefly in Norcross and Decatur, near Atlanta. The FBI will later say the hijackers remain in the Atlanta area during February and March. (US Congress 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 229) According to several news reports, between late February and early March, Atta and Alshehhi twice visit the Advanced Aviation Flight Training School in nearby Lawrenceville. They pay $171 in total and on both occasions rent a small Piper Warrior plane for an hour. They are accompanied by an instructor on the first occasion, but fly alone the second time. According to the school’s owner Bruce Buell, the two are “well-dressed, polite and friendly.” Two days after 9/11 Chrissy Ross, a flight dispatcher at the school, will recognize Atta’s name when the identities of the suspected hijackers are made public. She calls the FBI, whose agents then come and take all the school’s records. (CNN 9/26/2001; McClam 10/19/2001; Associated Press 10/19/2001) However, the FBI claims Atta and Alshehhi visit Advanced Aviation about a month earlier than news reports suggest, on January 31 and February 6. (US Congress 9/26/2002)

A car registered to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is queried by police in DeKalb County, Georgia. This incident is added to the NCIC, a widely used nationwide police database. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 126 pdf file) Atta and hijacker Marwan Alshehhi are currently living in Georgia (see (January 25-Early March, 2001)).

Two Middle Eastern men believed to be 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi land a small plane at Martin Campbell Air Field, near the small town of Copperhill, Tennessee. Danny Whitener, a salvage-car dealer, is tending his plane at the time. The pilot, who calls himself “Mo,” speaks to Whitener for about 15 minutes, aggressively questioning him about a nearby chemical plant and what chemicals are kept there, about a nearby dam, and about two nearby nuclear power plants. According to Whitener, the pilot, who after 9/11 he is convinced was Mohamed Atta, tells him their plane is rented, and that they have flown from Lawrenceville, Georgia, which is about 60 miles south of Copperhill. This would concur with reports of Atta and Alshehhi twice renting a Piper Warrior plane from a Lawrenceville flight school around this time (see (January 25-Early March, 2001)). However, Whitener says their plane on this occasion is a Cessna, which has a very different design to a Warrior. About a month later, according to the airport’s manager John Rutkosky, a man resembling Atta again arrives, this time in an expensive-looking sports car, and inquires about buying a plane. (Associated Press 10/19/2001; WBIR (Knoxville) 10/19/2001; Dawn (Karachi) 11/25/2001; Grimaldi and Gugliotta 12/16/2001)


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