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Context of 'April 1994: Disgruntled Worker Tries to Fly Passenger Jet Into Memphis Building'

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A flight engineer at Federal Express who is facing a potentially career-ending disciplinary hearing boards a DC-10 as a passenger, storms the cockpit with a hammer, and hits each of the three members of the cockpit crew in the head. He severely injures all of them, but they nonetheless are able to wrestled him down and regain control of the plane. Company employees claim he was trying to hit a company building in Memphis, Tennessee. (Wald 10/3/2001)

A FedEx MD-11 aircraft.A FedEx MD-11 aircraft. [Source: Alan Radecki]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices scenarios based around suicidal pilots planning to deliberately crash stolen aircraft into the United Nations headquarters—a skyscraper in New York. The two scenarios are practiced on October 16 and October 23 as part of NORAD’s annual command post exercise called Vigilant Guardian. All of NORAD, including its Northeast Air Defense Sector based in Rome, New York, participates in this exercise. (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004; Arkin 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005)
Simulation Involves Planned Suicide Plane Attack - General Richard Myers, currently the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later describe the scenario practiced on October 16: “Due to recent arrests involving illegal drug trafficking in Maine, an individual steals a Federal Express plane and plans a suicide attack into the United Nations building in New York City.” In response to the simulated crisis, exercise participants follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, and coordinate with external agencies.
Simulation Involves WMD Directed at the UN - The October 23 scenario, according to Myers, is based around “[w]eapons of mass destruction directed at the United Nations. An individual steals a Federal Express aircraft and plans a suicide attack on the United Nations building in New York City.” In response, exercise participants practice command and control, and coordinate with external agencies, and fighter jets conduct an interception of the stolen aircraft. (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004) Federal Express currently flies mostly the DC-10 and the MD-11, which are both large jet planes, so presumably one of these kinds of aircraft is considered in the exercise scenarios. (Schneider 1/17/2001) The UN headquarters building—the target in the scenarios—is a 39-story high-rise, located just a few miles from the World Trade Center. (Arena 12/2/1999; Evening Standard 9/11/2002)
Scenarios Revealed in 2004 - The details of these two scenarios will come to light in August 2004 during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. They will be revealed by Myers, at that time the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) asks him, “Did NORAD conduct exercises or develop scenarios, prior to September 11, 2001, to test a military reaction to an aircraft hijacking which appeared destined to result in a suicide crash into a high-value target?” (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004) NORAD will state in 2004 that, until 9/11, it conducts four major exercises each year. Most of these include a hijack scenario, but not all of them involve planes being used as weapons. (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004; Starr 4/19/2004) NORAD’s next Vigilant Guardian exercise, in 2001, will actually be several days underway on 9/11 (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It will include a number of scenarios based around plane hijackings, with the fictitious hijackers targeting New York in at least one of those scenarios (see September 6, 2001, September 9, 2001, September 10, 2001, and (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)

A Federal Express 727 lands in New Mexico in August 2001.A Federal Express 727 lands in New Mexico in August 2001. [Source: Associated Press]US company Raytheon flies and lands a Federal Express 727 passenger jet six times on a military base in New Mexico, entirely by remote control and without a pilot on board. This is done to test equipment intended to make hijackings difficult, by allowing ground controllers to take over the flying of a hijacked plane. The Associated Press will later report, “[T]he Raytheon test used technology that provides the extremely precise navigational instructions that would be required for remote control from a secure location.” The Associated Press will observe, “Unmanned, ground controlled reconnaissance aircraft have been used by the military for missions over Iraq and Kosovo,” and will quote Thomas Cassidy, president of the California-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and manufacturer of the military aircraft, as saying, “It’s a reliable system.” (Associated Press 10/2/2001; Der Spiegel (Hamburg) 10/28/2001)
Raytheon Employees on 9/11 Planes - Several Raytheon employees with possible ties to this remote control technology and/or Raytheon’s Global Hawk program will be reported to have been on the hijacked 9/11 flights (see September 25, 2001). Earlier in the year, a specially designed Global Hawk plane flew from the US to Australia without pilots or passengers. (ITN 4/24/2001)
Others Say Remote Control Is Impossible - Contradicting the Associated Press report, a number of media reports after 9/11 will suggest such technology is impossible, or flatly deny its existence. For instance, The Observer will quote an expert as saying, “the technology is pretty much there,” but is still untried. (Vulliamy et al. 9/16/2001) An aviation-security expert at Jane’s Defence Weekly will say this type of technology belongs “in the realms of science fiction.” (Ayling 9/18/2001; Economist 9/20/2001) And in late September 2001, President Bush will give a speech in which he mentions that the government would give grants to research “new technology, probably far in the future, allowing air traffic controllers to land distressed planes by remote control.” (Bumiller 9/28/2001)

Hijackers in the cockpit of Flight 93 react to the passengers who are apparently trying to retake control of the aircraft and one of them appears to ask if they should fly the plane into the ground. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 45-46) Passengers on the flight have apparently been trying to force their way into the cockpit, using a food cart as a shield (see 9:57 a.m.-9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Vulliamy 12/2/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 270-271)
Hijacker Asks if He Should 'Finish It Off' - The cockpit voice recording from the plane will later reveal that, in response to this, a hijacker in the cockpit apparently suggests crashing the plane into the ground. Speaking in Arabic, he asks: “Is that it? Shall we finish it off?” Another hijacker in the cockpit replies: “No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off!”
Passengers Try to Get into the Cockpit - Seconds later, a male passenger shouts: “Ah! I’m injured.” A hijacker then exclaims: “Oh Allah! Oh Allah! Oh gracious!” A male passenger apparently instructs those with him to continue trying to force their way into the cockpit. “In the cockpit,” he shouts, adding, “If we don’t, we’ll die!” A hijacker then makes some unusual statements. He says: “Up, down. Up, down, in the cockpit. The cockpit. Up, down.” He adds, “Saeed, up, down!” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 12/4/2003; McMillan 2014, pp. 103-104) “Saeed” is presumably Saeed Alghamdi, one of the alleged hijackers of Flight 93. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 35)
Hijacker Again Suggests Crashing the Plane - The cockpit voice recorder then picks up the sound of a male passenger, in the distance, giving the instruction, “Roll it!” He is possibly talking about rolling the food cart forward, journalist and author Tom McMillan will suggest. This is followed by the sound of glasses and plates breaking. A hijacker then apparently starts praying, saying: “Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!” He then appears to suggest crashing the plane into the ground again. “Is that it? I mean, shall we pull it down?” he asks. “Yes, put it in it and pull it down,” another hijacker replies.
Hijacker Says to Shut Off the Oxygen Supply - One of the hijackers then suggests that they turn off the oxygen supply to the cabin, saying: “Cut off the oxygen! Cut off the oxygen! Cut off the oxygen! Cut off the oxygen!” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 12/4/2003; McMillan 2014, pp. 104) (However, cutting off the oxygen below an altitude of 10,000 feet would have little or no effect on the passengers, aviation officials will comment. (Longman 2002, pp. 271) ) About 20 seconds later, he makes more unusual statements, saying: “Up, down. Up, down. Up, down.”
Passengers Continue Their Assault - Within the next 20 seconds, the cockpit voice recorder picks up the sounds of loud crashes, snaps, loud grunts, and a male passenger shouting, “Ah!” A passenger then issues some commands. “Go! Go!” they say. “Move! Move!” they shout. A male passenger—perhaps the same person—then yells loudly, “Turn it up!” What they mean by this is unclear. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 12/4/2003; McMillan 2014, pp. 104) The passengers will apparently continue to struggle against the hijackers until the plane crashes, at 10:03 a.m. (see 10:02 a.m.-10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 46)

The Customs Service intercepts a package sent via Federal Express from the Associated Press bureau in Manila to the AP office in Washington, and turns the contents over to the FBI. The FBI keeps the material, all unclassified and previously publicly disclosed, and fails to inform AP about this. It is claimed they do so to prevent the reporters from reporting their story, which is about government foreknowledge of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and ties with Ramzi Yousef and other Islamic militants in the Philippines. (Associated Press 3/12/2003)

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