Flight School Dropouts

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One question frequently raised about the 9/11 attacks is whether the alleged pilots, particularly (although not only) Hani Hanjour, had the skills to carry out their tasks. Nila Sagadevan uses the following quotes by way of illustration:

Looks like a compelling case, right? But as usual, it pays to find out more about where these quotes have come from.

The comment about Atta, for instance, dates back to October of 2000. He undertook months more training after this, and qualified for a commercial licence, so it’s perhaps unreasonable to use this old quote as a summary of his flying on 9/11.

Googling for the Al-Shehhi quote returns only references to the Sagadevan article, which doesn’t explain where it came from originally.

Khalid Al-Mihdhar was not one of the pilots according to the official account, neither was Salem Al-Hazmi, so any assessment of their abilities seems irrelevant.

Some of the quote about Hanjour is correct (“I'm still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon. He could not fly at all”). This comes from a “former employee” at JetTech, a flying school Hanjour attended in January and February of 2001. The rest of the quote didn’t originally refer to Hanjour, though: it’s somehow been assembled from a comment about Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi:

To see whether old quotes are really relevant, it might be worth considering the training the pilots received. Take Atta and Shehhi, for instance, as reported in the 9/11 Commission Report.

A reasonable start, although there were problems later.

Jarrah was making progress in the meantime.

And Atta and Shehhi had more success later in 2000, while Jarrah moved to simulator training.

Not perfect or the best pilots, then, but maybe the term "flight school dropout" is a little misleading here.

Of course the more realistic target for these claims is Hani Hanjour. Here's one comment.

The site quotes this NewsDay article:

Even the 9/11 Commission Report joins in:

Read these quotes alone, though, and you might be mislead. The first seems to suggest that he hadn't learned to fly by August 2001, however he'd actually obtained both a private pilot and commercial license some time earlier.

Hanjour continued his training with Jarrah throughout at least some of the summer. Again, there were problems in both cases, but they persisted.

Even Hanjour wasn't exactly a "flight school dropout", then. He had a private and commercial pilots licence, and a not insignificant amount of flying experience, including some simulator work (although on 737's). And while there are no shortage of scathing quotes about him, they're not always as they seem. Here's one, for example:

So does that mean he couldn't fly? Here's another story on the same person:

Here she's talking about his skills in English, and expresses no doubt whatsoever that Hanjour could have been involved.

An early instructor isn't quite so damning:

And as Marcel Bernard pointed out, the hijackers wouldn't have required all the skills of a regular pilot:

People will still say that the Pentagon attack was too difficult for Hanjour to have pulled off, however other articles quote pilots saying that isn’t the case.

New American included comments from pilots in a general piece on "9-11 Conspiracy Fact & Fiction":

And Salon's "Ask the Pilot" also commented on the issue:

Experienced pilot Giulio Bernacchia agrees:

Read more in a piece he kindly contributed to this site, “File:Another Expert.pdf