FAA Received Alert About 9/11 Hijacker

ByABC News
May 13, 2002, 12:25 PM

— -- Flight School Had Concerns About 9/11 HijackerW A S H I N G T O N, May 10 Federal aviation authorities were alerted inearly 2001 that an Arizona flight school believed one of theeventual Sept. 11 hijackers lacked the English and flying skillsnecessary for the commercial pilot's license he already held,flight school and government officials say. A Federal Aviation Administration inspector even sat next to thehijacker, Hani Hanjour, in one of the Arizona classes, checkedrecords to ensure Hanjour's 1999 pilot's license was legitimate butconcluded no other action was warranted, FAA officials told TheAssociated Press. Hanjour is believed to have piloted the plane that crashed intothe Pentagon on Sept. 11. The Arizona flight school manager told authorities the FAAinspector called her when Hanjour's name became public after thehijackings and declared "your worst nightmare has just beenrealized," officials said. The operations manager for the now-defunct JetTech flight schoolin Phoenix said she called the FAA inspector that oversaw herschool three times in January and February 2001 to express herconcerns about Hanjour. "I couldn't believe he had a commercial license of any kindwith the skills that he had," said Peggy Chevrette, the JetTechmanager. She also has been interviewed by the FBI. Marilyn Ladner, a vice president for the Pan Am InternationalFlight Academy that owned JetTech before it closed in the aftermathof Sept. 11, said the flight school expressed its concerns andbelieves the FAA official observed Hanjour's weaknesses firsthand. "We did have skill level concerns and a bit of language fluencyconcern and we did mention it to our FAA training centerofficial," Ladner said. The FAA official "did observe Hani's limited knowledge offlying" and "did check his flight credentials. He did tell usthey were valid, so he did follow up on our concern," she said.Hanjour did not finish his studies at JetTech and left the school. FAA officials confirm their inspector, John Anthony, wascontacted by Pan Am in January and February about Hanjour and, atthe request of the school, checked Hanjour's commercial pilot'slicense to ensure it was valid. But they said he observed nothing that warranted further actionor suggested Hanjour would eventually hijack a plane. The inspectorconsidered Hanjour just one of many students that schools routinelyseek FAA reviews on, officials said. "There was nothing about the pilot's actions to signal criminalintent at the time or that would have caused us to alert lawenforcement," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said. A few months later, another Pan Am school in Minnesota contactedthe FBI about concerns about a different Arab student who alsoraised concerns by seeking jetliner training. That student,Zacarias Moussaoui, was immediately arrested in August and hasemerged as the lone defendant charged with conspiring with thehijackers. The Arizona school's alert is the latest revelation about theextent of information the government possessed before Sept. 11about the hijackers or concerns about a terrorist strike. Lastweek, AP reported the FBI in Arizona raised concerns in July 2001that a large number of Arab students were training at a U.S. flightschool and urged FBI headquarters to check all schools nationwidefor such students advice that wasn't followed until after Sept.11. The FAA's Brown said Anthony was taking some of his own trainingat JetTech in January 2001 and coincidentally sat in the sameclassroom with Hanjour for one course. But she said Anthony didn'tnote any major language problems.