Report: hijackers took test flights

Oct. 11, 2001 at 9:42 AM
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BOSTON, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Some of the 19 hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 terror attacks, including alleged ringleader Mohamed Atta, apparently took practice runs aboard airliners from Boston to the West Coast, it was reported Thursday.

"I can confirm to you that some of the hijackers took test runs on flights," an unidentified senior law enforcement official said in Thursday's Boston Globe.

The test runs were probably scouting missions, an aviation official told the Globe.

"I am surmising that they were practicing -- sort of planning," the official said.

"You just don't jump on a plane and do what they did," he said. "They had to be looking at the position of the crews, when the flight attendants started moving around, and how far from the targets they were."

While the officials did not specify which airports were used, Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., said he "heard they made test runs on flights from various points, including Boston."

Two jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11 had departed from Boston's Logan International Airport for Los Angeles. Another hijacked flight left Newark, N.J., and the other took off from Washington's Dulles International Airport.

Another aviation official said Atta had apparently made practice runs because "his name keeps popping up." Atta was one of five hijackers believed aboard Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center.

Except for Atta, the names of others who made test runs were not specified.

Actor James Woods may have encountered some of the hijackers on a practice run in August. The Globe said Woods was on a flight from Boston to Los Angeles, and alone in first class except for four Middle Eastern-appearing men.

Woods reportedly became suspicious of the men because they neither drank nor ate during the 6-hour flight, did not read or sleep and talked only in whispers. The actor told flight attendants of his suspicions when the plane landed and notified the FBI about the flight on Sept. 12.

Two other hijackers apparently took a US Airways flight from Las Vegas to New York on Aug. 1, and one who claimed to be a student pilot successfully asked for a tour of the cockpit, ABC News reported Wednesday night. The network also said some hijackers were seen videotaping in-flight procedures.

The Globe said an aviation official said airlines may have seen the hijackers as nothing more than good customers because some of them had high-mileage frequent flier accounts.

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