911 pilots practiced at Florida airstrip

March 31, 2006 at 12:14 PM
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CLEARWATER, Fla., March 31 (UPI) -- The trial of Sept. 11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui has spotlighted a tiny Florida airstrip where two men quietly practiced for disaster.

It was there, at the Clearwater Airpark one night in January or February 2001, that Sept. 11, 2001, pilots Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi practiced takeoffs and landings after the facility had closed.

Daniel Pursell, chief instructor for a Venice flight school that rented planes to the pair, told the St. Petersburg Times they practiced in nighttime conditions for 30 minutes or more, likely sharing controls.

The incident was seen as another example of how closer scrutiny of Atta and the other Sept. 11 hijackers might have averted the 2001 disasters.

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