Fifth 9/11 plane investigated as a terrorist target: TMZ


The captain of a United Airlines plane that was scheduled to take off on the morning of September 11, 2001 is convinced his plane was intended as part of the coordinated terrorist operation Attack.

“There’s a good chance someone was planning to use our plane as a weapon of mass destruction,” says pilot Tom Mannello in “TMZ Investigates: 9/11: The Fifth Plane,” which premieres Monday at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.

TMZ said it spent six months investigating the “suspicious and alarming activity” on board Flight 23, a Boeing 767, which was scheduled to depart JFK at 9 a.m. bound for LA

Among the claims: Mannello said he learned two box cutters had been found in the first class seat pockets of the plane parked alongside Flight 23 – with a tail number one digit next to it.

“If anybody was on the ground working with them, they just made a mistake and put the box cutters on the wrong plane,” Mannello said, claiming it wouldn’t be “the hardest thing in the world” to put them there at that time.

Pilot Tom Mannello is convinced his plane was compromised after learning two box cutters were discovered on a neighboring plane.
TMZ investigates / FOX

Airplane on the runway
The hour-long special examines claims that United Airlines Flight 23 was to be the fifth aircraft involved in the coordinated attack.
TMZ investigates / FOX

In the hour-long special, flight attendants on board the plane that day share their suspicions about four people in first class – two men, a child and a person wearing a hijab, which the crew believed was a man pretending to be a woman – and a man who sweats profusely in business class.

“It was weird because it was 8am and planes are cold anyway, but it was a chilly morning,” flight attendant Sandy Thorngren said of the man’s alleged sweat.

The flight crew reported having difficulty getting fruit platters for their first-class flyers who didn’t eat meat, leading to an argument between the passengers and the first-class attendant, a woman described in the documentary as ” Deborah” was identified.

“I could hear her say, ‘We don’t want to eat, we don’t need to eat. We want to take off. We don’t need food. We just want to go,’” Thorngren claimed of the first class passengers.

People fleeing the 9/11 explosion in New York
Four planes crashed that day – two into the towers, one into the Pentagon and the last into a field in Pennsylvania.
Suzanne Plunkett/AP

9/11 attacks on twin towers, fire and smoke from towers
Mannello recalls that his flight was grounded and JFK Airport was closed after the attack.
Tamara Beckwith/New York Post

Mannello said he piloted the plane to the runway, unaware of what was happening in Manhattan at the time. However, he was denied take-off clearance as air traffic control ordered all flights back to their gates for a mass evacuation.

The attack killed 2,996 people, including 19 hijackers aboard four flights.

American Airlines Flight 11, from Boston to LA, struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m., and United Airlines Flight 175, also from Boston to LA, crashed into the South Tower less than 20 minutes later.

American Airlines Flight 77 from Washington DC struck the Pentagon at 9:37 am, while United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco crashed in a Pennsylvania field, probably en route to the Capitol or White House.

Flight 23’s crew believe they may meet a similar fate.

Aircraft floor hatch open
TMZ reported that two uniformed people were seen walking around the locked plane’s cabin that day. When authorities arrived, they reported that the floor hatch was open.
TMZ investigates / FOX

belly of the plane
The hatch, shown in the document as being easily opened from the underside of the aircraft, leads into the belly via a ladder.
TMZ investigates / FOX

“I definitely think Flight 23 from JFK to LAX was the fifth plane,” Thorngren says in the document. “And that scares me, haunts me to this day.”

TMZ reports that 20 minutes after passengers and crew exited the United flight and the plane was locked down, people on the ground saw two uniformed people running in the passenger cabin.

When authorities came to investigate, the doctor said they discovered an open floor hatch leading from the cabin to the belly of the plane.

Mannello believes the two people may have been looking for the box cutters who were spotted on the neighboring plane.

TMZ reports that the FBI interviewed the flight attendants later that day and took them to a port authority list to see if they could identify the four first-class passengers whose behavior raised their suspicions.

Interview with Sandy Thorngren
Sandy Thorngren was one of the flight attendants on United Airlines Flight 23.
TMZ investigates / FOX

“We were escorted to this one room with these double windows that you could see in but not out,” Thorngren says in the document. “And they asked us if we could identify the people behind that window.”

No arrests were reported.

The FBI declined to comment to The Post, which also reached out to United Airlines.

A firefighter looking at the debris after the September 11 attacks
About 2,996 people were killed in the coordinated attack, including the 19 hijackers.
Matthew McDermott for the NY Post

After interviewing 1,200 people and reviewing 2.5 million pages of documents, the 9/11 Commission released a nearly 600-page report on the 2004 attack.

Flight 23 was missing from the document.

“I am deeply concerned that it could be the fifth plane,” former MP Carolyn Maloney said in the document. “I would say that the Intelligence Committee and Congress should look at the intelligence reports that have emerged from this investigation.”

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