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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.”