The Secret Hijacking

The Fifth Plane landed in Cleveland - by Woody Box
August 17, 2004


Advise to the reader: This text is the continuation of my previous article The Cleveland Airport Mystery, so you should take a look at that first if you don't know it. Here is a short summary:

In the morning of September 11, Delta Flight 1989 made an emergency landing at Cleveland Airport. This is a well established fact. Less known to the public is that another airplane landed under similar circumstances about half an hour later, on a different runway. This second airplane is confirmed by news reports and eyewitnesses, but its existence is covered under a murky haze of disregard. I've called it "Flight X".

The purpose of this analysis is to find out more about Flight X. Browsing through documents and private messages from September 11, we will encounter two airplanes whose existence seems to have been kept secret in a similar way. These airplanes are then checked for possible correspondences with Flight X. We will reconstruct a flight path for Flight X which is not proven in a criminalistic sense, but fits the facts much better than any other scenario...

The first airplane under inspection is the "Fifth Plane". Many people remember the broadcast media reporting a fifth hijacked airplane for a short time in the morning of September 11. Distingishing it from other "fifth" airplanes on September 11 like a Korean Airlines jet which was diverted to Alaska, and also from some "fifth" airplanes reported in the days after the attacks (allegedly attempted or stalled hijackings), the Fifth Plane I'm talking about has four characteristics: 1) it was widely broadcasted between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., even abroad; 2) it was said to be hijacked; 3) it was heading for Camp David/Washington D.C., but was distingished from UA 93; 4) it vanished from the news as if it never had existed, without any explanation.

The second airplane is the "Radio Hijacker Plane". A lot of people know the distorted audio messages which were allegedly sent by the hijackers of UA 93: "Keep remaining sitting, we have a bomb on board". Air controllers and pilots reported also screams coming from this airplane. 

In a kind of "airplane algebra" I will show now that with a high degree of probability

- the "Fifth Plane" existed

- the "Radio Hijacker Plane" was not UA 93

- Flight X from Cleveland, the "Radio Hijacker Plane", and the "Fifth Plane", are the same plane.

According to the local radio station WCPO, quoted in the "Cleveland Airport Mystery", United Airlines confirmed that Flight 93 had landed in Cleveland, i.e. Flight X = UA 93. I have already expressed my reservations against this short, cryptic and uncorroborated report, and this article will show that the opposite is true. Flight X is not UA 93. 

The Fifth Plane



The Fifth Plane existed. Here is a sample of Internet messages. 

In and among the tidal wave of coverage, most of which was the same stuff from differing angles, I heard a reporter say that FIVE planes had been hijacked. Later in the day I heard about only four with no explanation of why they had said five earlier. Source

One of the things I want to know is why all morning I heard reports about a fifth plane that had been hijacked, one without a known location. The question I asked myself is: how you can lose an airliner, and why that piece of news seems to have gone away. Source

I am so glad that someone else heard that about the 5th plane. I thought I was losing my mind! I kept asking about the 5th plane and no one but me had heard that particular report. I could have sworn that I heard there were 5 planes. Don't know if the 5th one was hi-jacked or just flying off course. Source

Ok, the plane that crashed near Pittsburg crashed in a large field that just coincidentally happens to be near an air force base. We pretty much think it got blown out of the sky around here. In addition, earlier they kept talking about a second missing plane they believed was heading toward Washington, but suddenly all talk of that disappeared. Anyone know what happened to it? Source

There was a point on Tuesday when I am absolutely sure that a fifth plane was reported as being "intercepted" by Air Force fighter jets and was now "no longer a threat," which to me sounds like a euphemism for "shot down." Mid-day Tuesday this was being reported as fact, and now there's not a word of it anywhere. So strange is the turnaround in official facts that it almost feels like I imagined it. I'm betting on enforced news blackouts.... Source

For example, after Flight 93 had crashed the media was still reporting a plane in the air, heading toward DC. Was this just that the implications of 93's crash hadn't filtered to the news desk, or was there another plane? Source

The strange thing is that I was scanning the radio from right after the first crash and I kept hearing, repeatedly, that there was a plane heading for the wh/cd. First it was described as a fourth plane, but after that one was reported down in PA, it was reported that there was a fifth plane heading for the wh/cd. Source

These messages cannot be dismissed as reflections of pure rumours because a fifth plane was also noticed by a multi-agency video conference on September 11: At 10:03, the conference received reports of more missing aircraft, “2 possibly 3 aloft,”and learned of a combat air patrol over Washington. (9/11 report, p. 36

It was also noticed in Washington D.C. by some very important people - after the crash of UA 93:

At 10:02, the communicators in the shelter began receiving reports from the Secret Service of an inbound aircraft —presumably hijacked —heading toward Washington. That aircraft was United 93. The Secret Service was getting this information directly from the FAA. The FAA may have been tracking the progress of United 93 on a display that showed its projected path to Washington, not its actual radar return.Thus, the Secret Service was relying on projections and was not aware the plane was already down in Pennsylvania. At some time between 10:10 and 10:15, a military aide told the Vice President and others that the aircraft was 80 miles out. Vice President Cheney was asked for authority to engage the aircraft. His reaction was described by Scooter Libby as quick and decisive, “in about the time it takes a batter to decide to swing. ”The Vice President authorized fighter aircraft to engage the inbound plane. He told us he based this authorization on his earlier conversa tion with the President. The military aide returned a few minutes later, probably between 10:12 and 10:18,and said the aircraft was 60 miles out. He again asked for authorization to engage. The Vice President again said yes. (9/11 report, p. 41)

CNN correspondent Chris Plante was in Washington at this time and watched a scrambling fighter: All right, the area to the west of the Pentagon has been evacuated further back by law enforcement and military officials as they anticipate a second aircraft arriving at the Pentagon. It has been deemed to be threatening enough where I saw at least one F-16 fighter jet in the air over the Pentagon, headed to the west, where the plane was reportedly coming in from. Again, they are saying here a second aircraft is expected to arrive at the Pentagon sometime soon. They take it seriously enough that they have scrambled at least one fighter jet that I saw, probably either from D.C. Air National Guard or the Maryland Air National Guard, both of which fly F-16s. CNN 9/11/01

The 9/11 report claims that the hijacked plane approaching Washington was just a phantom. When Cheney was interviewed by Tim Russert five days after the attacks, he didn't admit that the crucial "shoot down order" (better: engage order) was meant for a phantom flight. Maybe he didn't like to let the people know of the grotesque fact that after fighters have been scrambled several times in vain to avert real attackers, this time they successfully averted a not-existing attacker.

But the phantom flight theory leads to very problematic conclusions: Cheney based the decision to scramble fighters and engage the aircraft on flawed informations from the FAA. The FAA obviously didn't observe a moving radar blip since the crash of UA 93. The FAA had "lost" the plane, but for some reason assumed that it would go straight to Washington, along an ominous "projected path". So the FAA was in effect guessing the position of the plane, but didn't forward the vagueness of this information to the Secret Service. What if the presumed hijackers would have decided to deviate from the course to Washington and attack Philadephia or New York again? I don't think that after the WTC and Pentagon attacks such a behavior of the FAA is sufficiently described as incompetence.

The report implies also that the FAA was not aware of the crash of UA 93 until at least 10:15 and claims that Cleveland Center didn't notice the crash: NEADS first received a call about United 93 from the military liaison at Cleveland Center at 10:07.Unaware that the aircraft had already crashed, Cleveland passed to NEADS the aircraft’s last known latitude and longitude. NEADS was never able to locate United 93 on radar because it was already in the ground.(9/11 report, p. 30

But Cleveland was well aware of the crash. Cleveland controller Stacey Taylor was responsible for UA 93 in its last moments and was watching it very carefully. Here's her statement on NBC, 9/11/02:

BROKAW: You're keeping your eye on Flight 93 at this point?

Ms. TAYLOR: Yeah. And then the transponder came back on. We got two hits off the transponder. That's something we've always wanted to know. Why did the transponder come back on? Because the hijackers had shut it off so that they couldn't be tracked, even though we were still tracking them. Now we were getting an altitude readout on the airplane. I can't remember the precise numbers, but it was around 6400 feet, and then around 5900 or 5800 feet. And we're thinking, 'Oh, you know, maybe something's happened, maybe this isn't what we think it is.'

BROKAW: (Voiceover) But minutes later, at 10:03, the transponder shuts offagain. Flight 93 disappears from radar.

(Computer graphic showing flight path for United 93)

Ms. TAYLOR: I had another airplane that I was working. And I told him, I said, 'Sir,' I said, 'I think we have an aircraft down.' I said, 'This is entirely up to you, but if you'd be willing to fly over the last place that we spotted this airplane that--and see if you can see anything.' And he's like, 'Yeah, we'll do that.' So he flew over, and at first he didn't see anything. And then he said, 'We see a great big plume or a cloud of smoke.'

BROKAW: You knew it was down at that point.

Ms. TAYLOR: We knew. 

So when UA 93 disappeared from radar, Ms. Taylor immediately suspected the airplane was down and asked a nearby pilot for help. The pilot confirmed her conjecture. Why did the FAA forward a "projected path" of an confirmed downed airplane to the Secret Service? And how does the FAA explain the contradiction between Ms. Taylor's statement and the claim that Cleveland Center was unaware of the crash? 

The assumption that the Fifth Plane was just a phantom and mixed up with UA 93 leads inevitably to serious contradictions. We should drop it and instead postulate a real airplane en route to Washington, creating a real radar signal which outlasted the UA 93 crash. 

Is Flight X the Fifth Plane?



The final fate of the Fifth Plane lies in the dark. The media stopped the coverage soon and dropped the subject like a hot potato. Contradicting rumours that it crashed (conveyed by CBS) or was forced down near Camp David turned out to be wrong. They were probably based on the fuzzy official statement that the airplane was "no longer a threat". It's quite sure that it was intercepted by fighters, but we don't know its way afterwards. Because we also don't know where Flight X came from, it's tempting to assume that the two planes are identical, but the proof is still missing.

After all, in the huge history encyclopedia called the Internet we find this message:

I'm sure there was a fifth plane involved that was headed toward Camp David; however, that plane was forced (yes forced, militarily) to land in Cleveland. I thought the target could also have be NASA's Glen/Lewis Research Center that is right next to the Cleveland Airport. The news reported that the plane landed because of a suspected bomb on board but they haven't released anyone that was on that plane. The closed NASA and transported everyone that was on the plane there for questioning. They are going through the plane and luggage with a fine toothed comb. The original flight plan was from Boston to LA.They closed all exits from the freeway to get into the airport and even bus drivers were told that if they attempted to exit, they would be shot. People that were already at the airport were forced to walk for miles to get transportation home because they were not even allowed to remove their cars from the parking lots. Source

This message is the missing link between the Fifth Plane and Flight X. Admittedly, the author is an unknown individual with nickname "Connie" and no star reporter from the Washington Post. Nevertheless, it appears that "Connie" was at or near Cleveland Airport on 9/11. The report sounds credible and corroborates the thesis that Flight X and the Fifth Plane are identical.

The Radio Hijacker Plane

Here is an excerpt from the recording (and here you can listen to it):

Cleveland: United ninety-three, check in when flight level three-five-zero – [unintelligible].

United 93: United ninety-three check in three-five-zero.

Cleveland: United ninety-three, three-five-zero, Roger. United ninety-three, you have traffic to your one o’clock, twelve miles eastbound three-seven-zero.

United 93: Negative contact, we’re looking United ninety-three.

Cleveland: Somebody call Cleveland? [No noise on this Cleveland tape, must be a different frequency being monitored by Cleveland on another tape.] United ninety-three verify three-five-zero, United ninety-three verify your flight level, er, three-five-zero. United ninety-three verify your flight level is three-five-zero. United ninety-three Cleveland, United ninety-three Cleveland. United ninety-three do you read Cleveland Center please?

United 797: United fifteen twenty-three, did you hear the company, er, did you hear some other aircraft on a frequency a couple of minutes ago, screaming?

United 1523: Yes I did, seven ninety-seven, and, ah, we couldn’t tell what it was either.

United 797: OK.

Cleveland: United ninety-three Cleveland, if you hear the center, ident [command for United 93 to send secondary radar transponder positive identification]

American 1060: American ten-sixty, er, ditto also on the other transmission.

Cleveland: American ten-sixty, you heard that also?

American 1060: We heard it twice.

Cleveland: Roger, we heard that also. [No noise on Cleveland tape.] Thanks. We just wanted to confirm that wasn’t some interference.

Executive 956: Executive nine fifty-six.

Cleveland: Executive nine fifty-six, go.

Executive 956: Just answering your call. We could year that, er, yelling too.

Cleveland: OK, thank you, we’re just trying to figure out what’s going on.

United 93: [unintelligible] this is captain, please sit down, remain sitting, we have a bomb on board. [Signal strength 5, readability 1.]

Cleveland: Uh, calling Cleveland Center, you’re unreadable, say again slowly.

Executive 956: [unintelligible] sounded like he said he had a bomb on board.

Cleveland: Uh, say again, you there, United ninety-three? (Translation and Comments: Joe Vialls

Joe Vialls has analysed the recording and gives two reasons why the distorted radio messages didn't come from UA 93:

1) When UA 93 checks in to Cleveland ARTCC Airspace (in the beginning of the tape), its message is clear and understandable (Signal strength 5, readability 5). But later, the hijacker's voice is distorted by heavy background noise (Signal strength 5, readability 1). This means that the two messages have different origins, i.e. they came from different locations.

2) Air controllers have the technical means to determine the direction where a radio signal comes from (per RDF, Radio Direction Finding). Vialls: "Though the Cleveland controller appears to infer that two distorted radio calls about a 'bomb' originate from United Flight 93, this is not actually the case. By repeatedly calling Flight 93, the controller is actually trying to determine whether or not the calls originated from that aircraft....Nor are there any proper RDF logs available to prove the point of origin of the wholly independent 'bomb' claims, which could easily have been transmitted from another unidentifeid aircraft, or from the ground."

Vialls concludes that the "bomb" messages are faked, but he doesn't seem to know that the air controllers had already determined their origin: it was Delta 1989!

Now around 9:30 a.m., controllers hear words that seem to confirm their worst fears. They hear shouting as Flight 1989 approaches the Ohio border. Then they hear a voice: "Get out of there!" Then what sounds like a scuffle. Minutes later, a new voice, this one with a heavy accent: "Ladies and gentlemen, here it's the captain. Please sit down. Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb aboard." No one who hears those words believes they are coming from Werner (pilot of Delta 1989). Not with such a heavy accent. No way. Rather, the transmission seems to be from a hijacker who unwittingly spoke over the radio when he meant to address passengers. USA Today, 8/12/02 

During tense moments that morning at Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, the first guess was that Delta Flight 1989 was hijacked, not United Airlines Flight 93. "We knew right away we had a problem. The first thought was, 'Is that Delta 1989?'" said Rick Kettell, manager of the Federal Aviation Administration's busiest regional center. CNN, 8/9/02 

The center's controllers were concerned about the Delta flight because it had departed Boston five minutes behind United Flight 175, which crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York.We knew the magnitude of what we were dealing with," Kettell said. "We knew what happened in New York before our involvement became very keen." Shortly after Delta Flight 1989 checked in with the Cleveland Center while over Syracuse, N.Y., the center's controllers heard two transmissions that sounded like a cockpit struggle. ABC News, 8/14/02

So the screams and the first hijacker messages were apparently coming from Delta 1989's position. The airplane was at that time 25 miles away from UA 93. But there were no screaming people aboard Delta 1989, no bomb, no hijackers. How do we solve this contradiction?

The most logical solution is: there was an airplane flying parallel to Delta 1989, probably some thousand feet higher or lower. The transponder was turned off, and its radar blip was not visible to the controllers because it was "covered" by the Delta 1989 blip. It was flying in the "radar shadow" of Delta 1989. This airplane was the origin of the famous radio messages and likely hijacked. This on the first view daring explanation will turn out to be perfectly consistent with the reports of the Fifth Plane.

There is another reason why UA 93 was probably not the Radio Hijacker Plane: the radio hijacker ordered the passengers two times to remain sitting, the last time at 9:39 (9/11 report, p.12). But at this moment the passengers of UA 93 had been forced to the rear already. Jeremy Glick called his wife at 9:37 on an airphone and told her that he had left his seat in row 11. Tom Burnett called his wife at 9:34 on an airphone, too (Jere Longman, Among the Heroes). But according to the 9/11 report, all airphone calls have been made from the rear of UA 93 (9/11 report, p. 456, footnote No. 77). This discrepancy is best solved by assuming that we are dealing with two different airplanes.

Is Flight X the Radio Hijacker Plane?



The mayor of Cleveland, Michael White, said in his first news conference on September 11 that air controllers reported screams coming from Flight X, and that a bomb was on board. He admitted indirectly that there were unconfirmed reports that it was hijacked. Cleveland air controllers (likely the same ones) have heard screams, too, they knew about a bomb threat and suspected a hijacking. The similarities are striking. White's source was most likely refering to the same radio calls that are discussed here. We don't know where the Radio Hijacker Plane went after the radio transmissions, and we don't know where Flight X came from. The thesis that Flight X is identical with the Radio Hijacker Plane is, while not proven, very appealing.

The Flight X Timeline and Path



The thesis Flight X = the Fifth Plane = the Radio Hijacker Plane has yet to pass a test where time and location data are cross-checked with each other. If it's possible to compose a timeline and a flight path matching all three flights without contradictions, the thesis gets a big kick. If contradictions emerge, we have to drop it. 

Evaluating the sources for the Radio Hijacker Plane (RHP) and the Fifth Plane (FP) yields this time table:

Time.......................Approximate Location.................Source................Event....................................

9:28...................25 miles NE of Youngstown/Ohio.........(1)..........Screams from Flight X (RHP)

9:31...................Youngstown/Ohio ................................(1)..........First hijacker radio message from Flight X (RHP)

9:39...................Cleveland/Oberlin................................ (1)..........Last hijacker radio message from Flight X (RHP)

10:10.................80 miles NW of Washington.................(2)..........Flight X (FP) is heading Washington

10:18.................50 miles NW of Washington.................(2)..........Flight X (FP) is intercepted by fighters

10:45.................Cleveland Airport.................................(3)..........Flight X is forced to land

(1) This is based on the assumption that the RHP was first flying in the radar shadow of Delta 1989, i.e., it flew along the same path. USA Today relates details of the Delta 1989 path. And when UA 93 made his turn at 9:36, Delta 1989 was told to stay away from it. It was just 15 miles away at this moment.

(2) 9/11 report, p.41

(3) The Cleveland Airport Mystery

The table indicates that Flight X made two sharp turns: the first one over Ohio, just like UA 93, and the second one 50 miles west or northwest of Washington - near Camp David - when he was intercepted by fighters and forced to move off the capital. We know the time and approximate location of the second turning point from the 9/11 report. Considering the airplane's speed as well as the geographical distances and bearing in mind that it entered Ohio airspace together with Delta 1989, we can roughly estimate the time of the first turning point: 9:38. This yields the following flight path:

There are no data available for the gap between the Radio Hijacker Plane and the Fifth Plane (or between 9:39 and 10:10, in chronological terms). However, a "lost plane" was reported over Ohio by local broadcast stations: "There was still a missing plane that had been in the area earlier." Cheney received reports in his shelter that there was an aircraft downed in Ohio. And an air controller from Cleveland Center, writing under pseudonym, has heard from a "lost" airplane, too, but we have to classify this information as hearsay, because he was not in Oberlin on September 11. So the evidence for a "lost plane" is fuzzy, but it's a nice designation for the gap. 

If we put together the paths of Flight X, UA 93 and Delta 1989, we get an interesting picture:

The paths of this sketch are just approximate, of course, and rely in part strongly on estimations. Nevertheless, we know that Flight X was headed for Washington just like UA 93, and at the same time. So if we accept that Flight X was hiding behind Delta 1989 when entering Ohio airspace, we should also consider the possibility that Flight X was hiding behind UA 93 after the turn. The airplane changed its cover. This scenario would explain the "lost plane" reports: when Flight X left the Delta 1989 cover at about 9:38 and turned around, his radar blip was visible for a short time before he reached the new cover UA 93. Then the blip vanished, and the "lost plane" was born. Some controllers misinterpreted the missing blip as a crash, and the rumour of a plane "downed in Ohio" was born. This scenario explains also why UA 93 climbed on 41700 feet when he turned around: he wanted to clear the way for Flight X. The two hijackings were obviously coordinated.


The thesis of the secret hijacked airplane helps to explain many hitherto unsolved peculiarities of 9/11. It looks like the existence of this flight was meant to be hidden from the public by interested circles, so the question arises: Why was it kept secret?

And of course it would be interesting to find out the airport where Flight X started.