Tuesday, March 09, 2004

There was a fascinating, underreported 9/11 story in, of all places, yesterday's New York Daily News. We are finding out that there may have been a second passenger uprising on the 9/11 airliners, specifically United Airlines Flight 175 out of Logan airport in Boston, which struck Tower # 2 of the World Trade Center at 9:02 AM that morning.

The Daily News story reports that passenger Brian Sweeney was ready to fight the hijackers, apparently along with others ("We're going to try to do something about this," his widow quotes him).

So why did this passenger uprising fail, where the well-known one on UA Flight 93 at least partially succeeded? The Daily News story points out that there were only 4 minutes between Sweeney's cellphone call and the impact with Tower 2, which is only a partial explanation.

Though Flight 175 didn't have the shortest flight of the four 9/11 planes, it had the shortest period when the hijackers were in control--because of its particular flight plan.

That day's other fiight from Logan, American Airlines Flight 11, travelled due west and crossed the Hudson valley (which was probably the point in the flight when the hijacking occurred); the hijacker pilot on that flight, Atta, almost certainly followed the Hudson on a straight line south to Manhattan.

But Flight 175's scheduled route was different. It followed a southwesterly direction, taking it diagonally across Connecticut and through northern New Jersey, and almost certainly taking the plane in visual range of the twin towers. Most likely the sighting of the WTC was the visual cue for the hijacker team to seize the plane.

What this meant, among other things, was that there were no more than 10-15 minutes between the hijacking of 175 and the impact with the WTC south tower. Consequently there was much less time available for the passengers to organize a revolt. By contrast, Flight 93 wasn't hijacked until it was over Ohio, and the passengers had over twenty minutes to plan their uprising.

The Flight 175 passengers, unlike those on 93, were also faced by a full five-man hijacking crew. That, and the lack of time, made it impossible for them to stop the hijackers.

What a sad, touching story, made even more so by our almost never knowing about it.

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