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September 11th Conspiracies - Flight 93

Author: Edward L Winston
Contributors: Dave Sorensen

Flight 93 has the most controversy surrounding it, undoubtedly some of the most fantastical as well.

Table of Contents

  1. The Plane Landed Safely in Cleveland
  2. Sound of Wind on Phone Call Proves Missile Attack
  3. Final Call from Flight 93 Ended with Reports of Explosion and Smoke
  4. An Engine was Found Far from the Crash Site

The Plane Landed Safely in Cleveland

Flight 93 didn't crash as reported. Instead it landed safely in Cleveland, as reported by more than one news story[1]:

"A Boeing 767 out of Boston made an emergency landing Tuesday at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport due to concerns that it may have a bomb aboard, said Mayor Michael R. White.

White said the plane had been moved to a secure area of the airport, and was evacuated.

United identified the plane as Flight 93. The airline did not say how many people were aboard the flight."

Later on the author tried to clear up this story[2]:

I thought it was time to set the record straight on a website error that's gotten out of hand.

I've been getting calls and e-mails for several years, all from folks who have seen my byline on a story (Plane Lands In Cleveland; Bomb Feared Aboard) about Flight 93, the plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field on September 11, 2001.

The story in question, an Associated Press bulletin, was posted on during the morning of September 11, 2001. The story stated that Flight 93 landed in Cleveland. This was not true.

Once the AP issued a retraction a few minutes later, we removed the link.

There were two problems:

1)I only removed the link TO the story. We did not remove the story itself. This was my error probably due to the busy nature of the day - I was the only person updating the website until about noon that day, and things were crazier than they'd ever been.

2) The byline was incorrect. In my haste, I pasted the "Reported by: 9News Staff" byline from a previous story, but this was actually an Associated Press story.

Sometime in 2003 I received an e-mail inquiring about the story. I quickly removed the story, and wrote back to the person, thanking them for the heads up about the incorrect story.

Things didn't stop there.

Messages and phone calls started coming in about "Why did the government make me remove the story?" As is the nature of the net, folks had gotten a hold of the old story and posted it on their own blogs, fueling even more interest in the situation.

So, for everyone who is still wondering about this story, here are some frequently asked questions. I'm hoping this clears everything up once and for all!


1. Where did the original story come from?
The story was an Associated Press bulletin that came across the news wires. Associated Press is a news service that many news organizations subscribe to for non-local news. The idea is that a local news organization can't possibly have reporters everywhere in the world, so for that reason, we publish stories written by Associated Press journalists.

2. So you didn't report the story yourself?
No, I work at the website in Cincinnati. I generally do not do any reporting out in the field. Also, I was not in Cleveland, nor does WCPO-TV have a Cleveland-based reporter. If you're not familiar with the geography of Ohio, Cleveland is a good four hours away from us.

There were two problems:

1) I only removed the link TO the story. We did not remove the story itself. This was my error probably due to the busy nature of the day - I was the only person updating the website until about noon that day, and things were crazier than they'd ever been.

2) The byline was incorrect. In my haste, I pasted the "Reported by: 9News Staff" byline from a previous story, but this was actually an Associated Press story.

3. Why didn't you remove the problem story page from the outset?

My mistake, that's why. I removed the link TO the story, but didn't remove the actual story. Then, the story page was indexed by the major search engines. I didn't even know the story hadn't been removed until after I was contacted by a member of the public.

4. Why DID you remove the page?

Because it was in error.

5. Why did you create this FAQ page? Isn't that just fueling the fire?

I've been getting a ton of phone calls and e-mails about this recently and answering everyone would make it hard for me to get my day job running the website accomplished. Also, unlike the old media paradigm, which is "ignore it and it'll go away," the Internet means a two-way conversation with our website users. So, in the interest of media transparency, this is my attempt to clear the air.

So what plane did land at Cleveland? It seems to have been Delta Flight 1989. This was misidentified as Flight 93[3]:

Air traffic controllers believed they had a hijacked plane in the air over Ohio on Sept. 11. They just didn't know which plane.

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.

There are countless sources online showing the plane's real identity. Here is an account from someone who was actually on the plane[4]:

[My husband] and I and six other fellow [...] employees were on the 8 am flight from Boston to Los Angeles on Tuesday, but we were on the Delta flight [1989], the one out of three 8am flights departing Logan that did not get hijacked. Instead, we were forced to make an emergency landing in Cleveland because there were reports that a bomb or hijacking was taking place on our plane. The pilot had radioed that there was suspicious activity in the cabin since one of the passengers was speaking urgently on his cellphone and ignored repeated flight attendant requests to stop using his cell phone while in flight. Also, there was an irregularity in the passenger manifest because there were two people [with the same middle eastern name] who were listed but only one aboard.

There are plenty other news stories as well[5][6]. If Flight 93 did land safely, what happened to all the people on board? Were they paid off like others? Executed? What about all these stories against the conspiracy theorists? Were they paid off too?

Sound of Wind on Phone Call Proves Missile Attack

Various passengers on Flight 93 called their relatives. One of the calls ended with what sounded like wind, indicating that the plane had just been hit by a missile.

The New Pearl Harbor, David Ray Griffin: CeeCee Lyles "...husband then heard screaming in the background followed by a "whooshing sound, a sound like wind," then more screaming, after which he lost contact".

The article that David Ray Griffin sources his claim from describes the situation slightly differently[7]:

"CeeCee Lyles let out a scream.

"They're doing it! They're doing it! They're doing it!" she said. Lorne Lyles heard a scream. Then his wife said something he couldn't understand. Then the line went dead".

There is no mention of wind, whooshing noises, or anything close to what David Ray Griffin is claiming. This claim was not substantiated by another truther site[8], nor another actual news article[9].

It seems highly unlikely to me that a missile hitting an airplane would make whooshing sounds, or sounds like wind, considering other conspiracy theorists claim it was hit by a missile, and this create a massive explosion.

Final Call from Flight 93 Ended with Reports of Explosion and Smoke

The final call from Flight 93 ended with reports of an explosion and smoke -- the missile hit?


" eight minutes before the crash, a frantic male passenger called the 911 emergency number. He told the operator, named Glen Cramer, that he had locked himself inside one of the plane's toilets. Cramer told the AP, in a report that was widely broadcast on 11 September, that the passenger had spoken for one minute. "We're being hijacked, we're being hijacked!" the man screamed down his mobile phone. "We confirmed that with him several times," Cramer said, "and we asked him to repeat what he said. He was very distraught. He said he believed the plane was going down. He did hear some sort of an explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane, but he didn't know where. And then we lost contact with him."

This claims gives me a headache, for several reasons. First of all, it is reported to occur at 9:58 AM and lasting for one minute. That puts the explosion at least 4 minutes before the time of the crash. How did the plane manage to fly for so long after it had been hit by a missile?

If it had been hit by a missile, it would have surely destroyed or damaged the plane in a horrible manner leaving a trail of debris as long as 30 miles if it continued to fly. Not to mention, that it would have caused the plane to depressurize extremely quickly, causing smoke to be pulled out.

Most importantly the idea that a passenger could see smoke coming from the plane, but didn't know where is really strange when he was in the bathroom with the door locked. The only explanation would be if it were coming under the door, but even then, it doesn't explain what I said in the last paragraph.

The younger brother of the passenger in question reported his brother as saying something completely different[11]:

"For example, in the days following the crash, the Associated Press interviewed Glen Cramer, a Westmoreland County emergency services supervisor, who told AP and other news agencies that he had read "off a transcript" that minutes before the crash a passenger, David Felt, had called and told the dispatcher that he had he had heard an explosion and that there was white smoke in the pane.

But in a phone interview, Felt's younger brother Gordon, who was played the 911 tape by the FBI when he went to hear the cockpit recordings in a special event for the victims' families, said, "There was no mention of white smoke or an explosion." Also, the dispatcher who took the call, John Shaw, confirmed that Felt had mentioned neither bomb nor white smoke. "It never happened," he stated".

It turns out that John Shaw was the one who actually took the 911 call, not Glen Cramer, as he was just the supervisor at the time[12]: 

The morning of Sept. 11, Shaw was taking a break and walking across the room toward a TV when a phone rang and he picked it up. There was a man on the other end.

"He told me he locked himself in the bathroom ... his plane had been hijacked," Shaw said.

"He was crying, frightened, scared, anxious," Shaw said. "There was absolutely no doubt" that he was telling the truth about the hijacking.

"I told him to stay calm," Shaw said. "It was a last-ditch effort."

Shaw got as much information as possible from the man before the jet was out of range and the connection was broken.

As we can see, nothing too unusual going on here, the conspiracy theory is based on a claim that wasn't even true.

An Engine was Found Far from the Crash Site

Engine parts of Flight 93 were found far from the main debris field, a sign that it had been shot down.

Instead of explaining this my self, let's just quote Popular Mechanics[13]:

Jeff Reinbold, the National Park Service representative responsible for the Flight 93 National Memorial, confirms the direction and distance from the crash site to the basin: just over 300 yards south, which means the fan landed in the direction the jet was traveling. "It's not unusual for an engine to move or tumble across the ground," says Michael K. Hynes, an airline accident expert who investigated the crash of TWA Flight 800 out of New York City in 1996. "When you have very high velocities, 500 mph or more," Hynes says, "you are talking about 700 to 800 ft. per second. For something to hit the ground with that kind of energy, it would only take a few seconds to bounce up and travel 300 yards."

The Pittsburgh Pulp has a quote from a weapons expert regarding this issue[14]:

Robert Sherman, a conventional weapons expert with the Federation of American Scientists who worked for the state department as former executive director of the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Advisory Board, and also wrote extensively about F-16s and Sidewinder missiles, looked at the missile theories on and deemed it "the usual paranoid crap."

"There was nothing there that gets me very worked up," he says. "Maybe [the plane] did break up. A crash is not a sanitary event. By definition, the uncontrolled impact of an airplane does strange things."

Sherman said that if a missile had hit Flight 93, there would have been more evidence. "If a Sidewinder had hit it, there would have been pieces of the fan or the fuselage in a larger area," he says. "If the engine breaks up, then the fan blades are going to come off like bullets. Pieces of the wing and fuselage would be all over the place."

We can't say if Flight 93's engine came off before it crashed or afterwards, but it the quotes above do show that distant engines are not proof of a missile attack.