THE FINAL three minutes of hijacked United Flight 93 are still a mystery more than a year after it crashed in western Pennsylvania - even to grieving relatives who sought comfort in listening to its cockpit tapes in April.
A Daily News investigation has found a roughly three-minute gap between the time the tape goes silent - according to government-prepared transcripts - and the time that top scientists have pinpointed for the crash.
Several leading seismologists agree that Flight 93 crashed last Sept. 11 at 10:06:05 a.m., give or take a couple of seconds. Family members allowed to hear the cockpit voice recorder in Princeton, N.J., last spring were told it stopped just after
The FBI and other agencies refused repeated requests to explain the discrepancy.
The broader significance is that the three-minute gap points to how little is really known about how and why Flight 93 crashed - even as the saga of the doomed jetliner and cell-phone calls from some of the 40 passengers and crew continue to captivate the nation.
"That's part of the whole war aspect - we don't want to tell about what we did and didn't do," said Vernon Grose, a former National Transportation Safety Board member who says he still has questions about the Flight 93 crash. He said he doubts there will ever be "a nice, open public hearing with eyewitnesses telling what they saw."
But the three-minute gap is certain to fuel ongoing debates on the Internet over how Flight 93 really crashed, and whether the plane could have been shot down by military jet fighters that were sent aloft as the Sept. 11 hijackings unfolded. The government insists there was no shootdown.
Numerous witnesses in the Shanksville area have told the Daily News and other publications since last September that a mysterious, low-flying unmarked white jet, military in nature, circled the area at the time of the crash. The FBI has claime this was a business jet that had been asked by air-traffic controllers to inspect the Flight 93 crater.
The debate has also been driven by the wide debris field from Flight 93 - including papers found eight miles away - and by conflicting accounts over whether a 911 caller reported an explosion and white smoke on board.
Grose, the former NTSB member, said he doubts the entire story of Flight 93 will ever be told.
"I don't think so," he said. "It's like David Crockett at the Alamo. We need heroes."
Monday, September 16, 2002
Of all the 9/11 conspiracies, I think the "flight 93 was shot down" one is the most credible given available evidence (and lack of). This article doesn't exactly do much to counteract that perception.
by Atrios at 11:09