NPR logo
Moussaoui Jury Hears Sept. 11 Cockpit Recording
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5338340/5338341" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Moussaoui Jury Hears Sept. 11 Cockpit Recording

Moussaoui Jury Hears Sept. 11 Cockpit Recording

Moussaoui Jury Hears Sept. 11 Cockpit Recording
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5338340/5338341" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Voices from United Flight 93

Read a transcript of the cockpit voice tape from the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11. The jury heard the audio recording, but it was not made available to the public out of respect for victims' families.

At the Zacarias Moussaoui sentencing trial, the jury hears the cockpit voice tape from the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11. The tape covers the flight's last 30 minutes, including an apparent effort by passengers to overwhelm the hijackers. The prosecution is trying to demonstrate suffering caused by the hijacking.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne. At the Zacarias Moussaoui sentencing trial this morning, the jury heard the cockpit voice recorder tape from the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11. The prosecution is demonstrating the suffering caused by the hijacking, a point that the government will say shows that Moussaoui should get the death penalty. He has pleaded guilty to crimes, including conspiracy to commit air piracy. NPR's Larry Abramson was in the courtroom today in Alexandria, Virginia, and heard the cockpit tape being played. And Larry, what exactly is it that the prosecutors played for the jury?

LARRY ABRAMSON reporting:

Well, this is a recording, Renee, of the last 30 minutes of the flight, only the sounds that are recorded inside the cockpit. This is the, the CVR is one of the black boxes that is recovered after a plane. They also recovered the flight data recorder, which records things like the attitude, the altitude, the speed of the plane, and using that information, they were able to display on the screen what the plane was doing while we were--while certain sounds were being made in the cockpit. So, we had both a visual and an audio representation of the end of the flight, but we didn't really get to hear the actual hijacking, the actual entry into the cockpit, because I think that that is recorded over since the tape only lasts 30 minutes.

MONTAGNE: Well, what then did you actually hear on the tape? It would have been after they entered the cockpit?

ABRAMSON: That's right. The first thing we hear is a man saying with an accent, who obviously one of the hijackers, I'm the captain. We have a bomb on board. Remain seated, don't move, stop. And then there's a struggle. It's a little bit difficult to decipher what's going on, but it appears that perhaps the hijackers are struggling, and perhaps beating the pilot, who keeps saying--they keep telling the pilot to go ahead, lie down, down, down. And then the pilot says I don't want to die, and there's sort of crying, cries of pain. And it looks like the struggle continues for a while as the pilot or whoever else is struggling with him in the cockpit continues to try to resist them, and that stops after a while. The hijackers say in Arabic everything is fine, I'm finished.

And then in English, this is the captain. We have a bomb. We have our demands. Remain seated. We hear some more air traffic, and the plane begins to make a sharp left turn. You'll remember this flight was traveling from across Pennsylvania into Ohio. It makes a sharp left turn, and then it makes almost a U-turn coming back southeast, basically heading in the direction of Washington, D.C., perhaps to hit the Capitol or the White House. We hear the pilot saying many times in the name of Allah, I bear witness. No other god but Allah, various religious incantations. And then we see them continue to distend, and there's a long period of silence before anything else happened. It's mostly just them talking, making adjustments. They're singing, it's very hard to decipher--paper rustling, things like that.

MONTAGNE: And when you say the pilot speaking of Allah, you're speaking, of course, of the hijacker, then piloting the plane.

ABRAMSON: Of the hijacker, who then is piloting, right.

MONTAGNE: And then, at that point, did you hear attempts to thwart the hijacking? I would guess now, then, from passengers, or others than the pilots.

ABRAMSON: That's right. At about 9:58, there's about 20 minutes into, they say hey. We here a banging, and we hear one of the hijackers saying in Arabic, is there something? Is there a fight? Yes, there's a fight. And the plane begins to rock side to side, and you can see on the data recorder that somebody is trying to throw the plane from side to side, perhaps trying to throw the passengers off guard, to stop them. They say, should we put the plane down? No, let's wait until they all get in, and then finally, the passengers are smashing, smashing very loudly at the door. And then finally, they say, put it down, trust in Allah. You can see the plane turn upside down completely, and then it smashes into the ground, and that's the last sound we hear.

MONTAGNE: Larry, extraordinary sad and dramatic sounds to hear.

ABRAMSON: Absolutely.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for speaking with us.

ABRAMSON: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Larry Abramson, speaking outside the courtroom at the Zacarias Moussaoui sentencing trial in Alexandria, Virginia.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Recording Captures Final Moments of Flight 93

Cathy Stefani

Cathy Stefani lays a teddy bear by a flag angel bearing the name of her daughter, Nicole Miller, on the one-year anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Miller was on United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed in Shanksville, Penn. Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Getty Images
A knife attached to a lanyard was submitted as evidence in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui.

A knife attached to a lanyard was submitted as evidence in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. The knife was found in his luggage when Moussaoui was arrested in Minneapolis in August, 2001. Reuters hide caption

toggle caption Reuters

Voices from Flight 93

Read a transcript of the cockpit voice tape from the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11. The jury heard the audio recording, but it was not made available to the public out of concern for victims' families.

Jurors in the sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui on Wednesday listened to the final, chaotic minutes aboard Flight 93, the United Airlines plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001.

The sounds of panic and violence were captured by the plane's cockpit recorder, which was recovered from the wreckage. As they listened to the audio, jurors also watched a computerized simulation of the plane's flight path — based on a recovered flight data recorder — as the events on the tape were unfolding.

Prosecutors say the recordings demonstrate the suffering caused by the hijacking, underscoring their contention that Moussaoui should get the death penalty. He has pleaded guilty to crimes including conspiracy to commit air piracy. Moussaoui is the only person charged in this country in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks.

The recording captures the last 30 minutes of the flight. It begins just after 9:30 a.m., after the cockpit has been seized. A hijacker, probably pilot Ziad Jarrah, tells passengers, "Ladies and gentlemen. Hear the captain. Please sit down, keep remaining seating. We have a bomb on board, so sit. "

Much of the recording is more difficult to interpret. The hijackers' initial announcement is followed by sounds of a struggle, and it is difficult to decipher what is occurring. The hijackers appear to be wrestling with and perhaps beating the pilot and co-pilot, saying "go ahead, lie down."

A voice is heard from the cockpit, possibly that of a flight crew member, saying, "Please, please don't hurt me... Oh God!" A crew member appears to be groaning, and says, "I don't want to die." After that, there are sounds that seem like cries of pain.

Sounds of a struggle continue in the cockpit for a few minutes. At 9:37 a.m., a hijacker says in Arabic, "Everything is fine. I finished."

At 9:39 a.m., the hijacker continues in English, saying," Here is the captain. I would like to tell you all to remain seated. We have a bomb aboard, and we are going back to the airport, and we have our demands. So, please remain quiet."

That warning is followed by sounds of air traffic on the cockpit recording. The simulation constructed from the plane's data recorder shows the 757 making a U-turn over Ohio, as Jarrah heads the plane southeast, toward Washington, D.C.

With the hijackers reciting, "In the name of Allah. I bear witness that there is no other God but Allah," and other religious incantations, the plane continued its descent, according to the computer simulation.

At 9:58 a.m., there are signs that passengers are trying to enter the cockpit and fight back. Soon, there's a loud and violent struggle as passengers try to break the door down.

Jurors could hear the sounds of crockery breaking; passengers may have used a service cart as a battering ram. Amid the loud banging noises, one of the hijackers says in Arabic, "Is there something? A fight? Yeah?" And later, "They want to get in there. Hold from the inside." At 10 a.m., a hijacker says, "I am injured."

The battle continues, and the hijackers rock the plane violently from side to side, perhaps to throw the passengers off balance.

Just after 10 a.m., a hijacker asks in Arabic,"Shall we finish it off?" Another responds in Arabic, "No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off."

Finally, the hijackers give up the fight, and repeatedly say, "Down. Down. Pull it down. Pull it down," as they push the controls to the right and down. The last words heard are repeated incantations in Arabic of "Allah is the greatest" as the jet plummets earthward, rolls onto its back, and smashes into the ground.

With reporting by Larry Abramson.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.