Shanksville, PA (Flight 93)

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001 began as any normal fall weekday. The weather was beautiful as people throughout the country started their weekday routines. Over the next several hours, the country and the world would change as terrorist attacks claimed the lives of 2,977 innocent people.

Shanksville, PA

Shanksville is a borough of Somerset County, located in southwest Pennsylvania. Shanksville is located approximately 17 miles south of Johnstown, PA. The village was founded in 1798 and incorporated into a borough in 1913. The area has been a longtime site of coal and strip mining. The small borough was brought into the spotlight as the location of the crash of the fourth hijacked airliner on September 11, 2001.


United Airlines Flight 93

United Airlines Flight 93 was a Boeing 757 flying from Newark to San Francisco. Flight 93 took off at 8:42 am with 7 crew members, 33 passengers, 4 hijackers and 48,700 lbs of fuel. The flight was supposed to leave a 8:00 a.m. but was delayed due to excess airport traffic.

Between 8:42 and 8:54, one aircraft strikes the World Trade Center and the other two airliners were hijacked. FAA controllers throughout the east coast were confused about the hijackings and how to respond to this unprecedented event.

At 9:19 a.m., United dispatcher Ed Ballinger began transmitting warnings to his 16 cross country flights to “beware any cockpit intrusion – two a/c hit World Trade Center.”

At 9:23 a.m., Ed transmits this warning to United 93.

United 93 pilots received the warning at 9:24 and asked for confirmation at 9:26.

At 9:28 a.m., hijackers enter the cockpit of United 93. Altitude suddenly drops 700 feet and one of the pilots declares a “Mayday” 11 seconds later. Thirty-five seconds after this a radio transmission is made from the cockpit “Hey get out of here – get out of here – get out of here.”

At 9:32 and 9:39 one of the hijackers erroneously transmits over the radio instead of the intercom saying there is a bomb on board.

Between 9:32 and 9:57, at least 10 passengers and 2 crew members make calls to family, friends, and colleagues. Through these calls, passengers and crew learn of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Between 9:57 and 10:02, the cockpit voice recorder picks up sounds of the passengers and crew fighting to gain access to the cockpit. The pilot attempts evasive maneuvers with the aircraft to disrupt the assault, conversing with other hijackers about whether to crash the plane.

At 10:02:23 a.m., a Flight 93 hijacker says “Pull it down! Pull it down!” as the passengers fought to overtake the cockpit. The plane went into steep dive with the controls turned hard right and rolled upside down. Seconds later, Flight 93 crashed into an empty field at 580 mph, killing all 44 people on board. At the time of the crash, Flight 93 was approximately 20 minutes from Washington, DC.

9/11 Memorial – Interactive Timeline

Flight 93 Passengers Fight Back

The 9/11 Commission Report concludes that the likely target for the United 93 hijackers was either the Capitol or the White House. At the time of the crash, the plane was flying directly towards Washington, DC and was about 20 minutes of flight time away from the city. Flight 93 was scheduled to take off within the 15-minute window of the three other hijacked flights. A busy morning at Newark resulted in a delay of 42 minutes for the flight. When United 93 finally took off, American 11 had already been hijacked and was flying towards New York, crashing into the North Tower 4 minutes later. Within the next 10 minutes, both United 175 and American 77 were hijacked.

The delay at Newark resulted in a delay in the hijackers plan on board. By the time United 93 is hijacked, millions have already witnessed United 175 fly into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. The hijackers move all the passengers and crew to the rear of the plane but make no attempt to stop them from making phone calls. Many passengers and crew learn of the events that unfolded that morning and how the three airliners have been used weapons against the United States.
The passengers and crew decided that they must attempt to fight the hijackers to avoid having their plane also used as a weapon. By 9:57, several passengers had ended their phone calls, one of which said:

“Everyone’s running up to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye.”

The recovered cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds of passengers struggling to gain access to the cockpit, and the hijackers’ conversations of keeping them out. The pilot attempted to throw the passengers around with a series or sharp rolls left and right. At 9:58:57, the pilot tells another hijacker to block the door. At 9:59:52, the pilot switches tactics and pitches the plane up and own. Passengers continue their assault on the cockpit. At 10:01, the pilot levels off the plane and shouts “Allah is the greatest!” He asks another if they should “put it down?” The reply is “yes, put it in it and pull it down.” The plane dives and the control wheel is turned hard right. The plane rolls over and the sounds of the fight continue until the plane crashes.

Steve Jones

Eric Staudenmaier

National Park Service

Rebecca Raupach

Friends of Flight 93