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Mon, Sep 11, 2006

From ANN's 2001 Archives: An Eyewitnesss Pilot Account

The details came into ANN at a furious pace for the first few emotional days and weeks that followed 09.11.01... but few reports were as heart-breaking or as brutally well illustrated as the ANN reader report filed by GA Pilot Yury "HECTOP" Faktorovich, complete with pictures, reproduced below just as it was in 2001.

We reproduce it below for one reason... so that the lessons of that day remain fresh and prominent in the hearts and minds of all those tasked with making sure that those responsible are brought fully to justice and that such an event is never allowed to happen again.

An ANN Reader Eyewitness Account of "Terrible Tuesday"
By Yury "HECTOP" Faktorovich, PP-ASEL-IA

09-11-01: That morning I took off from my field in Northern NJ to just bum around as usual in a rented Cessna 172SP and was planning to do the VOR approach at FWN and an ILS at MSV to keep my instrument skills in check. I climbed out to about 2500 and leveled out to stay under Class B airspace floor. I was right about over Lincoln Park airport (N07) when I glanced back at the city and saw the smoke coming out of WTC (it was a VFR and a million morning, so you could really see far out).

"Damn! wtf?" I thought, as I hit the throttle and went direct to Alpine Tower where I joined the Hudson VFR corridor, and tuned in to the self-announcement UNICOM freq 123.05. There was all kinds of talk about a "commuter plane gone into WTC", so I also tuned in to 1010 WINS AM news-radio on the ADF receiver and listened in. They hadn't had a clue either--all they were saying that a plane went into the building.

Meanwhile, I was just heading down the corridor at all the speed that a fully-shoved C-172 throttle can afford, and announcing myself as the usual "Spamcan 123, one thousand feet, GWB, southbound," and by the time I made it to the Holland Tunnel I saw a bunch of helicopters around the WTC, smoke billowing out of the #1 tower, and the atmosphere of some real big sh*t hitting the fan.

As I'm flying closer (almost opposite the WTC) and right next to the Harborside Center in Jersey City; I see this airliner coming down in a steep bank.

My first thought was... WTF is this guy doing!???

Why is he diving so steep to take a look at the fire!

And... it's an airliner! (looked like a 737 to me at the time).

I muttered something along the lines "Jeez, this guy is gonna get so fired by his airline, it's not even funny!"

The next moment.... it hits the building.... I felt like I was inside a cartoon or a movie, maybe that "Independence Day" flick. At that moment I thought I was seeing things... like this can't be, this isn't real.

I had my camera in hand and snapped (photos) virtually a split second later after the impact, but I was simply too awestruck when I saw the plane, so it didn't click in me to actually shoot the thing (but if I had a Stinger SAM with me, damn, I wish I did and I would).

I didn't know what to do next, but I headed out towards Sandy Hook, called approach and begged them for flight following, just to GET ME OUTTA HERE.

They kept me on flight following until about Colts Neck VOR where they said "unable," and told me I was on my own....

I tried to go back to CDW, and tuned in the tower... They couldn't hear me, but I could hear that TEB was closed, and they were about to get closed, while telling every aircraft to land. I gave up on the thought of going back to my field and landed at the first field in sight, where a bunch of other awestruck pilots were trying to get a grasp on what was going on.

After a couple of hours, it calmed down, the airport manager shut down the place and gave me a lift back to my airport, where I picked up my car.

The FBO was closed.

The airport was eerily quiet.

So I went off for a drink to calm down my nerves and try digesting all that I'd seen in the morning...



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