Who was on the 9/11 planes? There are lists of passengers online, but they’re not all accurate (some are actually very inaccurate), and very few include the alleged hijackers. For a long time there were no lists with an official seal of approval, either, which has in itself led to many theories. Maybe the hijackers were never on board, for instance. Maybe most of the passengers don’t even exist.
In theory all these ideas should have been swept away after the Moussaoui trial, when an exhibit in the form of a Flash applet provided the passenger names and seats for all four flights. The source file is 27 MB in size, but we've taken screen grabs of the relevant sections here:
In practice, though, the information has had little effect. Although people have been asking for this information for a very long time, once provided many simply say "it might be fake" and carry on just as before. So that's why we were very interested to see a photo of what looked like a passenger manifest in the Terry McDermott book, Perfect Soldiers. We emailed the author, and he said yes: apparently these were amongst a bunch of investigative files he obtained from the FBI while researching his book. 24 hours later we had copies, too. Could these provide independent verification of the Moussaoui trial exhibit?
One notable point is that our lists show the alleged hijackers on each of the four planes. Another indication that the “hijackers weren’t on the manifests” claims are false. Of course that, alone, will be enough for some to claim the documents aren't genuine. And because we obtained them indirectly, there’s no way to prove otherwise: we believe McDermott is an entirely trustworthy source, but there’s no telling what happened before the documents reached him.
It’s worth bearing in mind that these aren’t the only reported documents to show alleged hijackers on the planes, though. The Boston Globe published the seat numbers of the suspects on the two planes hijacked locally to them, and provided the complete seating plan for Flight 11. These lists do nothing more than confirm what we already knew.
Further, these documents actually raise additional questions of their own. In particular, Mark Bingham is not included on the Flight 93 list, and there are five passengers missing from the Flight 175 list. See the individual lists for more.
There are technical complications, too. The documents originated as a fax, which has then been scanned, and finally saved in JPEG format. Every step has reduced print quality, and in some cases it’s now, well, rubbish. In addition, one name is missing completely (it was left off the bottom of one page, or the start of the next), and two others can only be guessed at.
Another issue arises from the document content. Although they provide passenger names, the lists used fixed fields, so (for instance) only the initial 5 letters of a person’s first name are printed. This surely wouldn’t be the case in a full manifest... Would it? So perhaps what we have is a lower value document, printed output from some other system.
These would seem to make unlikely fakes, then, but at least now you can decide for yourself.
- As our documents use a maximum of 5 letters for the first name, one of the suspected hijackers is identified only as “Abdul Alomari”. This doesn’t confirm whether the passenger called himself Abdulaziz Alomari, or Abdulrahman Alomari, as has been claimed.
- One of the passenger names has been almost deleted, with only the very lowest portion of each letter remaining visible. It appears to be Michael Theodoridis, named as a passenger on other sites, but we cannot be completely sure of that.
- Andrew Peter Charles Curry Green (ANDRE CURRYGREEN) appears in some lists as "Andrew Currygreen".
- These lists include a Robin Kaplan. Some other Flight 11 lists include a "Robin Caplin", presumably a misspelling, although we have see he/she given a different home: "Natick, MA"
- Berinthia Berenson Perkins (?ERIN PERKINS) here was the widow of actor Anthony Perkins. She sometimes appears on other lists as "Berry Perkins" or "Berry Berenson".
- Michael Theodoridis name is almost completely obscured on our list. What we can see does seem to match Theodoridis, though, and the seating position reported by the Boston Globe.
- The bottom of one of our pages ends with the name of passenger 24. The top of the next page starts with the very lowest portion of the letters of passenger 26. By looking at what those letters might be, we come up with a match for Robert Penninger, but the 25th name is missing. Dong Lee is listed elsewhere as a Flight 77 victim and doesn't appear on this list, so presumably he was passenger #25, but there's no way to say for sure.
- Zandra Cooper Ploger appears in other Flight 77 lists as Cooper (maiden name), Ploger (married name), Cooper Ploger, or even Ploger Cooper.
- Mark Bingham is not included on our list. We can only guess as to why: could his late arrival have been a reason?
Another possibility suggested to us is that he flew on a “buddy pass”, thanks to his links with United Airlines (his mother was a UA flight attendant). That’s just a guess, too, however it’s worth noting that the five passengers missing from the Flight 175 list also had links to UA. And whatever the reason for their omission on this list, all were included on the official United Airlines passenger lists released in the days after the attack (see below).
- A handwritten note on the manifest next to "Unknown (E BRITTON)" says “Extra seat”. We’re assuming this means Marion Britton bought two tickets to ensure there was an empty seat next to her, and that it wasn’t occupied by another passenger. Although that doesn’t explain why it seems to have a different first initial (unless “E” = extra).
- The passenger list has a D BRANDHOR in both seat 8A and 8B. One is presumably Daniel R Brandhorst, the other David Reed Gamboa Brandhorst, but plainly there's no way to tell which is which.
- Deborah Medwig is listed on september11victims.com as a WTC victim, not someone on Flight 175.
- There are a surprising five Flight 175 names included on september11victims.com that aren’t included on our document: Marianne MacFarlane, Jesus Sanchez, Mary Kathleen Shearer, Robert Michael Shearer, and the Rev. Francis E Grogan.
Why? We can’t say for sure, however it's worth noting that all five names, plus Mark Bingham (missing from our Flight 77 list), appear on a United Airlines partial passenger list.
And it seems that passenger lists aren't quite as definitive as you might think, or at least they weren't a few years earlier. Here’s an interview with TWA president Jeffrey Erickson in 1996, where he tries to explain the difficulties the airline faced in producing an accurate passenger list for TWA 800:
In addition, we have noted a possible connection between these missing names: United Airlines.
MacFarlane and Sanchez worked for the company:
The Shearers had a daughter with “connections” to United:
And the Reverend Grogan was only on Flight 175 because of a United Airlines worker:
It’s conceivable, then, that MacFarlane and Sanchez travelled on something other than an ordinary ticket, perhaps booked internally though UA, instead. The Reverend also received a ticket in an unusual way, perhaps via the same system. And although this is the biggest stretch, it’s at least possible that the Shearers may have had tickets provided via their “family connection” to UA. Could this explain why these people might not appear on this particular list? (We’ve no idea, it’s just a guess, but in the absence of any other obvious connection it seems a reasonable place to start). This would make them less than a full manifest, but then we know that’s the case anyway (it’s hard to believe a complete manifest wouldn’t have all the passengers full first names, for instance).
Of course that might lead to the question, why did United send this document to the FBI if it wasn’t complete? We don’t know the answer to that, either, except that there’s no way of telling what other documents they may have provided.
We’re ill-equipped to answer this, as we have no idea which systems were used to produce the documents we’ve obtained, and what they might (or might not) include. Presumably there are plenty of airline ground staff who could help clear this up, though. Are you one of them? Then let us know what you think.