The captain of a United Airlines flight due to take off from New York’s JFK airport on the morning of 9/11 has said he believes his plane was intended to be a fifth aircraft in the terrorist plot.
Tom Mannello was sitting on the tarmac in the cockpit of United Flight 23 at 9am, waiting to take off, when air traffic control ordered all flights back to their gates.
Mannello later learned box cutters were found on a plane parked at the neighboring gate, and believes a ground crew assisting the terrorists got the wrong plane, thwarting any attempted attack.
‘There is a good chance that somebody was plotting to try to use our airplane as a weapon of mass destruction,’ he said on TMZ INVESTIGATES: 9/11: THE FIFTH PLANE, which airs on Monday at 9pm ET on Fox.
United 23 did not feature in the official report of the 9/11 Commission, and there were never any confirmed arrests of those on board. U.S. officials have not commented on the years of speculation about the flight being a possible fifth plane planned for attack.
Tom Mannello was the captain on board United Flight 23, which was on the tarmac at JFK awaiting takeoff when the second plane hit the Twin Towers. All planes were then ordered to return to their gates
The World Trade Center towers are seen billowing with smoke on September 11, 2001, after the second plane hit at 9:03am
September 11, 2001, remains the deadliest terrorist attacks in American history, and saw 2,977 people killed in four separate attacks.
The five planes of 9/11?
American Airlines Flight 11 takes off from Boston, headed for Los Angeles, with five hijackers onboard.
At 8:46am, it crashes into the World Trade Center’s North Tower.
United Airlines Flight 175 takes off from Boston, also headed for Los Angeles, with five hijackers onboard.
At 9:03am, it crashes into the WTC’s South Tower.
American Airlines Flight 77 takes off from Dulles, outside of Washington, DC, headed for Los Angeles, with five hijackers onboard.
At 9:37am, it crashes into the Pentagon.
United Flight 93 takes off from Newark, New Jersey, after a delay due to routine traffic. It was headed for San Francisco, and has four hijackers onboard.
At 10:02am, it plows into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers staged a revolt and brought it down. Its intended target is thought to be the White House or Capitol.
United Flight 23 was on the tarmac at JFK, waiting in line to take off to Los Angeles.
At 9:08am New York Air Traffic Control announced that there would be no takeoffs from the airport, so Flight 23 returned to the gate.
Four planes crashed that morning.
American Airlines Flight 11 took off from Boston bound for LA, and crashes into the World Trade Center’s North Tower at 8:46am.
United Airlines Flight 175 also took off from Boston, 15 minutes after the AA flight, heading for LA: it crashed into the WTC’s South Tower at 9:03am.
At this point, United 23 was on the tarmac, and told to return to the gate.
At 9:37am, American Airlines Flight 77, which had taken off from Washington DC, crashed into the Pentagon.
And finally, at 10:02am, United Flight 93, which had taken off from Newark bound for San Francisco, was downed in a field in Pennsylvania. Analysts now believe the hijackers were aiming for the White House or Capitol.
Sandy Thorngren, a flight attendant on United 23, told the documentary: ‘I definitely think Flight 23 was the fifth plane.’
Thorngren said that, after they returned to the gate, the passengers disembarked and the crew were interviewed by the FBI.
‘They wanted to take us to show us a line up of people at the Port Authority,’ she said, in a preview clip of the documentary obtained by DailyMail.com.
‘They got us all in a van, a windowless van. I felt like we were getting snuck into this van. And driven over to the Port Authority offices where everyone – I mean, gates were locked and guarded with armored military that had machine guns, or whatever rifles they were using.
‘We were escorted to this one room with those double windows where you could see in but not out.
‘And they asked us if we could identify any of the people that were behind that window.’
The documentary says four passengers traveling in first class were reported as behaving suspiciously, but no one was ever arrested.
Mannello said he later learned that box cutters were found on the plane parked next to his, and he suspects that a hijack team had on-the-ground help – but they got the wrong plane.
‘The chief pilot reported to me that they had found two box cutters in the seat pockets in first class in the plane next to it, which had a tail number one digit off,’ Mannello told the documentary.
Sandy Thorngren, a flight attendant on the plane, said she was convinced the plane was intended to be hijacked on 9/11
John McCain is seen holding up a copy of the 9/11 Commission Report. The report makes no mention of United 23
‘If somebody was on the ground cooperating with them, they just simply made a mistake and put the box cutters on the wrong airplane.
‘You have people who clean the airplane, people that load food on the airplane, that have access to the airplane.
‘If somebody was in cooperation with the group they could have been put there. It wouldn’t be the hardest thing in the world to get on an airplane like that.
‘It’s the one thing that makes me think that there’s a good chance that somebody was plotting to try to use our airplane as a weapon of mass destruction.’
Nineteen hijackers were onboard the four planes, and died in the attacks.
People run away as the North Tower of World Trade Center collapses on 9/11
Smoke billows from the Pentagon after one of the four planes crashed into it on September 11
Firefighters and emergency workers investigate the crash site of United Flight 93 after the jet was hijacked during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and passengers brought it down near Shanksville, Pennsylvania
Within two months of the attacks, law enforcement authorities had detained, at least for questioning, more than 1,200 people.
The Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba was turned into a prison to house those arrested on what became George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’: at its peak, the camp held 780 men, but now has only 32.
They include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the attacks, whose trial has been scheduled to start for decades.
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden said he was behind the attacks, and on May 2, 2011, under orders from Barack Obama, a special operations unit raided the Pakistan compound where he was living and killed him.
The attacks led to George W. Bush bombing Afghanistan in October 2001, where the Taliban regime was supportive of al-Qaeda.
The Taliban was toppled in a month, and bin Laden fled.
Bush then sent U.S. troops to Iraq in March 2003, purportedly to destroy Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and end the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein.
There was little if any sign of a connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq, and no WMD were ever found.