By: Warren Gray

Copyright © 2023

“For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing

 to know the whole truth, to know the worst and provide for it.”

— Patrick Henry, 1736-1799.

“A truth is not hard to kill, and a lie well-told is immortal.”

— Mark Twain, Advice for Youth, 1882

“(Flight 93)…was shot down by an F-16…there were parts found

   five miles away…there were eyewitnesses to it being shot down…

heard the rapid…cannon fire hitting the fuselage…They couldn’t

possibly reveal this information because…It was something

they had to do…once the passengers got control of the airplane,

there was no way to communicate.”

— John Lear, veteran pilot with 17 aviation world records,

flew for the CIA and special ops in the Vietnam War.

On the fateful morning of September 11 (“9/11”), 2001, two terrorist-controlled airliners struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third aircraft struck the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and the fourth, United Airlines Flight 93, was apparently bound for the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. President George W. Bush formally issued the grim order to shoot it down, an order that was repeated three times by Vice President Dick Cheney at approximately 9:55 AM. According to The 9/11 Commission Report later, Flight 93 crashed into the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, for no apparent stated reason.

Flight 93, a Boeing 757 airliner, took off from Newark, New Jersey, 41 minutes late, at 8:42 AM, instead of the scheduled 8:01 AM, headed for San Francisco, California, with 44 people aboard. It flew westbound, across all of Pennsylvania and into Ohio at 35,000 feet altitude, where the four terrorist passengers killed the pilot and copilot between 9:28 and 9:37 AM, and seized total control of the aircraft. They initially turned south, and then southeast, toward Washington, D.C., passing just south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at 9:54 AM.

The 9/11 Commission Report later inaccurately stated that only five jet fighter aircraft took off before the Flight 93 crash, and none were ever in a position to shoot it down. These included two F-15A Eagles from Massachusetts, and three F-16A Fighting Falcons from Virginia. The F-15s took off at 8:52 AM, bound for New York City “full-blower all the way” (in full afterburner) at Mach 1.5 airspeed, each armed only with “training missiles” and an M61A1 Vulcan Gatling gun loaded with non-explosive, 20mm training ammunition.

Later, three F-16A Fighting Falcons from the North Dakota Air National Guard, but on air defense alert status in Virginia, took off at 9:30 AM, all bound for Washington, D.C., where American Airlines Flight 77 was about to hit the Pentagon at 9:37 AM.

However, even with non-explosive training ammunition and training missiles, the 20mm cannon will still make numerous .79-caliber holes, and an AIM-9M training missile will still reach a target aircraft with 188 pounds of metal impacting at twice the speed of sound. So, even without any explosions, the damage from either type of weapon is considerable.

Vice President Cheney told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on September 16th that “The toughest decision was this question of whether or not we would intercept incoming, commercial aircraft…We decided to do it…put a flying, combat air patrol up over the city; F-16s with an AWACS…our pilots were authorized to take them out…that’s a horrendous decision to make…you’re going to, in fact, shoot it down.”

The Northeastern Air Defense Sector (NEADS) log book for September 11th clearly shows that an E-3C Sentry AWACS aircraft, callsign “Sentry 40,” was, in fact, flying that day, and it was diverted back to Washington, D.C., after United Airlines Flight 93 was down. The AWACS pilot, First Lieutenant Anthony Kuczynski, told the Saint Thomas Aquinas University newspaper, The Aquin, in April 2002, that he flew toward Pittsburgh alongside two F-16s on September 11, 2001: “I was given direct orders to shoot down an airliner (Flight 93.) It was one of those things where it was an absolutely surreal experience.”

One of the radar officers in the main cabin of the AWACS later reported on April 16, 2008, that, “On September 11, 2001, the plane I was assigned to, an E-3 Sentry  (AWACS) based out of Andrews Air Force Base…received orders to loiter between Washington and Pittsburgh…We received a report about a fourth plane (Flight 93) heading straight for Washington from inside Pennsylvania…and spotted the plane on radar…NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) authorized us to direct two F-16s toward the airliner and eliminate the threat over sparsely-populated areas. I vectored the planes behind the 757 and instructed them to hold position…At approximately 10:00 AM, we received a hurried order from NORAD to down the airplane.

“I nodded and informed the lead F-16 that he was authorized to use deadly force, and ordered him to eliminate the target…it descended rapidly toward the ground. An eerie quiet filled our cabin…I personally gave the order to down Flight 93…I was met by an Air Force brigadier general and a Navy captain…He then informed me that by order of  the president, based on recommendations by the CIA and NSA, that the knowledge of Air Force involvement in the destruction of Flight 93 was to be highly-classified and not disclosed to anyone, ever…our data tapes, backups, and anything that suggested we were operational on September 11 was removed. I left the Air Force in 2006.”

These F-16s were likely assigned to the 121st Fighter Squadron of the D.C. Air National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, flying F-16C Fighting Falcons that, due to the ongoing exercise, were armed only with 20mm training ammunition in their guns, and very few missiles. The two light-gray F-16Cs flying alongside the E-3C AWACs certainly had training ammunition only, and either no missiles, or training missiles at the very most.

So, we had the Vice President of the United States, the E-3C pilot himself, and a radar officer all telling us that there were “F-16s with an AWACS…between Washington and Pittsburgh,” all of which The 9/11 Commission Report somehow neglected to mention, especially since United Flight 93 was flying in exactly the opposite direction at precisely that same time! They quite literally had to have seen each other at some point!

The Washington Post reported on January 27, 2002, that at 9:55 AM, with Flight 93 only one minute past Pittsburgh, enroute toward Washington, “A military aide approached the vice president. ‘There is a plane (Flight 93) 80 miles out. There is a fighter in the area. Should we engage?’ ‘Yes,’ Cheney replied without hesitation.” Asked twice more, Cheney confirmed the shootdown order two more times.

Having “a fighter in the area,” however, is totally at odds with the official 9/11 Report, which states that no fighters were ever in a position to engage any of the terrorist-flown aircraft that day, and they never approached any closer than 60 miles from Flight 93.

At approximately 9:58 AM, the passengers of Flight 93 began a revolt against the hijackers, initially led by Todd M. Beamer, Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., and Jeremy L. Glick, a judo champion. During a phone call, Beamer said, “We have to do something now…I’m going to have to go out on faith…God help me…Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!” Burnett told his wife via telephone that, “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it.”

The 9/11 Commission Report, supported by the FBI and NORAD, incorrectly states that Flight 93 impacted the ground at 10:03 AM, but these are the only sources using that particular time, and they provided no evidence whatsoever to prove it. Seismic signals recorded by U.S. Army seismic observatories at Soldier’s Delight, Maryland, and Millersville, Pennsylvania, pinpointed the true time of impact at 10:06:05 AM, with an error margin of only five seconds. Official, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) transcripts also show 10:06 AM, when a supervisor says, “Okay, we’ve lost radar contact with United 93.”

In fact, United Airlines, Flight Explorer, the Boeing Company,, Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) geographic software company, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette all agreed that Flight 93’s actual time of impact was 10:06 AM! Eyewitnesses on the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania also stated an impact time of 10:06. A lot can happen in those three minutes of missing time!

In addition, the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, only 15 miles from the crash site, reported United Flight 93 passing by at 10:05 AM.

The official report states that Flight 93 impacted at 504 knots (580 mph), supposedly inverted at a 40-degree angle, heading 180 degrees due south, and rolled 150 degrees right. The crash only lasted a half-second, with a 75-foot, vertical fireball, a crater 15 feet deep, and all 44 people were killed instantly. However, the actual impact angle, according to the Flight Data Recorder, was straight down, vertically.

Seven eyewitnesses nearby clearly saw the aircraft falling. Terry Butler said, “It just went flip to the right and then straight down.” Larry Williams observed that, “The plane…went straight down.” Larry Leverknight said, “It just went straight down.” Tom Fritz remarked that, “It dropped all of a sudden, like a stone.” Paula Pluta stated that, “It went straight into the ground. Wings out. Nose down.” Robert Blair and Linda Shepley both said exactly the same thing, “Straight down.” When seven eyewitnesses or sources all say the same thing, the statistical probability of them telling the truth is 99.2 percent.

Meanwhile, near Shanksville at 10:06 AM, at least 12 eyewitnesses saw a very-low-flying, fast, “white” (or light gray) jet (Susan McElwain stated that, “I would call it a fighter jet”) near the impact site before and after Flight 93 crashed. This mystery jet appeared from the southeast, exactly where the two F-16s and the AWACS were flying, circled the crash site, and departed toward the northeast.

There was also the vital problem of the correct impact time, and even the impact angle was suspect. The 9/11 Commission insisted that Flight 93 arrived near Shanksville on an approximate heading of 145 degrees, out of the northwest, from the Pittsburgh area, but the “wreckage vector,” the spray of flames and debris from the crashing aircraft into the nearby forest, proved that the actual heading was approximately 210 degrees, out of the northeast, a 65-degree difference! This would mean that Flight 93 had made some considerable turn away from Washington, D.C., which was not explained at all by the commission.

Meanwhile, inside the Flight 93 passenger cabin, the revolt only lasted for five minutes, until 10:03 AM. They apparently rolled a food cart forward to use it as a battering ram against the cockpit door, and Todd Beamer’s famous words may actually have been “Roll it!” instead of “Let’s roll!” His conversation was never recorded, so we don’t know for certain. The official cockpit voice recorder (CVR) tape ends at 10:03, with the terrorists repeating “Allahu akhbar!” (“God is great!”) nine times before the crash. But the extra problem here is that the family members who listened to the same tape on April 18, 2002, said that there were no shouts of “Allahu akhbar!” at all!

So, the 9/11 Commission version of the tape ends abruptly at 10:03 AM, the claimed impact time, with no explosion, just a loud rushing of air. Thus, according to the government, the passenger revolt failed, and they never breached the cockpit door. Or did they?

The next telltale problem relates to the three separate debris fields over an area of eight miles, beginning at New Baltimore, Pennsylvania, closer to Washington, D.C., where burned paper, documents, and U.S. mail items were found. Next, at Indian Lake, only 2.5 miles from the crash site, a human rib bone, some U.S. mail, metal pieces, melted plastic insulation, and a seat cushion came raining down in a mixed cloud, some of it on fire! Finally, at the crash site itself, the 1,000-pound, right engine fan was inexplicably found over 300 yards to the south. The FBI later claimed for the 9/11 Commission that the engine fan had “bounced,” and the wind blew all of this debris up to eight miles away.

The average wind direction at nearby Altoona Airport’s official weather station all day long on September 11, 2001, was 240 degrees at 9 knots/10mph, just a light breeze, perpendicular to the Flight 93 debris fields. During my own first two visits to the crash site on April 21, 2010 and September 20, 2012, the actual, prevailing wind was from 200 to 240 degrees, at a speed of only five to 10 miles per hour. Furthermore, numerous photographs taken at the crash site on September 11, 2001, clearly show either very little wind, at one mile per hour or less, or no wind at all, so the FBI’s explanation was “creative” at best, intentionally misleading, and physically impossible.

Brian Cabell of CNN reported on September 13th that, “Eight miles away from the crater…is apparently another debris site, which raises a number of questions…why would debris be located (there)? Could it have blown that far away? It seems highly unlikely. It certainly doesn’t make sense.” Moreover, the nearby Stony Creek Wind farm had 35 1.5-MW wind turbines in full operation that day, directly along the wind path asserted by the FBI, yet there was absolutely no debris anywhere on the wind farm!

These three separate and distinct debris fields are glaringly indicative of three separate, catastrophic events in the air for Flight 93, now heading away from Washington, D.C., instead of toward it. This is extremely incriminating evidence.

Indeed the official findings of The 9/11 Commission Report were puzzling to many. John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, former New Jersey attorney general, and author of The Ground Truth: The Story Behind America’s Defense on 9/11, had this to say: “I was shocked at how different the truth was from the way it was described….The (NORAD air defense) tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public for two years….This is not spin…a whole different order of magnitude than spin. It simply wasn’t true…there was an agreement not to tell the truth about what happened…The false testimony served a purpose: to obscure mistakes on the part of the FAA and the military…Many still believe that…the military actually did shoot down United 93.”

Thomas H. Kean, Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, stated in 2006 that, “We think the Commission, in many ways, was set up to fail…There is significant evidence that the false statements made to the Commission were deliberately false…We, to this day, don’t know why NORAD told us what they told us.”

Doctor Vernon L. Grose, a former NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) member, told WorldNet Daily that, “The facts don’t seem to line up with the official story…I’m convinced there is a serious problem with this investigation…That’s (Flight 93) part of the whole war aspect; we don’t want to tell about what we did and didn’t do. There will never be a nice, open public hearing with eyewitnesses telling what they saw…It’s like David Crockett at the Alamo. We need heroes.”

When confronted with evidence from the tapes that contradicted his original testimony, NORAD General Larry Arnold actually replied to a 9/11 Commission staffer that, “The real story is actually better than the one we told!”

John Lear, the son of Learjet founder Bill Lear, was a veteran pilot with 17 aviation world records, who flew for the CIA and special ops in the Vietnam War. Based upon his still-secret contacts within the Air Force and intelligence community, he bluntly stated on November 2, 2003, that, “(Flight 93)…was shot down by an F-16…there were parts found five (actually eight) miles away…there were eyewitnesses to it being shot down…somebody who was listening to a cell phone conversation at the time…heard the rapid…cannon fire hitting the fuselage, and that’s what accounted for what they called the ‘smoke’ in the air in the cabin…that was the depressurization causing the condensation.

“But you have to understand the government’s position. #1 – They couldn’t possibly reveal this information because, you know, it was something they had to do. The problem was that once the passengers got control of the airplane, there was no way to communicate with air traffic control or communicate with whoever was directing the attack for the Air Force.” Wow!!!

At least three separate National Security Agency (NSA) officials have confirmed (by Apr 2008) that Flight 93 was shot down by U.S. Air Force jets. The NSA CRITIC report specified the details: “Two F-16s scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base at (9:36 AM.) Civilian airline hijacked. Over state of Pennsylvania, civilian airliner was ‘intercepted’ at (latitude and longitude.)” The 9/11 Commission never interviewed the on-duty signals intelligence personnel who were aware that United 93 was brought down by Air Force jets.

Rowland Morgan’s breakthrough 2006 book, Flight 93 Revealed, states that, “Flight 93 may well have been deliberately shot down…The military’s role in 9/11 is shrouded in confusion, ambiguity, and inconsistency…a three-minute discrepancy in the crash time led to suspicions of foul play…Witnesses…claim they saw an F-16 move closer in and fire what were probably two Sidewinder missiles…Any admission of a shooting-down must have been ruled out politically, because those brave passengers just might have retrieved the controls from fanatical hijackers. For the U.S. military to have snatched victory from their grasp was unthinkable.”

In May 2006, Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert reviewed the new movie, “United 93,” writing about, “The missing facts in ‘United 93’…Flight 93 left a debris trail extending over eight miles long…consistent with a plane that was shot down. Several witnesses reported seeing a military plane trailing United 93 shortly before the crash, consistent with the U.S. F-16 interceptor jets.

“The best explanation of these facts is that a military jet, probably an F-16 interceptor, tailed Flight 93 that day and shot it down before it could reach its intended destination. (Secretary of Defense) Donald Rumsfeld, in December of 2004, appears to have mixed up his lies when he referred to the jet above Pennsylvania as being ‘shot down.’ If the U.S. government admitted to this, however, they would have to explain why F-16s weren’t successfully scrambled in the same manner for those airliners that crashed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, (and) the lie that is 9/11 would begin to unravel.”

At any such scene of mass death and destruction, the question of possible paranormal activity often arises. Local security guards, and even a highly credible FBI employee, have seen and heard very strange things, including voices and a disappearing woman, near the Flight 93 Memorial.

Testing this unusual theory, on October 10, 2020, I sat on a park bench only 135 yards east of the Flight 93 impact site, now marked by a huge boulder. It was early morning and eerily quiet, and there were no people within 60 yards, and no one talking. Turning on a brand-new, Olympus VN-7200 digital voice recorder (DVR), I spoke softly, and asked a series of questions for about two minutes, but I heard nothing in reply. Playing the recording back later in the day, however, I heard my own voice asking, “Were you a passenger? Were you a flight-crew member?” Suddenly, a male voice, not my own, simply said, “Walk the walk.” I still have that recording, and cannot explain it.

We’ve all heard this popular expression before, and it appears to have originated in the Mansfield News in Ohio, in June 1921: “Although he has no gilded medals…(he) walks the walk, and talks the talk, of a hero today.” This glowing phrase could surely apply to the ill-fated Flight 93 passengers.

Why would the U.S. government go to such great lengths to bury the truth regarding Flight 93? First of all, the hero story was already available, mostly true, a lot more palatable, and much better for public morale in wartime. Who would want to hear, “Well, the heroes did great, but we shot them down?” Everyone loves a hero! With the hero story, there are no lawsuits against the government for shooting down American citizens, regardless of the circumstances.

The hero story also covers up NORAD incompetence on 9/11, reportedly arriving too late to stop the World Trade Center and Pentagon planes, scrambling the wrong units, and failing to shoot down United Flight 175 at the South Tower at 9:03 AM.

The scientific principle known as Occam’s Razor, or the Principle of Simplicity, states that given a number of competing hypotheses, the simplest explanation that accounts for all of the known facts is the most likely to be correct. Applying this basic principle to the Flight 93 disaster, let’s examine the simplest-possible scenario that fits in with all of the known facts, physical evidence, photographs, video clips, phone calls, official testimony, eyewitness reports, and all other indicators of what really happened to Flight 93 on that terrible morning.

We know for certain that the aircraft passed Pittsburgh at 9:54 AM, and the passenger revolt began four minutes later, at 9:58 AM, probably led by hero passengers Beamer, Burnett, and Glick, but with many other passengers joining in. At exactly this same time, the airliner was still bound from Pittsburgh toward Washington, while an E-3C Sentry AWACS aircraft and two F-16 fighters were westbound on a reciprocal heading, from Washington toward Pittsburgh. By approximately 10:00 AM, Flight 93 and the three military aircraft all had to have seen each other in a dramatic, head-on encounter.

The AWACS and F-16 pilots instantly realized that United Flight 93 was their terrorist-controlled, target aircraft, and they reported it, and received immediate instructions to shoot it down. By 10:03 AM, when the revolt ended at the cockpit door with a loud whooshing of air, and the 9/11 Commission later claimed the aircraft was down, the airliner was just east of New Baltimore, Pennsylvania, and the lead F-16 likely attacked it from below and behind with his 20mm cannon.

F-16CM Fighting Falcon firing its M61A1 20mm Vulcan cannon. Photo credit: Lincolnshire Live

So, he fires a half-second, 50-round burst at the underside of the cockpit area, where most airliners have traditionally stored the U.S. mail, for rapid access at the airports. This certainly explains why there were burned papers, documents, and U.S. mail items found on the ground at New Baltimore. The fighter attack is successful, and the cockpit is perforated by dozens of non-explosive, 20mm rounds, which viciously kill the terrorists inside, and create a very loud, whooshing noise of air rushing in. This is where the official cockpit voice recorder tape ends, because the government does not want you to hear what transpires next.

The most-likely explanation for the next sequence of events is that the passengers breach the battered door and rush into the cockpit, confronted with a ghastly and horrific scene of blood and carnage, with the radios destroyed by the cannon attack, the terrorists all dead or dying, and blood and debris everywhere in sight.

The passengers are now completely successful, and Donald F. Greene, age 47, an experienced pilot, the CEO of Safe Flight Instrument Corporation, now slips into the pilot’s seat, while Andrew “Sonny” Garcia, age 62, an experienced air traffic controller, takes the right seat. Greene’s family later stated that, “There’s no question in our minds he was in control of the plane at the end…he knew anything and everything about airplanes.”

Greene and Garcia can now see the circling F-16s through their blood-splattered windows, and they realize that they are flying directly toward Washington, D.C. In order to appear non-hostile, since they cannot use the destroyed radios, they immediately turn around and head toward the nearest airport, Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, to land. But the F-16 pilot cannot know what has just transpired, and they must naturally assume that the terrorists are still alive, and are taking evasive action.

By the time that Flight 93 reaches Indian Lake, five and a half miles farther west, the lead F-16 pilot thunders toward the cockpit again with his 20mm cannon, but from above this time, so the mail and cargo in the belly of the aircraft can no longer protect the cockpit from attack. Once again, he makes a devastatingly accurate gun strike on the cockpit area, instantly killing Garcia and badly wounding Greene. Pieces of the pilots’ seats break off, and debris and a human rib rain down on Indian Lake, but the aircraft continues to fly onward on autopilot alone.

At this point, they execute a standard fighter maneuver known as a “shooter-eyeball,” in which the lead pilot holds back for a distance and fires a missile (the “shooter”), while his wingman banks around to one side and zooms in very close to the target to visually confirm its impact and destruction (the “eyeball”).

The heat-seeking, AIM-9M Super Sidewinder training missile unerringly strikes Flight 93’s right engine, ripping it off the wing of the airliner, which instantly becomes extra-heavy beneath the left wing, and flips over, spinning vertically toward the ground, and impacting in a remote field near Shanksville at 10:06:05 AM. While the “shooter” F-16 climbs away from the scene almost vertically, the light-gray, “eyeball” F-16 dips down to just 40 feet above the field to absolutely ensure that the target aircraft has been destroyed. Mission accomplished!

The 9/11 Commission had to invent the bogus, inverted, 40-degree impact angle in order to explain the engine fan located 301 yards farther south, claiming that it “bounced” there during the aircraft’s angled impact, instead of being torn away by a missile. Unlike most of the other physical evidence, this particular engine fan was never photographed or shown to the public, in order to conceal any possible evidence of an aerial attack.


Is this the way that it really happened? We’ll probably never know with total certainty, but it truly is the simplest explanation that accounts for virtually all of the known facts and is therefore more likely to be true than any other hypothesis. Will the U.S. government ever admit to shooting down Flight 93, especially in the context of our nation’s history and the awful terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001? Why not simply tell the truth? As Patrick Henry once observed, “For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth, to know the worst and provide for it.”

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Author at Flight 93 National Memorial, October 10, 2020. Photo by author

Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism. He served in Europe and the Middle East, with three fighter squadrons (two in Germany, and one in Saudi Arabia), earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, including a Master of Aeronautical Science degree, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian (also investigating historical mysteries), and hunter. You may visit his website at: