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Suspected WTC hijackers abandoned plane on Miami taxiway

VENICE, Florida (CNN) -- Two of the hijackers believed to have steered airliners into the towers of the World Trade Center left a stalled aircraft on the taxiway of Miami International Airport last Christmas, the head of their aviation school said.

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Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi rented a Piper Warrior from Huffman Aviation in Venice just four days after getting their multi-engine certification from the school, according to the school's president, Rudi Dekkers.

It is not uncommon for students to rent aircraft, according to Dekkers, but it is not known why they would travel to Miami or to a major airport.

They rented the $65-an-hour aircraft, and after safely landing at Miami International Airport, they had entered the taxiway when the plane's engine quit. According to Dekkers, the men then shut the airplane down, including all communications with the control tower, which he termed a major "rookie mistake."

"Students do stupid things during their flight course, but this is quite stupid," Dekkers said. "They shut everything off like dumb ducks."

According to Dekkers, his flight report states that the students abandoned the plane and rented a car to drive back to Venice, on Florida's west coast. They had the plane for 2.6 hours of flight time.

The plane was towed into Signature Aviation, where it was checked out by a mechanic a few days later. The mechanic, according to Dekkers, could not find anything wrong with the plane.

"It could have been flooded, or had a dirty spark plug", Dekkers said.

The plane was flown back to Venice on January 3, which is the last time Atta and Al-Shehhi were seen in Venice. They came in to pay their final bill.

Dekkers said that flight schools deal with student mistakes on a regular basis. "It happens every week. I've got 40 airplanes and students have problems every day."

Dekkers said the FAA told him the students would be fined. "But they can't do that any longer," he said.

The FAA did not immediately return calls for comment.


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