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House testimony rudi dekkers { July 1 2000 }

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Testimony Huffman Aviation by CEO President Rudi Dekkers

On July 1st, 2000, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi arrived at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Florida to inquire about taking flying lessons. After a description was given about our flying school, they said they would let us know what they would decide about the flying lessons.

On July 3rd, 2000, Atta and Alshehhi came back to Huffman Aviation to sign up for lessons. Atta already held a Private Pilot License but wanted to advance and get his Commercial License and Alshehhi was there to obtain both a Private and Commercial License. They had stated they were unhappy with a flying school they attended up North.

We told them the cost for the licenses they wanted was about $18,000 per person with $1,000 down payment and $1,000 weekly thereafter paid by Atta with a check drawn from a First Union account.

They inquired about a place to stay. It is normal procedure for a flying school to offer proper accommodations for students whom are learning to fly. However, at the time Huffman Aviation had no such accommodations. Due to the fact they came through the front door without advanced notice for Huffman Aviation to take care of a room. Rudi Dekkers, owner of Huffman Aviation, knew that Charles Voss, CFO of Huffman Aviation, rented out rooms in his home. Atta and Alshehhi rented a room from Voss, but after one week were asked to leave due to excessive rudeness from Atta to Mrs. Voss. After their eviction there was no mention of where they were staying.

Atta and Alshehhi started their flying lessons on July 6th, 2000 in a Cessna 172, N734EE with flight instructor Thierry Leklou. Then in August Leklou went to the Chief Flight Instructor, Dan Purcell, to complain that Atta and Alshehhi had behavioral problems and that they were not following instructions, they also had bad attitudes. Purcell asked Dekkers if it would be okay to expel them from the program. Dekkers said that if necessary it would be acceptable to expel them from the program. Purcell had a meeting with both Atta and Alshehhi to let them know there had been complaints about their behavior and that if they would not conform they would have to leave the program. Their behavior changed and they were able to continue their lessons without any further problems throughout the course. On August 29th, 2000, Nicky Antini, Student Coordinator of Huffman Aviation, sent in I-20M’s to the INS along with a copy of their passports.

Dekkers, on many occasions tried to communicate with Atta, but Atta was very unfriendly with everyone. Dekkers knew that Atta had lived in Hamburg, Germany and one day spoke to him in German as a way of friendly communication. Atta was stunned and quickly walked away. Alshehhi on the other hand was very friendly and willing to communicate with everyone. He always seemed to walk behind Atta, we had the impression that Atta and Alshehhi where family.

In December 2000, Atta and Alshehhi took their last flight tests. Atta had approximately 270 hours of total flight time and received his Instrument, Single/Multi-Commercial Certification. Alshehhi was granted the same certification along with a Private Pilot License. Dave Whitman, the local FAA designated examiner, gave them their exams which they passed with average grades and they were given temporary FAA licenses for 120 days.

On December 24th, 2000, Atta and Alshehhi rented a Warrior (N555HA) from Huffman Aviation for a flight. They landed in Miami when the engine from the aircraft stalled (shutoff) on the taxiway where they abandoned it. They called Huffman Aviation for taxi fare back to Venice but were denied by Huffman Aviation. One to two days later, Huffman received a phone call from the Miami FAA regarding the Warrior that had been unattended for a half-hour on the runway. Dekkers got in contact with Bob Martin, the Operations Manager of Huffman Aviation, who then contacted the FAA. Martin had several phone conversations with the FAA and upon their request sent all maintenance records on the Warrior to the FAA. Nothing else was reported back from the FAA to Huffman regarding the Warrior.

Atta and Alshehhi returned to Huffman Aviation to make final payments on their outstanding bills. Atta paid a total of $18,703.50 and Alshehhi paid a total of $20,917.63. Because they were not taking any more flying lessons, they were asked to leave the facility due to their bad attitudes and not being liked by staff and clients alike. Huffman never heard about or from them again until September 11th, 2001.

On September 12th, 2001 at 3:00AM, the FBI Chief Investigator Kelly J. Thomas called Huffman’s General Manager Dale Krauss to help them with files on Atta and Alshehhi. Krauss was no longer working for Huffman Aviation so Krauss gave the FBI Susan Desantis’ phone number who was Dekkers’ assistant. Desantis arrived at Huffman at 4:00AM to give the FBI the files on Atta and Alshehhi. Desantis asked if she should call Dekkers, the FBI told her this was not necessary. At 7:00AM, while the FBI was still looking over the files and computers, Desantis called Dekkers who was shocked and annoyed he had not been contacted earlier. The FBI waited for Dekkers upon Dekkers’ request. Dekkers immediately left for Huffman from Bonita Springs, Florida. Dekkers let the FBI know there were more Muslim student files. Therefore the FBI ended up taking over 100 files and 2 computers. Dekkers informed the FBI he also owned a flight school in Naples, Florida named Ambassador Airways. This furthered no reaction.

Several days after September 11th, 2001, the Naples FBI contacted Dekkers and asked for files from students. The FBI asked if Dekkers could recognize the other terrorists. Dekkers did not recognize any other terrorist. The FBI took several files and returned them about 3 months later.

On Friday, March 8th, 2002, a meeting had been set up with CNN Miami to do an interview regarding the six-month anniversary of September 11th, 2001 for Monday, March 11th, 2002. Dekkers opened the mail that Monday morning to eerily discover the original I-20M’s (student visa application) for Atta and Alshehhi. It is over a year since Atta and Alshehhi left Huffman Aviation and six months since their deaths. Dekkers was relieved to see the paperwork, but not surprised. It usually takes a long time for visas to be returned from the INS. Dekkers was relieved because now he could prove that his company had carried out the proper procedures regarding Atta and Alshehhi’s I-20M’s. Huffman had previously been castigated for not following proper procedures. This new information was brought to the attention of CNN.

On Thursday, March 14th, 2002, President Bush gave a press conference and answered a question regarding the I-20M’s that had arrived at Huffman Aviation. He replied there would be a full investigation. At 4:30PM of that day, an INS officer from Tampa arrived at Huffman requesting that all original documents be returned. Dekkers was more than willing to cooperate with the government but was reluctant to surrender the documents until a subpoena was produced by the INS officer from his briefcase. Dekkers immediately surrendered the documents.

On the way back home to Bonita Springs, Florida on Thursday, March 14th, 2002, Dekkers received a phone call from the office of the Assistant General Attorney in Florida named Mr. Marino. Marino wanted to discuss the entire incident and asked if Dekkers would bring along the original I-20M’s on Friday, March 15th, 2002. Marino was surprised to discover that Dekkers was no longer in possession of the original documents that were taken by the INS. A meeting has been set up for Dekkers and Marino to meet on Monday, March 18th, 2002 at 12:00PM in Naples, Florida.

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