Mohamed Atta in Close Call in Incident at Miami Airport

MIAMI, Oct. 16 — For Mohamed Atta, the meticulous and intensely disciplined figure who is believed to have helped organize the Sept. 11 attacks, mistakes did happen, or at least nearly did. One of them came on Dec. 26 at Miami International Airport.

There, Mr. Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, another man the F.B.I. identifies as one of the 19 hijackers, taxied a small private plane toward a runway when, unexpectedly, it stalled.

Unable to restart the engine, the two men shut the plane down, flipped off the lights and, by one account, walked off. Flight controllers, according to airport records, guided the waiting passenger airliners around the stalled aircraft until it was towed away 35 minutes later.

The incident, which occurred on a busy travel day at the country's ninth-busiest passenger airport, is especially notable because of how close it brought the two men to official scrutiny...


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