Pan Am Academy

Truth be told, we really don't know much about flight schools. Never flown a plane. Never plan to. In fact, we'd just as soon never ride in one again. Face it: 2001 was a bad year for aviation. In our crankiest moments, we can't help but wonder if the general geopolitical circumstances (let alone the quality of life in south Minneapolis) might be better if Orville and Wilbur Wright had stuck to tinkering with bicycles. Still, the folks at Pan Am Academy deserve a measure of praise. Don't know what we're talking about? Unless you've been in a deep coma for the past seven months, the name Zacarias Moussaoui should ring a bell. Moussaoui, you'll recall, is the dour-looking gent who showed up at Pan Am's Eagan training center last August wanting to learn how to fly a jumbo jet. Reportedly evasive and belligerent when questioned about his background, Moussaoui paid $6,300 in cash for training on the academy's flight simulator, even though he lacked the most rudimentary skills with smaller aircraft. This fact aroused the suspicions of Moussaoui's instructor, who promptly warned the local FBI office that the prospective student seemed to fit the profile of a hijacker. In a weird bit of prescience, the instructor even attempted to underscore the seriousness of the situation by noting that "a 747 loaded with fuel can be used as a bomb." In short order, Moussaoui, who is French-born, was picked up and detained on immigration violations. Unfortunately, FBI central command wasn't inspired to dig any deeper into Moussaoui's background. That is, until the name bin Laden had become a household word and it was too late to do much good.


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