Among the 56 passengers on board were 5 members of an Al Qaeda terrorist team. The leader of this hijack team and its pilot was Marwan al-Shehhi. Other members of the team were Fayez Rashid Ahmed Hassan al-Qadi Banihammad, Ahmed al-Ghamdi, Hamza al-Ghamdi, and Mohand al-Shehri. The hijackers had little difficulty passing through security. The security checkpoint at Logan International Airport for United Airlines was staffed by personnel from Huntleigh USA. The hijackers had purchased tickets in the first-class section to be close to the cockpit. Much as in the takeover of American Airlines Flight 11, the terrorists organized themselves into sections: two were near the cockpit (in seats 2A and 2B), pilot al-Shehhi was in seat 6C, and the other two sat near the passenger section (in seats 9C and 9D).
The hijackers seized control of the aircraft sometime around 8:47 a.m. They used knives and mace to subdue the pilots and crew, and then killed the pilots and at least one flight attendant. The hijackers then herded the crew and passengers toward the rear of the aircraft, assuring them everything would be okay. They lulled the passengers into thinking that the plane would land someplace safely and that the hijackers would use them as hostages in negotiations. Not all passengers believed this. One passenger, Peter Hanson, called his father in Easton, Connecticut, and reported the hijackers' takeover. One of the flight attendants also reported the hijacking to the United Airlines office in San Francisco.
Al-Shehhi turned the aircraft around and headed it toward the New York City area; air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane. The passengers became concerned because of the aircraft's jerky movements. At this point some of the passengers considered storming the cockpit to regain control of the plane, but they did not have enough time. At 9:03 a.m. United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center complex. The aircraft hit between floors 78 and 84. Because the aircraft hit at greater speed than American Airlines Flight 11 had hit the North Tower, the South Tower was more severely damaged than the North Tower had been. Consequently, the South Tower collapsed before the North Tower. There were no survivors on United Flight 175.
Stephen E. Atkins
Aust, Stefan, et al. Inside 9/11: What Really Happened. New York: St. Martin's, 2001; 9/11 Commission. The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. New York: Norton, 2004; Cameron, Robert and Alistair Cooke. Above London. San Francisco: Cameron and Company, 1986.