Capt. Jason Dahl: Memories of a 9/11 Hero

Jason M. Dahl (born November 2, 1957) was an airline transport pilot for United Airlines from Denver, Colorado. Jason was the Captain of United Airlines Flight 93 which was hijacked at 9:28am on September 11, 2001, subsequently crashing at 10:02am in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania instead of its intended target, the US Capitol Building in Washington D.C. It is believed that the hijackers were subdued by the heroic actions of the passengers and crew on board.

Jason was born on November 2, 1957 in San Jose, California, later relocating to work for United in the Denver, Colorado area. He was the fourth of five children of Dwayne and Mildred Dahl. Growing up Jason helped his parents with their dairy delivery business in and around San Jose. Jason attended Andrew Hill High School graduating in 1975. While in high school Jason joined the Civil Air Patrol. He earned his pilot’s license in 1973 prior to even obtaining a driver’s license.

Academic life

Jason attended San Jose State University where he received the Vincent E. Morine Scholarship. While at San Jose State University, Jason studied Aeronautic Operations, graduating in 1980 with a Bachelors of Science.

Personal life

Jason met Sandra Dahl, a flight attendant formerly with TWA who now also worked at United, and instantly was head over heels for her. They were married on September 13, 1996 and moved to Littleton, Colorado. The couple quickly merged their families, both having children from previous marriages. Jason did everything for Sandy to make her life as happy as possible. Whenever Sandy came home from a trip, Jason would have a bath drawn for her and dinner in the oven. Jason focused on making their home their castle. Jason tried to do everything himself in renovating their home, and was an excellent carpenter, custom designing a bath and shower remodel to Sandy’s exact measurements. When Jason wanted to put in a pond in their backyard, it quickly grew into what their neighbors christened, “Lake Sandy”.

Jason’s love for his wife extended to their children and his granddaughter. Further, Jason wanted to instill his love of flying in others. Every day off that he had and wasn’t spending with Sandy and his children, Jason would take people on flights or tours of United’s Training facilities. Jason was a dedicated volunteer, regularly working with the Boy Scouts of America.

Aviation career

Unlike many pilots working the industry Jason did not come from the military. Jason started working in the aviation industry while in college. He worked for Piper Aerostar where he delivered newly constructed aircraft around the West Coast of the United States. In 1983 Jason started working for Flight Safety International. In June 1985 Jason joined United Airlines as a flight engineer on Boeing 727 aircraft. He was assigned to United’s Pilot base in San Francisco California. As Jason wanted to expand his career at United he quickly became a flight engineer instructor. As a flight engineer instructor Jason was responsible for teaching and certifying new flight engineers with United. Jason quickly rose through the ranks of United Airlines, becoming a co-pilot on the 727 in 1988, a captain on the Boeing 737 in 1993 and finally a captain on the Boeing 767/757. Every time Jason rose in the ranks, he also became an instructor in the position. This allowed Jason to set his schedule and maintain a family life.

Jason was a standards captain for United Airlines in Denver, Colorado. His primary role was to supervise the training and requalification of United Airline’s pilots during their careers. Jason relished the role of teaching and improving his colleagues. Jason had an easy demeanor and way of working with people that made everyone love him. Jason never enjoyed having to give a negative review to a pilot and was known for his direct, yet empathetic approach.

In May 2001, Jason decided to return to flying more frequently and reentering the scheduled pilots program at United. Jason Dahl represented the best in the American aviation community, always providing assistance to others in both his chosen vocation and his community.

Flight 93 and September 11, 2001

Captain Dahl and First Officer LeRoy Homer, along with five flight attendants Lorraine Bay, Sandra Bradshaw, Wanda Green, CeeCee Lyles, and Deborah Welsh. and thirty-seven passengers took off at 8:42am from Newark (New Jersey) Liberty International Airport bound for San Francisco. The Boeing 757’s takeoff was delayed 42 minutes due to heavy morning traffic. Jason had departed his home in Denver, CO on September 10, 2001 so that he could fly to San Francisco, California the next morning.

Approximately 46 minutes into the flight, the hijackers breached the cockpit, overpowered the pilots which allowed the hijackers to take control of the aircraft, and divert it toward Washington, D.C. It is widely presumed the intended target was the United States Capitol; however, evidence remains inconclusive.

On September 11, 2001 at approximately 10:02am, Flight 93 was brought down in a field by the passengers and remaining crew in a field in Stonycreek Township, near Shanksville, in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, about 80 miles (130 km) southeast of Pittsburgh and 150 miles (240 km) northwest of Washington, D.C., killing all on board including the four hijackers.

Of the four aircraft hijacked on September 11 (the others were American Airlines Flight 11, American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 175), United Airlines Flight 93 was the only one that failed to reach its intended target.

Jason had traded flights with another pilot so that he could take his wife Sandy to London the following weekend to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary.

A permanent memorial is planned for construction on the crash site, and is scheduled to be constructed and completed for 2011.

Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund

In 2002, the Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund was established to provide two deserving aviation students a scholarship grant in Jason’s name. Originally available to students at Dahl’s Alma Mater, San Jose State University and Metro State University in Denver where Dahl lived, the program has since been expanded to NATIONAL status as an IRS recognized 501(c)3 non-profit program supported through corporate and individual donations alike.