- 1 Forward and Prologue
- 2 Chapter 1: From Ghetto to Riches
- 3 Chapter 2: Onward
- 4 Chapter 3: Flying
- 5 Chapter 4: To America and Back
- 6 Chapter 5: The Flying Business
- 7 Chapter 6: 9/11
- 8 Chapter 7: 9/12 Part 1
- 9 Chapter 8: Dead Man Walking
- 10 Chapter 9: 9/12 Part 2
- 11 Chapter 10: Journalists, the news, and me.
- 11.1 Just what happened to Rudi’s father
- 11.2 Journalist stories
- 11.3 Arne and Ziad
- 11.4 Larry Silverstein
- 11.5 More on Atta and Shehhi
- 11.6 Other flight training
- 11.7 Anne Greaves
- 11.8 Venice Gondolier Sun 'Evil in our backyard' headline
- 11.9 Negative experiences with the media
- 11.10 Strange Rudi Incidents=
- 12 Chapter 11: The terrorists get their Visas
- 13 Chapter 12: Fallout
- 14 Chapter 13: I survive
- 15 Chapter 14: My Story Continues:
Forward and Prologue[edit | edit source]
The book is dedicated to an Angeline Bianca Chantal Rudi tells us that Miriam Jacobs wrote the book for him. It was first published in Dutch in September 2008
Forward[edit | edit source]
The forward is by Amy Oshier. She is a reporter for an NBC affiliate. She was in touch with US Intelligence officers within minutes of the WTC being hit. She first met Rudi at his airport soon after 911. She claims that nothing Rudi Dekkers told her has been discredited. There is an anecdote about Rudi ordering the FBI to let her into the building at Huffman on Sept. 12 2001. after they tried to tell her to leave.
Prologue[edit | edit source]
January 2003 Here we learn Rudi drives a bright red Dodge Viper through Naples. He admits to breaking the speed limit on the Interstate. He remembers a race driver and playboy from Napels, named 'Kevin', who wouldn't take his advice on flight safety and ended up dead. He has a friend who flies helicopters for NBC named Tony Douangdara. He is flying from Fort Myers to Venice by helicopter today, ahead of Rudi. Rudi mentions his friendship with 'John' a flight instructor in the British Army, who gave Rudi free helicopter lessons in "advanced flying methods" while over in the states earning a US licence.
While flying Rudi's helicopter looses power and lands in a river. While upside down in the river, drowning, he whines about his life, his wife Astrid and his three girls, but takes comfort in having a huge life insurance policy. He says it will be a relief for his wife to get it as she "wanted to get rid of me" and will be "plenty surprised" to receive over one million dollars in compensation. He notes that it is on this very day that he is on his way to a meeting to sell the last of his businesses, Huffman Aviation.
Chapter 1: From Ghetto to Riches[edit | edit source]
Rudi grew up on a houseboat on a canal in Jordaan, Amsterdam, the old Jewish Ghetto of Amsterdam. Along Lijnbaansgracht street.
His father bought barges and converted them to houseboats for a living.
Rudi was taunted at infant school. His father was authoritarian and his mother was "much too emotional", she drank and cried a lot. His dad would beat him so hard he would pass out. He says his dad was always "seeking out conflict".
His dad never had problem finding work, though he was frequently unemployed. His mother worked as a waitress at Hotel de Pool, opposite the Amsterdam stock exchange Beurs van Berlage. His father sometimes worked as a concierge at Hotel de Pool, too.
His father built his own radio and would receive signals from "far-off places." Something about what he was doing was illegal as "broadcasting on the frequency 27 MHz was forbidden by law." His father was determined to change the law and created 'Edelweiss' to do it, supposedly an AAA roadside assistance type operation. The law was changed.
His father thought playing was a waste of time, Rudi was put to work with endless chores.
When a relative died they inherited a huge house in the countryside and moved there. Rudi started earning money pumping gas aged 15. His father demanded 3/4 of his money, Rudi refused, his father threw him out the house, Rudi ran away to a nearby riding school and lived in a stable. He returned home several months later to finish school.
On his sixteenth birthday his father said it was time to become a man, he took him to the red light district of Arnhem, paid a woman and pushed Rudi inside saying "she will make a man out of you."
He says his life became more confusing, as "suddenly my parents decided to emigrate" to Spain. His father took a job with "an international moving company."
Around this time Rudi bought a motorcycle suit from a Sergeant Major in the army, Fred Lefevere, who is a Mormon. Rudi stayed with Fred's family once his parents left and married Fred's sister, Lia.
He says his father had been a "policeman" during WW2 but due to Lefevere's influence, Rudi chose to join the army rather than the police.
Though he married Lia it didn't last. "After half a year i told her it was over. Her tears made me back off filing for divorce another couple of months." When she told him she was pregnant, he went to a lawyer Tjeerd van Veen. Tjeerd wrote up a document where Rudi stated he would not acknowledge the child, not care for it and not pay child support or alimony. She had to admit she had lied about taking the pill.
When the child was born Rudi was there to "show my respect" but states "i had no feelings toward him. He was a child like any other. After that one visit i never saw Patrick again."
Chapter 2: Onward[edit | edit source]
After about a year Rudi left the Army and began selling industrial-cleaning products for an American company called Certified Laboratories. He soon found out that the product being delivered were very different from the one he was demonstrating. Mr Gunther his American boss told him "Stop whining. Why the hell do you care?"
Rudi says he did care and wanted back in the Army but apparently they refused. Rudi wrote a letter to the Minster of Defence requesting to be drafted. Rudi went to the military and requested to be drafted. They told him they could not refuse him and even sent him back to his old division.
While in the army Rudi had taken a part-time job at a taxi company where he met an Indonesian girl named Astrid. She worked in a nursing home and told him she was in love with someone in Paris. He met her again by accident 18 months later and they started dating.
Rudi left the army again two years after being drafted, to start a company called Dekkers Boor or 'DeBo', Boor means drill. Rudi says he found a factory in Germany that would sell him drill bits for 2 guilders each even though they sold for 10 guilders in Dutch stores. Rudi sold them on to stores for 3.5 guilders.
Rudi and Astrid soon moved to Spain after getting news his father had died and stayed in Spain for a year. It seems he was interested in "issues around inheritance." Rudi describes the time as "frustrating" and a year later they are back in Holland.
Sept. 1981, Astrid gives birth, a week later they marry.
Rudi says he walks into the office of a real estate broker named Ton van de Bunt to buy life insurance. Ton was a friends father. Ton offers him job selling real estate. Rudi says once he figured out how the business worked he started his own company with his friend Rob Sierenveld.
After a few years of this he started a new company called Dekkers Malelaardij. He had an architect friend named Gijs ten Boske who helped him with this business. Rudi mentions others friends who lent him short term loans. He says these friends have no connection to organised crime.
In two years Rudi says he built 200 houses. Rudi employed many people in his town, including a lawyer friend named Arie de Leeuw. On some deals Rudi would sleep only one hour a night.
He is now 26. Rudi has became wealthy and says he sponsored tennis tournaments. He once played doubles with Tom Okker. Rudi almost died while windsurfing.
Chapter 3: Flying[edit | edit source]
In the mid eighties he met Tom Furstenberg, one of the owners of Samsonite. His son and ex lived in one of Rudi's houses. Tom drove over in his Maserati to thank Rudi. One day Tom casually asked him if he would like to fly to London in his Piper Seneca. On returning from this trip Rudi enrolled at Rob van deer Sightenhorst's flying school in Teuge, Holland. Rob became Rudi's friend.
Rudi bought his first plane, a Cessna 172, second hand from KLM. Rudi says only about 200 people in the Netherlands own a plane.
Rudi wanted a Piper Seneca, he found out it would cost 1/3 the price in the US. He contacted J&S Aircraft in Naples, Florida. Joel and Scotty Ulring owned the business and they flew Rudi around America looking for a plane.
He bought one in Rawlings, Wyoming. However Rudi didn't even have a licence. Rudi says another friend, Tony Ossendorp, a KLM captain who had been in the Navy, flew it back to Europe for him, via Newfoundland, Azores, Bordeaux, and Teuge.
Rudi writes "Though we flew halfway around the world we never had any problems with customs until we came to Tegue. Customs agents were already standing in front of us, screaming." They wanted to investigate Rudi's plane. Rudi screamed back at them "Listen, i am not getting out of my plane. Get out of my way or i will leave, inside this plane is still America. I have not put my feet on Dutch soil. I come back and you bitch me out like this?" Rudi writes "They realised the absurdity of their behaviour and backed off. They apologised. Everything was fine, of course."
In 1991 Rudi is moving to America soon, which he says forced him to sell the plane. The new owner had the same name as him, Mr. Ad Dekkers, a man who flew to Switzerland regularly. The new Dekkers offered to fly the old Dekkers "on a farewell trip." Rudi says he was initially excited but lost all appetite for the trip and can not rationally explain why. In 1999 he met an old friend who told him it was a good thing he didn't go on that trip as Ad Dekkers had flown the plane into a mountain. The new Dekkers was gone and so was the plane.
Chapter 4: To America and Back[edit | edit source]
Ever since he bought his plane he admits to making frequent trips to the US. Dekkers says he first moved to the US in 1988 after selling Dekkers Malelaardij to Bert van Engelehoven Jr. the son of his first employer.
He says when he got to America he tried to do what he'd been doing in Holland, but for some reason the local real estate agents competed against him and it didn't work like it did in Holland, so much so that he moved back after a year. He comes back to the US again in 1993, aged 35., this time for good.
During the first few months of his '88 visit he meets the owners of Computer Connections in Naples. Rudi claims there is a business model for selling computers in Holland. From my reading of it, Rudi's "hole in the market" he identifies appears to be based on the fact that everyone else is currently paying their taxes.
Rudi says IBMs sold for 4000 dutch guilders but with his business model he can deliver "clones" for half the price. He eventually only charges half of that again (1/4) as an upfront fee. Rudi says they would pay the rest over a two year spread. The company was imaginatively titled 'Import American Computers' (Impac). Rudi then says he started another company called Intelec but tells us nothing about that one.
A few years later a Dutch PLC named Royal Borsumji Wehry, decided to buy him out. Rudi writes "As part of the buyout I started working for Borsumij but that ended unhappily and absurdly amidst huge misunderstandings."
He now says it was time to settle in the US
In 1993, they moved and lived in a rental house in Naples for a while. Another of his companies, International Computer Products, is exporting drives and memory and runs into trouble at this time.
Rudi's story is that he "quickly found out" they were selling the goods in Holland for less than they paid to buy them from him in the first place, so he says he called on his business partners. He says they laughed at him and said "have you never wondered why we keep changing our business name." Rudi supposedly hadn't. He explains the scam was they were avoiding paying 19% VAT tax in Holland and would just let their company go bankrupt if the Dutch IRS ever started snooping around.
Rudi points out to the reader this is "outright tax fraud" which isn't far from what a cautious reader had already suspected was going on. He says "I should have gotten out at this point" but instead calls his lawyer who tells him you are doing nothing wrong, they are the ones committing fraud.
He describes how not getting out is a contender for the stupidest thing he's ever done and tells us why. He says "because once i knew a crime was being committed, I was culpable." A little while later, a shipment was confiscated. After that the business was dissolved, he says.
In other words he dissolved his third weird company after a shipment was impounded by the Dutch Government. The story gets stranger though.
About a year later he gets a visit from FIOD (Dutch IRS) in Naples, Florida. Rudi then went to Amsterdam to visit them. We find out Rudi likes FIOD, "they were just people trying to do a good job."
He says FIOD called his business a criminal organisation. He says they told him all his colleagues pointed the finger at him and that he was accused of embezzling $30 million. But then writes "they suddenly decided they had developed a need for a leisurely cup of coffee and accidentally forgot to take their files with them. They gave me plenty of time to read what my coworkers had said about me. Even my good friend, the lawyer Arie, accused me. From that moment on, the FIOD was assured of my absolute and complete cooperation."
He finishes emphatically "I have no pity on people who try to screw me."
"I will never forget that day in court. The state attorney accused me of embezzling tax money. There was an immediate request to have me held as i was considered a flight risk. Three judges went into private conference. My lawyer and good friend Tjeerd said "I advise you to leave now. You were not even compelled to be here." With this Rudi ran out of the court and ran away through the town. He stopped and came back when his lawyer called him on his mobile to say the judges had decided he was not a flight risk and wouldn't be detained.
Six weeks later Rudi was found guilty of embezzling $30 million, but his lawyer told him not to worry and they appealed. It took six years to hear the appeal. Rudi was worried about the case all those years but Tjeerd the lawyer assured him it would be fine. In July 1999 at a court in Haarlem, Rudi never even showed up to his appeal. He won the appeal, due to a statute of limitations. He points out he doesn't have a criminal record.
Chapter 5: The Flying Business[edit | edit source]
Soon after arriving in the US in 1993 Dekkers bought a Beechcraft Duke which meant he needed an mechanic, so he found Dan Smith "a mechanic who can fix planes others have given up on." Rudi starts another business at the end of 1993. He says its a repair company called 'Aerojet Service Center Inc DBA Ambassador Airways' or just Ambassador for short. He rents a hanger and hires Dan as head mechanic.
Rudi expanded Ambassador into flying lessons, plane rentals and plane servicing. The FAA only rated his flight school FAR-61, not the top rating, so attracting students was very difficult. He uses this to explain why he targeted Europeans. In Europe a new law recently passed requiring JAR licences for all pilots, which were very expensive to get. As flying in the US was cheaper, EU students could train for the JAR in the US and only return to take the examination, that was Rudi's new business model.
"I decided my business would target those Europeans, and contacted Tony Gunn, an English Gentleman, who set up all the paperwork for us. He became the new chief flight instructor and JAR examiner. We were one of only three schools in the USA offering this." He got a contract with SFT flight school in England who sent him 20 students a month.
By 1999 Rudi employed 10 mechanics and 20 instructors. He admits Ambassador lost money seven years on the trot. Rudi says he couldn't get bank loans because he was a foreigner. But in 2000 he turned a profit. He now wanted to find another business venture. he says he met Stan Huffman playing golf, found out Stan in his 70s wanted to sell Huffman and went to tour it.
"What made Huffman Aviation desirable were their two crown jewels. First, Huffman was designated FAR 141 with full accreditation, which mean that foreign students could get visas approved when they enrolled at the school, very attractive to foreign students. Second was the fuel pump, which meant a tremendous saving by fuelling your own planes.
Rudi wanted Huffman, "only problem was coming up with the cash." The solution came from one of his customers. Wally Hilliard had taken flying lessons with Rudi since 1996. He is described as interesting and eccentric. Rudi writes "One fine day, out of the blue, Wally gave me a check for $100,000. It was odd…" He says he thought it might be a joke and waited a week. Then he called Wally and asked him why.: Wally told him "I know you can use it. I trust your business sense" Rudi: "But what if my business tanks and I lose your money" Wally: "Big Deal. I earn that in one day'."
On hearing that, Rudi cashes the check.
He describes Wally as very bright and well informed about business. He lived in a $3 million Naples home during the winter and Wisconsin in the Summer. "Wally really believed in me and offered himself as a source of investment. He literally said to me "you can use my fortune. "He helped me build Ambassador."
With Wally's capital, Dekkers borrowed $2 million from the bank and bought Huffman Aviation. "Now I was really busy, two companies 125 miles apart. The obvious solution was to become a registered helicopter pilot." Rudi says once he did that he could fit in a round of golf at the end of the day. He says the students at Ambassador were 100% foreign, whereas Huffman had 5 times as many and many were Americans.
"Meanwhile a third business opportunity presented itself to me. Business people from Naples often had to go to meetings all around Florida. There was a need for a charter service." He put together Ambassador charter, but it was very expensive and says to his mind Florida needed a regularly scheduled commuter service. Maybe he could do it with Wally's money. Wally thought it was a great idea but objected to the use of small planes saying they needed jets to look like a proper airline.
Rudi says the business plan for Florida Air (Flair) was 5 years in the making and completed just before the millennium. DOT FAA regulations stipulated Rudi could own only 1/4 of the airline. Wally owned another 1/4 and a Ron Weyers, brought in by Wally, owned the other 1/2.
They bought six Jetsream J 31s. Rudi bought a recently bankrupt airline for 750k so that he could use its paperwork. Rudi arranged political support for approval of the new airline by calling an aviation lawyer in Washington DC named John Gullick. Rudi mailed Congress and Florida politicians asking for their support. Katherine Harris, Gov. Jeb Bush, Bob Graham and Bill Nelson all offered their support and all of them sent letters to Norman Mineta, secretary of Transportation.
Rudi says the media reaction to their plans was wildly positive and only one paper was negative, the local Venice Gondolier Sun, which mentioned that Rudi was late paying his rent at Huffman. Still the lobbying didn't work very well and gaining approval to operate was still slow. Rudi says they invite Harbor Air and Richard Boelke of Washington State to come to Florida in the winter months and fly Florida Air routes.
Harbor Air's Cessna Caravans are then flown around Florida by Florida Air's pilots in the Winter months of 2000. So much for the jetstream idea.
This chapter also contains two near death experiences for Rudi.
In one he gets into trouble flying his helicopter over the Florida Everglades near to the location of the 1996 Valujet crash. Rudi ended up landing on I-75 after having to fly sideways due to too much smoke.
In the second one, in 1997 he is searching for a plane for his friend Amos Watson from Marco Island. Rudi takes out insurance in advance then they go to Texas to view a plane, but Rudi doesn't like it, he says it doesn't feel right. Four months later his secretary finds out from the insurance company that the buyers next in line after Rudi took the plane for a test flight and it crashed, killing everybody on board. The insurance company think Rudi is dead.
Chapter 6: 9/11[edit | edit source]
Its the summer of 2001. We find out that Harbor Air planes are still flying down in Florida, on Florida Air routes. Rudi is happy though because business is brisk that is until he learns that Harbor Air/Flair pilots are now on strike because they haven't been paid. At this point Rudi says he first finds out Harbor air is in financial trouble. He also finds out the DOT have threatened to withdraw Harbor Air's licence if they continue to fly in Florida.
Florida Air had to shut down. Rudi went and assured everyone it was just temporary even though he then writes in his mind the DOT had no intention of ever approving Flair.
Rudi was on the phone to someone in the FAA in Washington about all this at the exact moment 9/11 occurred. She tells him about it and he refuses to believe her to the point that she hangs up in exasperation.
Rudi went and set up a TV in Ambassador's lounge and watched the second impact from there with 15 others. He says the pilots must have been dead because only an amateur pilot would make a manoeuvre like 175 did. He says the South Tower collapsed "as if demolition technicians had taken their time setting the appropriate charges."
Rudi grounded all his flights once he realised it was terrorist attacks. He then called Venice Airport and tried to order them to close the airport. He says he remembered President Bush was in Sarasota and wanted to protect the president and his desire to do so "trumped some little rule of ordinary situations." However the airport wouldn't take orders from him and waited for the FAA.
Chapter 7: 9/12 Part 1[edit | edit source]
He was awakened at half six by Susan Desantis, his office manager, he says he was in a very deep sleep and has never needed to be awakened before. "She gave me news even more devastating than I could have imagined in my darkest moments." She had been woken by Kelly J Thomas of the FBI at half two, as they had discovered an abandoned rental car at Logan Airport, which contained Huffman brochures. The car had supposedly been rented by two former pupils Atta and Al-Shehhi.
Susan told him the FBI first called Dale Krausse, someone who had not worked for Huffman for a while, to enquire about the files. Dale told them to call Susan and she drove them to the office and opened the door for them.
"The FBI had not considered it necessary to call me, and Susan had allowed me some extra sleep."
She only called him when they couldn't find what they were looking for. Rudi asked to speak to Mr Thomas. Shouldn't I be there? he asked No, that is not necessary Thomas said Rudi insists on being there, promising to come asap.
Chapter 8: Dead Man Walking[edit | edit source]
July 1st 2000 Rudi says he "happened by chance" to be in reception at Huffman when Atta and al-Shehhi walked in. They wore standard American T-shirts, jeans, sneakers. About 10% of Huffman's students are from the middle East. Atta was 5'7 al-Shehhi was 6'2, 250 pounds.
Rudi walked up to them and asked if he could help with anything. "The short one stuck out his hand and introduced himself as Mohamed Atta. The tall one followed"
Atta did all the talking. He explained they were aspiring pilots and had taken classes at Jones Aviation in Sarasota but didn't like it there. Rudi admits that this is an unusual situation as students usually contact him in writing or email first. Rudi gave them a tour of the facilities. Rudi admits its not his job to greet new students and give them tours but says "when i saw their eager looks, I put on my winning smile and treated them to my best sales pitch."
He explained how Huffman is a 141 school school, perfect for them. He learned that Atta had flown forty hours and had a single engine licence so could already fly solo. He would need 200 hours for a commercial licence. Shehhi had flown just 10 hours. They both told him they were from UAE. Much later he found out Atta was Egyptian. Atta had a Florida driving licence which stated Egypt but Rudi never saw it.
Atta had a B-1 business visa, Shehhi a tourist visa. Rudi explained this wasn't good enough. Rudi told them his flight school would file appropriate papers. He doesn't mention if Jones Aviation was a 141 school and had already done so, or why they were flying there without proper visas if it wasn't. Atta said they had no accommodation and Rudi told him not to worry, he could help them with that.
Rudi says he spent an hour with them and learnt that Atta was a "cold fish" who he wasn't going to socialise with and points out he had no need to socialise with students anyway. Rudi says they would have to spend around $40,000 in total.
Shehhi was a pleasant guy. He spoke good English and liked to tell jokes. He enjoyed "off-colour" jokes and x-rated words. When Atta showed up he would immediately clam up and let Atta do all the talking then follow him around. In front of people he called Atta his uncle. Rudi says Atta had a blank face and fixed eyes, because of this Rudi nicknamed him "dead man walking." Despite this nickname he apparently didnt consider Atta suspicious in any way.
July 3rd Rudi "happened to be there as well" when they returned to accept Huffman's offer. Rudi left them with Nicky Antini, his secretary, to do all the paperwork. Rudi explains they are allowed to start studying prior to student visa approval.
Nicky is an interesting person do be doing the paperwork, "she was originally hired to wash airplanes" but she complained so she was given an office job, she was 21 at this time. Rudi says she made mistakes, including a mistake in their applications. The 'mistake' was she didn't fill out the I-20M form until 29th August. She also failed/refused to sign off the paperwork. Rudi says the government never noticed and the applications were approved without comment.
Rudi asked his bookkeeper Charlie Voss to rent out a room to the muslim guys, which he did. It cost $17 per night. Rudi says this had been done before for other students. Apparently they made a mess everywhere leaving water all over the bathroom. Mrs Voss complained and they shouted back at her. The atmosphere deteriorated and after further incidents they were thrown out. Rudi says Charlie didn't tell him about this.
Rudi saw them in the Huffman kitchen every day, a favourite spot for student socialising. Rudi saw them talking with two British students of middle eastern descent, sometimes. A few weeks after they arrived Rudi said: "Hey, Mohamed. You've got to tell me why you want to be a pilot" Mohamed said: "why do you want to know?" Rudi: "I saw your admission papers, you studied architecture. It is a big change to be a pilot" Mohamed said "Im sick of architecture" Rudi: "The aviation business is no picnic. You are 32, al-Shehhi is ok, he is 22, he wont have any problems finding a job. Things are different for you" Mohamed: "Its not a problem We both have good jobs waiting for us in UAE. All we need is to get our license."
After a few weeks Rudi started getting complaints. Atta had ordered standard American breakfast at the Cockpit Cafe; fried eggs, toast and coffee. When it arrived Atta threw the plate on the floor, food and all, then simply got up and walked out. Rudis head pilot, Daniel Purcell, came to complain about the two of them. "They just don't listen to their instructors. They are not serious about their studies, in the plane they just mess around and act like teenagers." Rudi said to read them the riot act and tell them they would be thrown out if it continued. Though he had a personal chat with them himself, just two days later, "to make sure there were no misunderstandings." Rudi says they improved after this. Though Susan Desantis, the office manager, continued to complain about them.
They flew in Cessna 150s, 152s and 172s. Then Warriors and finally Pied Piper Senecas. Rudi describes them as "just ordinary students." In contrast to many of his muslim students, they never used the prayer mats provided. They ate hamburgers, never asked about Halal and Shehhi would eat pork. Rudi learned later that those who pledge to wage holy war for Allah are given special dispensation from regular Islamic rules.
Rudi remembers another talk with Atta. Rudi tried talking to him in German. Rudi says he speaks the language fluently. Rudi said Good morning, hows things? in German. "Atta looked as if he saw water burning", which I think means he was surprised. There was an awkward silence for ten seconds, then Atta walked away. Rudi started talking to al-Shehhi who said they'd soon be working for the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, but refused to speak German also.
Atta frequently complained that the planes were badly maintained and he had trouble starting them. Rudi says Atta flooded the motor often, far more than other students.
On November 6th, 2000, instructor Thierry Leklou recommended Atta for the IFR exam. On November 20th, Atta passed. On December 21st, Atta passed his commercial pilots license, 5 months after starting at Huffman. He had flown 178+ hours. Shehhi got a commercial license the same day as Atta and a private license, on the December 9th, 2000, after a total 192 flying hours. Their license limited them to planes of 12,000 pounds.
(For what its worth, max take-off weight of a Jetstream J 31 is just over this at 13,000, whereas a Cessna Caravan is only about 9,000)
A few days after getting their license they both rented out one of Rudi's Piper Warriors, N55SHA. A few hours later Rudi got a call from a furious inspector at the FAA. "he yelled at me that a student of mine had acted with a complete lack of responsibility." "He is a former student of mine, but no longer one." Rudi countered. The man told him Atta and al-Shehhi abandoned the plane in the middle of the runway at Miami International Airport. "I could not believe my ears," Rudi says. "Miami International is gigantic. It is a terrible decision to fly such a small plane there."
Atta called him a short time later, angry, because he had been rented a plane "not properly maintained." Atta demand a taxi fare back to Venice. Rudi ranted at him then Atta hung up. The next day the two returned to Huffman. Rudi says he showed Atta his bill and told them he never wanted to see them on his field again. "That was the last time I saw the duo." They paid their bills in full January 5th, 2001.
Chapter 9: 9/12 Part 2[edit | edit source]
Rudi has an out of body experience when told Atta and al-Shehhi were responsible for the World Trade Centre crashes. He then tells Astrid about it. Her immediate reaction was, "keep your mouth shut, don't tell anything to anybody, and certainly don't talk to journalists."
Rudi says he drove "full speed" to Venice from Bonita Springs. During the trip FBI agent Kelly calls him saying he has found the papers he needs and their suspicions were confirmed. He says since they found what they wanted Rudi should turn around and go home. Rudi refuses.
He then gets another call from a different, unnamed FBI agent.
- The agent advises Dekkers: "not to talk to any journalists."
- Rudi: "things will be much worse for me if i don't"
- Agent: "I advise you not to talk to any journalists"
- Rudi: "This is such a terrible thing. I want the story to be told as accurately as possible. If i don't tell it fully they'll think i have something to hide."
- silence on the line
- Rudi: "Are you forbidding me? Are you forbidding me to talk to the press?"
- Agent: "No, legally i cant. But i do advise you not to"
- Rudi: "All right. Then I will talk to the journalists that come for the story."
- Agent: "Why do you intend to do that?"
- Rudi repeats his explanation
- Agent: "Well then, all i can ask you is not to volunteer any details, just answer their questions."
- Rudi apparently agrees with this.
The agent also offers "his help" whenever terrorist trainer Rudi needs it. Rudi thanks him and the call ends.
Rudi writes "close to Venice, I saw a red light. I did not stop and continued right through. Unfortunately, the only car in sight happened to be a police car."
- Policeman "Why did you drive through that red light"
- Rudi "Because i really have to go to the bathroom. I am in a lot of pain."
- Policeman "Drivers license and registration please"
- Rudi "Officer please. Follow me to my office right around the corner. I will answer all your questions and pay any penalties. I just don't want to shit in my pants!"
- Policeman "Arnt you that guy from Huffman aviation? Drivers license and registration please"
- Rudi "Im going to the office. You can do as you please"
- Policeman draws gun "If you don't do what I say, ill shoot you!"
- Rudi "Jesus man, calm down. All I have to do is go take a dump. Its not a big deal."
Rudi writes "He suddenly realised how absurd his overreaction had been and put away his gun. He made me promise I would never run another red light, got into his car and drove away." Rudi thinks the police officer was given a heads up that he was coming. When he gets to his office he says he enters through a side door.
Rudi found six FBI agents in the lobby with the office manager, Susan. They had filled two boxes with paperwork from Huffman. They again told Rudi his presence wasn't necessary. They then apologised for "coming without the proper paperwork." This didnt seem to bother Rudi, who offered them a great deal more than the two boxes they had ("every folder of every muslim") and told them they could take anything they needed. He says he later learned "a bit about the huge legal ramifications" of what they were doing - confiscating documents without the proper paperwork - especially since this is 9/11.
Dekkers offers the hard drives of the computers used by Atta and al-Shehhi but "they were not enthusiastic about the idea," still Dekkers "insisted" so they took them. Later on, Rudi writes, it would turn out the computers held crucial material that would lead the FBI back to the Hamburg Cell.
The first journalist to arrive even before the FBI left was Amy Oshier, from the local Fort Myers NBC station. She had learned some of the terrorists lived in Venice, says Rudi, and as she had grown up in Melbourne, Florida where there is apparently a flight school frequented by Islamics, she headed for Venice Municipal Airport. Though Rudi says "Amy drove around with her cameraman looking for the right airport in Venice. When she saw black SUVs she new she had hit the bulls-eye."
Rudi says he talked to her for an hour and a half and she went on to win an Edward R Murrow award. He even put her before his personnel, only informing them about the terrorists being at Huffman once he'd finished with her. Now Rudi suddenly reverses his desire for openness with the media. He tells his staff nobody is allowed to speak to media. He writes "My reasons were simple. The story we told had to be consistent. I did not want to encourage confusing or contradictory stories."
Rudi told them to come to him or the FBI not the press with anything they thought might be important. Rudi would decide whether it was important.
Rudi gives he guesses 150 interviews that day. Rudi decides it was a mistake to talk to the press "How could I have been so naive? My photograph made the front page of all the newspapers. There wasn't a talk show that didn't invite me." Rudi concludes "the other flight school owners were scared they would be seen as guilty. The strategy they employed was the exact opposite of what i did, and they ended up in a better situation because they kept quiet." He then writes "However, all of us went bankrupt."
Chapter 10: Journalists, the news, and me.[edit | edit source]
This chapter seems to be the cutting room floor. Rudi anecdotes, stories and events that didn't make it to the main narrative.
Just what happened to Rudi’s father[edit | edit source]
"I can still barely talk about 9/11 without getting emotional. The interviewers had no idea what a raw nerve they had hit. This was not the first time my life had been impacted by terrorists."
During the last part of Rudi's high school career, Dekkers Sr. moved to Spain to work for a Dutch company that helped other people move to Spain. He worked in a warehouse where these people supposedly stored their household goods, temporarily.
A few days after returning from visiting him, Rudi got a phone call, he was told his father "had a terrible accident." Rudi went back to Spain and found him in a coma. Rudi learned only that his skull had been crushed. After a few days he went back to Holland. Then, two weeks later, he died.
10 years later Rudi was on the phone with Piet de Vries, his friend, a Dutch policer officer. We learn this de Vries was a friend of his father and has a vacation home in Alicante. Alicante police had called on Piet during their investigation into what happened.
Piet told Rudi his father had been the victim of an attack by ETA. Piet said "ETA is for the basques what what the IRA is for Northern Ireland. You know your father worked in a warehouse. Well this place was not just used by the Dutch company; other boxes would arrive there to be stored as well. Your father was in charge of 'checking' newly arrived boxes. He opened a box he should not have and found enough weapons to outfit a small army. Your father told his boss, but the warehouse boss already knew, he told your father to forget he had ever seen anything and to shut up or there would be terrible consequences."
The impression from the rest of the conversation is that Dekkers Sr. went to the police and suffered the consequences. He was supposedly attacked inside the warehouse and left for dead but then crawled outside.
Rudi writes "The journalists who interviewed me after 9/11 could not have known that terrorists had murdered my father."
Journalist stories[edit | edit source]
"One of the advantages of talking to so many journalists was that I got new information every day. "Peter Jennings told me that as early as 1995 there had been plans to hijack planes from Hawaii and crash them into San Francisco. "Another reporter told me rescue workers at Ground Zero were walking out with bars of gold hidden in their clothing. "A reporter mentioned Atta and al-Shehhi had met with some Russian people in the Bahamas while training at my facility." Rudi suddenly remembers them making phone calls to Russia and rushes to tell the FBI. Rudi's phone records given to the FBI showed many calls to Russia all to the same number. "I never heard anything else about this matter" says Rudi.
Yousri Fouda: "The strangest interview was with Yousri Fouda from Al Jazeera. He proudly told me that he had interviewed Osama bin Laden after 9/11. He happily told me bin Laden had been very pleased with the attacks. Apparently his engineers made careful calculations that led them to the belief the attack would destroy the top part of the buildings. They were delighted by the complete collapse." "This made me revisit my wild theory there had been explosive charges in the Twin Towers."
"When I questioned how he accessed bin Laden, Fouda claimed to have been kidnapped by Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheik Mohammed," supposedly the men who conceived and planned the attacks. Rudi says "It must be difficult to take notes when you are all tied up." I don't think Rudi believes him. "He was interviewing me for a book about the events. He sent me a copy of 'Masterminds of Terror' when it was published." Rudi thinks the book is pro Al Qaeda. He says he found Fouda and the Al Jazeera crew unpleasant.
A few hours after they left, the FBI called Rudi to 'warn' him that someone from Al Jazeera may contact him. Rudi said theyd already been and gone. He says he could here disappointment on the FBI end. They then asked him where they'd gone. "As it happened I knew exactly where they were staying because they asked my secretary for directions to their hotel. I was happy to pass the information to the FBI."
Arne and Ziad[edit | edit source]
"It turned out I also knew a third terrorist." A twenty-six-year-old Lebanese man who had taken classes at Florida Flight Training School. "My Dutch competitor Arne Kruithof ran that school. We saw Ziad regularly because he rented planes from us and often came to pump gas."
Rudi says Ziad was a very friendly person, Arne considered him a friend. Ziad went home with Arne, drank his beer and ate at his barbecue.
Drinking at the Aero Squadron: "Vicky, my private secretary, told me she had seen Atta and al-Shehhi drinking beer at a nearby bar called the 44th Aero Squadron." Rudi says the owner of the bar was Ken Schortzmann.
Larry Silverstein[edit | edit source]
"The person who owned the WTC tried to make some money out of the deal. He decided that each of the planes constituted a separate attack. After I heard that I called his insurance company and told them I could save them about half of the claim. I explained who I was, that I had known both pilots and that they were so closely affiliated there was certainly only one attack."
"I was never called, but in October 2006 the case was decided both ways." (SR International Business Insurance Company Ltd. versus World Trade Center Properties LLC, et al.)
More on Atta and Shehhi[edit | edit source]
"I found out later that long before Atta ever walked onto our facility, he had been flagged as a suspicious character by international security forces. He should never have been give a drivers license. Clearly the government had not thought it necessary to monitor him. nobody ever thought to warn me."
"Atta paid their tuition with checks from the First Union Bank. he always paid one week in advance. The fact that he had an American checking account was actually odd but none of the journalists noticed this was the thing they should have flagged as out of the ordinary."
Although Rudi says these two trained on Cessna 150 and 152s, here Rudi admits Atta's first lesson was on his Cessna 172, N734EE, July 7th 2000.
"Its still a mystery to me why Atta and al-Shehhi bothered getting commercial licenses" claims Rudi. "Perhaps they had been considering a different plan of attack."
"I heard from 'Pedro', a helicopter parts dealer in Miami, that one of his business partners had sold a crop duster to one of the terrorists. I assumed it was Atta."
Rudi goes on to speculate "they might have sprayed poisons."
Other flight training[edit | edit source]
"Atta and Shehhi went to Miami to learn how to fly much bigger planes. They had to learn a whole lot more about flying planes. What we taught them would not have provided them with enough knowledge to fly into those buildings."
They bought Microsoft Flight Simulator. They bought training time on flight simulators for 747s and 767s in Dakota, Georgia. And with SimCenter in the Opa-Locka airport, north of Miami. There they paid $1500 for six hours in a 727 simulator.
The rules have changed since 9/11. Previously anyone with a pilots license and money could use the simulators, says Rudi.
Rudi says he imagines they solved the problem of navigation by using handheld GPS devices.
Anne Greaves[edit | edit source]
Greaves was another British student at Rudi's Huffman Aviation. She called the American Embassy in London on 12th September 2001 to suggest the FBI look for the terrorists in Venice, Florida. She began her study in October 2000 and she says she often had a flight either right before or right after Atta and Shehhi. Rudi characterises her as the only person at Huffman who had suspicions about them.
Greaves: "They seemed to just come, fly and then inevitably go into the computer room. They seemed to spend an enormous amount of time, I felt, on the computer, which again irritated me profoundly. I would just wait politely in the other room. I heard a tremendous amount of activity, clicking of keys. You would hear hushed voices talking in their own language. There was one occasion when I suddenly heard this outburst of merriment and thought my goodness they are human after all. They were both hugging each other and slapping each other on the back and laughing. I didnt see the computer screen so i have no way of knowing what it was that made them so happy."
Though Greaves says "I would say it must have been sometime in October, possibly early November." She was apparently only there six weeks, so this is hedging her bets.
Rudi criticises Greaves for not understanding muslims. She had described these two as unbelievably rude. Rudi says she heard from her instructor that Atta was of royal blood but Rudy talked to "instructors Mike and Thierry" and they denied ever saying such a thing. Rudi points out if Atta was a prince he would have had two bodyguards "for those times when the first guy is off duty."
Greaves claims Atta sometimes "dressed in a jacket and woollen pants" says Rudi, but he denies it. Everybody else remembers them in T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, Rudi says.
Venice Gondolier Sun 'Evil in our backyard' headline[edit | edit source]
Rudi doesn't like this headline. The Venice Gondolier wrote 'Evil In Our Backyard' on its front cover and stuck Rudi's picture underneath.
"I can only imagine they were referring to the fact that I was a little late on some of my bills. "The insane suggestion was that I had something to do with the horrible events of 9/11."
Negative experiences with the media[edit | edit source]
"Through all of the interviews I only had a few negative experiences with the media. Ironically one was a Dutch reporter, his style was very aggressive, he took my words completely out of context."
Rudi said to him that if those planes had not hit the WTC towers, they might have done even more damage by going down in the streets of Manhattan. "He twisted that around to make it sound as If i said i was happy the planes hit the buildings."
"It was particularly offensive to me to be vilified in a well-known Dutch magazine."
"The other bad apple was a person who maintains a website through which he sells sensationalist books." Rudi complains, "when someone does a search for your name the stories about you come up for the first five pages. Sooner or later just a search for 9/11 is enough to bring up your name."
He responds to a specific allegation about a cab driver who says Rudi went to a strip bar with Atta. "I was never in a cab with Atta, I never went to a strip joint with Atta and I never went out to drink with Atta."
Strange Rudi Incidents=[edit | edit source]
These come as Rudi explains to us his previous experiences with the media.
The first he says was in 1995. Ambassador had completely overhauled a Cessna 152, Rudi made the first flight alone to test her thoroughly before she went into the flight school. Rudi says "I decided to make a quick roundtrip from Naples to Orlando to pick up a private package I needed to collect anyway." He was almost home, flying above Route 41 at Bonita Springs when he heard his engine start to sputter. He flew under an electricity cable and landed his plane "right between the driving cars". A TV truck arrived about 15 minutes later and after that the Sheriff. Rudi told the Sheriff his friend was coming with extra fuel, even though Rudi had fuel. The Sheriff told him not to leave and left.
Rudi says his unnamed colleague arrived at almost 3pm, so traffic was picking up. He says "I really needed to leave immediately to fly the plane out safely." He called the sheriffs office but when the person on the other end of the line started to mention the FAA, Rudi hung up on him. He says If he was told the FAA wanted him grounded that meant he couldn't leave. Rudi instructed the colleague to "block off the road" and then took off.
The FAA sent out an investigator to Naples airport to see Dekkers. Rudi says he thinks the carburettor might have iced up. The investigator asked him if he turned the carburettor heater on, Rudi admitted he hadnt. The FAA let the matter drop, says Rudi.
"The other time I had some contact with the media was in February of 1999 and it concerned a very upsetting incident."
Rudi had a customer named Mitchell Johnson who loved to go to Key West, and who rented Rudi's planes to do it. This time he really wanted to rent a Cessna 210, N6174F, but Rudi says he wouldn't rent it to him as his Insurance company wouldn't cover it. Mitchell needed more qualifications.
Rudi says Mitchell went to Wolf Arrow, another charter company, requesting a Cessna 210. Wolf rented Rudi's Cessna 210 from him, then rented it out to Mitchell. They were supposed to make sure he met Rudi's insurance companies standards but failed to do so, says Rudi.
When he returned to Naples airport from Key West, it was almost 10pm and the tower was about to close. He requested to land but they told him to go into a holding pattern as someone else was landing. Rudi says instead he crashed his plane into the Gulf. He was cut diagonally in two by one of the window styles. The mans parents called Rudi to ask what happened, Rudi told them "one thing is for sure: he did not survive." How or why Rudi knew this before the parents isn't clear.
The NTSB started an investigation, sending 'Corky Smith' to investigate. ”He was a difficult man to get along with.” After four days though, his behaviour changed, “he became convinced it was not our fault. Corky ended up becoming an acquaintance of mine and we worked together a few times."
The insurance company refused to pay Rudi any money. Mitchell had his own insurance and the money apparently went to the parents.
Chapter 11: The terrorists get their Visas[edit | edit source]
On March 11, 2002, Rudi opened two envelopes from the INS that had just arrived. He says he is used to INS envelopes but these ones contained student visas for Atta and al-Shehhi. "I happened to have a CNN reporter there, so I told them what I had just received. They did not show a great deal of enthusiasm for the material."
Amy Oshier called a little while later and Rudi told her about it. "She came over immediately to see the documents. She made sure the world heard about it."
About two hours later Rudi got a visitor at the front desk. A man in short sleeved Hawaiian shirt who said he was from the INS. He wanted the Visas back. "What if i don't want to give them to you?" Rudi asks. The man said he would get a subpoena signed for them. Rudi handed them over and the man told him he wasn't allowed to make any copies of them. Rudi couldn't imagine why he would need copies anyway until the National Enquirer rang later in the day offering $500,000 for the documents.
A few days after this Rudi was phoned by Art Arthur of the House of Representatives and asked to if he would like to testify in Congress. The subcommittee oversight hearings would be at 4pm on Tuesday, March 19th, 2002 at the Rayburn House office building on the topic of the INS approving Visas for Atta and Shehhi. A follow up letter asked Rudi to testify before Congress. Rudi says he was never subpoenaed nor were any documents.
Shortly after that an FBI agent phones. "Rudi, do you know we forgot to do an official interview with you. Can we still do that?" Rudi says it is one of the many ways he knew he was never under any suspicion for 9/11. Then he got a call from the Justice Department telling him they wanted his testimony and not to talk to any other agency before them. "The caller was very insistent and said he needed my statement first, before I testify to Congress."
A little while later an Agent Marino called from Miami: "Dekkers, can we see you?" "I have some time tomorrow at 2pm" "Do you need directions to our Miami office" "I don't have time to come to Miami. The way I understood it is you want to see me." To quote Dekkers, he started getting a bit nasty. "We are interviewing you, Mr Dekkers. You are not interviewing us." "I am very sorry but this is not the message I had from Washington." According to Rudi he didn't like that at all and said he would call Washington.
In the meantime Rudi starts panicking - "Oh my lord, an interview with the justice department. I should probably call my attorney." He called his immigration attorney in Naples. Rudi says the FBI agreed to do the interview in the office of Rudi's attorney. "In the end…I told them my whole story and they were satisfied."
On March 19th 2002 Rudi was flown to Montgomery County Airpark, MD, in his own plane by his son-in-law Shawn and Shawn's friend 'Rene.' He was presented to the press for a live national interview then walked over to the House of Representatives.
From here Rudi goes on to print his prepared statement to the subcommittee. However he also prints and comments on two other pieces; the testimony of the MD of ACS and part of 7.2 in the 9/11 Commission report. Ill just heavily summarise them.
What is ACS?[edit | edit source]
Immediately following a visa change approval, the adjudicator returns the student copy to the student through the mail. The school copy of the I-20 is then mailed to Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (ACS) in London, Kentucky, the INS contractor who data enters information from the I-20s that is eventually uploaded to an INS database.
Testimony of Tom Blodgett, managing director of ACS: In August 2000 Huffman filed I-20 applications with the INS to change Atta and al-Shehhi's visa status to student. INS approved the changes in July and August 2001. On September 24 2001 ACS received I-20 forms for storage for the mandatory 180-day period. On February 27th, 2002, INS requested ACS begin mailing all I-20 forms then held in 180-day storage to the form originators. On March 5th ACS did an automated bulk mailing of approx. 4000 I-20s. Atta and al-Shehhi were part of this 4000.
Rudi quotes this as he wants to know why there was a 180 day mandatory storage. He points out the visas had been approved for six months before they were sent to him.
9/11 Commission Report 7.2 In mid-September, Atta and al-Shehhi applied to change their immigration status from tourist to student. In late September they decided to enrol at Jones Aviation in Sarasota. In early October, they took Stage 1 exam for instrument rating at Jones Aviation and failed. Very upset they returned to Huffman.
Rudi says he was quite surprised "they did not get their facts right." He doesn't elaborate but says this passage is simply not accurate, that the error does not matter to him but he shudders to think how many more errors there may be.
Chapter 12: Fallout[edit | edit source]
"At the beginning of September 2001, I owned 45 planes at my flight school in Naples. One month after 9/11 I had to close down Ambassador. My income went from making $100,000 a month to $10,000 a month, gross. This huge drop was because SFT flight school in England went bankrupt.
Rudi gives an explanation for this, the students families/parents were all demanding a refund after 9/11 which the flight school hadn't budgeted for.
Instead the guy declares bankruptcy. He called Rudi to tell him he owes these people more than £200,000. Supposedly this was enough reason for bankruptcy. Rudi points out he was owed money as well but never got a cent.
"It took me ten years to put a deal together with SFT and in just a few days it was gone." He says "I had no choice and told everyone, this is the end; were closing up shop. The company I built from 1993 to 2001 was gone. The banks took back all the planes, the banks were paid off but i personally lost $1 million.
Shortly after 9/11 DOT contacted the Florida Air (Flair) lawyer and told him there will be no permit unless Rudi Dekkers resign as CEO and president. "I said i would resign and stay as 24.9% shareholder only." But the DOT told him he couldn't be a shareholder either. The DOT then told him he couldn't be in the building where Florida Air was located, even though Rudi owned it. When Rudi's lawyer asked them why they said it was very simple: "Rudi Dekkers was involved in the 9/11 attack"
"No mater how ridiculous this is," says Rudi, "the DOT wont give you a permit if you don't comply."
Rudi gives his shares to Wally Hilliard, "who had been a longtime friend and was someone I thought I could trust. After everything calmed down and the airline was flying, he would give me my shares back, which would have a value of about $1.5 million."
However things didn't go according to plan. "The new president of Flair was completely incompetent and with his help the airline never made it any further. Two years later it was sold to a company in Nevada and most of the investors lost their money. I lost everything I had invested and was left with just Huffman Aviation in Venice."
After 9/11 Rudi had TV stations there every day and they would ask him "so, hows things going?" He says at first he told the truth, that it wasn't going well. But due to his decision to "say something often enough and create your own reality" he admits he started to lie and say it was picking up. He says this actually worked and business picked up.
Another weird Rudi story[edit | edit source]
"I called Jones Aviation at Sarasota Airport. Since we were longtime friends, I felt free to make a rather odd request. May I buy fuel from you for a decent price?" Jones apparently asked for only a dime a gallon over what they paid. "It was a very kind and generous offer. I sent over my fuel truck and I only had to pay for 1,200 gallons at a time which was manageable. We drove our truck to Sarasota about 3 or 4 times before somebody called Venice Airpot Authority to complain. We hadn't realised it was illegal to drive the truck on regular roads."
The truck had no license plates. The Airport Authority told Rudi "if we catch you, we will report you to the police." Rudi thought up a new plan. He rented a trailer and put the fuel truck on top of the trailer. "It looked pretty ridiculous." The Airport Authority came in again and told him he couldn't transport fuel over roads without the proper permits. Rudi says it doesn't matter, he had now raised enough money selling fuel to buy a proper tanker. The fuel selling at Huffman helped him to sell it later.
"After I bounced back a bit I bought a courtesy car. Its normal for fixed-base operations (FBOs) to have a courtesy car for captains who fly in. But I needed something extra as an incentive, so I bought a Viper. Every time a Captain bought 100 gallons of fuel he could drive the Viper for an hour."
"Then a new disaster hit - M&I Bank in Wisconsin called in my loan. When I bought Huffman I had to put $100,000 down with Wally Hilliard as the guarantor. After 9/11 I was not able to always pay on time and they were sure we were going bankrupt. My previous loan was 3% but now the interest was 12%"
"One of the other payments I fell behind on was social security taxes on my employee payroll. Within six months of 9/11 I owed the IRS $300,000. I told the IRS id probably have to sell Huffman to replay the 'debt'. The company was appraised for $3.6 million"
Rudi says the Small Business Association refused to help him pointing out in the past he had not paid city bills on time, as their excuse. In the end he had to sell the business. Rudi sold the maintenance business to Bob Martin, head of maintenance at Huffman. He sold the planes separately. He sold the buildings to Triple Diamond. Rudi payed back the banks, the IRS and all outstanding bills.
Wally's Betrayal[edit | edit source]
Around March 2001, Wally came to Rudi and said the Investors were not willing to put in any more money into Florida Air, They felt additional investments needed to be secured. "Since I owned the building the airline was housed in and that building was $400,000, he asked if I was willing to let him take out a loan against it. He promised he would pay the money back in six to eight weeks from other sources. I did not think about it twice. I said, of course, thats fine.
"He made a deal with Kenny Jossett, one of these investors. Kenny would lend the airline $300,000 and I would contribute the building as collateral. Wally put together a document stating I had borrowed $300,000 from Kenny against the building. According to its terms, I had six months to pay it back."
"Then 9/11 happened and I completely forgot about it." Rudi says he saw Wally and Kenny on a regular basis and heard nothing more about it from either of them.
After 9/11 Rudi decided to sell the building again, this time for $400,000, to the "same man who would later buy Huffman Aviation." He went to his closing attorney and asked him to make sure their is no lien on the building as he had "used it to secure a temporary loan a while back." his attorneys checked and said there was no problem and closing could go through.
Rudi then got a call from Wally, Wally: "I need you to wire $300,000 to kenny." Rudi: "Excuse me?" Wally: "Yea. You owe him money." Rudi: "Wally, that was six months ago. You were supposed to pay him back in six to eight weeks. …you have to pay it back. Im not giving a dime." Wally: "If you don't give the money back, it is fraud." Rudi: "If i never had the money, its not fraud."
The conversation ended, Rudi hears nothing more until a detective shows up 2 months later. "Mr. Dekkers, we have a complaint of fraud - money laundering, actually. What is your opinion?" Rudi denies receiving any money and says the detective thinks that makes it a civil case and leaves.
Rudi hears nothing for a while until one day he reads a headline on the front page of a newspaper: "Dekkers charged with Fraud"
Rudi goes to his attorney who asks him whether he received the $300,000. Dekkers says no, he never even read the contract because he trusted Wally. The attorney announces the contract is null and void if Rudi didn't receive the money. The attorney makes an agreement with the assistant DA David Green, that if they needed Dekkers for anything they should go through him.
The attorney then calls every week to see if the judge has signed the arrest warrant, but its always "not yet."
"One evening at 6:45pm, I was going out for dinner with my wife. I drove out of the development where we lived and didn't notice right outside the gate there were four undercover cars. I drove down the road and they immediately came up behind me with their sirens blazing."
Rudi was arrested. The arresting officer told Rudi, "Sir, I don't know why we are arresting you…" Rudi said he had a feeling he did. The officer kept apologising to Rudi and asked if his handcuffs were too tight.
At the police station nobody would tell Rudi why he'd been arrested or what he was charged with. Apparently one of the officers yelled at him "You goddamm fing ahole keep your fing mouth closed. Don't talk to me." Bail was set at $1000, Rudi could pay $100 to get out, he says. It took four hours to process the paperwork. Rudi was on the front page of the newspaper again for getting arrested.
Rudi blames ADA David Green, who he thinks wanted to make a name for himself so he could start his own law firm. Rudi says a short while later Green resigned as ADA and that wasn't a surprise to him. He says the DA wouldn't stop the case as it would make them look bad. "When we were sent for arraignments, the DA didn't even bother to show up. The judge was not pleased. A few weeks later the DA dropped everything."
Then Wally appears again. "You know Im a guarantor on a loan for Huffman Aviation, so in return, I want some shares." Rudi said "Im sorry, I wont give them to you. You keep messing everything up." Rudi says he had to reassure Bob Martin, his general manager, Wally wouldn't get the shares.
Rudi says Wally pressured him for months, demanding 51% of the business, threatening to gather enough votes to kick Rudi out of his own company. He took Rudi to court to try and prove he was the real owner of Huffman aviation. Rudi was able to show documents he had received from Wally where he denied he had any affiliation with Huffman. Wally claimed Rudi faked the documents, the judge asked for proof, Wally had none, the case was closed.
"I have wondered many times why Wally turned on me" says Rudi "but i think he was just desperate. I watched him lose $60 million in five years."
Vicky Antini[edit | edit source]
"Other people too wanted to take advantage of me. Vicky was a pretty young woman in her 20s. Let me be very clear about this: when I see a young woman the age of one of my daughters, i am not interested in her. But I understand customs are different here in America and it is possible I might have made comments that sounded inappropriate. But I want to make it clear that I never made explicit sexual comments to her and I never touched her."
"From the beginning Vicki had been a problem employee, but I kept shifting her around." She had three jobs at Huffman finishing up in the pilot shop selling merchandise, says Rudi. Because he got complaints wherever she went he gave her two weeks notice and fired her. He says three days later he got a letter saying she was suing him.
Rudi says he found out she was just wanted money for college. He hired Paul Murray an attorney who had helped him before and they went into mediation. Her initial demand was $150,000, Rudi kept refusing to pay, eventually she went down to $10,000 and Rudi settled, apparently on his attorney threatening to walk out if he didn't. She eventually went public with the details anyway, according to Rudi. He says this was because he was a few days late with one of his payments to her.
Chapter 13: I survive[edit | edit source]
"I am hanging in my seatbelt, upside down, In my crashed helicopter at the bottom of the Caloosahatchee River."
"The thought of my granddaughter Brooke flashes through me. She is a very special little girl..." etc.
Rudi escapes another near death experience.
His friend Tony rescues him from the river, we learn Tony also flew helicopters in the Gulf War. When Rudi gets to the hospital, coincidentally his doctor is also a helicopter pilot and tells him how lucky he has been. "I tell him its not just luck, Its also my training."
Wally Hilliard picks him up at 2pm. Wally takes him to his private plane at Fort Myers and flies him to Venice so that they pass right over the spot where he crashed and Rudi can see his helicopter in the water. Rudi gets frightened.
Rudi sells Huffman at 6pm.
The FAA examine the helicopter. They say there was simply no fuel in the tank and tell Rudi they are preparing to pull his license. Rudi disagree and says they did a superficial job. Rudi examines the helicopter and finds screws holding the fuel line were loose and their safety wires were cut.
Rudi says the FAA told him the tank was completely empty of fuel. He says that could only happen if it had sprayed out under pressure. There should have been 2.5 gallons left if it had simply run out. Rudi concludes someone tried to kill him.
He says he doesnt know who it could be. Rudi didnt go to the police as he was worried about negative publicity for his newest venture, something called Florida Air Share.
Chapter 14: My Story Continues:[edit | edit source]
Rudi immediately ran into trouble with Florida Air Share. The FAA fractional law the business was based on had not even come into effect yet. "One woman at the FAA took a dislike to me and insisted I was doing illegal charters." They threatened him with a $200,000 fine and Rudi says he had to close down this business as well.
"Life after 9/11 has changed for many of the people in my life, too. I went to the Venice airport recently and it was very quiet compared to the busy and lively times before 9/11. The contrast was almost spooky. Talking to people there I found the flight school business is down to 20% of what it used to be. Nationally its 60%."
"My divorce from Astrid after twenty years of marriage, was a personal and painful episode. After losing almost everything I had, I am rebuilding a good life for myself. To my great joy I am now married to 'Katia' a wonderful woman of Cuban descent who is an American citizen. We are proud parents of a beautiful baby girl, Angeline Bianca Chantal Dekkers, who was born October 8, 2008."