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The RCMP are investigating the discovery of box cutters on an Air Canada plane that was to fly from Toronto to New York on Sept. 11, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Flight 704, which was scheduled to leave at 9 a.m., never took off from Pearson International Airport. It was grounded minutes after two hijacked airliners slammed into the World Trade Center in New York.

The Air Canada passengers left the plane and went home.

The Globe has learned that over the past few weeks, RCMP investigators have visited most of the passengers on Flight 704.

One passenger who was on board the aircraft confirmed yesterday that the Mounties had come to his home. "They asked me if I had noticed anything suspicious . . . if I remember anyone who looked suspicious."

The passenger, who asked not to be identified, said he was instructed by police not to speak to anyone about the investigation.

"I asked them why they were asking questions and they told me box cutters were found under some of the seats. It's pretty scary to know that I was on a flight to New York on Sept. 11 and box cutters were under some seats."

The terrorists who hijacked the four U.S. airplanes on that day used box cutters in their attacks on the crews and passengers.

The four airplanes they commandeered left three different airports -- in Boston, New York and Washington. The first, American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston, crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:48 a.m. The last plane, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed into a Pennsylvania field at 10:10 a.m.

RCMP spokesman Jack Bellerose refused to confirm or deny the discovery, saying that "even if we had information to that effect, we would not be able to give it to you because it would be part of an investigation."

However, a police source said once the discovery was made, the aircraft was secured and thoroughly combed for possible leads.

Laura Cooke, a spokeswoman for Air Canada, said "if your information is correct, then this is a police matter and I can't comment."

She confirmed, however, that on Sept. 14, Peel Regional Police had been called in to investigate the discovery of two X-Acto knives in overhead bins of an Air Canada Airbus 320 that had been grounded at Pearson International Airport on Sept. 11.

X-Acto knives have razor-sharp retractable blades and can used as box cutters.

The knives were found by a passenger as Flight 792, from Toronto to Calgary, was boarding.

That aircraft was the same one that was to have been used for Flight 704 to New York on Sept. 11, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Peel Regional Police and the RCMP were called in and the aircraft was impounded for a thorough search using dogs trained to sniff out explosives and weapons. All the passengers were taken off the flight and put on another plane bound for Calgary.

Investigators on both sides of the Atlantic now have evidence that there were at least six hijack teams and 30 terrorists scheduled to take part in the Sept. 11 operation. The Guardian is reporting in today's editions that knives were found on a Continental Airlines flight that was supposed to leave Newark Airport in New Jersey on the morning of Sept. 11. Investigations@globeandmail.ca

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