Andrews Air Force Base is a mere 10 miles away from the Pentagon, yet 1 hour and 20 minutes after the attacks began not a single fighter jet had been activated to intercept American Airlines Flight 77.
Consider the following: On October 25, 1999, a tiny Learjet 35 departed from Orlando, Florida that was carrying Payne Stewart, a professional American golfer. About 14 minutes after departing from the airport, the control tower lost contact with his plane. The air-traffic controllers, following rigid protocol regarding lost aircraft, immediately notified the US Air Force.
According to FAA official transcripts, “At 9:52 a U.S. Air Force F-16 from the 40th Flight Test Squadron at the Englin Air Force was vectored toward the aircraft.”
At 9:54 – just two minutes after the command to intercept had been ordered – the fighter jet had already spotted Payne Stewart's wayward aircraft.
The pilot of the F-16 reported that both engines on the plane were working, but the cockpit windows were covered with condensation or frost, a sign that the cabin had depressurized without the necessary oxygen reserves. Things looked very bad for the occupants of the aircraft.
Both the Learjet and the F-16 were now over the state of Illinois, many miles from the departing point. The F-16 from Englin stopped pursuing the Learjet and landed at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois for refueling and probably a cigarette.
Minutes later, the TULSA 13 jets handed off the plane to two F-16s stationed in North Dakota (Codenamed, NODAK 32). One of the pilots from this new sortie reported, “We’ve got two visuals on it… the cockpit window is iced over and there’s no displacement in any of the control surfaces…”
Twenty minutes later, one of the jets from the NODAK 32 team remained to the west of the Learjet, while the TULSA 13 F-16 followed the Learjet down.
“The target is descending and he is doing multiple aileron rolls, looks like he is out of control,” the TULSA 13 pilot radioed back to his command station. “It’s soon to impact the ground he is in a descending spiral.”
The plane crashes and all of the passengers, who probably died long before the plane had hit the ground, were killed.
Compare: On Sept. 11 at 9:37 a.m., one hour and twenty minutes after the hijackings were reported, American Airlines Flight 77 slams into the west wall of the Pentagon without ever being followed, intercepted or shot down by US fighter jets.
How does NORAD account for the fact that five (5) state-of-the-art F-16 fighter jets, activated from various air force bases, trailed a tiny wayward Learjet halfway across the United States, yet failed to vector a single aircraft to inspect four commercial jets that were carrying hundreds of passengers across many miles of heavily populated, strategically sensitive territory? It does not compute.
Despite possessing highly sophisticated aircraft that can fly faster than the speed of sound (2,400 km per hour), and shoot down targets from many miles away, the U.S. Air Force opted not to activate a single fighter jet to intercept, tag, or at least investigate, four lumbering commercial jets that had wandered off their courses for periods ranging from 20 to 90 minutes.
“Anytime an airliner goes off course,” says Robert Bowman, a pilot and decorated Vietnam veteran, “or loses radio communication, or loses its transponder signal – anytime any one of those three things happen, the aircraft is supposed to be intercepted.”
“On 9/11, all three of those things happen,” continues Bowman in the film Zero, “and still there was no intercept. Those planes flew for 20 minutes to an hour-and-a-half without ever being intercepted.”
But there was no shortage of fighter jets available, we must assume, since there are sixteen (16) Air Force bases located in the northeast of the United States. So why weren’t the large, slow-moving Boeing jets intercepted?
The official version of the story says that NORAD was notified too late; in other words, the air traffic controllers were not on the ball on 9/11. This argument seems equally implausible. John Judge, a 9/11 investigator for former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, said that 9/11 was the first time in the year 2001 that an air emergency went ignored.
“Sixty-seven times in that year, 2001,” says Judge, “there had been air emergencies. They can get a plane up in 6 to 10 minutes, and scrambled 67 times that year in air emergencies, but there was not an instance where an air emergency went ignored for long periods of time – until 9/11.”
One good explanation for the eerily empty skies over New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on 9/11 had a lot to do with a bizarre memorandum (entitled “Aircraft Piracy and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects”) that former Vice President Dick Cheney rammed through the Defense Department on June 1, 2001, exactly three months before 9/11.
Despite warnings from intelligence-collecting agencies that a terrorist strike was becoming an increasing threat (a presidential brief, for example, entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” landed on George W. Bush’s desk from the FBI on August 6 that makes direct mention of the Al-Qaeda leader wanting to “hijack a US aircraft to… gain release of US-held extremists”), Cheney inexplicably relieves NORAD of its long-standing responsibility to intercept and shoot down hijacked airplanes that pose a major threat on the ground.
In other words, the U.S. generals had their hands tied on 9/11, and could not even scramble jets without a direct order from the Pentagon. That command, of course, never came.
It should be no surprise as to who failed to pick up the telephone at the Pentagon on the morning of Sept. 11. Yes, Donald Rumsfeld. Where was he? Strangely, nobody could find him. Indeed, the official 9/11 Commission report states that the Defense Secretary “was untraceable until 10:30a.m.”
Eventually, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was caught on film shortly after the crash of Flight 77, assisting with the rescue efforts on the lawn of the Pentagon. Although this humanly gesture must be commended, it seems to be completely at odds with Rumsfeld’s most critical job duty, which was to give clearance for NORAD to shoot down or intercept hijacked aircraft according to Cheney’s updated (and short-lived) memorandum mentioned above.
On the lawn of the Pentagon, tending to the wounded was not the right place for the Defense Secretary who should have been sitting near the phone, coordinating our national defenses. And how did Rumsfeld know for certain that another plane might not drop out of the sky, indeed as had been wildly rumored? Wouldn’t his expertise and command have been much more helpful inside of the Pentagon?
Or maybe the absence of any aircraft in America’s skies besides hijacked ones had something to do with a secret exercise that was based upon “the fiction” of a hijacked plane crashing into a building. When did that military exercise occur? Yes, on the very morning of Sept. 11.
“In what the government describes as a bizarre coincidence,” reports the Associated Press exactly one year after 9/11, “one US intelligence agency was planning an exercise last Sept. 11 in which an errant aircraft would crash into one of its buildings"
“Officials at the… National Reconnaissance Office had scheduled an exercise that morning in which a small corporate jet would crash into one of the four towers at the agency’s headquarters…,” the AP article revealed.
Is what follows just another coincidence? You be the judge: The National Reconnaissance Office, which operates many of the nation’s spy satellites, sits just four miles away from Washington’s Dulles International Airport. And it was from Dulles Airport where American Airlines Flight 77 – the Boeing 757 that was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon – departed at 8:10 a.m. on Sept. 11, fifty minutes before the crash exercise at the intelligence agency was scheduled to begin.
If there was a better way to obfuscate the already high level of pandemonium that existed on Sept. 11 than to plan a terrorist hijacking exercise similar to the “real-world” one in progress, I personally cannot imagine it. Indeed, precious minutes were wasted as the agency and the air traffic controllers debated if it was the exercise they were witnessing on their radar screens, or “the real thing.”
Alright, so one of the most elite air forces in the world allowed a large, lumbering commercial jet to strike one of the world’s best protected military installations in the world. Fine, mistakes happen, even impossible mistakes, we could say with a shrug. But what about the batteries of surface-to-air missiles that reportedly surround the Pentagon? Surely the Pentagon’s defense ring would have intercepted American Airlines Flight 77 (Thierry Meyssan, the French journalist who caused a sensation with his book entitled “9/11: The Big Lie,” stated that the Pentagon is protected by “five missile batteries.” Some commentators refute that claim, saying there are no such batteries on the grounds of the Pentagon. Meyssan, however, defends his source of information: “The presence of these anti-missile batteries was testified to me by French officers to whom they were shown during an official visit to the Pentagon. This was later confirmed to me by a Saudi officer”).
April Gallop, a US Army administrative specialist, was working inside the Pentagon on 9/11. In response to a question presented by George Washington’s blog, Gallop responded that the real question is, “what is the probability or likelihood that no anti-aircraft defense, warning alarms or additional security mechanism functioned on that particular day?”
Gallop has since retired from the Pentagon due to her injuries sustained on 9/11.
Although we may never know for sure if the Pentagon is surrounded with a surface-to-air missile defense system, we do know that the building employs a small contingency of video cameras – 85 to be exact – that dutifully capture every conceivable angle of the hallowed grounds. And according to a senior journalist from the US Department of Defense, the FBI collected all of the footage from these cameras shortly after the attacks.
“The FBI was immediately at the scene and took the surveillance tapes and confiscated 85 videotapes,” said Barbara Honegger, a senior journalist with the Department of Defense (DoD).
Although collecting the videos may be considered “routine intelligence gathering,” failing to share the footage with your fellow citizens for no apparent reason seems a bit odd, if not outright scandalous. But in yet another inexplicable move, that is exactly what the FBI did. Not until 2006 did the Department of Defense (DoD) back down to freedom of information requests, handing over four tapes from their stash of 85 available. Isn’t that being a bit stingy with the vintage video collection? Beggars can’t be choosers, apparently.
Pentagon on fire after terrorist attack, September 11, 2001 (Photo by Dennis Whitehead)
Anyways, two of the tapes released by the DoD show only a vague plume of smoke in the distance and so are of absolutely no use to researchers. The remaining two tapes, taken from the Pentagon’s parking lot entrance, show what appears to be the tip of some sort of approaching vehicle – and that is all – before a huge fireball is seen erupting against the wall of the building. Nothing remotely resembling a Boeing 757, or even the smallest airplane for that matter, is evident in the released video clip.
“Quite frankly, there’s not enough in those photographs to tell exactly what it was,” says Captain Russ Wittemberg, a pilot with 30 years experience in military and civilian aviation. “But you can tell what it wasn’t. It didn’t have the size… If it was a real 757-200 it would be much bigger than the vehicle we do see in the picture.”
The Pentagon explained that the lack of an airplane in the video clip was due to the speed of the aircraft; the lumbering commercial aircraft somehow managed to squeeze its formidable proportions right between the frames of the video! Yes, the Boeing 757-200 was just too tiny a target, it seems, to have been captured on those sophisticated surveillance cameras.
According to an affidavit by Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent Counterterrorism Division of the FBI, “fifty-six (56) of these videotapes did not show either the Pentagon building, the Pentagon crash site, or the impact of Flight 77 into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.”
Maguire goes on to explain that “I personally viewed the remaining twenty-nine (29) videotapes.” Yet she concluded that there was “nothing of interest” for the public to gain from having access to those tapes.
Again, we are reduced to asking more silly “why” questions, which should have been provided from the beginning: If the Pentagon perimeter was ringed with security cameras, why were approximately three-fourths of the devices not aimed at the building itself? And if they were aimed away from the complex, as alleged, how could a Boeing 757-200 commercial jet fail to get captured by all of the video cameras? Finally, why did Maguire “personally view” just 29 of the available 85 tapes? Why did she not have privilege to all of them? Certainly she must have been curious. And if it was not Maguire who viewed the other 56 tapes, who did view them?
Perhaps the reason that the Pentagon’s army of video cameras failed to catch any sign of a commercial jet was because the hulking Boeing 757 was up in the air performing graceful acrobatic maneuvers before its final descent and crash. At least this is what the official version of the Pentagon crash would have us believe.
Before plowing into the Pentagon building, the Boeing 757 seems to have performed a death defying 270-degree turn at the speed of approximately 88 kilometers per hour, official data says. Experienced flight personnel, however, say “no way.”
“That is a really difficult maneuver,” commented Robin Hordon, a flight controller for 11 years at Boston Center. “And what I will say to you is that an experienced pilot with thousands of hours probably would have to take between 10 and 20 attempts… before they would be able to pull off that maneuver.”
“A 757 is not designed to do that,” Hordon continued. “The 757 is designed to be a cruise ship in the sky. It’s not acrobatic. So you just can’t do that with one of those big airplanes.”
“The speed, the maneuverability, the way that it turned,” commented Danielle O’Brien, air traffic controller from Dulles airport, “we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air traffic controllers, that that was a military plane.”
Then there is the assertion that the aircraft was flying at 6 meters above the ground at 580 kilometers per hour for one kilometer before hitting its target.
“The story is Flight 77 was going 530 miles per hour, 460 knots… it can’t go that fast down that low,” says Wittemberg. “The air is too dense at such low altitudes.”
“I challenge any pilot,” says Nila Sagadevan, a pilot and aeronautical engineer, “give him a Boeing 757 and tell him to do 400 knots 20 feet above the ground for half a mile. You can’t do it. It’s aerodynamically impossible.”
So given the extreme unlikelihood that even a seasoned pilot would be able to pull off such a maneuver, how could Hani Hanjour, who could not even negotiate a tiny Cessna 172, be the man who performed these next-to-impossible flying maneuvers before zeroing in on the Pentagon.
“I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon,” said one of Hanjour’s past flight instructors in an interview with The New York Times. “He could not fly at all.”
“His instructor described him as a terrible pilot,” admitted the 9/11 Commission report, quoting an FBI memorandum. Another flight instructor went so far as to call Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Al-Omari, the alleged hijackers of Flight 11, “dumb and dumber in an airplane.”
“For a guy to just jump into the cockpit and fly like an ace is impossible,” says Wittenberg, in an interview with Lewis News. “There is not one chance in a thousand.”
The ex-commercial pilot then recalled that when he made the jump from Boeing’s 727 to the much more sophisticated 737’s and then on to the 767’s it took him “considerable time” to feel comfortable with the changes.
So it is little wonder that the 9/11 commission report says that “the President (George W. Bush) was struck by the apparent sophistication of the operation and some of the piloting, especially Hanjour’s high-speed dive into the Pentagon.”
Yes, almost unbelievable.
Whenever an airplane crashes, we are only too familiar with grim television news reports that show close-up footage of physical wreckage, including engines, seats, luggage, and wheel assemblies. But this is the truly inexplicable thing about the crash of Flight 77 into the Pentagon: there is practically no sign of a wrecked aircraft after the crash. All that remains of Flight 77 is about a dozen small pieces, most of which can be lifted by hand.
On September 9, 1994, US Air Flight 427 crashed into a wooded area outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. According to data retrieved from the plane’s black box, the plane went into a vertical roll at a height of 3,600 feet just after the captain announced an emergency. Witnesses at the scene told investigators that the plane “dove into the ground at full speed.”
Despite slamming into the ground at a great speed and distance and exploding, large remains of the aircraft were nevertheless discovered over a wide area.
“The largest part of the plane… believed to be the tail,” reported the EmergencyNet news Service. “Bits of baggage, shredded parts of the plane, and severed limbs are reportedly strewn over a large area.”
Compare this routine crash scene with that reported (once) by a CNN anchor from his “close-up inspection” at the Pentagon:
“From my close-up inspection, there’s no evidence of a plane having crashed anywhere near the Pentagon,” he commented live from the scene. “The only pieces left that you can see are small enough that you can pick up in your hand. There are no large tail sections, wing sections, a fuselage, nothing like that anywhere around which would indicate that the entire plane crashed into the side of the Pentagon.”
There was also a firsthand report from a fighter pilot who was ordered by Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of NORAD, the agency that is charged with protecting the airspace over North America.
According to Honegger, the senior journalist with the U.S. Department of Defense, the pilot made an overpass of the crash zone and reported back to command center that “there was no evidence, zero evidence, of an impact of a plane at the Pentagon.”
As questions over the whereabouts of the mysteriously disappearing aircraft began to mount, the Department of the Defense began to support the theory that Flight 77 simply “vaporized” due to the speed that it was traveling.
So, in addition to being forced to accept the new science that steel buildings collapse due to fire, we are also expected to swallow yet another “unprecedented event” that happened on that truly mysterious morning of September 11: all those practically indestructible components of an aircraft – engines, landing gear, tail and wings – just vaporized into thin air.
The engines of a Boeing 757-200 are about 9 feet long and composed of titanium, the strongest of metals that resists melting even at 3,000 degrees Celsius. So why was there no evidence of these engines against the wall of the Pentagon? The two big holes that we would expect to see are not there. There should have been a line of complete destruction before the collapse of the building’s external wall. It’s simply not there. Instead, where the wings of the aircraft should have struck the building, in cooperation with the mighty engines, there are unbroken windows clearly visible.
Only a small hole, 16 foot (5 meters) in diameter, was visible in the side of the Pentagon 45 minutes before the wall collapsed. Certainly, a Boeing 757-200, which weighs over 100 tons, carries a much larger footprint.
Boeing 757’s are 150 feet long. The engines of these monster aircraft are 9 feet long. The landing gear also contains huge metal components, made of titanium, that are virtually indestructible. How can 60 tons of airplane vanish into thin air with barely a trace?
“There’s no indication of the wings hitting anything at the Pentagon,” says Capt. Russ Wittemberg, a 30-year veteran of military and civilian aviation.
“Perhaps at a certain moment,” quipped Dario Fo, a Nobel Prize winner, “the airplane somehow closed up its wings, just as dragon flies do, and the plane entered the hole!”
“I look at the hole in the Pentagon,” said Maj. General Albert Stubblebine, whose former job was to measure pieces of Soviet equipment taken from photographs during the Cold War, “and I look at the size of the airplane that was supposed to have hit the Pentagon, and the plane does not fit in that hole.”
Stubblebine then asked, with no lack of emotion: “So what did hit the Pentagon? What’s going on?”
Whatever it was that hit the Pentagon on 9/11, it slammed through 6 massive walls before leaving a nearly perfect circular exit hole deep inside the military complex that measured approximately 12 feet across. In other words, nothing remotely resembling an airplane.
“With all the evidence readily available at the Pentagon crash site,” concludes Col. George Nelson, an aircraft accident investigator with the US Air Force, “any unbiased, rational investigator could only conclude that a Boeing 757 did not fly into the Pentagon.”
Not a single individual lost their job following the worst terrorist attacks to strike the United States; in fact, the military personnel directly responsible for protecting America's skies all received promotions shortly after 9/11.
*To read this four-part investigative report in its entirety, please click on stories at upper left of this page.