ACT II: ADDENDUM 3
The size of the opening that has been claimed – generally around 16 to 18 feet wide – leaves little margin for error in accounting for an angled entry by an object measuring roughly 12½ feet across (http://www.boeing.com/commercial/757family/pf/pf_200tech.html). Accepting the claim that a Boeing 757 entered the Pentagon in such a manner requires accepting that there was no deformation of the fuselage due to compacting, and, more importantly, that the wings and tail sections of the plane were sheared cleanly and completely off, leaving only a decidedly phallic object that then slid cleanly into the building like ... well, use your imagination on that one. This is a family newsletter. Sort of.
Now, I will freely admit that I am not an aircraft engineer and I have never worked on the design or manufacture of commercial aircraft. But that's okay, because neither have any of the people who talk incessantly about airplane wings being reduced to confetti. And as is so often the case, all we really need do here is apply a little logic and common sense and we should be able to determine, with a reasonable degree of certainty, how likely it is that the wings of a Boeing 757-200 aircraft could be sheared off and/or reduced to confetti.
As can be clearly seen in the accompanying photos of just such an aircraft, the most prominent feature of the wings are the enormous engines hanging from each of them. Those engines weigh in at roughly 9,000 pounds each – nearly 12,000 pounds each if we factor in the steel struts that support them (according to pentagonresearch.com and the ASCE). Some researchers have already pointed out that the aircraft's wings have to be quite strong to support those massive engines. That much seems rather obvious. Of far more significance, I would think, is that those engines are what propels the plane. In other words, in order for the plane to actually lift off the ground and fly, the engines, and hence the wings, have to literally drag that fully-loaded, 127-ton aircraft into the air and then pull it along to its destination.It seems to me then that if a 757's wings were as flimsily attached to the fuselage as many researchers claim, we would regularly be treated to rather comical scenes of wingless jets sitting on runways while the wings themselves took flight in wild, unpredictable ways. And that's not the kind of thing you see on the evening news that often.
Indeed, the area of the plane with the greatest structural strength, by any logical analysis, would have to be the span between those two enormously heavy, and enormously powerful, engines. In other words, the wings are not some insignificant appendages that are tacked on with a few aviation rivets and a wad of bubblegum; they are an integral part of the aircraft.In addition to the engines and the main landing gear, the wings are also home to the aircraft's fuel tanks, which carry a combined 11,240 gallons of fuel (at least according to the graphic reproduced here; fuel capacity is listed elsewhere as 11,489 gallons or 11,275 gallons), weighing some 75,000 pounds. Each wing holds nearly 15,000 pounds of fuel and another 45,000 pounds, more or less, is stored in tanks between the wings.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, each wing of a Boeing 757-200 weighs in at a whopping 44,000 pounds, including the engine and struts, the landing gear, a full load of fuel, and the weight of the wing structure itself (steel and other metals account for about 2/3 of that weight, or roughly fifteen tons, with the fuel accounting for the other seven tons). If we add together the weight of the two wings (88,000 pounds), the weight of the fuel stored between the wings (45,000 pounds), and the weight of the heavily reinforced cross-section of the fuselage between the two wings, we come up with a figure, I would guess, somewhere in the neighborhood of 150,000 pounds. Since a fully fueled Boeing 757-200 weighs in at roughly 200,000 pounds (127,000 pounds for the aircraft and 75,000 pounds for the fuel), a little rudimentary arithmetic reveals that fully 3/4 of the aircraft's weight is distributed in the cross-section between the wing tips. The bulk of the fuselage, which appears to be the most massive portion of the plane, in reality accounts for only about 25% of the aircraft's total weight.What the "plane-bomb"/"confetti" theorists would have us believe then is that the area of the plane with by far the greatest structural strength, greatest mass, and greatest density, is the section that was magically reduced to confetti, while the relatively lightweight, low-density and low-strength fuselage punched cleanly through the reinforced masonry walls of the Pentagon.
Jean-Pierre Desmoulins, for example, has created a series of images, including the one below, to illustrate how the wings of a 757 will allegedly snap cleanly off on impact, while the turgid fuselage will, of course, plow cleanly through pretty much any obstruction -- even though the fuselage is, in reality, little more than a reinforced aluminum tube filled, in large part, with a mixture of air and relatively soft materials like luggage and human bodies. (And yes, by the way, I do realize that that sounds very similar to the claim made by Michael Rivero that I earlier ridiculed. What’s your point?)I can't imagine that an actual 757 aircraft would ever perform in the real world as this one does in Desmoulins’ world. To the contrary, what would most likely happen is that the nose of the plane, from the very moment of initial impact, would begin to compact. The effect would be very similar to the workings of a vice, with the two-foot-thick Pentagon wall serving as the stationary jaw of the vice and the extreme forward momentum of the 150,000 pound wing section serving as the other. In other words, the effect would be akin to stomping on an upright aluminum can, with the ground representing the Pentagon, the empty can serving as the forward section of the fuselage, and your foot filling in for the wings of the plane.
The initial compacting, needless to say, would occur nearly instantaneously and would be quickly followed by the impact of the plane’s wings and engines, bringing the full weight of the aircraft to bear on the front wall of the Pentagon. It is certainly possible that, at that time, the tips of the wings - which is to say, the area beyond the engines - could be sheared off or bent back. But it is extremely unlikely that the wings would be sheared off completely, and it is inconceivable that they would break off before even impacting the building.It should be noted here, before moving on, that Desmoulins did get one thing right with his series of fanciful impact images: the deflection of the plane upon impact with an angled surface is clearly illustrated. In the image above, the aircraft has already begun to veer from its initial course. In subsequent images, Desmoulins depicts the plane deflecting further still from its trajectory. Curiously though, Jean-Pierre forgets to mention that this deflection completely invalidates the claim that the aircraft somehow managed to punch out an exit hole that was directly in line with the initial trajectory of the plane rather than with the deflected trajectory. But here, I suppose, I have digressed.
Here we're talking about plastic knives and using an American Airlines flight filed [sic] with our citizens, and the missile to damage this building and similar (inaudible) that damaged the World Trade Center. The only way to deal with this problem is by taking the battle to the terrorists, wherever they are, and dealing with them. (http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2001/t11182001_t1012pm.html)
Rumsfeld's interviewer, Lyric Wallwork Winik, did not bother to ask for clarification of the missile reference. Some researchers have claimed that Rumsfeld's choice of words was deliberate – that his goal was to plant a 'meme' that would misdirect the efforts of 9-11 researchers. Many of the researchers making that claim, however, are the same people who have spent the last several years muddying the waters, planting red herrings, and working diligently in various other ways to sabotage the efforts of other theorists.
This was not, by the way, the only 'meme' that has been planted by Herr Rumsfeld. In an address to U.S. troops in Baghdad, the Secretary of Preemptive War let slip a curious remark about United Airlines Flight 93: "the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania ..."
I guess Rumsfeld is either
very skilled at planting 'memes,' or he is not very good at keeping
assume, since we know that Flight 93 was indeed almost certainly shot
Rumsfeld has a bad case of Freudian diarrhea-of-the-mouth and was
the truth about a missile strike at the Pentagon. Such a scenario, of
would not offer a complete explanation for what happened at the
September 11, 2001. It would not explain, for example, the alleged
the downed light poles (which, unfortunately, I must return to in the
outing; who knew that breakaway poles really do exist?). But it would
the pre-collapse damage to the exterior of the Pentagon and the alleged
characteristics of whatever it was that may or may not have hit the
If it had been a late
model, American-made cruise missile that slammed into the Pentagon on
the morning of September 11, it likely would have left impact damage
very similar to the damage done by the American-made cruise missiles
that slammed into the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the
'liberation' of Kosovo. And curiously enough, the low-altitude impact
of those missiles created entry wounds that should look at least
vaguely familiar to anyone who has taken a serious look at what really
happened at the Pentagon that fateful morning.
* * * * * * * * *
Some researchers have applied the same faulty “flimsy wings” arguments to analyses of the crashes at the Twin Towers. Consider, for example, the following excerpt from a piece penned by Australian researcher Gerard Holmgren:
When you sit in a passenger jet and look out the window to the wings, what do you see? A light aluminum structure which is segmented into panels and movable flaps. Hardly a cutting blade or battering ram, except against light materials. The WTC was constructed of heavy construction steel, built to withstand hurricanes. We are asked to believe that such flimsy aluminum wings sliced through this structure decisively enough to make a cartoon type shape of themselves.
Holmgren might just as easily have made another argument that would have been equally as valid:
When you look up at the World Trade Center Towers (prior to September 11, of course), what do you see? A lightweight structure composed of individual glass panels separated by light gauge aluminum mullions. Hardly an effective barrier, except against very lightweight and slow-moving projectiles. The attacking aircraft weighed 100+ tons and was traveling hundreds of miles per hour. We are asked to believe that such a projectile would not have passed cleanly through the building.
in both these
arguments, of course, is that they ignore an adage that any school kid
familiar with: never judge a book by its cover. What you see
look at the wings of a passenger aircraft has no relevance for
composition of those wings, just as what you would have seen when
the Twin Towers would have been of little help in determining the
characteristics of those buildings. Holmgren seems to recognize that
regards to the towers, but certainly not in regards to the aircraft --
an oversight that has lead him to amusingly
characterize as "flimsy" two 22-ton, steel-and-aluminum structures that
were capable of
a dynamic load well in excess of 100 tons.
What Holmgren and some others in his clique have argued, essentially, is that the existence of a hole the size and shape of a 767 aircraft in the side of one of the Twin Towers is proof that a 767 aircraft did not create that hole. “This kind of thing,” says Holmgren, “might happen in cartoons,” but not in the real world.
This same group,
be noted, has steadfastly maintained that there was no plane crash at
Pentagon on September 11, a conclusion based in part on the fact that
no entry hole consistent with the crash of a passenger plane. Fair
in the case of the WTC attacks, they have reached the same “no planes”
conclusion, this time based in part on the fact that there was
hole conforming to the dimensions of a Boeing aircraft. It would seem
researchers have chosen to set the bar rather high.
Other researchers, curiously enough, have concluded that the impact hole in the side of the World Trade Center did not conform closely enough to the outline of a Boeing 767. These theorists have noted that while there is a gaping hole at the center of the impact zone, there are no actual 'holes' where the outer portion of the wings would have impacted. There is obviously substantial damage to the exterior of the building in those areas, but there is not a clean penetration. Based on this observation, these researchers, like those in the other clique, have concluded that the impact hole was faked with either conventional explosives or some sort of ‘black’ technology.
Both subsets of researchers, it seems to me, are mistaken. The reality is that the weight distribution and design characteristics of a Boeing 7X7 aircraft would seem to indicate that an impact hole should look remarkably like the hole photographed in the side of the World Trade Center tower on the morning of September 11 – with a clean penetration at the center of mass and substantial damage, though not necessarily penetration, at the wing extremities.
There was no such penetration at the Pentagon. And no amount of delusional theorizing about flimsy, conveniently self-destructing airplane wings will ever change that fact.