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Pentagon Case Study Flight 77 Crash

The Pentagon attack resulted in extensive damage to the facade corresponding roughly to the frontal profile of a 757. The damaged area included extensive punctures on the first floor and much smaller punctures on the second floor.

Punctured Walls Admitted Most of a 757

The portions of the Pentagon's facade punctured by the crash are easily measured by combining data from several different photographs, both before and after the collapse of the section. Several photographs by Jason Ingersoll provide detailed views of right portions of the impact zone. Other photographs show the left portions of the impact zone. Together, these photographs show that the facade was punctured over a wide swath on the first floor and a much smaller extent on the second floor.

Measuring the punctured regions shows that the facade was completely punctured for a width of 96 feet on the first floor and 18 feet on the second floor. Punctured areas were bounded by columns and floor slabs. This is natural since the columns and floor slabs were constructed of steel-reinforced concrete, whereas the window bays spanning them were brick walls reinforced with steel window frames and Kevlar mesh as part of the renovation program.

On the first floor, the primary puncture extended from column 8 to column 18. Three leaning objects in the first floor space left of the hole center are often assumed to be displaced remains of columns 15, 16, and 17. However, this analysis shows that those objects are more likely to be fallen pieces of the second floor slab than columns. Thus, it appears that the crash initially left a first floor hole that extended unobstructed for 96 feet. Surviving column 18 marked the rightmost extent of the hole, but to the right of it is another hole extending to column 19. Thus the total width of punctured walls on the first floor was at least 105 feet.

On the second floor, the puncture extended from column 13 to column 15. Photographs show a hanging object in the position of column 14. This appears to consist in part of remains of the steel reinforcements that were part of column 14.

Breached Limestone Marks Profile of 757's Wings

Beyond the areas of the punctured facade walls were extensive regions in which the facade's limestone facing was breached. Post-crash photographs show regions of missing limestone facing from about four to eleven feet above the ground and extending to at least 40 feet to the north of column line 8.

Photographs also show extensive damage to the south of the impact punctures, with most of the damage to the south of column line 19 being above the first floor.

Although the damage beyond the impact punctures appears to be consistent with the impact of the outer portions a 757's wings in both degree and extent, many observers think that the impact should have left a clear imprint of a 757's profile on the facade, much as the impacts of 767s left their profiles in the Twin Towers. This is not a persuasive argument against the crash of a 757:

  • The Twin Towers had curtain walls of box columns and spandrel plates of steel between 1/4 and 3/4 inches thick at the crash zones, and the walls were clad with delicate aluminum sheeting. In contrast, the Pentagon had heavy masonry walls faced with limestone slabs about 5 inches thick. There is no reason to expect that the crash of a jetliner should have produced similar impact scars in these very different buildings.
  • The physical integrity of the Pentagon attack plane on impact is unknown. It is possible that either or both of the wings was severely damaged by the impacts with the lamp poles, generator, and retaining walls on its final approach. Portions of the wings may have separated prior to impact, changing their impact profiles.
  • Other events, such as the possible detonation of a defensive weapons system described below, could have further altered the crash profile.

Lateral Displacement of Tail Damage Suggests Explosion

One of the more persuasive arguments made against the crash of a 757 is the apparent lack of facade damage above the second floor level over the central impact region. Photographs of the facade before the collapse show no signs of damage to the limestone or windows above the second floor impact punctures. Because the aircraft approached at high speed, the argument goes, the impact could not have significantly deflected the vertical stabilizer (vertical part of the tail) from a trajectory that would have forced it to impact the building directly above the central hole that admitted the fuselage.

The above argument is based on at least three assumptions:

  1. The vertical tail section would have made an imprint in or otherwise visibly damaged the limestone facade.
  2. The impact of the plane would not have deflected the tail section and caused it to impact some other part of the facade.
  3. Some other event would not have deflected the tail section and caused it to impact some other part of the facade.

Assumption 1 is intuitive, but there appears to be no experiment or rigorous argument that establishes its validity. The vertical tail sections of most jetliners are constructed of lightweight materials, and do not have to support the kinds of loads that the wing ends or elevators do. There are even cases of vertical stabilizers breaking off due to wake turbulence, as was reported to happen in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 on November 12, 2001.

Assumption 2 is also intuitive, because the tail section would have had to undergo high accelerations perpendicular to the flight path in order to deflect far from the region above the impact hole center. Whether the impact was insufficient to impart those accelerations, however, has yet to be established.

Assumption 3 appears to have been overlooked by most no-757-crash theorists. Any of a number of events consistent with the available evidence could have altered the trajectory of the vertical tail section before or at the moment of impact. Three possibilities are:

  1. Stresses to the aircraft on its final approach caused the vertical tail section to separate. For example, the impacts of the engines with the generator trailer and retaining wall might have sufficiently jolted the airframe to break off the vertical stabilizer.
  2. A bomb in the luggage hold exploded just as the front of the fuselage was beginning to impact the facade.
  3. A surface-to-air missile exploded on the aft starboard side of the jetliner just as the nose was beginning to impact the facade.

Possibilities 2 and 3 are consonant with a number of aspects of the eyewitness accounts.


Proponents of the no-Boeing theory have made the following claims about the damage to the Pentagon's facade:

  1. There was only one impact hole measuring no more than 18 feet across.
  2. The impact hole was at most 65 feet across.
  3. Standing columns remained where heavy 757 parts should have obliterated them.
  4. The hole was too small to accommodate wing ends and tail.

Claim 1 is based on the selective presentation of photographs in which fire retardant spray obscures the entire first floor. Claim 2 is based on the fallacy that the distance between the expansion joints bounding the collapsed region of the facade marked the maximum extent of impact punctures. Post-crash photographs clearly show impact punctures extending over twenty feet to the right and to the left of the expansion joints.

Claim 3 is based on the confusion of hanging sections of the second floor for columns. Claim 4 is true, but consistent with the crash of a 757 whose wing ends and tail are too light to puncture the Pentagon's walls.

Moussaoui trial flight 77 summary: phone calls
Flight 77 wreckage and parts identification
Rumors of incoming planes, "twenty miles out"
Norman Mineta's testimony
Pentagon damage assessments and stabilization
Photo and video resources
A missile hit the Pentagon?
Pentagon construction info and post-9/11 reconstruction
Other sites with good debunking of 9/11 Pentagon myths

Firefighters discover Pentagon black box FDR Flight data recorder
"Thursday afternoon, searchers said they received a signal from one of the black boxes of the airliner. Crews will not be able to retrieve the black box, which could contain information about the last minutes of the plane, until they are able to enter the collapsed area of the building, where the plane's fuselage rests. They were to begin moving into the collapsed area sometime Thursday night, said Arlington County Fire Capt. Scott McKay."

NTSB: Flight 77 Flight Data Recorder (FDR) report (PDF)

NTSB: Flight 77 flight path analysis (PDF)
NTSB AA77 Animation Download (Working copy)

“Study of Autopilot, Navigation Equipment, and Fuel Consumption

A description of how the FDR works and discussion of sources of error in the flight 77 FDR CSV file

Discussion of flight 77 altitude, final seconds

Discussion of flight 77 final course and heading

AA77 true course - what does the FDR data show? - JREF Forum

Flight 77 true track mapped.

Of course, "professional" researchers can alter reality by rotating the compass.

JREF: Apathoid & Beachnut on final position of AA 77 in last recorded FDR frame.

A 757/767 avionics technician weighs in on the feasibility of remote takeover of the hijacked planes, and on the flight 77 autopilot data:

Response to and links to threads about claims made by "Pilots for 9/11 Truth"

They made flight 77 disappear? Uh, no. (JREF, Sultanist)

Pentagon attack computer modeling, simulations

Purdue simulation shows 9/11 plane crash with scientific detail

Pentagon exit hole analysis video National Geographic

Mike Wilson's "9/11 Case Study: Pentagon Flight 77" – excellent animation

Summary of Flight 77 depicting: the identity of pilots and flight attendants, seat assignments of passengers, and telephone calls from the flight [PC download. Listener discretion is advised. This exhibit also includes information about the other three flights hijacked on September 11.]

More on the phone calls, from the 9/11 Commission Report

Some flight 77 wreckage accounts and parts identification

An American Airlines mechanic identifies the part with serial number on the Pentagon lawn: (photo source: "Pentagon 9/11"

"The part in question is the power supply for the emergency lights. ...I assure you it was Flight 77, AA 757 5BP."

The following accounts are from "Responding in the Pentagon" (PDF, 139 pages)
You could see where the plane had gone in. It sheared off some of the light poles and those were on the ground. There were some plane parts around. We got right up to the building. The frustrating thing is you couldn’t get in because of the smoke. –Colonel John F. Roser, commander of the Rader Army Health Clinic at Ft. Myer, VA.

We could not see the plane. The only thing that we saw was a piece of the front skin with the “C” from American Airlines by the little heliport control tower. (see photo above) –Lieutenant Colonel Frank Bryceland

I rushed through Henderson Hall (a close-by Marine barracks) to the Pentagon. Along the way, debris of an airplane wing was on the grass. –Dr. Duong Nguyen, COL, MC (retired), physician

We noticed pieces of the aircraft that had landed inside the courtyard, and the FBI personnel were marking the location where each piece landed. –Colonel Jonathan Fruendt, Surgeon

But we did go right up by the helipad almost. You could see pieces of the airplane sitting there, and it looked like some cushions or some pieces. –Lieutenant Colonel Bernadette Close

At that point we were able to see the last part of the plane, where it stopped, basically. It was a big 8 by 10 or bigger, I’m just guessing, hole in the wall. You could see the tire, the landing gear, were just forward of it. There was a fire that was burning right up against the wall. –Sergeant First Class Reginald Powell, radiologist

I remember looking down the corridor, and you could see where part of the plane had busted through the wall, and the firefighters wouldn’t let us in. They were scared the entire wall was going to collapse. You could still see a tire and some unrecognizable little small portion of the plane. –Specialist Kristopher Leigh Sorensen, Medical Laboratory Technician

Below: exit hole into A-E drive, mentioned in the last two accounts above. Apparent aircraft debris has rivet holes and green zinc corrosion-resistant coating. Conspiracists, please keep in mind, while you are scrutinizing this photo for aircraft debris, that the highest concentration, and greatest variety, of human remains at the Pentagon was found in this area.

Below: Main landing gear section, apparent engine parts, and other aircraft and building debris. Thanks to Italian 9/11 researcher Henry 62 for making this available.

Below: 757 main gear assembly. Compare to Pentagon debris above.

Firefighters Carlton Burkhammer and Brian Moravitz "spotted an intact seat from the plane's cockpit with a chunk of the floor still attached." –Source
“We discovered cockpit wreckage at our feet while attempting to rescue people from a Navy operations area.”–Source
“Shaeffer stood on a service road that circled the Pentagon between the B and C rings. A chunk of the 757's nose cone and front landing gear lay on the pavement a few feet away, resting against the B Ring wall.”–Source
I'm amazed by how often I've had to explain why the hijacked 9/11 airliners broke into small pieces on impact. This Sandia Labs test shows an F-4 Phantom, with water in place of fuel, hitting concrete at 480 mph. American flight 77 hit the Pentagon at about 530 mph (853 km/h).

Rumors of incoming planes cause concern, evacuations (Related to Norman Mineta section below)

Construction project manager David Rubando:
After about 15 minutes someone we know came up to the locked fence from the outside and said he saw the plane crash right into the building. Rumors started spreading fast as I walked around the crowd I heard: car bombs were exploding in the other parking lots (not true), another building downtown was just bombed (not true), there were flames coming from the WHITE HOUSE (NOT TRUE), and the scariest, there is another hijacked plane circling Dulles and they think it might be the 2nd headed for the Pentagon just like the 2 that hit the WTC (also not true). These were enough to make a few of us not care too much about what the rent-a-cops had to say about staying put, we grabbed a ladder put it up to the 10' wall and climbed over. Source
Fox News reporter: "In the last 10 minutes or so they started a second evacuation of the Pentagon area. We're told that there's another aircraft that's been hijacked, and it's 20 minutes outside Washington D.C." (At 10:28) Source
"After a little bit, they called for an evacuation," Dodge said. "There was a report of an inbound aircraft. So, we had to evacuate. We had to shut down everything. And we moved to the other side of Washington Boulevard.

"Once they confirmed that the threat was no longer a threat — about the time the plane crashed in Pennsylvania — then we went back to work." Source

"A dark grey plume of smoke rises from the south side of the Pentagon building, normally the symbol of American power, a few hundred metres away. Rich Brown cowers behind a low stone wall, a snapshot of fear as terrorism brings the world superpower to its knees.

"We have just been told there's a helicopter with a hijacker, and we have been told to get away," Mr Brown, a 50-year-old analyst with the Pentagon, said." Source
The following accounts are from "Responding in the Pentagon" (PDF, 139 pages)
I remember as we were taking care of these patients, starting IVs, calming them down, giving them dressings and all of this stuff, somebody said a second plane was coming in. That’s what I won’t forget. Once again, I give a lot of credit to the people out there with me, because nobody dropped and ran from the patients. It would be really easy in that situation to say, ‘oh, my god, I’m going to save myself’. Honest to God, the more I think about it, we thought we were gone. We all thought a second plane was coming.

So they said a second plane is coming. You’re looking above your head, you can’t see nothing. Then somebody on the radio said, “Oh, my god, it’s ten minutes out,” or “It’s ten miles out.” “It’s five minutes out.” “It’s five miles out.” So, we were thinking, ‘oh, God, we’ve got to get these people out of here.’ – Technical Sergeant Vernon Jones, USAF

"Right as we were getting in the ambulance, they announced there was a second plane inbound. Very scary moment there." –Captain Lincoln Liebner

As we got closer to the Pentagon, there was this couple, I don’t know if they were park police or whatever, but I started going and they said, “You can’t go any farther.” They said, “There’s another threat coming in.” And they said, “People, get away.” They motioned us down the hill. And it was interesting because right about that time I saw a plane go up. It looked like an F-16 going up the Potomac. –Colonel John P. Kugler, who was Chief of Primary Care and Family Practice at DeWitt Army Community Hospital Ft. Belvoir, VA.

...Then someone yelled for everybody to move under the bridge because a hijacked plane was reported on the way –Dr. Duong Nguyen, COL, MC (retired), who was a physician at the Rader Army Health Clinic, Ft. Myer, VA.

A lot more happened that day that I will never forget, but three moments stand out. One is when we were gathered in front of the crash site waiting to go in and do some search for survivors. When all of a sudden someone shouted out that a second unaccounted aircraft is headed our way and it could strike the Pentagon again. I told myself, ‘this can’t be happening, where is the Air Force to shoot this threat out of the sky, where are our mighty armed forces?’ Everyone scrambled for cover. Everyone was full of fear of what could happen again. And then out of the clear sky which held us in utter fear, two United States fighter jets came screaming down toward the Pentagon. They flew so low that I felt as if I could touch their undercarriages. –Staff Sergeant Edwin Rotger, Jr., who was an Optometry Technician at the DiLorenzo TRICARE Health Clinic

Then some Navy MPs ran out and said they have another plane inbound, you have ten minutes to get out of here. –Specialist Kristopher Leigh Sorensen, who was a Medical Laboratory Technician at DiLorenzo TRICARE Health Clinic

Someone said, “There’s another plane 20 minutes out. We don’t know if it’s hijacked or not, but it’s not responding so it probably is.” We said, “OK, 20 minutes, let’s see who else they can get out.” At that point, it’s hard to say how much time had passed, but fewer and fewer casualties were coming out. We were getting hardly any out, and they said, “No, the plane is 20 miles inbound, not minutes.” And we said, “Oh, 20 miles is a big difference. A plane could cover 20 miles pretty quick.” So we stayed back. –Captain Jennifer Glidewell, chief nurse of the acute care section, DiLorenzo TRICARE Health Clinic.

In fact, during the whole thing, at least for the first hour or so, there were reports of incoming planes, and we had to evacuate out of the area, and back and forth, and back and forth. So that was kind of chaotic, but, I mean, that's just going along with the situation as it develops.

...At this point, F-16s were flying around. In fact, when I first got organized out by the POAC, one flew very low and sounded like he broke the sound barrier. It was deafening. –Mr. Ronald Bowers, who worked as a physicians assistant at the Rader Army Health Clinic in Ft. Myer, VA.

We were setting up a triage and everything, waiting for people to come out, waiting to treat people, and it was back and forth all day long because they kept saying ‘another plane is coming in’ so we would go and we would jump over the barriers in the road to go to the other side of the road, and then we would come back. It was kind of back and forth like that. –Private First Class Jessica Traywick, who was a medic in the Acute Care Clinic of the DiLorenzo TRICARE Health Clinic

Norman Mineta's account omitted from 9/11 Commission report because his timeline was off

9/11 Commission staffer confirms Mineta's timeline wrong

Mike Williams of on the Mineta/Cheney conspiracy theory

Cheney recalls taking charge from bunker Excerpt:
After the planes struck the twin towers, a third took a chunk out of the Pentagon. Cheney then heard a report that a plane over Pennsylvania was heading for Washington. A military assistant asked Cheney twice for authority to shoot it down.

"The vice president said yes again," remembered Josh Bolton, deputy White House chief of staff. "And the aide then asked a third time. He said, 'Just confirming, sir, authority to engage?' And the vice president -- his voice got a little annoyed then -- said, 'I said yes.'"

It was a rare flash of anger from a man who knew he was setting the tone at a White House in crisis.
A summary:
For Mineta to have his time right then not only must Cheney be wrong, but so too the Secret Service logs (which dicuss Cheney being taken to a underground hallway for protection at around 9:30am when the first reports of a unidentified aircraft came through), the Whitehouse phone logs (which showed when the President and Vice President discussed the shoot down order), the news reporting of the Whitehouse evacuation (which reported people running from the white house and nearby buildings at 9:45am, 25 mintes after Mineta claims it happened), and the testimony of all the others that were there, including Mrs Cheney (who arrived at 9:50am, yet whom Mineta said was there before he arrived at 9:20am) and the officer who was speaking to Cheney. Either everyone else in that room at the time is lying, or Mineta got the time wrong. Which is more likely? Source: JREF forum, PhantomWolf

Cheney Authorized Shooting Down Planes (Washington Post June 18, 2004)
Only later did White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten suggest that Cheney call Bush once more to confirm the engagement order, according to the commission. Logs in Cheney's bunker and on Air Force One confirm conversations at 10:18 and 10:20, respectively.

Later, Cheney spoke to Rumsfeld via videoconference. When the vice president said the orders had been relayed to the jets and "a couple of aircraft" had been downed, Rumsfeld replied: "We can't confirm that. We're told that one aircraft is down but we do not have a pilot report that they did it.

White House, Capitol, Treasury and State departments evacuated shortly after the Pentagon attack

Pentagon Damage Assessments & Stabilization Efforts

For anyone interested in the damage to the Pentagon, the ASCE's Pentagon Building Performance Report is essential reading. From page 35: "The width of the severe damage to the west facade of the Pentagon was approximately 120 ft (from column lines 8 to 20)."

The hole made by flight 77 extends along the wing line, left and right of the fuselage hole. It is not a cookie-cutter hole: that simply cannot happen when a plane hits a heavily- reinforced concrete building. Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at a 43-degree angle to its west wall. It came from the right of the photo below.
Enlargement of above, showing fires inside hole made by fuselage.

An Engineer's Expertise Joins a Firefighter's Nightmare (Shoring building while it was still burning)

Pentagon MDW Engineers honored for Operation Noble Eagle (Mark Williams, engineers, rescue)

Civil engineers respond to 9/11 Attacks (Civil Engineering, Nov. 2001)

Composite view of Pentagon damage: "about 96 feet wide across the first floor; about 18 feet wide across the second floor; about 26 feet high at the center."

“Summary Presentation of damage to Pentagon and location of bodies found inside.“ (PC download)

Photo and Video Resources

Photos from witness Steve Riskus, seconds after the crash:

Bob Pugh Pentagon Attack Video

Jason Ingersoll's Pentagon photos

Photo scans from "Tragedy and Heroism: September 11, 2001 at the Pentagon"

Pentagon office equipment and personal possessions - September 11: Bearing Witness to History

Photos of American Airlines N644AA (Flight 77)

JREF: Gravy: Who needs a video?

Still images and video clips from the National Geographic Channel program "Pentagon 9-11."

As for the question, "Where are all those Pentagon video cameras?" one answer is that the Pentagon primarily uses live security – human beings – for its perimeter security. (Since 9/11 more cameras may have been installed. I don’t have information on that.) Here's a post on the BAUT forum from a Pentagon employee who was there on 9/11. An excerpt:
"Why isn't there more video? Without telling too much of what I know of Pentagon security, you would be surprised how few cameras there are outside the building. Humans actively patrolling a building's perimeter are a tad more effective than dozens of monitors which may or may not be watched at any given moment."
Excerpt from statement of FBI Agent Jacqueline McGuire, who viewed all the videotapes collected as evidence:
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.....I personally reviewed the remaining twenty-nine (29) videotapes. I determined that sixteen (16) of these video tapes did not show the Pentagon crash site and did not show the impact of Flight 77 into the Pentagon.....Out of the remaining thirteen (13) videotapes, which did show the Pentagon crash site, twelve (12) videotapes only showed the Pentagon after. I determined that only one videotape showed the impact of Flight 77 into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001Source
Longer video clips from the Pentagon parking lot cameras

Citgo Video (Doesn't show plane)

Doubletree hotel video (15 mins, shows fireball, doesn't show plane)

A brief (which is more than it deserves) look at the "A missile hit the Pentagon" theory

1) No missile was seen or heard by anyone. All eyewitnesses report a passenger jet crash.
2) No missile debris was found.
3) Missiles do not carry thousands of gallons of jet fuel, which caused massive fires.
4) Missiles do not carry the remains and personal belongings of flight 77 passengers and crew.
5) Missiles do not carry tons of 757 debris.
6) In the diagram below, the yellow dots indicate the broken light poles. The red line indicates the path a missile would have to take in order to knock them over, or the missile would have to have a wingspan of over 100 feet. The Tomahawk Cruise missile that Loose Change suggests hit the Pentagon has a wingspan of 8 feet 9 inches (2.67 m).

What about antiaircraft missile defenses at the Pentagon? There were none. Some people may recall that on 9/11/02, portable missile batteries were placed near the Pentagon in case of an “anniversary attack.” In his book Against All Enemies, Richard Clarke writes,
"The Secret Service and Customs had teamed up in Atlanta to provide some rudimentary air defense against an aircraft flying into the Olympic Stadium. They did so again during the subsequent National Security Special Events and they agreed to create a permanent air defense unit to protect Washington.

Unfortunately, those two federal law enforcement agencies were housed in the Treasury Department and its leadership did not want to pay for such a mission or run the liability risks of shooting down the wrong aircraft.* Treasury nixed the air defense unit, and my attempts within the White House to overrule them came to naught.

The idea of aircraft attacking in Washington seemed remote to many people and the risks of shooting down aircraft in a city were thought to be far too high. Moreover, the opponents of our plan argued, the Air Force could always scramble fighter aircraft to protect Washington if there were a problem. On occasions when aircraft were hijacked (and in one case when we erroneously believed a Northwest flight had been seized), the Air Force did intercept the airliners with fighter jets. We succeeded only in getting Secret Service the permission to continue to examine air defense options, including the possibility of placing missile units near the White House. Most people who heard about our efforts to create some air defense system in case terrorists tried to fly aircraft into the Capitol, the White House, or the Pentagon simply thought we were nuts."
*The Pentagon is only about 4,000 feet from, and almost directly in line with, one of the runways at Ronald Reagan International Airport.

JREF: Beerina: Occam's Penta-Razor

Pentagon construction and post-9/11 reconstruction

Engineering News-Record Study on 9/11 Pentagon Attack Contains No Surprises
Architecture Week: Pentagon Battered but Firm

Washington Post Good Graphic & photos: Rebuilding the Pentagon

Pentagon reconstruction: Triumph over terrorism

Rebuilding Photos

Post-9/11 Pentagon Reconstruction managers Lee Evey and Allyn Kilsheimer interviewed on PBS

Above: repaired ground level, looking from A-E drive to west side. Contrary to conspiracist claims, there are no masonry "ring" walls within this ground floor section. The "rings" begin on the second floor.

Other sites with good Pentagon conspiracy theory debunking