It’s time for the 9/11 truth movement to resolve its Pentagon debate by applying the scientific method. Doing so points conclusively to large plane impact.
For over fifteen years the 9/11 truth movement and some of its most visible leaders have debated this question: Did a large plane, matching a Boeing 757 in general and Flight AA 77 in particular, hit the Pentagon on September 11, 2001? In the last several years a group of scientists and engineers have presented a number of scientific papers that answer both of these questions with a resounding “Yes.” A number of these scientists and engineers are affiliated with the organization Scientists for 9/11 Truth, which also fully supports the hypothesis that the impacts and resulting fires from the Boeing 767s crashing into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers (WTC1 and WTC2) on 9/11 could not account for the destruction of these buildings. Building 7 (WTC7) was destroyed without being impacted by any plane. The evidence is clear that all three of these buildings were destroyed by some form of controlled demolition. While the 9/11 truth movement generally agrees on what happened in New York City, thus far there has been no closure on the Pentagon debate.
As an organization, Scientists for 9/11 Truth has stood virtually alone in maintaining large plane impact at the Pentagon together with controlled demolition of the buildings in New York City. With the publication of three new works, cited below, there are now indications that the 9/11 truth movement may be ready to adopt this position also. See, for example, this article on the Truth Action Project website.
Eyewitnesses and Physical Evidence
The Pentagon question has divided the 9/11 truth movement, impeding its thrust toward truth and public credibility. Despite hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw a large plane fly towards the Pentagon and impact it, critics continue to claim otherwise, mainly because the crash scene was unlike those for other plane crashes. Few critics considered that for this unique event—a high-speed impact of a large plane with a building—preconceived expectations of the observed outcome are of little value. The plane largely penetrated the building, leaving many small fragments outside but relatively few large pieces. In a recent conversation with a “no plane impact” advocate, the advocate stated “We will only know for sure what hit the Pentagon when the people who know the answers come forward.” In fact, these “people” came forward a long time ago in video and audio recordings and in written statements, starting on 9/11 itself. Regrettably, the 9/11 truth movement at large either does not know about these hundreds of witnesses, or else has refused to listen to or believe them.
Eyewitnesses affirm large plane impact, and the damage trail establishes the plane path before and after impact with a high degree of precision. The plane flew low from the southwest straight toward the Pentagon on a path making a 52-degree angle with the Pentagon’s west wall. It clipped a tree; downed five light poles; struck a fence, a generator-trailer, and a low concrete wall; and impacted the building at the first and second floors, creating an 18-foot wide hole atop a 96-foot gash in the façade. Outside, plane debris was strewn to the north near the Heliport because of the speed and angle of impact. The light poles’ separation gives a plane wingspan in the range 100 to 130 feet (a Boeing 757 wingspan is 124 feet 10 inches), while the low concrete wall and generator-trailer damage separation indicates an engine separation of approximately 43 feet (Boeing 757 engine separation is 42.5 feet). See Figure 1.
Figure 1 – Aerial Photograph Showing Plane Path
Inside the Pentagon, the plane was increasingly fragmented by the steel and concrete columns, creating a fluid-like flow of solid debris. This flow of material destroyed or damaged many internal columns, defining a continuation of the outside path, and ultimately created an exit hole in the C ring wall. Debris, including plane parts, spilled into the AE Drive in the direction of the original plane path. Internal columns were bowed and abraded in the flight path direction and much of the first floor suddenly filled with debris. The first floor ceiling beyond the collapsed portion of the building remained intact.
These elements all confirm a flight path that is supported by eyewitness accounts, the radar data and the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) data, which was released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). There are over 62 documented eyewitnesses who saw the plane impact. Fourteen (14) witnesses saw one or more of the light poles struck. Four witnesses saw the right engine/wing hit the generator-trailer, while one witness saw the left engine hit the low concrete wall and break apart. Multiple witnesses traced the passage of the plane as it flew from the Sheraton Hotel (last radar reading) to impact at the Pentagon. There were some initial problems reading the last frame of the FDR data, but the properly decoded FDR data traces the plane’s path all the way from take-off at Dulles Airport to impact at the Pentagon.
Applying the Scientific Method
Such a confluence of physical, eyewitness, and other evidence provides an overwhelming case for a large plane—a Boeing 757 and specifically Flight AA 77—impacting and penetrating the Pentagon on 9/11. The initial hypothesis of large plane impact, when examined for its consequences as shown by the eyewitness testimony, physical damage, and other supporting evidence, survives the scientific method test and becomes a theory that explains virtually all the observations. No other hypothesis, such as impact by a missile or pre-planted bombs, has even ventured to explain all this evidence.
This illustrates the difference between a hypothesis and a theory, and the application of the scientific method in solving physical problems. Those who deny large plane impact offer only criticisms or alternative hypotheses, not a theory. A complete theory examines the consequences of a hypothesis, compares these consequences with the evidence, and discards the hypothesis if it leads to results that do not match the evidence. Figure 2 illustrates the flow of analysis using the scientific method.
Figure 2 – Analysis Flow Using the Scientific Method
The Large Plane Impact Hypothesis and Theory
Ask a Question
Let’s begin with the topmost oval in Figure 2 and ask a question: What caused the damage and deaths at the Pentagon on the morning of 9/11?
Do Background Research
To answer this question, we first do some background research.
Eyewitnesses: According to eyewitnesses, a large plane flew (in about six seconds according to FDR data) from the vicinity of the Sheraton Hotel at the west end of the Navy Annex and impacted the Pentagon west wall. It flew above Columbia Pike, crossed the clover-leaf intersection of Columbia Pike with S. Washington Boulevard (Route 27), clipped a tree and impacted five light poles, a fence and a generator-trailer and a low concrete wall, all before hitting the Pentagon façade and then largely disappeared inside the building. Plane parts rained down on the Pentagon lawn and the highway that runs parallel to the west wall. Those who observed this fleeting event from outside the Pentagon, from the standstill traffic on route 27, from the vicinity of Arlington Cemetery, and from nearby buildings, are in substantial agreement that impact by a large plane occurred. Some witnesses identified the plane from its silver color and red and blue markings as an American Airlines plane, a Boeing 757, or both.
Witnesses to the aftermath of plane impact who did not see the plane hit, saw many small pieces of plane “confetti” as well as some large pieces of silver fuselage. Some witnesses did not see any large plane parts, and did not recognize the confetti for what it was. Critics have seized upon these latter accounts to try to prove that there was no plane. These accounts cannot negate the many positive observations of others as well as the abundance of photographic evidence. There are also photographs and a significant number of witnesses who described seeing plane parts in the interior of the building and in the AE Drive.
Photographs and Videos: Photographs taken outside and inside the Pentagon show many small pieces of silver fuselage with AA colored markings, plane and engine parts, landing gear and a tire. Abraded and bent interior columns show the direction of flow of fragmented plane parts, aligning with the known outside path to within a few degrees. Much of the first floor area under the non-collapsed ceiling suddenly filled with debris. Outside the C ring hole, debris and plane parts were strewn in the AE Drive in alignment with the flight path.
Radar and FDR Data: Figures 3 and 4 show the plane’s path from takeoff at Dulles Airport to a point close to the Sheraton Hotel (radar data) and to impact at the Pentagon (FDR data).
Figure 4 – [Figure 7 from Frank Legge’s “The 9/11 Attack on the Pentagon: the Search for Consensus“]. The course of AA 77 from the FDR data closely matches the radar data.
Pentagon Security Videos: Recent work on the video from two Pentagon security cameras shows that they captured images of the approaching, low-flying plane. In his paper “The 85 Pentagon Area Surveillance Cameras,” Ken Jenkins explains the images, how the date error came about, and the likely origins for the trailing white smoke. There is no evidence at this time that the government is withholding other images of the event captured by the surveillance cameras.
Ken Jenkins and David Chandler also recently took pairs of sequential images from the Pentagon surveillance video cameras, putting them together as you would see them in what is called a blink comparator. In this way, the image of the plane “pops out.” If you watch the image cycle a few times, the details of the plane are clearly visible. You can find the blink comparisons on David Chandler’s website, 911SpeakOut.org.
Based on the above background research, we propose and test the hypothesis that the Pentagon was struck by a large plane matching a Boeing 757 and most probably Flight AA 77.
Test with an Experiment
Many physical hypotheses can be tested by experiment in a laboratory using relatively simple equipment. In the case of the Pentagon 9/11 event, costs to test and/or reproduce some features of the event would be prohibitive. Fortunately, there are prior relevant tests, airplane incidents and other evidence that are pertinent to the event and that support the large plane impact hypothesis.
The F4 Experiment: In the F4 Phantom jet experiment, a plane was propelled at high speed on a rocket sled into a massive and impenetrable concrete wall. The plane was completely fragmented into small pieces. This experiment supports the fragmentation of the Boeing 757 plane parts that did not enter the building.
Ground Effect: Because of what is known as ground effect, it is claimed by critics that the plane could not have flown closer to the ground than 56 feet, so it would have impacted at the fourth and fifth floor levels. Some experienced pilots have supported this objection. The physical evidence, such as the five downed light poles, confirms that a large plane did fly low. In addition, many witnesses actually reported that they saw a large commercial jetliner, identified as a Boeing 757, fly low and close to the ground. Actual experience confirms this behavior. For example, at an air show in Portugal, Evora 2007 (Figure 5), an Airbus A310, similar in size to a Boeing 757, repeatedly flew low, sometimes with the gear down and full flaps but with at least one pass at a relatively high speed, with no concern about any ground effect. The height of the plane above the runway was little more than the diameter of the fuselage.
Engineers and scientists working in the aerospace field feature an article which explains that, because of the high speed and low angle of attack, ground effect is not a relevant factor, particularly with an aircraft that is under automatic control, as was likely the case for Flight AA 77 at the end. According to Jeff Scott, “ground effect would have been quite small on Flight 77 given its high rate of speed and small angle of attack.” See Aerospaceweb.org and the answer by Jeff Scott, “Pentagon & Boeing 757 GroundEffect.”Further Analysis of Corroborating Physical Evidence: Several items of physical evidence can be further analyzed to see if they comport with a large plane hitting the Pentagon.
Clipped Tree: One witness described the plane as “picking off trees and light poles.” Photographs show that the starboard (right) engine of the plane did clip a tree. Jon Cole has shown experimentally that it is possible for the leading edge of an engine to cut the tree. Cole compared this action with similar-looking ragged branches cut with a heavy brush cutter with heavy, thick dull blades rotating at a lesser speed than the airplane that cut the woody branches of the Pentagon tree (See Figure 6). Branches ingested by the right engine can explain the smoke trail from the right engine from that point on, as seen in the security camera videos and in this simulation.Downed Light Poles: Many witnesses saw the plane hit light poles. In all, five light poles were torn from their bases and broken into pieces. Pole pieces had considerable curvature as if hit by a blunt force at high speed, such as the moving wing of a plane. One pole piece pierced the windshield of a taxi driven by Lloyde England. The back seat of the taxi was pierced indicating how the pole piece was supported at that end and stuck out through the windshield. The separation and positions of the downed light poles indicate a plane wingspan of more than 100 feet, but less than 130 feet. The wingspan of a Boeing 757 is 124 feet 10 inches.
Rotated Generator-Trailer: Several witnesses saw the right plane engine and/or wing strike one end of a very heavy generator-trailer. The trailer was found to have rotated about the other end toward the building. In addition to the damaged end, there was a gash in the trailer top corresponding to the position of the first flap “canoe” beyond the right engine of a Boeing 757. The location and direction of the gash was consistent with the canoe’s position on the wing and the plane’s flight path.
Gouge in Low Concrete Wall: One witness saw the left engine hit a low concrete wall and break apart. The wall shows a curved gouge consistent with impact by an engine. The distance between the wall and the struck end of the generator-trailer is approximately 43 feet, matching the engines’ separation of a Boeing 757 of 42.5 feet. When the left engine hit the wall it was a few inches above ground level at that point. The wall sits on a high point, and this explains why the engine did not gouge the surrounding lawn as it traveled over the lawn. Some nearby, upright wooden spools were not struck as they were positioned between the plane fuselage and the low-slung left engine.
Debris by the Heliport Area: There was a noticeable amount of plane debris, mostly small pieces, at the Heliport area north of the impact hole. This is in accord with the plane’s path which made a 52-degree angle with the Pentagon west wall as it approached from the southwest. This distribution of debris is entirely to be expected since, after fragmentation, debris that remained outside the building would have a significant velocity component causing it to travel in a northerly direction.
The Impact Hole and Façade Damage: Many claims have been made that the impact hole was too small for a plane the size of a Boeing 757 to have entered the building. None of these claims have merit. The fuselage of a Boeing 757 is 12.33 feet wide and 13.5 feet high and the corresponding hole was about 18 feet wide. Early photographs were obscured by spray from fire hoses and hid a long gash of about 96 feet in the first floor façade. There were many missing outer support columns. Thus the plane’s fuselage, both engines, and the heavier, inner parts of the wings had sufficient room to penetrate the building.
According to witnesses and the FDR data, the plane had rolled about 5 degrees counterclockwise when it hit the wall. Façade markings, such as a long gash made by a wing, confirm these observations. Critics frequently point to the absence of a clear vertical gash that they contend should have been made by the vertical portion of the tail. There are, as shown by Jim Hoffman, markings in the area where the tail might have hit. It is possible that the tail was blown off and fragmented, and did not reach the wall intact. One witness described seeing the fuel explosion while the tail was still visible. Many witnesses saw the tail, and this criticism cannot overturn the other evidence of plane approach and impact.
Internal Column Damage: Figure 7 taken from The Pentagon Building Performance Report depicts internal column damage. At the top, red and blue squares depict missing and severely damaged columns. Green and yellow squares show columns with less damage. The width of the damage at the west wall (top) is about 100 feet, which is consistent with the impact of the fuselage, engines, and the heavy parts of the wings of a Boeing 757. As the fuselage moved into the building, it was shredded and scattered to the sides along its path, but a cone of decreasing width of material maintained enough focus to break through and make a hole in the C ring wall. The dark shaded area of the figure is where the building collapsed about 30 minutes after impact. The first floor area with damage but no collapse filled up with debris without the first floor ceiling collapsing. All these observations support the impact with the façade and passage of a large plane through the building primarily at the first floor level.
Figure 7 – Pentagon Building and Performance Report Figure 7.9
It is noteworthy that April Gallop, who has been extensively interviewed and quoted as an important witness, had an office in wedge 2 over 150 feet from the impact hole. Gallop’s office structure did collapse and the lights went out but Gallop was too far away to smell jet fuel. She, with her child and others, exited through a window near the Heliport. Once outside, Gallop collapsed, was apparently unconscious, and was moved to the outer lawn area, and then to a hospital. Gallop had no opportunity to see aircraft debris inside or outside the building.
C Ring Exit Hole: The C ring exit hole can be understood as resulting from the impact of many pieces of plane debris. This process and the false assertion that workers created the hole as a way to access the building interior are fully discussed in the papers listed below. The exit hole lines up with the plane path that made a 52-degree angle with the Pentagon west wall. This fact in itself points to the hole’s origin since the exact plane path was not known until some days or weeks after the event. There is no evidence that any part of the crash scene was staged to imply a non-existent plane crash. All the physical and eyewitness evidence points to actual large plane impact.
Debris in the AE Drive: Debris strewn outside the C ring exit hole was in line with the direction of the plane’s motion and included a plane tire and a wheel rim consistent with a Boeing 757. See Figure 8.
Figure 8 – C Ring Hole, Plane Parts and Debris Angle
Figure 8 shows a large remnant of a tire outside the C Ring Hole (2). Also shown is a wheel rim (1). The debris angle (3) is also clearly visible. A single doorway lies in the direction pointed to by (4).
Analyze Results – Draw Conclusion
Both the background information that includes the eyewitnesses and the detailed examination of the plane path and damage presented above support the large plane impact hypothesis. The conclusion drawn is that a large plane matching a Boeing 757 and most probably Flight AA 77 struck the Pentagon on 9/11.
Hypothesis is True
The hypothesis of impact by a large plane matching a Boeing 757 and Flight AA 77 is true. The next step in the scientific method is to report the results.
Among the first to report the results of a scientific analysis of the Pentagon 9/11 event were Jim Hoffman and Victoria Ashley. Subsequently, scientists affiliated with Scientists for 9/11 Truth, with additional authors such as engineers and computer scientists participating, produced a substantial number of papers. These papers, all listed in the Additional Reading section below, include the three new works mentioned above and listed here, together with a new article:
(a) “The Pentagon Plane Puzzle”, a video by Ken Jenkins on the Pentagon eyewitnesses,
(b) “Going Beyond Speculation: AScientific Look at the Pentagon Evidence” a talk by David Chandler.
(c) “The Pentagon Event: The Honegger Hypothesis Refuted” a paper by Victoria Ashley, David Chandler, Jonathan H. Cole, Jim Hoffman, Ken Jenkins, Frank Legge, and John D. Wyndham.
Except for Victoria Ashley and Jonathan H. Cole (Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice), all of the foregoing individuals are members of Scientists for 9/11 Truth.
See also the article “Why Not Use aPlane?” by Frank Legge and Ken Jenkins on the Scientists for 9/11 Truth website.
Other Pentagon Hypotheses
Since the Pentagon 9/11 event, many individuals have tried to prove that a large plane did not impact the Pentagon. These individuals often point to testimonies by witnesses who did not see the plane impact. For example, an aftermath witness might not see recognizable plane parts and claim or imply that there was no plane involved. Some Pentagon workers inside the building inferred a bomb, since to them whatever happened sounded like a bomb. But an expert witness with military experience, who also saw the plane tail just before impact and following fireball, stated that it sounded like a “2000 lb” bomb. While many witnesses reported that they smelled the odor of jet fuel, a smaller number thought they smelled cordite, an explosive that has not been in use since WWII. Although at least 14 witnesses saw the plane hit the light poles one second or less before impact, some critics claim this could not have happened without the wings being visibly damaged or destroyed.
Even though the event occurred in broad daylight and was viewed by hundreds of people, scores of whom were stuck in traffic on route 27 with a clear view, critics have dismissed witness accounts by claiming these to be fraudulent. However, there is not a single case where a Pentagon witness has been shown to have deliberately lied. On the contrary, there has been an attempt by some to manipulate witnesses years later and lead them to a different conclusion about what they saw at the Pentagon. This is the case with those who postulate the “North path” approach in which the physical damage could not have been done by the plane. While the advocates of a “North path” approach claim the plane flew over the Pentagon, there is not a single, unequivocal witness to this scenario, and many of the very few North path witnesses affirm that the plane impacted the building.
Based on these criticisms, a number of alternative hypotheses have been proposed. Although often termed theories, these hypotheses do not rise to the level of theories because they have not been subjected to the discipline of the scientific method. It is instructive to subject these alternative hypotheses to analysis according to the scientific method steps of Figure 2.
Alternative Hypotheses Analyzed According to the Scientific Method
The Bombs (Pre-planted Explosives) Hypothesis
Those who hypothesize that there was no plane impact attribute all damage and deaths to pre-planted explosives or bombs. These researchers include Barbara Honegger in her “Behind the Smoke Curtain” presentation and the Citizen Investigation Team (CIT). Their assumption is that the approaching plane seen by many flew over the Pentagon. Honegger has modified her hypothesis in the last several years to postulate that a white plane was destroyed with some sort of explosives outside the Pentagon near the Heliport area without any debris hitting the Pentagon wall. For these “no plane impact” hypotheses, the next step in the scientific method, Test with an Experiment, raises immediate problems.
The first major problem is the scores of eyewitnesses who saw the plane impact the Pentagon west wall. To solve this problem, many critics simply ignore or attempt to discredit the witnesses, claiming they are lying, incoherent, or manipulated by insiders to tell a false story. These criticisms fail for lack of proof. The witnesses cannot be explained away in any credible fashion.
The second major problem is how to explain the plane debris seen by witnesses and in photographs. No credible explanation has been offered as to how the large volume of plane debris was planted and distributed outside the Pentagon, inside the Pentagon, and in the AE Drive, except by a plane crash. Honegger’s “white plane destroyed” hypothesis appears to be an attempt to explain the plane debris near the Heliport, but it does not explain the plane debris found inside the Pentagon building or in the AE Drive.
The third major problem is a failure to explain, using bombs, the observed damage. This damage includes the clipped tree, the five downed light poles, the generator-trailer that was damaged and rotated toward the Pentagon, the gouge in the low concrete wall, the shape and nature of the façade damage, the internal bowed and abraded columns, the sudden appearance of internal plane debris, the C ring hole and the debris strewn in the AE Drive.
There is no credible evidence for Honegger’s “white plane.” The plane’s supposed destruction without its fragmented parts hitting the Pentagon west wall violates laws of physics, specifically the law of the conservation of momentum. The center of gravity of the combined fragments would still be moving toward the wall at the plane’s pre-explosion speed. There is nowhere near enough plane debris outside the wall near the heliport to account for an entire plane.
The bombs-only hypothesis fails the test of the scientific method in major ways, and the analysis shows the hypothesis is false. However, although the evidence is scant or nonexistent, it is still possible that there were some internal bombs timed to explode at the same time as large plane impact.
The Small Plane Hypothesis
Some investigators claim that a small plane hit the Pentagon on 9/11. These include Massimo Mazzucco in part 2 of his film September 11 – The NewPearl Harbor, and David Ray Griffin, author of many books on the events of 9/11. Griffin has publicly endorsed Mazzucco’s work, including that on the Pentagon. This hypothesis immediately encounters major problems.
The great majority of over 180 eyewitnesses to the approach of the plane and its impact with the Pentagon west wall described a large plane. Only a very small number (six or less) of witnesses described a small plane, and most of these viewed the plane at a great distance, making size judgments difficult and unreliable. Of the large plane witnesses, many described it as a silver American Airlines plane, a Boeing 737 or 757. One knowledgeable witness, Tim Timmerman, an airlines’ pilot, recognized it unequivocally as a Boeing 757.
Secondly, a small plane could not have created the observed physical damage. The downed light poles require a minimum wingspan of 100 feet, while the generator-trailer and low concrete wall separation gives the separation of the engines as about 43 feet, closely matching the actual separation of Boeing 757 engines at 42.5 feet. Given that wingtips of a plane are very light and might easily break off, a small plane would be unlikely to create a 96-foot gash in the first floor.
The small plane hypothesis fails the test of the scientific method and the analysis shows the hypothesis is false.
The Missile Hypothesis
The missile hypothesis cannot explain the spatial characteristics of the physical damage. The light poles were effectively 100 feet apart, and the generator-trailer and low concrete wall were effectively 43 feet apart. These objects could not all have been impacted by a missile. The shape and size of the impact hole precludes a missile, the damaged internal columns were spaced apart over a wide area, and the bowed and abraded columns could not have been rendered in such a condition by a missile. A missile could possibly have created the C ring hole, but only plane parts were found in the debris in the AE Drive.
Donald Rumsfeld alluded to a missile, and eyewitness Mike Walter spoke of a missile, but in the metaphorical sense of a plane acting as a missile. These comments fueled the missile hypothesis. But no witnesses claimed to have seen a missile. Witnesses overwhelmingly described a large plane. The missile hypothesis fails the test of the scientific method and the analysis shows the hypothesis is false.
Despite the clear evidence and its analysis using the scientific method of large plane impact, a substantial portion of the 9/11 truth movement, including accepted leaders and those involved in major organizations, continues to publicly endorse, adhere to, or promulgate talks, writings and films on false Pentagon hypotheses. Some simply offer criticisms and reject or ignore evidence that would bring closure to the argument. There is clear evidence by way of disintegrating truth groups that these endorsements and communications are injurious to the movement. Public feedback shows that the false Pentagon hypotheses undermine public acceptance of other highly credible scientific findings, such as the demolitions of the Twin Towers and Building 7 (WTC7) in New York City.
Most rank and file members of the 9/11 truth movement take their cues on the Pentagon from well-known speakers, writers, and acknowledged leaders of the movement. The quickest way to end the ongoing damage to the movement’s credibility and bring closure would be for these prominent individuals to publicly repudiate their former endorsements, views, and statements on the Pentagon event and acknowledge the scientific method and its conclusion of large plane impact. In the absence of public repudiations, the damage caused by false Pentagon hypotheses is likely to continue indefinitely, even if those who fueled their spread cease to promote them. Consequently, the surest way to end the debate and enhance the credibility of the movement is for each individual to study, without bias or prejudice, the evidence for themselves.
The recent papers by scientists, engineers and others showing large plane impact at the Pentagon have been collected together on a website that invites feedback and discussion. Comments can be sent to the Scientific Method 9/11 website which specifically invites feedback on many of the papers listed below.
[Editor’s note: Read the author’s responses to critical feedback atScientificMethod911.org. Read his most recent peer-reviewed paper, “Peer Review in Controversial Topics–A Case Study of 9/11” (published in the journal Publications June 2017).]
This article is based on the research and writings of the following authors: Victoria Ashley, David Chandler, Jonathan H. Cole, Jim Hoffman, Ken Jenkins, Frank Legge, Warren Stutt and John D. Wyndham. These writings point to many other researchers, such as Adam Larson, Russell Pickering, John Farmer and Arabesque, who have contributed to an understanding of the Pentagon evidence.
The author of this article would like to thank David Chandler, Jonathan H. Cole, and Ken Jenkins for reading the manuscript and offering useful comments and suggestions.
Additional Reading – Websites, Papers, Articles and Videos
Websites and Owners/Sponsors
The Pentagon Attack: What the Physical Evidence Shows– Jim Hoffman
Pentagon Attack Errors – Jim Hoffman
Evidence: The Pentagon Attack – Victoria Ashley
The 85 Pentagon Area Surveillance Cameras – Ken Jenkins
The Pentagon – A joint statement – David Chandler and Jonathan H. Cole
The Science of 9/11, Pentagon – Frank Legge
Warren Stutt’s Home Page – Warren Stutt
Papers on the Pentagon – Scientists for 9/11 Truth, various scientists
Papers on the Pentagon – Scientific Method 9/11, John D. Wyndham
Frank Legge, “What Hit the Pentagon? Misinformation and its Effect on the Credibility of 9/11 Truth,” Journal of 9/11 Studies, July, 2009.
David Chandler (based on Ken Jenkins), “Blink Comparator Views of the Plane at the Pentagon,” 911Speakout.org, 2016.
Frank Legge, and Warren Stutt, “Flight AA77 on 9/11: New FDR Analysis Supports the Official Flight Path…“, Journal of 9/11 Studies, January, 2011.
Frank Legge and David Chandler, “ThePentagon Attack on 9/11: A Refutation of the PentagonFlyover Hypothesis Based on Analysis of the Flight Path,” STJ911.org, September, 2011 and its Addendum, Foreign Policy Journal, December, 2011.
John D. Wyndham, “The Pentagon Attack: Problems with Theories Alternative to Large Plane Impact,” Journal of 9/11 Studies, November, 2011. Revised version (3), ScientificMethod9/11.org, April, 2016.
Frank Legge, “The 9/11 Attack on thePentagon: the Search for Consensus,” Journal of 9/11 Studies, June, 2012.
John D. Wyndham, “The Pentagon Attack: The Event Time Revisited,” ScientificMethod9/11.org, March, 2013.
John D. Wyndham, “The Pentagon Attack: Eyewitnesses, Debris Flow and Other Issues – A Replyto Fletcher and Eastman,” ScientificMethod9/11.org, April, 2013.
Victoria Ashley et al., “The Pentagon Event: The Honegger Hypothesis Refuted,” ScientificMethod9/11.org, April, 2016.
Articles and Videos
Jim Hoffman, “Pentagon – Exterior Impact Damage,” 911Review.com, February, 2003.
Jim Hoffman, “The Pentagon No-757-Crash Theory: Booby Trap for 9/11 Skeptics,” 911Research.WTC7.net, November, 2004.
Victoria Ashley, “To Con a Movement: Exposing CIT’s PentaCon ‘Magic Show’,” 911Review.com, July, 2009.
Jim Hoffman, “Google Earth ExposesPentagon Flyover Farce,” 911Research.WTC7.net, July, 2009.
Frank Legge, “Science, Activism, and the Pentagon Debate,” Scientistsfor911Truth.org, April, 2014.
Ken Jenkins and David Chandler: “Pentagon Plane Puzzle + David Chandler: Going Beyond Speculation,” YouTube, September, 2015.
Frank Legge and Ken Jenkins, “Why Not Use a Plane?,” Scientistsfor911Truth.org, January, 2016.
American Airlines Flight 77 was a scheduled American Airlines domestic transcontinentalpassenger flight from Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, to Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. The Boeing 757-223 aircraft serving the flight was hijacked by five men affiliated with al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001, as part of the September 11 attacks. They deliberately crashed the plane into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., killing all 64 people on board, including the five hijackers and six crew, as well as 125 people in the building.
Less than 35 minutes into the flight, the hijackers stormed the cockpit. They forced the passengers, crew, and pilots to the rear of the aircraft. Hani Hanjour, one of the hijackers who was trained as a pilot, assumed control of the flight. Unknown to the hijackers, passengers aboard made telephone calls to friends and family and relayed information on the hijacking.
The hijackers crashed the aircraft into the western side of the Pentagon at 09:37 EDT. Many people witnessed the crash, and news sources began reporting on the incident within minutes. The impact severely damaged an area of the Pentagon and caused a large fire. A portion of the building collapsed; firefighters spent days working to fully extinguish the blaze. The damaged sections of the Pentagon were rebuilt in 2002, with occupants moving back into the completed areas that August. The 184 victims of the attack are memorialized in the Pentagon Memorial adjacent to the crash site. The 1.93-acre (7,800 m2) park contains a bench for each of the victims, arranged according to their year of birth and ranging from 1930 to 1998.
The hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77 were led by Hani Hanjour, who piloted the aircraft into the Pentagon. Hanjour first came to the United States in 1990.
Hanjour trained at the CRM Airline Training Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, earning his FAAcommercial pilot's certificate in April 1999. He had wanted to be a commercial pilot for the Saudi national airline but was rejected when he applied to the civil aviation school in Jeddah in 1999. Hanjour's brother later explained that, frustrated at not finding a job, Hanjour "increasingly turned his attention toward religious texts and cassette tapes of militant Islamic preachers". Hanjour returned to Saudi Arabia after being certified as a pilot, but left again in late 1999, telling his family that he was going to the United Arab Emirates to work for an airline. Hanjour likely went to Afghanistan, where Al-Qaeda recruits were screened for special skills they might have. Already having selected the Hamburg cell members, Al Qaeda leaders selected Hanjour to lead the fourth team of hijackers.
Alec Station, the CIA's unit dedicated to tracking Osama bin Laden, had discovered that two of the other hijackers, al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, had multiple-entry visas to the United States well before 9/11. Two FBI agents inside the unit tried to alert FBI headquarters, but CIA officers rebuffed them.
In December 2000, Hanjour arrived in San Diego, joining "muscle" hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, who had been there since January 2000. Soon after arriving, Hanjour and Hazmi left for Mesa, Arizona, where Hanjour began refresher training at Arizona Aviation.
In April 2001, they relocated to Falls Church, Virginia, where they awaited the arrival of the remaining "muscle" hijackers. One of these men, Majed Moqed, arrived on May 2, 2001, with Flight 175 hijacker Ahmed al-Ghamdi from Dubai at Dulles International Airport. They moved into an apartment with Hazmi and Hanjour.
On May 21, 2001, Hanjour rented a room in Paterson, New Jersey, where he stayed with other hijackers through the end of August. The last Flight 77 "muscle" hijacker, Salem al-Hazmi, arrived on June 29, 2001, with Abdulaziz al-Omari (a hijacker of Flight 11) at John F. Kennedy International Airport from the United Arab Emirates. They stayed with Hanjour.
Hanjour received ground instruction and did practice flights at Air Fleet Training Systems in Teterboro, New Jersey, and at Caldwell Flight Academy in Fairfield, New Jersey. Hanjour moved out of the room in Paterson and arrived at the Valencia Motel in Laurel, Maryland, on September 2, 2001. While in Maryland, Hanjour and fellow hijackers trained at Gold's Gym in Greenbelt. On September 10, he completed a certification flight, using a terrain recognition system for navigation, at Congressional Air Charters in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
On September 10, Nawaf al-Hazmi—accompanied by other hijackers—checked into the Marriott in Herndon, Virginia, near Dulles Airport.
According to a U.S. State Department cable leaked in the WikiLeaks dump in February 2010, the FBI has investigated another suspect, Mohammed al-Mansoori. He had associated with three Qatari citizens who flew from Los Angeles to London (via Washington) and Qatar on the eve of the attacks, after allegedly surveying the World Trade Center and the White House. U.S. law enforcement officials said that the data about the four men was "just one of many leads that were thoroughly investigated at the time and never led to terrorism charges". An official added that the three Qatari citizens have never been questioned by the FBI. Eleanor Hill, the former staff director for the congressional joint inquiry on the September 11 attacks, said the cable reinforces questions about the thoroughness of the FBI's investigation. She also said that the inquiry concluded that the hijackers had a support network that helped them in different ways.
The three Qatari men were booked to fly from Los Angeles to Washington on September 10, 2001, on the same plane that was hijacked and piloted into the Pentagon on the following day. Instead, they flew from Los Angeles to Qatar, via Washington and London. While the cable said that Mansoori was currently under investigation, U.S. law enforcement officials said that there was no active investigation of him or of the Qatari citizens mentioned in the cable.
The American Airlines Flight 77 aircraft was a Boeing 757-223 (registration N644AA). The aircraft was built and had its first flight in 1991. The flight crew included pilot Charles Burlingame (a Naval Academy graduate and former fighter pilot), First Officer David Charlebois, and flight attendants Michele Heidenberger, Jennifer Lewis, Kenneth Lewis, and Renee May. The capacity of the aircraft was 188 passengers, but with 58 passengers on September 11, the load factor was 33 percent. American Airlines said that Tuesdays were the least-traveled day of the week, with the same load factor seen on Tuesdays in the previous three months for Flight 77.
Boarding and departure
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the five hijackers arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport. At 07:15, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Majed Moqed checked in at the American Airlines ticket counter for Flight 77, arriving at the passenger security checkpoint a few minutes later at 07:18. Both men set off the metal detector and were put through secondary screening. Moqed continued to set off the alarm, so he was searched with a hand wand. The Hazmi brothers checked in together at the ticket counter at 07:29. Hani Hanjour checked in separately and arrived at the passenger security checkpoint at 07:35. Hanjour was followed minutes later at the checkpoint by Salem and Nawaf al-Hazmi, who also set off the metal detector's alarm. The screener at the checkpoint never resolved what set off the alarm. As seen in security footage later released, Nawaf Hazmi appeared to have an unidentified item in his back pocket. Utility knives up to four inches were permitted at the time by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as carry-on items. The passenger security checkpoint at Dulles International Airport was operated by Argenbright Security, under contract with United Airlines.
The hijackers were all selected for extra screening of their checked bags. Hanjour, al-Mihdhar, and Moqed were chosen by the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System criteria, while the brothers Nawaf and Salem al-Hazmi were selected because they did not provide adequate identification and were deemed suspicious by the airline check-in agent. Hanjour, Mihdhar, and Nawaf al-Hazmi did not check any bags for the flight. Checked bags belonging to Moqed and Salem al-Hazmi were held until they boarded the aircraft.
Flight 77 was scheduled to depart for Los Angeles at 08:10; 58 passengers boarded through Gate D26, including the five hijackers. Excluding the hijackers, of the 59 other passengers and crew on board, there were 26 men, 22 women, and five children ranging in age from three to eleven. On the flight, Hani Hanjour was seated up front in 1B, while Salem and Nawaf al-Hazmi were seated in first class in seats 5E and 5F. Majed Moqed and Khalid al-Mihdhar were seated further back in 12A and 12B, in economy class. Flight 77 left the gate on time and took off from Runway 30 at Dulles at 08:20.
The 9/11 Commission estimated that the flight was hijacked between 08:51 and 08:54, shortly after American Airlines Flight 11 struck the World Trade Center and not too long after United Airlines Flight 175 had been hijacked. The last normal radio communications from the aircraft to air traffic control occurred at 08:50:51. Unlike the other three flights, there were no reports of anyone being stabbed or a bomb threat and the pilots were not immediately killed but shoved to the back of the plane with the rest of the passengers. At 08:54, the plane began to deviate from its normal, assigned flight path and turned south. Two minutes later at 08:56, the plane's transponder was switched off. The hijackers set the flight's autopilot on a course heading east towards Washington, D.C.
The FAA was aware at this point that there was an emergency on board the airplane. By this time, Flight 11 had already crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center and Flight 175 was known to have been hijacked and was within minutes of striking the South Tower. After learning of this second hijacking involving an American Airlines aircraft and the hijacking involving United Airlines, American Airlines' executive vice president Gerard Arpey ordered a nationwide ground stop for the airline. The Indianapolis Air Traffic Control Center, as well as American Airlines dispatchers, made several failed attempts to contact the aircraft. At the time the airplane was hijacked, it was flying over an area of limited radar coverage. With air controllers unable to contact the flight by radio, an Indianapolis official declared that the Boeing 757 had possibly crashed at 09:09.
Two people on the aircraft made phone calls to contacts on the ground. At 09:12, flight attendant Renee May called her mother, Nancy May, in Las Vegas. During the call, which lasted nearly two minutes, May said her flight was being hijacked by six persons, and staff and passengers had been moved to the rear of the airplane. May asked her mother to contact American Airlines, which she and her husband promptly did; American Airlines was already aware of the hijacking. Between 09:16 and 09:26, passenger Barbara Olson called her husband, United States Solicitor GeneralTheodore Olson, and reported that the airplane had been hijacked and that the assailants had box cutters and knives. She reported that the passengers, including the pilots, had been moved to the back of the cabin and that the hijackers were unaware of her call. A minute into the conversation, the call was cut off. Theodore Olson contacted the command center at the Department of Justice, and tried unsuccessfully to contact Attorney GeneralJohn Ashcroft. About five minutes later, Barbara Olson called again, told her husband that the "pilot" (possibly Hanjour on the cabin intercom) had announced the flight was hijacked, and asked, "What do I tell the pilot to do?" Ted Olson asked her location and she reported the plane was flying low over a residential area. He told her of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Soon afterward, the call cut off again.
"The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air traffic controllers, that that was a military plane. You don't fly a 757 in that manner. It's unsafe."
An airplane was detected again by Dulles controllers on radar screens as it approached Washington, turning and descending rapidly. Controllers initially thought this was a military fighter, due to its high speed and maneuvering. Reagan Airport controllers asked a passing Air National GuardLockheed C-130 Hercules to identify and follow the aircraft. The pilot, Lt. Col. Steven O'Brien, told them it was a Boeing 757 or 767, and its silver fuselage meant that it was probably an American Airlines jet. He had difficulty picking out the airplane in the "East Coast haze", but then saw a "huge" fireball, and initially assumed it had hit the ground. Approaching the Pentagon, he saw the impact site on the building's west side and reported to Reagan control, "Looks like that aircraft crashed into the Pentagon, sir."
According to the 9/11 Commission Report, as Flight 77 was 5 miles (8.0 km) west-southwest of the Pentagon, it made a 330-degree turn. At the end of the turn, it was descending through 2,200 feet (670 m), pointed toward the Pentagon and downtown Washington. Hani Hanjour advanced the throttles to maximum power and dived toward the Pentagon. While level above the ground and seconds from the crash, the wings knocked over five street lampposts and the right wing struck a portable generator, creating a smoke trail seconds before smashing into the Pentagon. Flight 77, flying at 530 mph (853 km/h, 237 m/s, or 460 knots) over the Navy Annex Building adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery, crashed into the western side of the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, just south of Washington, D.C., at 09:37:46. The plane hit the Pentagon at the first-floor level, and at the moment of impact, the airplane was rolled slightly to the left, with the right wing elevated. The front part of the fuselage disintegrated on impact, while the mid and tail sections moved for another fraction of a second, with tail section debris penetrating furthest into the building. In all, the airplane took eight-tenths of a second to fully penetrate 310 feet (94 m) into the three outermost of the building's five rings and unleashed a fireball that rose 200 feet (61 m) above the building.
At the time of the attacks, approximately 18,000 people worked in the Pentagon, which was 4,000 fewer than before renovations began in 1998. The section of the Pentagon that was struck, which had recently been renovated at a cost of $250 million, housed the Naval Command Center.
In all, there were 189 deaths at the Pentagon site, including the 125 in the Pentagon building in addition to the 64 on board the aircraft. Passenger Barbara Olson was en route to a recording of the TV show Politically Incorrect. A group of children, their chaperones, and National Geographic Society staff members were also on board, embarking on an educational trip west to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara, California. The fatalities at the Pentagon included 55 military personnel and 70 civilians. Of those 125 killed, 92 were on the first floor, 31 were on the second floor, and two were on the third. Seven Defense Intelligence Agency civilian employees were killed while the Office of the Secretary of Defense lost one contractor. The U.S. Army suffered 75 fatalities—53 civilians (47 employees and six contractors) and 22 soldiers—while the U.S. Navy suffered 42 fatalities—nine civilians (six employees and three contractors) and 33 sailors. Lieutenant General Timothy Maude, an Army Deputy Chief of Staff, was the highest-ranking military officer killed at the Pentagon; also killed was retired Rear AdmiralWilson Flagg, a passenger on the plane. LT Mari-Rae Sopper, JAGC, USNR, was also on board the flight, and was the first Navy Judge Advocate ever to be killed in action. Another 106 were injured on the ground and were treated at area hospitals.
"I don't want to alarm anybody right now, but apparently—it felt just a few moments ago like there was an explosion of some kind here at the Pentagon."
On the side where the plane hit, the Pentagon is bordered by Interstate 395 and Washington Boulevard. Motorist Mary Lyman, who was on I-395, saw the airplane pass over at a "steep angle toward the ground and going fast" and then saw the cloud of smoke from the Pentagon. Omar Campo, another witness, was cutting the grass on the other side of the road when the airplane flew over his head, and later recalled:
I was cutting the grass and it came in screaming over my head. I felt the impact. The whole ground shook and the whole area was full of fire. I could never imagine I would see anything like that here.
Afework Hagos, a computer programmer, was on his way to work and stuck in a traffic jam near the Pentagon when the airplane flew over. "There was a huge screaming noise and I got out of the car as the plane came over. Everybody was running away in different directions. It was tilting its wings up and down like it was trying to balance. It hit some lampposts on the way in." Daryl Donley witnessed the crash and took some of the first photographs of the site.
USA Today reporter Mike Walter was driving on Washington Boulevard when he witnessed the crash, which he recounted,
I looked out my window and I saw this plane, this jet, an American Airlines jet, coming. And I thought, 'This doesn't add up, it's really low.' And I saw it. I mean it was like a cruise missile with wings. It went right there and slammed right into the Pentagon.
Terrance Kean, who lived in a nearby apartment building, heard the noise of loud jet engines, glanced out his window, and saw a "very, very large passenger jet". He watched "it just plow right into the side of the Pentagon. The nose penetrated into the portico. And then it sort of disappeared, and there was fire and smoke everywhere." Tim Timmerman, who is a pilot himself, noticed American Airlines markings on the aircraft as he saw it hit the Pentagon. Other drivers on Washington Boulevard, Interstate 395, and Columbia Pike witnessed the crash, as did people in Pentagon City, Crystal City, and other nearby locations.
Former Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson had originally booked a ticket on Flight 77. As he would tell the story many times in the following years, including a September 12, 2011 interview on Jim Rome's radio show, he had been scheduled to appear on that show on September 12, 2001. Thompson was planning to be in Las Vegas for a friend's birthday on September 13, and initially insisted on traveling to Rome's Los Angeles studio on the 11th. However, this did not work for the show, which wanted him to travel on the day of the show. After a Rome staffer personally assured Thompson that he would be able to travel from Los Angeles to Las Vegas immediately after the show, Thompson changed his travel plans. He felt the impact from the crash at his home near the Pentagon.
Rescue and recovery
"In this area ... it's so hot that the debris is melting and dripping off the ceiling onto your skin and it would sear your skin and melt your uniform. We went a little farther, turned a corner and came into this bombed out office space that was a roaring inferno of destruction and smoke and flames and intense heat you could feel searing your face."
Rescue efforts began immediately after the crash. Almost all the successful rescues of survivors occurred within half an hour of the impact. Initially, rescue efforts were led by the military and civilian employees within the building. Within minutes, the first fire companies arrived and found these volunteers searching near the impact site. The firemen ordered them to leave as they were not properly equipped or trained to deal with the hazards. The Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) assumed command of the immediate rescue operation within 10 minutes of the crash. ACFD Assistant Chief James Schwartz implemented an incident command system (ICS) to coordinate response efforts among multiple agencies. It took about an hour for the ICS structure to become fully operational. Firefighters from Fort Myer and Reagan National Airport arrived within minutes. Rescue and firefighting efforts were impeded by rumors of additional incoming planes. Chief Schwartz ordered two evacuations during the day in response to these rumors.
As firefighters attempted to extinguish the fires, they watched the building in fear of a structural collapse. One firefighter remarked that they "pretty much knew the building was going to collapse because it started making weird sounds and creaking". Officials saw a cornice of the building move and ordered an evacuation. Minutes later, at 10:10, the upper floors of the damaged area of the Pentagon collapsed. The collapsed area was about 95 feet (29 m) at its widest point and 50 feet (15 m) at its deepest. The amount of time between impact and collapse allowed everyone on the fourth and fifth levels to evacuate safely before the structure collapsed. After the collapse, the interior fires intensified, spreading through all five floors. After 11:00, firefighters mounted a two-pronged attack against the fires. Officials estimated temperatures of up to 2,000 °F (1,090 °C). While progress was made against the interior fires by late afternoon, firefighters realized a flammable layer of wood under the Pentagon's slate roof had caught fire and begun to spread. Typical firefighting tactics were rendered useless by the reinforced structure as firefighters were unable to reach the fire to extinguish it. Firefighters instead made firebreaks in the roof on September 12 to prevent further spreading. At 18:00 on the 12th, Arlington County issued a press release stating the fire was "controlled" but not fully "extinguished". Firefighters continued to put out smaller fires that ignited in the succeeding days.
Various pieces of aircraft debris were found within the wreckage at the Pentagon. While on fire and escaping from the Navy Command Center, Lt. Kevin Shaeffer observed a chunk of the aircraft's nose cone and the nose landing gear in the service road between rings B and C. Early in the morning on Friday, September 14, Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team members Carlton Burkhammer and Brian Moravitz came across an "intact seat from the plane's cockpit", while paramedics and firefighters located the two black boxes near the punch out hole in the A-E drive, nearly 300 feet (91 m) into the building. The cockpit voice recorder was too badly damaged and charred to retrieve any information, though the flight data recorder yielded useful information. Investigators also found a part of Nawaf al-Hazmi's driver's license in the North Parking Lot rubble pile. Personal effects belonging to victims were found and taken to Fort Myer.
Army engineers determined by 5:30 p.m. on the first day that no one remained alive in the damaged section of the building. In the days after the crash, news reports emerged that up to 800 people had died. Army soldiers from Fort Belvoir were the first teams to survey the interior of the crash site and noted the presence of human remains.Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue teams, including Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue assisted the search for remains, working through the National Interagency Incident Management System (NIIMS). Kevin Rimrodt, a Navy photographer surveying the Navy Command Center after the attacks, remarked that "there were so many bodies, I'd almost step on them. So I'd have to really take care to look backwards as I'm backing up in the dark, looking with a flashlight, making sure I'm not stepping on somebody". Debris from the Pentagon was taken to the Pentagon's north parking lot for more detailed search for remains and evidence.
Remains that were recovered from the Pentagon were photographed, and turned over to the Armed Forces Medical Examiner office, located at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The medical examiner's office was able to identify remains belonging to 179 of the victims. Investigators eventually identified 184 of the 189 people who died in the attack. The remains of the five hijackers were identified through a process of elimination, and were turned over as evidence to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). On September 21, the ACFD relinquished control of the crime scene to the FBI. The Washington Field Office, National Capital Response Squad (NCRS), and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) led the crime scene investigation at the Pentagon.
By October 2, 2001, the search for evidence and remains was complete and the site was turned over to Pentagon officials. In 2002, the remains of 25 victims were buried collectively at Arlington National Cemetery, with a five-sided granite marker inscribed with the names of all the victims in the Pentagon. The ceremony also honored the five victims whose remains were never found.
At around 3:40 a.m. on September 14, a paramedic and a firefighter who were searching through the debris of the impact site found two dark boxes, about 1.5 feet (46 cm) by 2 feet (61 cm) long. They called for an FBI agent, who in turn called for someone from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NTSB employee confirmed that these were the flight recorders ("black boxes") from American Airlines Flight 77. Dick Bridges, deputy manager for Arlington County, Virginia, said the cockpit voice recorder was damaged on the outside and the flight data recorder was charred. Bridges said the recorders were found "right where the plane came into the building."
The cockpit voice recorder was transported to the NTSB lab in Washington, D.C., to see what data was salvageable. In its report, the NTSB identified the unit as an L-3 Communications, Fairchild Aviation Recorders model A-100A cockpit voice recorder—a device which records on magnetic tape. No usable segments of tape were found inside the recorder; according to the NTSB's report, "[t]he majority of the recording tape was fused into a solid block of charred plastic". On the other hand, all the data from the flight data recorder, which used a solid-state drive, was recovered.
Continuity of operations
At the moment of impact, Secretary of DefenseDonald Rumsfeld was in his office on the other side of the Pentagon, away from the crash site. He ran to the site and assisted the injured. Rumsfeld returned to his office, and went to a conference room in the Executive Support Center where he joined a secure videoteleconference with Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials. On the day of the attacks, DoD officials considered moving their command operations to Site R, a backup facility in Pennsylvania. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld insisted he remain at the Pentagon, and sent Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to Site R. The National Military Command Center (NMCC) continued to operate at the Pentagon, even as smoke entered the facility. Engineers and building managers manipulated the ventilation and other building systems that still functioned to draw smoke out of the NMCC and bring in fresh air.
During a press conference held inside the Pentagon at 18:42, Rumsfeld announced, "The Pentagon's functioning. It will be in business tomorrow." Pentagon employees returned the next day to offices in mostly unaffected areas of the building. By the end of September, more workers returned to the lightly damaged areas of the Pentagon.
Early estimates on rebuilding the damaged section of the Pentagon were that it would take three years to complete. However, the project moved forward at an accelerated pace and was completed by the one-year anniversary of the attack. The rebuilt section of the Pentagon includes a small indoor memorial and chapel at the point of impact. An outdoor memorial, commissioned by the Pentagon and designed by Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman, was completed on schedule for its dedication on September 11, 2008. Since September 11, American Airlines continues to fly from Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport. As of August 2016, flight number 77 has been renumbered to 2636, now using a Boeing 737-800, departing at 7:40 in the morning.
Security camera video
The Department of Defense released filmed footage on May 16, 2006, that was recorded by a security camera of American Airlines Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon, with a plane visible in one frame, as a "thin white blur" and an explosion following. The images were made public in response to a December 2004 Freedom of Information Act request by Judicial Watch. Some still images from the video had previously been released and publicly circulated, but this was the first official release of the edited video of the crash.
A nearby Citgo service station also had security cameras, but a video released on September 15, 2006 did not show the crash because the camera was pointed away from the crash site.
The Doubletree Hotel, located nearby in Crystal City, Virginia, also had a security camera video. The FBI released the video on December 4, 2006, in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by Scott Bingham. The footage is "grainy and the focus is soft, but a rapidly growing tower of smoke is visible in the distance on the upper edge of the frame as the plane crashes into the building".
On September 12, 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dedicated the Victims of Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial specifically honors the five individuals for whom no identifiable remains were found. This included Dana Falkenberg, age three, who was aboard American Airlines Flight 77 with her parents and older sister. A portion of the remains of 25 other victims are also buried at the site. The memorial is a pentagonalgranite marker 4.5 feet (1.4 m) high. On five sides of the memorial along the top are inscribed the words "Victims of Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon September 11, 2001". Aluminum plaques, painted black, are inscribed with the names of the 184 victims of the terrorist attack. The site is located in Section 64, on a slight rise, which gives it a view of the Pentagon.
At the National September 11 Memorial, the names of the Pentagon victims are inscribed on the South Pool, on Panels S-1 and S-72 – S-76.
The Pentagon Memorial, located just southwest of The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, is a permanent outdoor memorial to the 184 people who died as victims in the building and on American Airlines Flight 77 during the September 11 attacks. Designed by Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman of the architectural firm of Kaseman Beckman Advanced Strategies with engineers Buro Happold, the memorial opened on September 11, 2008, seven years after the attack.
Nationalities of people on the plane
Note: This list does not include the nationalities of the five hijackers.
"[W]e've got to tell the Bureau about this. These guys clearly are bad. One of them, at least, has a multiple-entry visa to the U.S. We've got to tell the FBI." And then [the CIA officer] said to me, 'No, it's not the FBI's case, not the FBI's jurisdiction.' "
Mark Rossini, "The Spy Factory"