The Pentagon Was Not Struck by a Hijacked Jet on September 11-Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

The allegation  is that the destruction at the Pentagon on September 11 was not the result of being hit by a hijacked American Airlines 757, but some other cause.  The theories range from the building being hit by a remote-control U.S. fighter jet to being damaged by a truck bomb.  

The Truth:

There are numerous sites that promote the notion that the U.S. government is covering up the true cause of the Pentagon destruction on September 11, but the main one is from France at http://www.asile.org/citoyens/numero13/pentagone/erreurs_en.htm

In large headline, it asks the reader to “Hunt the Boeing,” referring to the American Airlines Boeing 757 that plunged into the Pentagon.

The site is a part of speculation by conspiracy theorists and includes a book published in France by Thierry Meyssan titled “The Frightening Fraud.”  In it, the author contends that flight #77 did not end by crashing into the Pentagon and that the whole thing is part of a government plot and cover-up.  Meyssan says it doesn’t make sense to him that there aren’t any airplane pieces left over from the crash and that the Pentagon did not immediately fall from the impact.

The website asks several questions, which we will deal with in order.

1.  “The Associated Press first reported that a booby trapped truck had caused the explosion.”
If this AP report was made, TruthOrFiction.com has not been able to find it and none of the sites that makes reference to it lists a source.  Conflicting reports are common during breaking stories and if someone did speculate a truck bomb, that theory quickly disappeared.

2.  “Can you explain how a Boeing 757- 200, weighing nearly 100 tons and travelling at a minimum speed of 250 miles an hour only damaged the outside of the Pentagon?
First, the Pentagon suffered extensive damage to more than just the outside. CLICK HERE TO SEE CHART   Also, the portion of the Pentagon where the plane hit was probably the most heavily reinforced.  In the October 3, 2001 edition of Architecture Week, B.J. Novitski wrote that the impact of the plane was in “Wedge One,” which had been strengthened by recent renovation, a project that was inspired, in part, by the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. He says that contrary to what is believed, the casualties among workers in the Pentagon were not low because of vacant offices, but because of the extraordinary structural strength of the building.  Novitski says that about 80 percent of the workers in the wedge were on duty that day, but …”the exterior walls had been reinforced with steel beams and columns, bolted where they met at each floor. Some of these reinforced walls very near the point of impact remained in place for a half hour before collapsing, allowing uncounted hundreds to escape.”  The hijackers chose one of the most reinforced buildings in the world to crash into.

3.  ‘Can you explain how a Boeing 14.9 yards high, 51.7 yards long, with a wingspan of 41.6 yards and a cockpit 3.8 yards high, could crash into just the ground floor of this building?’
Eyewitnesses to the crash as well as video from a security camera at the Pentagon show that the plane struck at ground level.  Considering the description of the strength of the building (above), it is not surprising that the weaker appendages of the plane such as the tail and the wings would not have had as much of an impact as the main body.

4.  “Can you explain why the Defence [sic] Secretary deemed it necessary to sand over the lawn, which was otherwise undamaged after the attack?”
According to the article in Architecture Week, it was for a gravel bed that provided a road for large trucks to have access to the crash site.

5.  “Can you explain what happened to the wings of the aircraft and why they caused no damage?”
Same answer as in #3.  Photographs show indentations where the stronger, inner portions of the wings may have made impact, but the farther out towards the tips of the wings and the tail, the less they would have had effect.

6.  “Can you find the aircraft’s point of impact?
We’re not sure what this question is supposed to mean.  There are plenty of pictures that show clearly where the airplane hit the building.  For some reason, the creators of the website chose two of the pictures that don’t show it clearly.  Dick Bridges, the deputy manager for Arlington County was quoted by AP on September 14, 2001, as saying that both of the “black boxes” for flight #77 were found “…right where the plane came into the building.”  If the recorders didn’t get much beyond that, the plane not only struck the building at that point, but the ground as well.  The cockpit voice recorder was so badly damaged that it didn’t yield any information.

Other considerations…

1.  If it was not American Airlines flight 77 that hit the Pentagon, then where is the airplane and the 64 people who were aboard?
None of the conspiracy sites answers that question.  Few of them even ask it.

2.  If it was not American Airlines flight 77, then why do they have evidence of the bodies of known crew, passengers, and hijackers?
C. Christopher Kelley of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology says that the effort to identify bodies that ended on November 16, 2001, identified all but one of the victims of flight 77.

3.  In response to the question of “Where is the Boeing,” the answer is “in pieces.”
There was plenty of evidence of the airplane at the site including debris from the plane, as mentioned above, the remains of the passengers, and the cockpit data and voice recorders.  Associated Press Military Writer Robert Burns reported on September 13,2001,  that members of congress who had visited the Pentagon crash site were told by rescue officials that much of the fuselage of the Boeing 757 remained intact inside the damaged Pentagon.

4.  Radar tracked the plane toward the Pentagon.
Much has been made on some of the conspiracy sites that the transponder in the cockpit was turned off by the hijackers so it isn’t clear what happened to the plane after that.  The founder of TruthOrFiction.com, Rich Buhler, is a licensed commercial pilot and says the transponder being turned off doesn’t mean the plane can no longer be seen on radar.  The transponder is a device that not only makes the airplane more visible on a radar screen, but also gives the radar controller other information such as the altitude, speed, and sometimes the identity of the airliner.  If the transponder is turned off, radar controllers can usually still see what is called the “primary target.”  That means there is a blip on the radar screen showing the location.  According to www.airdisaster.com, flight 77’s transponder was turned off shortly after departure from Dulles airport near Washington DC, but radar controllers could see the primary target flying directly toward the White House.  Then the plane was seen to veer away from the White House and head for the Pentagon.