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Attack on the Pentagon: 9/11 Revisited

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Attack on the Pentagon: 9/11 Revisited

Much talk about the terrorist strike of the Pentagon on 9/11 revolves around the possibility, or to some, the probability, that a missile, not an airplane, actually hit the building. This article, written from the perspective of someone familiar with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) system will attempt to shed some light on the event.

In order to understand why it would have been virtually impossible to have substituted a missile for the American airliner, it is necessary to understand some details of the ATC system with which most people don’t normally concern themselves.

A Typical American Airlines Flight

Let us first use this American Airlines flight as an example of what a typical airlines flight would look like behind the scenes.

All that is presented here is fact, unless annotated as an opinion.

Prior to a flight, a flight-plan must be “on file” (on the record) in the ATC computer system. This flight plan will contain information such as:

  • aircraft identification
  • departure point
  • route of flight
  • requested altitude
  • destination
  • time en route
  • fuel on board
  • number of people on board
  • crew information
  • other pertinent information

Thirty minutes prior to the stated departure time, a “strip” will print out at the ATC Tower as an alert to the controllers and will list the flight plan information as approved, or will list any amendments made necessary by the ATC system.

typical flight plan

When the aircraft is ready for its “pushback”, it must obtain clearance to do so since tarmacs are quite busy and the view of the pilots is very restricted.

The FAA has delegated this responsibility to major airlines operating out of major terminals due to mutual convenience.

Since many major airlines control several gates and concourses they will have trained personnel in mini-towers along those gates handling movement of THEIR OWN aircraft along their ramp areas.

After receiving their pushback clearance, the aircraft may taxi to the end of their ramp area but may not enter any taxiways without further clearance from the FAA tower. When ready, the crew ( usually the first officer handles the radio duties) will request taxi clearance.

airplane taxing

The controller in the FAA Tower will scan the area. If there are no conflicts, he or she will clear the aircraft to taxi to the area near the active runway which will be used for departure. This is done by a controller working what is known as the “ground control” position.

The crew will also at some point request its clearance. Control of the airplane is then transferred to another controller working the “local control” position, who is responsible for issuing departure and landing clearances/instructions to aircraft.

When the aircraft is finally ready for takeoff, the controller will allow the aircraft to go on the runway and clear it for takeoff.

All of this is of significance because note the many people that have witnessed this aircraft up to this point:

  1. All of the American Airlines people that prepared the aircraft for departure.
  2. The “ground-controller”.
  3. The “local-controller” and others in the tower. (these controllers will rotate through all positions every 2 hours or so).

Additional Witnesses After Takeoff

Next, our airplane is in the air and leaving the airport area. The departure clearance would have included a frequency and an instruction to contact “departure”.

An intercom call would have gone downstairs to the radar room controller telling him/her (herein referred to as her for brevity) to expect the aircraft momentarily. The crew will make the contact with something like:

“Washington Departure this is American 77 with you on 118.5.”

The controller will see the radar return on his scope and respond with:

“American 77, Washington Departure, Radar Contact.”

The controller will then issue further clearance instructions such as clearing the aircraft to pass a specific point on the route at a certain altitude and then clear it for climb to cruising altitude.

The aircraft will stay under the control of this controller until it reaches the outer boundary of the Departure control/Approach control area (herein TRACON), typically 35-50 miles or so.

flight tower

At that point the aircraft will be told to contact the Air Route Traffic Control Center (Center) and will be given the frequency. When the aircraft does this, the same procedure is repeated and the Center controller will respond with “Radar Contact”, verifying that the controller sees the airplane on his scope and has assumed responsibility for it.

The airplane will now continue its climb and establish itself along the pre-planned route. Note here how many different people have tracked this aircraft up to this point.

American 77 Tracked on Radar

The aircraft has been tracked by this point by the Tower on it’s “Brite” scope and by “Departure” on it’s radar console using “primary” radar.

The processor determines the position of the aircraft (range and azimuth) and depicts this as a primary radar echo along with the information from the aircraft’s transponder.

From the time the Center assumed responsibility for the flight, the aircraft has been tracked by secondary radar only. Secondary radar “interrogates” a piece of avionic equipment on board the aircraft called a “transponder”. The transponder responds with the Aircraft identification, altitude, heading, and other information. All of that is displayed on the controller’s scope, but if the aircraft were to turn off its transponder, it would be invisible to secondary radar.

As American 77 flew along its planned path, sometime around 8:50 to 8:55 AM, depending on who reports it, it made its last routine contact with the Center.

dick cheney

On “Meet the Press” on Sept. 16th, Dick Cheney said that at 9:09 there had been a report of a downed aircraft over Ohio but that had been an error. What had actually happened was that the aircraft had turned off its transponder.

Normally, when a controller loses communications with an aircraft, the controller will first attempt to contact the crew by repeated attempts. In this case, the loss of transponder signal was very worrisome since it is extremely rare to have a malfunction of both pieces of equipment at the same time.

There are protocols for reacting to such situations. For example, calls will be made to the Search and Rescue Center (RCC), to other facilities, including the military, and to local law enforcement in the area where the aircraft was known to have been at the loss of signal.

At about this time American 77 had begun its turn back towards Washington D.C. Since other facilities, including NORAD had been alerted, radar tapes would later be available for review.

Eventually some facilities did pick up the flight on their radars that day. It is estimated that the aircraft was “invisible” for thirty minutes. Some dispute that and say the time was much shorter. Regardless, at approximately 9:40 AM the aircraft crashed into the Pentagon.

American 77 and the Missing Time

Many of the conspiracy theories rely on that missing time period when the aircraft was not visible to radar the on the day of the incident.

pentagon crash

If you ask where the missile came from, they will respond it was switched with the airplane. If you ask how, they’ll point to the 30 minutes of “missing time” as to when the switch took place.

If you ask what happened to the airplane, some will say there was never a real airplane, others will say it landed “at an Air Force base in Ohio”.

Let us explore some of these accusations and see if they are able to withstand logical scrutiny.

We’ve already established that a real aircraft was visibly seen by many witnesses to taxi, take off and fly away from Washington. So let’s dispense with the “there was no real aircraft” claims.

As to the claims that during the 30 minutes of “missing time” the airplane was switched with a missile before facilities started tracking it again: The first necessity would be to have missile approach, undetected, the area where American 77 was flying at the time.

Shooting Down the “Global Hawk” Theory

They explain this away by saying it was a Global Hawk.

global hawk

To have a Global Hawk be launched, fly along a route and be substituted for an airliner that is later reported to have crashed would involve dozens of individuals who would have known about the launch (there aren’t that many Global Hawks around), the flight, and subsequently have become aware of the conspiracy theory and not have spoke up and said “yes, there was a Global Hawk in that area that day”.

Or, are we to believe that all of those people were co-opted into silence by intimidation?

What about the switch? Would not radar tape playbacks of the primary radars that tracked them, show two objects approaching the other and then one one turning towards Washington and one going to…??…an Air Force base?

None of the playbacks show anything even approaching such a scenario. But the advocates of this conspiracy maintain that all of the people reviewing the tapes were co-opted as well.

Could that be possible? Radar tapes are ALWAYS archived for a minimum period of two weeks, routinely. If nothing at all out of the ordinary happens, that day’s tape is used again. If at any time during those two weeks the FAA or an individual facility becomes aware of an incident of ANY sort, that tape is archived indefinitely pending orders of disposition from the highest levels.

You can bet that many facilities in the country were ordered to retain those tapes.

Usually, after the tape is pulled for review the first people to view the tape are the lower echelon types, the “worker bees”. Among these are people from the Quality Assurance office, the Training department, the Plans and Procedures office and the controllers and supervisors that were involved at the time of the incident accompanied, as REQUIRED, by a Union representative.

Later, middle and upper management view the tapes and assume responsibility for making copies and oversee the distribution to authorized entities. In a case like this, the FBI, the National Transportation Safety Board and the military coordinators would request and receive copies. Sometimes other agencies such as CIA, Customs, DEA and others also become involved depending on the circumstances.

How many of those would we have to co-opt to keep the real contents of the tapes from coming out? All of them. At the very least, the lowest echelon people, ordinary controllers, supervisors, specialists and Union officials would have to be co-opted while aware of the enormous implications of their silence.

Yet, this is what our conspirator friends would have you believe.

Debunking American 77 and the Ohio Air Force Base

Now that we have a Global Hawk flying to Washington according to our friends, let us go back to our missing airplane.

Our conspirators tell us that it landed somewhere in Ohio at an Air Force base. I have not read anywhere where they have named this base, but the assumption is generally that it was Wright-Patterson AFB.

wright patterson air force base

The crew, you ask? They had been co-opted prior to the flight. The passengers? Well, you have to press them on this one, but they will eventually say that they were all secretly eliminated along with the crew.

(Loyalty only goes so far, I guess).

The airplane? It was disassembled and disposed of. How many more dozens of people would have to be silenced for this to be accomplished?

Well, the Air Traffic Controllers at the Air Force Base, all the witnesses who saw this huge civilian airliner landing at a military facility, the people who took charge of the crew and passengers and took them somewhere to be eliminated, and the mechanics and specialists who disassembled the airplane, cut it into pieces, and trucked it off somewhere secret (Underground at Wright Patterson with the Aliens?)

We hear the conspirators say that the Global Hawk, equipped with a missile and explosives, made it to the Pentagon in record time, fired the missile and then slammed into the building causing the horrendous damage and loss of life.

Yet, we have pictures of landing gear struts, tires and rims, engine parts and other debris that is totally consistent with the type of aircraft that departed as American 77. Was the Global Hawk carrying all of this too?

And what about the damage? Why do we need two-thousand pound bombs or even the ten thousand pound MOAB to inflict all of that damage when a Global Hawk with a missile will accomplish the same thing?

9/11 Conspiracies Get It All Wrong

There is also a lot of mixing apples and oranges in these 9/11 conspiracies.

For example, rules and regulations were vastly different prior to 9/11 than they are now. Before this terrorist act, it would have been unthinkable for the military to shoot down a civilian airliner full of people.

Think back to our reaction, and the rest of the world’s to the shooting down of the Korean Airliner by the Soviet Union near the Kamchatka peninsula.

kamchatka peninsula shootdown

In fact, the protocol was so unclear that it was the opinion of most of the military Generals interviewed by the 9/11 commission that such authority rested only with the Presidency.

Yet, our conspirators point to failure by the military to shoot down any of the airplanes as proof furthering their theories. Even interceptions by the military, without any shoot downs, over the interior of the U.S. were rare.

Almost all interceptions occurred in airspace along the southern, south-western and south-eastern portions of our border, most of it due to drug trafficking or an occasional suspicious act on the part of Castro. The rest were due to aircraft straying over restricted airspace such as the White House, or military reservations such as the Nellis ranges.

Of course, all of this has changed drastically since 9/11. All of the finger pointing and blaming frankly comes across as a shrill cry to accept their theory which cannot hold up under scrutiny.

Believers that the U.S. government had some form of involvement in the 9/11 tragedy would better serve themselves and their country by putting aside thoughts that an airplane did not hit the Pentagon, and by directing their efforts toward uncovering WHY the government was involved. THAT may get us real answers.

Editor’s Note: This article was edited and republished from it’s original at now-defunct The author was “Max”, a member of the RU forum.

Originally published on

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