Flight 93 Military FAQ
Q) Does the military even have a response to this kind of threat? (comment: initially many critics I spoke with raised this objection that the military wasn't smart enough or good enough or planned for this hijack threat. Bush and Cheney have both said "No one would ever have imagined this". Bunk. If Tom Clancey could conceive of an airliner crashing into the Whitehouse scenario in his book years ago, then the military has thought about it since then.
A) While military air defense crews had practiced intercepts of hijacked planes, the exercises had tended to assume the aircraft would be outside U.S. borders, over the Atlantic or Pacific, with time to consult the White House before any drastic action was taken.
comment: Either we have some pretty dumb planners in the Air Defense or the last bit is totally absurd. Only flights originating in UK/Europe, Hawaii, Tahiti etc. are planned for??? We currently ignore Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Bahamas (30 minutes off Florida) etc.? Not to mention all domestic air traffic? The idea we'd never trained for internal hijacks is either totally absurd or totally frightening. (This was the story 3 days after the crash. It took a while for them to concede this much.)
In 1995, the CIA and the FBI learned that Osama bin Laden was planning to hijack U.S. airliners and use them as bombs to attack important targets in the U.S. This scheme was called Project Bojinka.
Comment: Who's getting fired?
A) NORAD received word at 8:38 a.m. that a United Airlines flight had been hijacked, and six minutes later, two F-15 fighter jets were ordered into the air from Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod. The military jets were airborne at 8:52. When a second United plane hit the other tower at 9:02, they were still 70 miles away from Manhattan, officials said.
Comment: Then what did these F-15s' do? Stay on patrol? Why would they go back home? Doesn't make sense. They would have stayed up.
-- 9:30 a.m., six minutes after receiving their orders from the
Comment: So we learn another plane is heading toward Washington minutes after 9:02 (Airliner 2) but we didn't order scramble until 9:24? Cheney admitted he was warned of the third flight 20 minutes earlier. Todd Beamer reported the Flight 93 hijacking at 9:20am.
Interestingly, another friend of mine had a Pentagon witness friend of his say he saw fighters 10 seconds after the Pentagon crash. That makes more sense. No matter, then what did these F-16s' do? Go back home? Or stay on patrol?
On a newsgroup a former Pentagon Air Force Traffic controller writes:
All those years ago when I was in the Pentagon, this wouldn't have happened. ATC Radar images were (and are) available in the understructures of the Pentagon, and any commercial flight within 300 miles of DC that made an abrupt course change toward Washington, turned off their transponder, and refused to communicate with ATC, would have been intercepted at supersonic speeds within a max of 9 minutes by a Fighter out of Andrews. Period. Why these planes weren't, baffles me. If we could get fighters off the ground in 2 minutes then, we could now.
A) Comment: Most likely, the timeline of events makes it nearly inconceivable that Flight 93 wasn't intercepted. Air Traffic Controllers have reported one F-16 in hot pursuit, though the Government has denied a Fighter was in the immediate area from the day of the crash. If a fighter was in the area it doesn't mean Flight 93 was shot down. But IF true, it would mean a variety of government officials lied to the people. Why lie about that? Read on -
Here the Gov't denies it:
In any case, Pentagon officials say they can find no records that the FAA asked the military to intervene. And since Tuesday, the Department of Defense has repeatedly denied persistent rumors that Flight 93 may have been shot down.
comment: Clinton style lie. "Couldn't find the records." Oh OK.
Here they deny a Jet in close proximity, but admit they were in position to shoot Flight 93 down:
Comment: Subsequently, on Meet the Press later that week Dick Cheney said Jets were up and had the OK to fire while Bush was in Florida. Before 9:30am or 9:45 at the latest..
At 9:30 a.m., six minutes after receiving their orders from the
Then the pilots received the most surreal order of the awful
"We were already tracking that plane that crashed in Pennsylvania," Wolfowitz said in an interview with public television's "Newshour with Jim Lehrer."
"I think it was the heroism of the passengers on board that brought it down but the Air Force was in a position to do so if we had to," Wolfowitz added.
Another Denial on the 16th:
Comment: This story are fairly amusing. An F-16 cruises at 577MPH and has a max of at least 1,800 mph according to a F-16 trainer I saw on TV. Without knowing the convergence, let's guess 1000mph minimum or about 17 miles a minute. At that speed these F-16's were less than 2 minutes out of unclassified missile range.
Here is what seems most true (and logical) to me, but it's only reported in one place I've seen:
(Nashua Telegraph published this 10-13-2001):
The Nashua controllers have learned through discussions with other controllers that an F-16 fighter stayed in hot pursuit of another hijacked commercial airliner until it crashed in Pennsylvania, the employee said.
Although controllers don't have complete details of the Air Force's chase of the Boeing 757, they have learned the F-16 made 360-degree turns to remain close to the commercial jet, the employee said.
"He must've seen the whole thing," the employee said of the F-16 pilot's view of United Flight 93's crash near Pittsburgh. The flight took off from Newark Airport for San Francisco, and authorities say the hijackers were headed for another target in Washington, D.C.
A) Comment: Some people seem to think they know exactly what would have happened. I'm not sure how they came to their conclusions. I couldn't find a video of a 757 getting shot at by a Fighter anywhere. I'm not aware of anyone witnessing such an occurrence, and I can find no reports online of this happening.
An email I got: Someone close to me was involved in the improvements of air to air missiles after Vietnam war and various weapon systems during the cold war (primarily on the target tracking part and not explosive part) but he does not believe any air to air missile has the ability to blow a 757 to pieces. The mission of the missile is not to destroy the airplane, but to simply render it out of service by destroying its target's power plant or disrupt its flight. This way, the missile can be agile and fast. If missile was fired it would simply hit one of the two engines on 757. But given the size of the aircraft, it would remain in flight for a short period of time.
From Another Email: This is very, very easy to answer: NO.
Korean Airlines KAL007, a Boeing 747, was shot down by the Soviet Union Air Force on Sep. 1, 1983. They hit her with two missiles, an Apex and an Aphid. The Apex is a very heavy AA missile, with a 40kg preformatted HE warhead --if that thing gets you, no doubt it'll ruin your day. And although KAL007 was lost, she wasn't "blown out of the sky", but rather lost control, took fire and fell. Japanese fishermen witnessed it. The crew onboard heard the explosion and were communicating for 2 minutes after the initial impact.
Iran Air IR655, an Airbus A-300, was shot down by a Ticonderoga-class US Navy vessel, the USS Vincennes, on Jul. 3, 1988 with a very different kind of weapon: two RIM-66 Standard naval SA missiles, bearing 62kg HE each. No fighter carries such kind of missile, it's a naval/ground thing. Well, even with these beasts, IR655 lost one of its wings and the tail, lost control and fell, but, again, it wasn't "blown out of the sky".
Itavia flight 870, a much smaller plane (DC-9), was shot down by one or two AA missiles of unknown type fired by a NATO fighter over the Mediterranean on Jun. 27, 1980. The missile(s) hit exactly behind the cockpit, and almost severed the fuselage in two parts, a very messy thing. Well, this one didn't blow up, either, but also fell to the sea.
We can safely assume that civilian and civilian-sized liners don't tend to be "blown out of the sky", but rather lose control, take fire and drop when hit by military missiles. No balloons here. But you must consider that they will usually leave a fire or smoke trail, because they always take fire in one or another way. Hint: these trails aren't always evident for ground observers, since angles and speeds vary considerably and are not part of the witnesses' daily experience. They see the trail, but usually fail to identify or locate it appropiately. Oppositely, modern AA missiles don't have a very visible trail -they're designed to be as stealthy as possible. There will be a trail (except for Stinger-sized missiles), but many witnesses will miss it.
Back to me thinking out loud: There are 2 ways to shoot one of these things down. Cannons and Missiles.
F-16 Missiles Available:
The missiles all acquire targets from any angle. I don't believe shooting an Airliner with a Sidewinder would have disintegrated it in midair. A sidewinder is 10 feet long with a 20 lb explosive payload. It has been suggested that if the missile was not armed it could have targeted the engine, knocking it off, without causing a large explosion. I'm not sure it's reasonable to assume the pilot wouldn't arm it. Then again, I'm not sure it's reasonable to think anything on the Flight Data Recorder is going to jeopardize anything in this investigation - so what do I know?
Most military footage I've seen of missile hits on much smaller fighters (loaded with weapons and fuel) show a significant part of the fighters hit fall from the sky and cause significant ground damage. Please recall the guy who bailed from his F-16 after it was hit by a surface to air missile some years ago. His tiny F-16 (by comparison) was in tact enough to eject AFTER a ground to air hit. The same thing happened to John McCain over Vietnam. Also, an infrared seeking Sidewinder missile should have targeted an engine. The power of a Sidewinder missile isn't huge - it just needs to disable an engine - and they are fairly light so they can travel at mach 2 to mach 4. AMRAAM's are reported to have a higher payload and should have attacked the radar - hitting the fuselage. That could have been catastrophic.
Gatling cannon - Range: 1 mile Ordinance: 20mm shell.
Less damaging than a missile. Capable of inflicting enough harm to disable the aircraft, but would require a very close range.
Since none of us has seen a 757 get hit with an air to air missile we can't really know. Perhaps a fighter pilot can clue us in to what would happen.
But we do know Pan Am 103 (Lockerbie) was blown up in midair, debris was scattered for 80 (eighty) miles and still created a huge ground crater:
The part that hit Lockerbie created a crater with a volume aprx. 560 kubicmeters, about 47 meters (155 feet) broad and 196 feet long. The weight of material displaced by the wing structure was estimated to be well in excess of 1500 tonnes.
A) (CBS) The cockpit voice recorder from United Flight 93 appears to be damaged, CBS News has learned....
FBI officials at the crash scene near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, had initially been very hopeful of gaining clues into how the hijackers took over United Airlines Flight 93, saying the recorder had come out of the ground in "fairly good condition."
The voice recorder would have picked up the last 30 minutes of conversation in the cockpit, unless the hijackers turned it off or it was too severely damaged in the crash. It was found around 8:25 p.m. Thursday, 25 feet below the ground in the crater gouged out by the doomed jet. It appeared to be in good condition.
comment: Looks great coming out of 35 feet of mud, but once the NTSB gets it, it's broken. Also, the Pentagon Voice Recorder appears blank or erased. Wow, what a surprise. Does anyone crash test these things?
STONYCREEK, Pa. -- The director of the FBI said that investigators "are transcribing and, in some cases, translating," voices heard on the cockpit voice recorder that was recovered from the crash of United Flight 93...It is the only functioning audio recorder recovered so far from any of the four hijacked aircraft...
"We recovered the flight data recorder here as well as the voice recorder, and we and the NTSB are in the process of transcribing and, in certain cases, translating, the dialogue -- what little dialogue there is -- on that voice recorder," Mueller said.
Comment: Okay wait - it works!! Well now we're getting somewhere - both black boxes! We ought to be able to get a pretty good idea of what happened. Will their story support the ground evidence? Will they ever let us hear the whole thing?
At a news conference on Thursday morning, Crowley told reporters that FBI investigators had not ruled out the possibility (of a shootdown). But he later (the same day) retracted the statement, saying unequivocally `there was no military involvement in what happened here.'
Boy, he got religion fast.
Q) Is the press lying?