Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Where was Flight 77 after 8:56?

This article has been published on the Loose Change forum a while ago. I was surprised that the fate of Flight 77 is widely unknown, so I re-post it here.

I would like to illuminate the fate of Flight 77 after it vanished from radar because it looks to me that many people don't know much about it, despite its importance.

At 8:56, the blip of Flight 77 vanished from the radar screens of Indianapolis Center, the responsible ATC facility, and at the same time radio communication was lost. This is a well known and well confirmed fact. Just take a look at the ATC transcript:

The controllers thought it had crashed and submitted their assessment to other ATC centers, FAA headquarters and American Airlines. This caused the top AA management to believe that Flight 77 crashed into the South Tower - they believed it until the Pentagon strike! There were also rumors going around that a plane crashed near the Ohio-Kentucky border (as confirmed in Richard Clarke's "Against all enemies"), which is exactly the area where Flight 77 vanished (take a look at the Flight Explorer animation in the transcript link).

For sure, the controllers activated primary radar as soon as they lost Flight 77 to look for him, but this measure was obviously not successful. Flight 77 was not detected by any controller until it was picked up at 9:32 by Dulles TRACON controllers. (The only man who knew its position at 9:25 was Norman Mineta...)

For someone who's aware of Operation Northwoods this stinks of a plane swap: Flight 77 crashed or landed somewhere near the Ohio-Kentucky border, and the plane that was detected by the Dulles controllers was not Flight 77.

The 9/11 Commissioners are surely aware of Operation Northwoods, but advocate another theory:

The failure to find a primary radar return for American 77 led us to investigate this issue further. Radar reconstructions performed after 9/11 reveal that FAA radar equipment tracked the flight from the moment its transponder was turned off at 8:56. But for 8 minutes and 13 seconds, between 8:56 and 9:05, this primary radar information on American 77 was not displayed to controllers at Indianapolis Center.142 The reasons are technical, arising from the way the software processed radar information, as well as from poor primary radar coverage where American 77 was flying.

According to the radar reconstruction, American 77 reemerged as a primary target on Indianapolis Center radar scopes at 9:05, east of its last known posi-tion. The target remained in Indianapolis Center's airspace for another six minutes, then crossed into the western portion of Washington Center's airspace at 9:10.As Indianapolis Center continued searching for the aircraft, two managers and the controller responsible for American 77 looked to the west and southwest along the flight's projected path, not east-where the aircraft was now heading. Managers did not instruct other controllers at Indianapolis Center to turn on their primary radar coverage to join in the search for American 77.143

In sum, Indianapolis Center never saw Flight 77 turn around. By the time it reappeared in primary radar coverage, controllers had either stopped looking for the aircraft because they thought it had crashed or were looking toward the west. Although the Command Center learned Flight 77 was missing, neither it nor FAA headquarters issued an all points bulletin to surrounding centers to search for primary radar targets. American 77 traveled undetected for 36 minutes on a course heading due east for Washington, D.C.144

So the Commission thinks that at first, Flight 77 slided into a radar hole and was therefore not visible to controllers. This raises the question why the controllers, who surely were familiar with the position and extent of this alleged radar hole, were so quickly convinced that Flight 77 had crashed.

After that, the Commissions surprises us with their finding, obtained through "radar reconstruction", that Flight 77 reemerged at the radar screens of Indianapolis controllers, but was missed by them, because they were looking into the wrong direction.

Someone here who has the same little trust in the competence of professional controllers?

Then the Commission continues with the claim that Flight 77 crossed the border to Washington Center at 9:10, heading eastwards. But the Washington controllers didn't detect the plane either, because they were "not told to look for primary targets."

This is a breathtaking claim. Of course, Washington Center was informed by Indianapolis pretty early about the loss of Flight 77. Did the controllers expect it to reappear with full transponder data, and did they refrain from activating the primary radar routine for this reason?

The claim is not only an insult to the intelligence of the controllers, it is also wrong. Here is a transcript snippet between Washington Center and NEADS which proves that they were indeed looking for AA 77 for a long time:


WASHINGTON CENTER: Now, let me tell you this. I—I'll—we've been looking. We're—also lost American 77—

WATSON: American 77?

DOOLEY: American 77's lost—

WATSON: Where was it proposed to head, sir?

WASHINGTON CENTER: Okay, he was going to L.A. also—

WATSON: From where, sir?

WASHINGTON CENTER: I think he was from Boston also. Now let me tell you this story here. Indianapolis Center was working this guy—

WATSON: What guy?

WASHINGTON CENTER: American 77, at flight level 3-5-0 [35,000 feet]. However, they lost radar with him. They lost contact with him. They lost everything. And they don't have any idea where he is or what happened.

Bottom line: Whatever happened to Flight 77, it's official flight path after 8:56 is pure speculation, and the evidence suggests that it didn't fly back to Washington at all. To those who say that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon or are agnostic on this question, this is another serious blow.