Discussion

The physical evidence at the Pentagon is consistent with the view that a plane with the wingspan of a Boeing 757 flew into the Pentagon[17] along a straight line at a heading of about 61°, damaging light poles, a fence and a heavy generator; largely penetrated the outer wall and caused a trail of further damage in the same direction inside. A best-fit line through the positions reported in the fully decoded FDR data file has a heading of 61.3° for the last 20 seconds of flight, similar to the heading of the radar data, which places the approach south of the former Citgo service station and therefore in accordance with the official account. The bulk of the eyewitness testimony is in agreement with the physical data and with these records. Despite this persuasive evidence, CIT continues to assert that the plane flew north of the Citgo (NOC) service station. This is the crucial assertion as only if it is true must we give consideration to CIT’s other assertions.

To explain the very obvious damage, and to set aside the accounts of the many eyewitnesses to impact, CIT presents the theory that the damage was done by explosives and that the departing plane was hidden from viewers by the rising plume of smoke from these explosives. Contradicting this theory is the fact that most of the viewers were to the side and would not have had their vision obscured. Also, many of the viewers testified to seeing the actual impact. They didn’t just say they saw the explosion; they describe the low-level approach of the plane and the impact. Some were very close and it is difficult to imagine how they could have been mistaken.[18] It is highly improbable that a person whose eyes were fixed on the plane as it approached the face of the Pentagon would fail to follow it over the roof, if it had in fact flown over. The absence of flyover witnesses is significant, given that so many people were known to be watching the approach.

So far the arguments used against CIT have been mainly critiques of its methods. These studies indicate that CIT carefully selected witnesses who were prepared to say that they recalled seeing the plane passing NOC, and have avoided interviewing, or discounted, the many witnesses who recalled seeing the impact. There may be a handful of people who thought the plane was north of the official flight path, but there would have been hundreds of potential witnesses to a flyover, had it occurred, as the Pentagon has major roads passing by it on all sides and many vehicles were held up in traffic jams. That a plane flying over the Pentagon would be readily seen has been amply demonstrated by Jim Hoffman.[19] Some counter that the view of the Pentagon would be obstructed by trees and guard rails, but there is a video from a moving car showing that the roof of the Pentagon would be visible for a great distance around the Pentagon.[20] Some counter that the Google Earth images are misleading as they do not depict the buildings between the Pentagon and the surrounding roads, but there were no buildings tall enough to block the view of the roof of the Pentagon.

Closer examination shows that, of the NOC witnesses, all who were in a position to see the Pentagon reported that the plane actually hit the building or that it was flying so low it could not miss.[21] CIT casts doubt on the testimony of the witnesses to impact by asserting that the use of explosives, as the plane passed by, created a “magic show” which fooled them. Many witnesses realized, however, that the plane was about to hit the Pentagon before the smoke appeared, so could not have been fooled by it.

By framing the direction of the approach as the central issue, CIT calls upon the witnesses to recollect what would have seemed to them to be a minor detail at the time, while ignoring, or explicitly discounting, their experience of the impact that would have been the clear focus of their attention and burned into their memory. While CIT has found these few witnesses who agree with the NOC flight path, it has been unable to find a single witness who endorses its flyover conclusion. One of their key witnesses (Lagasse) demonstrates clearly with his hands that the plane did not hit the wall straight on, and then says. “It kinda went in at an angle.” “When the plane hit it just kinda disappeared.” He indicated that his memory of the details may be open to question, but his memory of impact was not: “There is only one thing that is irrefutable … the fact is American Airlines plane went from here into the building. You can pick apart everything else …”Another (Turcios) looked surprised when asked if he saw the plane fly over. He said “No. The only thing I saw was … direct line to go into the Pentagon. It collided.”[22] Their third key witness (Brooks), who was across the street from the gas station, said that he watched the plane “… awfully low … just go nose dive into the Pentagon … full throttle … clip the lamp pole …” “… just the sheer impact … it just literally disintegrated the plane.”[23] Clearly none of these witnesses is describing a flyover and none of them sounds uncertain or confused.

By framing the question as they do, as a matter of approach direction, CIT cleverly sidesteps the crucial issue, whether the plane was high or low, and thus appears to be the party creating the real magic show.

The classic witness to a low approach is Sean Boger, Air Traffic Controller in the heliport tower at the Pentagon. The glassed area of the tower extended round the side where impact occurred so he would have had an unobstructed view of the approach and the impact. “… coming right at us, and he didn’t veer.” “I am watching the plane go all the way into the building.” “Once the plane went into the building it exploded, and once it exploded, I hit the floor and just covered up my head. It was like glass shattering and ceiling tile was falling …” CIT says “more than likely he ducked,” trying to suggest that he couldn’t have seen the plane hit, but Boger’s words plainly contradict this speculation.[24] Note the phrase “he didn’t veer,” indicating that the approach was not curved, as would have been the case had the plane passed NOC.

CIT uses methods which must be regarded as questionable for a scientific discussion and has published a list where people who disagree with its views are named and ridiculed, apparently for the purpose of intimidation.[25] What it does not do is apply necessary logical processes to the debate. It does not consider evidence against its hypothesis but simply insists that the NOC witnesses must be irrefutable because they corroborate one another. CIT glosses over the highly pertinent fact that the number of witnesses who corroborate impact is far greater, and it ignores the absence of flyover witnesses. On this basis alone its hypothesis must be regarded as flimsy, at best.

Among the eyewitness testimonies we find several key witnesses who locate the plane south of the Sheraton hotel and the Navy Annex as it approached the Pentagon. We find that three of them, Ed Paik, Terry Morin and Albert Hemphill, are relied upon, but misrepresented, by CIT.

1. Deb Anlauf,[26] from her room in the 14th floor of the Sheraton Hotel: “Suddenly I saw this plane right outside my window,” “You felt like you could touch it; it was that close. It was just incredible.”

2. Isobel James,[27] News 4, 10:17. “I saw a big plane, commercial liner type, going down full speed, inside, inside the side of the Pentagon. Obviously it was going into the Pentagon purposely. We were driving down Columbia Pike – right over us.” Q: “You actually saw the plane impact the side of the building?” A: “Yes I did.”

3. Ed Paik.[28] Eric Larson analyses the testimony of Paik, who saw the plane pass by while he was inside his shop, looking south through the window. The furthest north it could have been would be Columbia Pike, and the furthest south would be a little south of the VDOT antenna tower. CIT deceives the public by hiding the fact that Paik was inside his shop when he saw the plane. CIT touts the fact that they interviewed their witnesses on-site where they had originally witnessed the events, but the Paik interview was conducted outside, which colors his testimony.  He seems to go along with CIT’s idea that the plane went over the shop, but this would be impossible to observe from his actual location. He is listed as a north path witness but should not be, as he and his brother speculated that the plane may have damaged the VDOT tower, which would indicate a south path, as they noticed something was bent on the tower and saw work being done there the next day.

4. Terry Morin.[29] On the referenced website Morin carefully explains how he was able to see the plane descending until it partially disappeared behind some trees.

“… the noise was absolutely deafening.” “The aircraft was essentially right over the top of me and the outer portion of the FOB (flight path parallel the outer edge of the FOB).” “Within seconds the plane cleared the 8th Wing of BMDO and was heading directly towards the Pentagon. Engines were at a steady high-pitched whine, indicating to me that the throttles were steady and full. I estimated the aircraft speed at between 350 and 400 knots. The flight path appeared to be deliberate, smooth, and controlled. As the aircraft approached the Pentagon, I saw a minor flash (later found out that the aircraft had sheared off a portion of a highway light pole down on Hwy 110). As the aircraft flew ever lower I started to lose sight of the actual airframe as a row of trees to the Northeast of the FOB blocked my view. I could now only see the tail of the aircraft.”

Morin indicates that the plane was not directly over his head as he was able to see its markings, not visible from beneath.

“I estimate that the aircraft was no more than 100 feet above me (30 to 50 feet above the FOB) in a slight nose down attitude. The plane had a silver body with red and blue stripes down the fuselage. I believed at the time that it belonged to American Airlines, but I couldn’t be sure.”

Morin describes the plane traveling parallel to the Navy Annex and flying straight, directly toward the Pentagon. Given that he was on the ground near the Annex, only if the plane is on the south path, flying straight to the Pentagon, will it remain in his line-of-sight. CIT ignores his description of the path of the plane and claim him as a north path witness, though from his statement he must be a south path witness. CIT states that there is no south path witness; clearly we have found one already.

5. Albert Hemphill, interviewed by Craig Ranke of CIT:[30] “Looking out the window thinking to myself, my God, what’s this world coming to … then I hear a roar and look out the window at the plane … over my right shoulder … over the gas station … clipped a light pole … diving … right over the bridge … smacked right into the building.”

Ranke then asked if it passed to the south of the VDOT antenna tower.

“That would be a bit far.” [Note that the VDOT antenna would not have been in Hemphill’s view. He did, however, state that he was aware of its location.] “I saw one plane and I saw it hit… it didn’t pull up, it didn’t turn right, it didn’t turn left, it went right into the Pentagon.”

It is worth noting that Ranke is willing to lead a witness to get confirmation of his hypothesis, as his interview with Hemphill demonstrates. Hemphill initially paints a picture that is contrary to the NOC hypothesis. Ranke responds by telling him about several other witnesses by name, and saying “it’s rather compelling watching all these accounts match over and over and over and all describing the plane flying in the exact same place,” which was “between the gas station and Arlington cemetery.” Hemphill concedes that they could be right because anyone “out and about” would have a great vantage point. This is not to be confused with his own direct testimony, however, which is that the plane flew over his right shoulder, not far from the VDOT tower, went right over the “bridge” (clearly indicating the overpass of VA27 over Columbia Pike), clipped a light pole, flew close enough to the ground that he would speculate about “ground effect,” and hit the building at the level of the second row of windows. This path is entirely south of the Citgo gas station and in line with the trail of damage outside and inside the building, so Hemphill is clearly another south path witness, yet CIT claims him as a NOC witness. In light of the Asch Conformity Experiments, telling a witness what other witnesses have said invalidates the independence and validity of the data.[31]