Newsletter 68D: Pentagon damage analysis, discussion of lightpoles, jet engine blast

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The Center for an Informed America

February 13, 2005
September 11, 2001 Revisited


From the "Underreported News" file: On November 22, 2004, a Gulfstream III jet crashed on approach to Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas, where it had reportedly been scheduled to pick up George H.W. Bush and shuttle him off to Latin America (likely on some drug-related business, but that's not really the point here). The jet crashed, curiously enough, after clipping a light pole! Here is how the esteemed Los Angeles Times described the incident:

The Gulfstream III jet, descending in heavy fog, clipped a light pole and slammed into a field south of downtown ... Authorities said the Gulfstream III was 1½ miles from the runway when it hit a light pole on Beltway 8, a toll road that encircles the outskirts of the city. Part of the jet's wing was sheared off by the impact; the pole was bent in half.
(Lianne Hart "Jet Bound for Bush's Father Crashes," Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2004)

That sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it? I mean, except for the part about a portion of the jet's wing being sheared off ... and the part about the light pole being bent in half (even though a Gulfstream III is a considerably smaller and lighter aircraft than a Boeing 757) ... and the part about the plane crashing right after the impact with the light pole (even though the Gulfstream was presumably piloted by a professional crew, rather than a reject from a Florida puddle-jumper school, and even though the plane only hit one light pole, rather then five light poles, a chain-link fence and a large generator).

None of that, of course, should cast any doubt on the official story of what happened at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Right?

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In the previous post, I posed the following query: "How much thrust do you suppose is required to get a fully-loaded, 100+ ton aircraft off the ground and then propel it through the air at 500+ miles per hour?"

It was largely a rhetorical question, but, as it turns out, reader David had a ready answer: "Each engine produces roughly 50,000 pounds of thrust, with exhaust gases ejected at mach 0.95 = 720 mph." I can't vouch for the accuracy of those numbers, and even if I could, numbers are so coldly abstract. Luckily though, thanks to alert reader Brad, we don't have to rely on just raw numbers. Instead, we have an actual video clip that illustrates, quite dramatically, how much thrust is produced by jet engines. I'll wait while you cue it up ...

... So, how did you like the show? It appears that the correct answer to the question of how much thrust is required to get a passenger aircraft off the ground, presented in the most technical terminology, is: "a shitload."

Now that we know the correct answer to that question, it is probably safe to conclude that there might be a bit of a credibility issue with any alleged eyewitnesses who recall an enormous airplane passing so low overhead that it clipped light poles and car antennae and caused survivors to duck to avoid being hit. And unfortunately for the defenders of the official story, whose continuing line of attack is that "the no-planers ignore all the witness testimony," most of their star witnesses fall into that credibility gap.

The problem here is that the official story - in order to account for both the height of the alleged entry wound in the Pentagon, and the path of the alleged damage within the building - requires that the plane came in at an extremely low altitude. Therefore, those witness accounts that generally support the official story necessarily include sightings of a large airplane flying low enough to convert Marge Simpson's beehive into a flat-top. And the bottom line, my friends, is that those witness tales cannot possibly be true.

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A funny thing happened during my long-delayed mission to get this information posted: before its official debut, the simulation video has already been commented on by researchers on both sides of the Pentagon debate. A couple months ago, you see, in response to an e-mail that found its way into my in-box, I sent out a link to the video clip to the handful of researchers who were CC'ed the original message. Jerry Russell, of, seized on the clip to lend weight to arguments that he had previously presented. And then, quicker than you can say "damage control," Jean-Pierre Desmoulins responded.

The following is an excerpt from Russell's recent post (Eyewitnesses and the Plane-Bomb Theory):

As we argued in "The Five-Sided Fantasy Island", the very survival of star eyewitness Frank Probst is difficult enough to reconcile with the "Official Story", since he was supposedly undisturbed by wake turbulence as he stood near the heliport while the plane passed over his head. Further evidence of the validity of our argument was recently provided by David MacGowan [Editor's note: it's McGowan, Jerry; think Irish, not Scottish], who posted this video, which is a "staged demonstration" showing an automobile being blown about like a tumbleweed by the blast of an aircraft engine exhaust. As NASA explains at:

Before a crew can say "powerback," jet engine blast can up-root trees, flatten building structures, shatter windows, lift and propel heavy objects, weathercock braked airplanes, blow over lift trucks, shift unbraked baggage carts, and create other havoc on airport ramps, taxiways, and runways.

Although the diagrams don't say so, jet blast can also injure or kill crew and passengers who happen to cross its path.

Yet we are expected to believe that the 757 flew over a highway overpass at about 10 feet altitude, clipping antennas with its engines, passing near billboard-style highway signs, and passing within 6 feet of Frank Probst, all without catching anything in the blast of its turbine exhausts. We found ourselves wondering if perhaps the forward speed of the plane might paradoxically have mitigated the effects of the engine's blast, by carrying the air mass forwards around itself (relatively speaking). We can investigate this further by using the engine modeling tool at:

Russell then proceeded to debunk the notion that jet blast is negated by the airplane's forward motion. He also conducted a revealing investigation into the nature of the purported eyewitness accounts of the 'crash' into the Pentagon:

Possibly the most important subset of witnesses consists of those who provide explicit, realistic and detailed claims that a 757 crashed into the Pentagon after executing a high velocity, low altitude approach. We believe that, contrary to Hoffman's opinion, these accounts can readily be interpreted in favor of our argument that no such collision took place. This is based on the fact that there is almost total disagreement among the eyewitnesses, about the detailed physical description of the actual collision, as well as severe disagreements with the "official story" of the 757 impact as determined by the ASCE report. Out of 27 witness accounts which we classified as "explicit", we were able to identify substantial errors or contradictions in 24 accounts, or 88% ... we [also] found a very high prevalence of elite insider connections among the witnesses who claimed to see the 757 hit the Pentagon, compared to other witnesses whose perceptions were more indeterminate. Out of the 27 explicit witnesses, 14 had what we would consider "deep" insider connections, while 24 of 27 worked for either the Federal Government or the mainstream media.
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So, taking all that into consideration, let me see if I fully understand the position taken by a number of 9-11 researchers: despite the wealth of physical evidence to the contrary, we should all defer to the Pentagon crash story told by the eyewitnesses, even though there are only a relative handful of them, and even though nearly 90% of them can't seem to get the story straight, and even though nearly 90% of them are either government operatives or their media bedmates. And we should defer to them so that we do not offend all the witnesses in the DC area who saw the plane -- which is to say, so that we do not offend a handful of government hacks and media whores. Do I have that about right?

I can't speak for anyone else, but I always figure that if I haven't offended at least a few government hacks and media whores, then I haven't really put in a good day's work.

Lest I forget, and for what it's worth, Jean-Pierre Desmoulins' semi-coherent attempt to marginalize the significance of the simulation video can be found here: Pentagon 2001 : The jet blast effect

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Astute readers may have noticed the reference to a "Hoffman" in the excerpt from Jerry Russell's missive. The Hoffman in question, of course, is Jim Hoffman, who was at one time one of the more prominent skeptics of the official Pentagon story -- he was, that is, until he Kerried in a big way, penning a post that he subtly titled: "The Pentagon No-757-Crash Theory: Booby Trap for 9/11 Skeptics."

Hoffman's post is, for the most part, the same sort of disinformational gibberish offered up by Pentagon spinmeisters Jean-Pierre Desmoulins and Eric Bart, who have busily polluted the Pentagon waters with absurdities about self-destructing "plane bombs" and unlikely (to say the least) chemical reactions.

The "plane bomb" theory, by the way, is an elaborately constructed scenario that appears to be designed to reconcile the alleged eyewitness statements with the lack of significant damage to the Pentagon facade and the lack of aircraft debris on the Pentagon lawn. What the "plane bombers" say, essentially, is that the plane was packed with high-tech, synchronized explosive devices that were detonated a split-second before the aircraft impacted the Pentagon. This series of perfectly timed explosions purportedly reduced the plane to confetti.

Imagine, if you will, an enormous, invisible force-field surrounding the Pentagon, such that the plane actually hit the invisible wall, rather than the Pentagon itself, and was thereby almost completely destroyed before even hitting the building. That, in a nutshell, is basically what the "plane bomb" theorists are selling. In other words, the eyewitnesses really did spot a large passenger plane screaming towards the Pentagon, and that plane really did blow up right outside the Pentagon facade, but it did so, you see, before actually hitting the building, thus explaining the lack of an airplane-sized hole in the Pentagon. And the explosions, of course, were so perfectly placed and synchronized that they completely obliterated the plane, explaining, conveniently enough, the curious absence of aircraft debris.

This theory provides a fascinating illustration of the extreme lengths that some 'theorists' are willing to go to explain away the overwhelming amount of evidence that suggests that a 757 did not hit the Pentagon. As convoluted as this theory is, however, it still leaves a considerable amount of evidence unexplained, including the 300-foot path of destruction carved through the building complex. How, after all, could an aircraft reduced to confetti before the actual impact still generate so much destruction within the building?

I suppose it could be argued that the Pentagon was damaged with a separate series of synchronized explosions, but one has to wonder what the point would be of blowing up both the plane and the building in separate explosive events when the same effect could have been achieved by simply slamming the plane into the building, especially since, according to the "plane bomb" theory, that was a split-second away from happening anyway. Why then bother to stage such an elaborate spectacle when there was nothing to gain by doing so?

Anyway, the point that I set out to make, before getting sidetracked, is that there was one particular passage in the Hoffman piece that immediately caught my attention. That passage reads as follows:

Using the JFK assassination as an analogy, the no-757-crash theory is like saying that Kennedy was not shot at all, whereas the towers' demolition is like saying that there were additional gunmen beyond Lee Harvey Oswald.

That's a nice analogy, isn't it? I mean, sure, it's clumsily worded and all, and misapplied to boot, but the basic idea is a good one. And I'm sure that Hoffman came up with it all by himself, rather than, say, stealing it from a post that went up two months before his own. Granted, it does bear more than a passing resemblance to the following excerpt, but I'm sure that that is just a coincidence:

The effect is the same as if, in the years following the Kennedy assassination, while skeptics were presenting the case for Kennedy having been shot from the front rather than from behind, a group of researchers suddenly began arguing that he wasn't actually shot at all!

I'd just like to make one simple request here: in the future, if Mr. Hoffman (or anyone else) finds himself feeling the urge to steal my work, just steal it outright. Don't bastardize it in an inept effort to disguise the theft. It's not copyrighted material, after all, so as long as ethics and integrity aren't a concern, and they certainly don't appear to be, then just copy and paste as you see fit.

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Does anyone see anything wrong with these photos? Because, all things considered, I really don't see how anyone could objectively review the evidence and reach any conclusion other than that this infamous taxi scene was staged. Recall that what we are supposed to believe is that the light pole in the picture was uprooted by the impact of a 100+ ton aircraft traveling at hundreds of miles per hour. Such an impact would likely have sent the steel pole cartwheeling off at an extremely high rate of speed. That rapidly moving pole was then purportedly struck a second time, by a moving taxi.

And yet, remarkably enough, the twice-impacted pole appears to be largely undamaged, the airplane that allegedly hit the pole was presumably undamaged, the surface of the highway appears to be undamaged, and the taxi escaped with no visible damage other than a broken windshield. Nothing unusual about any of that, I suppose.

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More from reader David: "Responding to your Newsletter #68A... I found your analysis of the Light Poles knocked down in the alleged flight-path is acceptable except for one minor distinction ... the plane (or whatever it was) probably didn't physically hit the poles. Each engine produces roughly 50,000 pounds of thrust, with exhaust gases ejected at mach 0.95 = 720 mph. I know the numbers, but they're not the real problem. Light aircraft pilots all know the real hazard of low-flying jumbo jets is wingtip vortex. These vortex have such extreme power that a light aircraft, such as a Cessna, would be violently flipped over and slammed to the ground if it met up with one of these vortexes. This can happen during landing, takeoff or simply taxiing on the ground. Many such accidents occur every year, and are often fatal. We're talking about forces strong enough to throw a Ford Explorer across a tennis court. I did a Google search for a website that provides some factual data as well as some graphic indicators. Obviously there are many sites, but I stopped after finding one that seemed adequate. Although I think wingtip vortex is a much more likely explanation than wings clipping poles, I do not know what really happened that day. Like you, I am convinced that no 757 hit the Pentagon, so I don't think it much matters 'what' knocked down the poles... we already know the 'who' wasn't 19 hijackers based out of Afghanistan."

The link that David sent was to a post entitled "Wake-Vortex Hazard," which begins as follows:

When an aircraft wing generates lift, it also produces horizontal, tornado-like vortices that create a potential wake-vortex hazard problem for other aircraft trailing. The powerful, high-velocity airflows contained in the wake behind the generating aircraft are long-lived, invisible, and a serious threat to aircraft encountering the system, especially small general aviation aircraft. Immediately behind the wake-generating aircraft is a region of wake turbulence known as the roll-up region, where the character of the wake that is shed from individual components (wingtips, flaps, landing gear, etc.) is changing rapidly with distance because of self-induced distortions. Farther away from the generating aircraft is an area of the wake known as the plateau region, where the vortices have merged and/or attained a nearly constant structure. Even farther downstream from the generating aircraft is a wake area known as the decay region, where substantial diffusion and decay of the vortices occur due to viscous and turbulence effects. Depending on the relative flight path of a trailing aircraft in the wake-vortex system, extreme excursions in rolling motion, rate of climb, or even structural load factors may be experienced during an encounter with the wake. If the encounter occurs at low altitudes, especially during the landing approach, loss of control and ground impact may occur.

Fair enough. But if we accept that wake-vortex could conceivably uproot a series of steel light poles, then we are left with the problem of explaining why it is that the cars of witnesses, and the witnesses themselves, weren't literally blown off the road. We are also, of course, left with the problem of explaining how relatively lightweight wooden spools were left entirely undisturbed as the alleged plane's engines passed over them with, quite literally, mere inches to spare.

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Digging deeper into the mailbag, we find this question from reader Brian:

You wrote: "You would think that if a 100+ ton metal object traveling at hundreds of miles per hour impacted a steel light pole, it might, at the very least, maybe dent the pole, or perhaps bend it a little bit. In other words, you would think that there would be some kind of impact scar visible on the toppled pole..."

The pictures you illustrated this statement with appear to me to document dented and bent poles, especially the picture on the left. Since I don't believe a plane hit those poles any more than you do, I wonder what, and who, did uproot, dent, and bend those poles, and when did they do it.

I assumed that the slight curvature of the downed pole was by design. Perhaps that is not the case, but the curvature visible in the photos surely was not caused by the traumatic impact of a 757 traveling at a high rate of speed. The slight bend in the pole appears to be perfectly smooth and uniform, with no sign of crimping or denting. That is certainly not the way that metallic tubing bends due to sudden impact. You can verify this at home by attempting to put a smooth bend in a length of metallic conduit by whacking it with a hammer, rather than using a pipe-bender.

As to who and what did uproot those poles, and when it was done -- I haven't got an answer for that.

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This next missive, sent in very recently by reader Mark, is typical of a several e-mails that I have received. I have also seen this claim made on a couple of 9-11 websites:

Most of the metal street light standards in this country are especially designed and built to break away cleanly at their bases after only modest impacts. This is so that they don't kill people who hit them with their cars. I don't know whether the poles would break away before altering the course of a plane/missile/whatever, but it seems possible that they might. They're pretty much ready to lay down and die right from the factory as I understand it. (I'm no expert, but have been around this stuff a little on the construction side.)

Sooner or later you'll see the aftermath of a car-versus-street-light collision on the road, and you'll probably see a relatively straight-looking street lamp pole laying down with a clean break at its base, like the ones in the Pentagon pictures.

I don't think this detracts from your point, I'm mostly writing in case you did not know that such poles are specifically made to snap off clean if you hit them very hard. And of course, I have no idea whether the Pentagon poles were breakaway.

Personally, I am a little skeptical of this claim, primarily because it makes little sense to me. First of all, there are any number of objects that, if struck, will tend to bring an automobile to an abrupt stop (e.g. - telephone poles, trees, concrete or steel guard rails, buildings, parked vehicles, etc.), and many of these objects are plowed into far more frequently than light poles. Why then would this supposed safety feature be built into light poles? What makes them any different than any other roadside obstructions?

Another problem that I have with the breakaway scenario is that I fail to see how this would be considered an effective safety feature. A pole designed to break free on impact would become, following that impact, a fast-moving, unpredictable, and highly lethal object. A large and heavy steel pole propelled into the path of oncoming traffic, for example, would probably not be considered very safe by other drivers or passengers. Pedestrians in the vicinity of the crash may not find such breakaway poles to be very safe either.

Yet another problem with the breakaway pole concept is that light poles, predictably enough, have high-voltage electrical wires running through them. So the question that naturally arises is: what exactly is supposed to happen to those live electrical lines when the pole snaps off its base? They would, I presume, stretch and break, thereby exposing anyone in the area of the crash to the very real possibility of electrocution.

For these reasons (and others that I could probably come up with if I had the time), I am not at all convinced that these alleged breakaway poles are, in fact, widely used. Until I see some definitive documentation, I will remain skeptical of these claims.

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Remember this graphic? ... the one that purports to document the damage to the interior of the Pentagon? An alert reader pointed out something that I failed to grasp the significance of the first time around: near the center of the path of destruction is a large section of floor slab - measuring perhaps 20' by 40' - that was "deflected upward." This naturally raises the question of what could have caused an upward deflection in that section, and only that section, of the floor slab? Since the aircraft debris that allegedly caused the internal building damage would have been moving in a horizontal direction, the official story doesn't provide much of an explanation for an extreme upward force in one particular portion of the building.

The most reasonable explanation, it seems to me, is that someone got a little carried away with the explosive charge that was placed in that particular portion of the building. As further evidence of an explosive event at that particular location, note how the columns ringing the deflected portion of the slab suffered significantly more damage, for the most part, than did other columns in the surrounding area. Notice also that a bit further along the alleged path of travel lies an area where an opening was blown through the second-story roof. Interestingly, the columns near that opening were also more significantly damaged than the surrounding columns, indicating the probable location of another explosive charge. And the "Hole in wall," needless to say, was almost certainly caused by yet another explosive charge.

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While we are on the subject of the alleged exit hole, a few readers thought that I was too quick to dismiss the possibility of additional exit holes in the back wall of C-ring. Some researchers, as it turns out, have been promoting the notion that there were actually three exit holes. These theorists have used photos such as those to the left and right to purportedly prove their point.

If it could be conclusively established that there were actually three exit holes in the back of C-ring, then that would obviously be a very significant piece of evidence, since it would not only cast further doubt on the official story, but also thoroughly discredit the preceding damage report, which not only doesn't identify the additional exit holes, but also fails to explain them, since there is no path of damage leading from the alleged entry wound to at least one of the alleged exit holes (hole #1).

As provocative as this evidence may at first appear to be, however, photographs reveal that there weren't two additional holes blown in the back wall of C-ring. In fact, an enlarged version of the very same photo used above reveals that 'hole #1' is nothing more than an existing door opening. Specifically, it appears to be a mirror image of the double-door arrangement that can be seen on the exterior wall of B ring, just to the right of the firefighter in the photo. At least one of the two doors is still hanging, and a portion of the louvered grill that had been above the doors can be clearly seen lying in the foreground.

'Hole #2,' viewed head-on in the photo below, appears to be a roll-up door, alongside of which is a service door, which is a pretty standard set-up in commercial and industrial buildings. Unlike 'hole'/door #1, these doors appear to have been added sometime after the initial construction of the building, as is evident from the fact that a header was obviously installed above the opening that was cut into the wall for the service door. To create the opening for the roll-up door, it appears that an entire section of the wall was removed up to the existing concrete beam. In any event, it is clear that these were existing openings into the building, not 'exit holes' created by the events of September 11.

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And yet more from the mailbag, this time from reader Sandra:

FYI - no biggie, but I thought you might want to know it's Olsen (with an "e") for Theodore or Barbara.

You mean to say that, after two attempts, I still got it wrong? I hate it when that happens -- particularly in this case, because I certainly do not want to show any disrespect to a fine, upstanding family like the Olsens. I'll try to do better in the future.