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Photos Show Plane Hitting Pentagon
March 7, 2002 6:10 PM   Subscribe

Photos Show Plane Hitting Pentagon A sequence of five government photos shows the moment the hijacked American Airlines plane slammed into the Pentagon last Sept. 11.
Enough proof for you?
posted by Blake (61 comments total)

 
"Enough proof?" I don't get it. Are there actually some conspiracy wackos who insist it didn't really happen?
posted by Fofer at 6:22 PM on March 7, 2002


Enough proof for you?

Enough proof for what, exactly?
posted by tepidmonkey at 6:24 PM on March 7, 2002


Oh, yeah, sorry, in case you missed it, It May Not Have Really Happened.
posted by Blake at 6:25 PM on March 7, 2002


Why oh, why, oh, why did they have to point out that the date and time are wrong on the pictures? Oh well. Conspiracy enthusiasts, start your engines!!!
posted by ColdChef at 6:27 PM on March 7, 2002


ColdChef, you think the conspiracites wouldn't have noticed? Does anyone know of a link to all 4 images, in sequence?
posted by chaz at 6:33 PM on March 7, 2002


/me, stopwatch already started, smilingly pushes Record button, determined to catch every ColdChef utterance. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:36 PM on March 7, 2002


The only thing this proves is that they read MetaFilter.

I wonder what those traffic cones in the foreground were talking about just before the explosion?
posted by xiffix at 6:37 PM on March 7, 2002


Actually for the sequence to show anything, technically you need to be able to see the sequence. I'm not defending any theory but your post sounds like the Pentagon released something - they didn't. Yahoo just got hold of two photos that might have been in the five. This will just feed the flames of conspiracy instead of putting them out.
posted by skallas at 6:47 PM on March 7, 2002


If I assume there is no plane in the photos shown, as seems the case, then what the hell happened to the plane that was hijacked? In a secret spot in Jersey?
We can now wait till someone on Fark photoshops this or that photo to indicate how deep the conspiracy truly is.
My interest is in what compels so many people to look for some massive coverup when in fact 4 planes went missing and two we know for sure hit WTC (but not with Arabs in command!), and the other crashed in Pa.
There is a guy who has inside info on all sorts of things and has been posting about some guy being held in Canadfa who knew a month before Terror attack in Sept that it wasw to take place. Then he listed book that are must reads so we can truly know what is going on in our country.
One book listed, Ironside Moutain or something like that is very popular with conspiracy buffs. It was a spoof. And the son the writer was my student and we chatted about his father's clever sense of humor!
posted by Postroad at 6:48 PM on March 7, 2002


Yeah, I don't see any photos of the plane hitting, only of the explosion after. Where are the pictures of the planes hitting the Pentagon?
posted by banished at 6:49 PM on March 7, 2002


*correction* plane, not planes as in plural, my fault
posted by banished at 6:50 PM on March 7, 2002


You can see the 5 released pictures in sequence here
posted by jeremias at 6:50 PM on March 7, 2002


If you go to the this page at the Washington Post and click on the slide show, it's got all 5.

Although, I must be blind as a bat...cause I don't see the plane. I see traffic cones...then I see big balls of flame...but I don't see the plane.

I almost wish I had a football announcer handy so he could circle the play for me...then I remember that football announcers are really annoying...and someone will do the same thing online somwhere. :)

And then someone will post it here...so I too can spot the boeing. :)
posted by dejah420 at 6:51 PM on March 7, 2002


Look at the first photo and the second photo a few times. You'll see the left wing of the plane tilted upwards in the first photo -- it's a dark triangular patch that doesn't resemble the trees in front of other sections of the building.
posted by rcade at 6:55 PM on March 7, 2002


Nope ... I've changed my mind again. That's a tree I'm seeing, and I can't find the plane. Or Waldo.
posted by rcade at 7:01 PM on March 7, 2002


The "plane" is the white smudge/squiggle just below the horizon on the extreme right of the first picture. It isn't in the second picture.
posted by xiffix at 7:09 PM on March 7, 2002


I can't help but notice that the date and time are wrong. Hmm... and something else that I can't quite put my finger on. Oh yes, that's it -- there's no plane.

I'm not saying there's a conspiracy, only that this does seem a little pointless. Why is it they've chosen to release these photos now, and not months ago? I don't think anyone was doubting there was an explosion.
posted by Lionfire at 7:21 PM on March 7, 2002


Yahoo says a possible explaination for date/time difference is that the date showing is when the photos were logged into evidence. I don't know, maybe. But I don't see a plane either.
posted by bas67 at 7:26 PM on March 7, 2002


Why is it they've chosen to release these photos now, and not months ago?

I would imagine that, for investigators collecting and analyzing every bit of evidence they can get their hands on, releasing information to the public is done as something of an afterthought. I've got no idea as to why now, though.
posted by Bixby23 at 7:27 PM on March 7, 2002


Isn't the date/time correct, just set for the wrong time zone? What's 20 hours ahead of New York?
posted by rodii at 7:32 PM on March 7, 2002


See, I thought the plane might be the white squiggly thing too...but it's too small to be a passenger jet...cause I think that other green blobby thing is a tank...and it's bigger than the white squiggly thing...in fact, the white squiggly thing goes under the barrel (?) of the tank. (barrel?...the bit where the bullets come out.)

This of course, is why I don't have a career in forensics...I don't think "squiggly thing" counts as a real descriptor...but you know the thing I mean.

I dunno how big tanks are, I'm not sure I've ever seen one up close and personal...but if I remember my news footage trivia correctly, the gun part is about as tall as a person...so say...6 feet? I could be way off, I'm making that part up. But, assuming that's a tank...and it sure looks like one in the later photos...and assuming that the gun is 6-10 feet high, then I think the white sqiggly thing I'm looking at is about the same size as my Camaro...which is significantly smaller than a passenger jet.

So, I still haven't spotted the boeing.
posted by dejah420 at 7:33 PM on March 7, 2002



And so what has been accomplished with this link?

Thanks for the memories.
posted by lampshade at 7:36 PM on March 7, 2002


There's nothing 20 hours ahead of New York. ET is -5/6 GMT, and the pluses go up to +13 GMT, which makes it 18/19 hours ahead of NY.
posted by riffola at 7:41 PM on March 7, 2002


<conspiracy>
No, no, no! Something doesn't look right.

Take a look at the building. Notice the impact, and how it goes back and to the left -- again! Back and to the left!
</conspiracy>
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:43 PM on March 7, 2002


I assume this is from an NTSC video camera, meaning the real image is 480 pixels tall. However, all of the versions available on news web sites are much smaller (CNN's are a mere 168 pixels high). Perhaps it would be easier to make out the plane if the images were posted at full NTSC resolution.
posted by Potsy at 7:45 PM on March 7, 2002


Somebody get Mulder and Sculley on this right away.
posted by Bixby23 at 7:49 PM on March 7, 2002


I assume this is from an NTSC video camera, meaning the real image is 480 pixels tall. However, all of the versions available on news web sites are much smaller (CNN's are a mere 168 pixels high). Perhaps it would be easier to make out the plane if the images were posted at full NTSC resolution.
posted by Potsy at 7:50 PM on March 7, 2002


The reason you dont see the plane is probably because it was travelling at an estimated speed of 400 MPH when it hit the Pentagon (it actually hit the ground and skidded several yards into the first and second floors). The camera that took these images is probably a fairly standard colour security camera, which probably has an automatic shutter speed and exposure. Given the position of the sun and the brightness of that day, the camera was probably using a fairly slow shutter speed and apeture to compensate for the bright light. An object travelling as fast as that plane would not even register on a camera like that, except for a very diffuse blur. Given that the camera obviously does not have a very great resolution (it's no three chip camera), this compounds the problems with catching an object of that speed on video. The DV cameras that people used to film the WTC planes were of a much higher caliber, and even some of those tapes do not very clearly show the plane in motion before the impact.

As for the date on the captions, notice that each different frame is also labelled "plane" "impact". Do you think the surveillance camera wrote those commentaries when the date was recorded? They have obviously been tagged later with both a time stamp and a caption as the time and the captions are in the same font on the same kind of white bar.

I am quite sure there are other pictures that were taken by the dozens of cameras around the Pentagon that have not been released.
posted by evanizer at 7:51 PM on March 7, 2002


Evan: for the sake of argument, i accept all of your theories as to why there is no plane in these pics. So why not release the "..other pictures that were taken by the dozens of cameras around the Pentagon "?
Can you (without the xenophobia shown by some ) do the same for these? Some people in this thread (and at least 2 in the previous one) are unconvinced with the story as presented so far.

Just saying....
posted by dash_slot- at 8:18 PM on March 7, 2002


You can see the plane. Take the five images from the Boston.com site linked above, and blow them up double. The very first one shows a dark projection just above the pylon (the one that looks like a ticket machine) on the right. That projection is not present in the later photos; and appears to be in front of buildings and other background objects that remain in place. From the shape it might be the tail (vertical stabilizer). The same photo shows what may be a white smoke cloud along the ground that turns light gray in the 2nd and 3rd and seems to be rising away from the ground by the 4th -- clearly some kind of "skid" effect as the plane slides toward the building.
posted by dhartung at 8:24 PM on March 7, 2002


rcade wrote:
That's a tree I'm seeing, and I can't find the plane. Or Waldo.

I'm right here -- but I don't see the plane anywhere, either.
posted by waldo at 8:25 PM on March 7, 2002


I think evanizer is right on about the speed of the camera. It was the first thing I thought when I did not see the plane straight off. Look at the lateral space covered in the photo and then think about how fast this thing was going.
posted by anathema at 8:26 PM on March 7, 2002


dhartung wrote:
The very first one shows a dark projection just above the pylon (the one that looks like a ticket machine) on the right. That projection is not present in the later photos; and appears to be in front of buildings and other background objects that remain in place. From the shape it might be the tail (vertical stabilizer).

That's some kind of crazy-fast shutter speed that they've got on that security camera, huh? I mean, that thing was going hundreds of miles an hour and it just snapped a picture of it like it was standing still. Incredible how that video technology has come along, isn't it?
posted by waldo at 8:29 PM on March 7, 2002


None of the sites that have these images are doing the football commentator thing and highlighting the place either.

I am not saying the plane didn't hit the building, I just think the first picture could use some pointers.
posted by riffola at 8:38 PM on March 7, 2002


I think the camera missed the plane. Judging from the numbers at the bottom, the frames were taken one per second. This isn't video footage, its a series of stills.
N644AA, the hapless 757-223 that was AA77 that morning was traveling at aproximately 400 mph. This works out to 348 knots. Boeing was unhelpful and didn't list the VMO on their website but the RJ I fly has a VMO of 380 knots, so they were going fast but still within limitations.
Anyway, 348 knots is 587 feet/second. The Pentagon is 921' per side. Let's assume we can see about half a building length away, which is 461'. It actually looks shorter than that, but whatever. This results in a crossing time of .785 seconds, much less than the camera's interval.
The camera blinked and missed it. Next conspiacy theory!
posted by eszetela at 8:43 PM on March 7, 2002


<voice type="Dennis Hopper">
No man, no! They don't want you to know! Don't you know how big this is? The media's involved, man. Freakin AOL-Washington Post - USA Today? They're all part of it! People who talk, die... I've said too much, man!
</voice>
posted by owillis at 8:53 PM on March 7, 2002


So is there a smoke/dust trail of some kind above the second traffic cone from the right?
posted by Kikkoman at 8:54 PM on March 7, 2002


"As for the date on the captions, notice that each different frame is also labelled "plane" "impact". Do you think the surveillance camera wrote those commentaries when the date was recorded?"

Of course! The FBI knew ahead of time!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:54 PM on March 7, 2002


I have made several films and videos using slow motion, and I can tell you that in video specifically, you will occasionally pick up a very clear moment in an otherwise blurry sequence. The reason being is that video is not recorded like film, as distinct photographic frames. In video, only half of the lines making up the frame are shot at a time. Analog NTSC cameras capture the odd lines, and then the even lines. Each of these sets of lines is called a field. So each 'frame' of video is actually a composite of the 2 fields (which are shot at slightly different times). So, assuming the frame rate of an interlaced video system is 30 fps, it has 60 'fields' per second. Since each field is shot separately, interlacing makes a 30 fps system look like a smoother-running 60 fps system without actually having to use the doubled bandwidth (the video kind, not the internet kind) required by a true 60 fps sytem.

Sorry to spout all this jargon, but I'm trying to use it to illustrate the fact that this NTSC security camera was certainly not a high speed camera, and that the nature of how video images are recorded makes the capturing of extremely fast-moving objects very difficult, even for high end video. If we were to watch the tape, the plane might be slightly more discernable, because the indistinct blurs in the individual frames would probably fool your eye into seeing them as an object in a way that stills cannot.

There is no information in these articles if these are 'frames' that have not been 'de-interlaced' (seperated into their 2 component fields), or if they are fields from the frames, which look clearer as stills than the interlaced frame does.

It doesn't much matter, however, as the interlaced frame would look blurrier, rendering a swiftly moving object nearly impossible to identify and a field would contain half the image information as a frame, making it equally difficult to discern a 400 MPH jet.

I don't know if any of this makes sense to anyone but me, but I had no problem understanding why the plane was not visible in these images.

dash_slot: as for why there is no plane in the aftermath photographs, that's a really easy one. There is no plane anywhere, at any of the three sites, other than very tiny fragments. You saw images of the field in PA where flight 93 crashed, did you see anything that looked like a plane? And that was a crash into a field. I imagine a crash into the reinforced stone and steel Pentagon retaining wall would slice, dice, and julienne the plane to smithereens. No plane part larger than a foot square has been recovered from the WTC, which, being mostly glass and spaced steel beams at the point of impact, was also softer than the Pentagon.
posted by evanizer at 9:09 PM on March 7, 2002


Or what eszetela said, it wasn't motion video at all, just video-based stills (which are still interlaced).
posted by evanizer at 9:12 PM on March 7, 2002


Thanks dhartung! I can finally see the damn plane. Your tip did it. The easiest way to watch it is to go to the slideshow mentioned by dejah420 and just look at the area above the ticket machine on the right.
And I have to agree with Kikkoman's observation about the dust trail in picture #2.
posted by Grum at 9:17 PM on March 7, 2002


If you are still having a hard time seeing the plane, Stebain on Fark.com has provided an enlarged version of the first two photos, with arrows.
posted by Grum at 9:35 PM on March 7, 2002


Kikkoman, if you're talking about the indistinct dark area above the "middle" cone, close to the buildling, in the first photograph, that doesn't look like smoke to me. Trees, as rcade suggested. Part of it seems to be a structure, presumably related to the heliport. That whole area is indistinct, perhaps related to a flaw developing in the camera. (Additionally, these are not all cropped exactly the same -- indicating they are 2nd generation, possibly copied out of a prepared electronic document, and again I wish for the original's resolution.) And it doesn't help that it's all in morning shadow.

In any event the force of the explosion clearly doesn't come until image 2. There wouldn't be smoke yet, not there.

waldo: electronic cameras don't expose the same way as film. Take your snarkiness elsewhere; or why don't you just come right out and say you think it's all manufactured?
posted by dhartung at 9:35 PM on March 7, 2002


FWIW, I stacked these images in a couple ways so I could look at them in differently, others may find it useful as well: An animated gif, or a step-through image-swap.
posted by kokogiak at 10:50 PM on March 7, 2002


This would all be a lot easier if the images weren't suffering so badly from lossy compression...
posted by Lionfire at 11:34 PM on March 7, 2002


In bright light you close your aperture and/or increase the shutter speed, not the other way around. If anything, the bright light would make it easier to capture something going fast on film. Video is different, but you would still have a smaller aperture and clearer images in bright light than in the dark. I assume, since these cameras were meant to work both day and night, that they adjusted automatically.
posted by Poagao at 12:18 AM on March 8, 2002


Thanks kokogiak, yes that does help. (Along with the fark link pointing out the tail, which I had missed.)
I can definitely see that the tail is only in the first photo along with the smoke/dust from the plane scraping the ground. And then the smoke/dust leading into the fireball.
posted by HTuttle at 2:14 AM on March 8, 2002


I can see the plane. Here's my annotated photo.
posted by planetkyoto at 2:54 AM on March 8, 2002


That did it kokogiak. I can see the tail clearly now. The body of the plane is behind the ticket booth thing.
posted by anathema at 3:05 AM on March 8, 2002


I'm going to get pistolwhipped for this one:

In Kokogiak's overhead shot (showing the camera's field of view and an indication of the plane's angle towards the building), the plane would have hit the building not dead on but heading towards the left. The photos from the "Hunt the Boeing" site show the impact site, but there is a section of the facade that curls outwards and to the right. Also, the left side of the impact hole is straight up and down when you would expect that side to be more ragged.

That being said, I don't think there is a doubt that the plane hit the pentagon. I can't help but thinking though that the pilot was pretty lucky. You can't get an idea of the terrain from the shot, but all indications are that he was skimming the ground. If he hadn't been able to hold the nose up, that plane may have impacted before the building. My question would be would the plane have exploded had the pilot nosed in before the building (ie could the plane have landed belly up and skidded or would it have cartwheeled and exploded)?
posted by smcniven at 5:05 AM on March 8, 2002


Does anyone know of any information detailing the flight path of AA77 before it hit the pentagon? I can't figure out why it would hit the pentagon from that direction, but I think my recollection of the layout of the area relative to National Airport is a little fuzzy. In my mind it is a dicey bit of flying to be that low at that speed and still miss 395.
posted by donkeymon at 8:17 AM on March 8, 2002


I think the point of this exercise wasn't to play "hunt the plane" games with the photos. It is very possible that the camera completely missed the plane. BUT, the other suggestion that has been floating around (i.e. a truck bomb) kind gets killed when you can see that there isn't a big truck in front of the area a second before the explosion.
posted by johnmunsch at 10:23 AM on March 8, 2002


smcniven, donkeymon, I recently heard a snippet of somebody giving a lecture on how the rebuilding of the pentagon was going, and he mentioned that as the plane came in, (landing gear up) it was so flat and so low that it was snapping antennas off of cars as it went by.

Having not been there, just looking at the photos, (including some of the ones here, taken just after the attack), it appears to me that the plane was skimming the surface - the flat approach and speed creating a ground effect cushion that scooted the plane to within a few yards of the building. That would still stir up a lot of dust, and leave the ground relatively unscathed, as it appears to be. But that's just my theory, and I could definitely be wrong, or a wacko.
posted by kokogiak at 10:26 AM on March 8, 2002


i'm sure the pentagon has a camera system like many others i've seen...

-big, obvious cameras

-small, hidden cameras

if they release every photo they have they basically show where all of their cameras are. I wouldn't do that either.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:01 PM on March 8, 2002


I am frankly floored that there is any doubt in anybody's mind about this one. The secretary who sits outside my door as I write was on her way into work (heading toward D.C. on 395, for those of you who know the area) when the plane passed over her head so closely, and with such a deafening roar, that she looked up and saw it hit the Pentagon. She was a wreck for weeks. In fact, my whole firm was a wreck for weeks -- one of our partners was on that plane, and at least two others would have been if they had not switched to a different flight at the last minute. I don't think people could be so flip if they had looked at her husband's anguished face throughout the entire memorial service, as I did.
posted by IPLawyer at 2:54 PM on March 8, 2002



posted by blackholebrain at 3:13 PM on March 8, 2002


Thank you blackholebrain. Awesome.
posted by milnak at 4:22 PM on March 8, 2002


First off, I don't doubt that a plane hit the Pentagon. However...

A Boeing 757-200 is 44 feet tall, including the fin (fin?). Assuming 10 feet per floor, 44 feet is half a floor shy of the exterior height of the Pentagon. The airplane you're all pointing at in these pictures doesn't look to be more than 2-3 stories tall, to me. Unless, in the picture, the plane is approaching at a rather steep angle towards the camera (thus making it look shorter due to the distance), or I'm imagining things, I don't think that blur is the plane.
posted by CrayDrygu at 10:39 PM on March 8, 2002


CrayDrygu - I thought about that too, but the plane is at a steep angle towards the camera - plus you can easily cut that 44-foot figure down to 35-38 feet, since the landing gear was not out, and presumably the plane was already beginning to be crushed. I'm still undecided as to what the object is, but a tail fin seems as likely as any explanation.
posted by kokogiak at 10:57 PM on March 8, 2002


Hm. Okay, that's more plausable, then.
posted by CrayDrygu at 11:53 PM on March 8, 2002


Am I the only one who misread this as "Photos Show Plane Hitting Penguin"?

I am?

Sheesh, I'd better up the meds again.
posted by fullerine at 4:10 AM on March 9, 2002


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