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There appears to be a three-minute discrepancy
September 17, 2002 2:41 AM   Subscribe

There appears to be a three-minute discrepancy between the time that Flight 93's black box stopped recording and the time that it actually crashed. Hmm ... I wonder if ... nah.
posted by textureslut (69 comments total)

 
oops, should have mentioned that this is via cursor. sorry about the failure to correctly assign the props.
posted by textureslut at 2:46 AM on September 17, 2002


"The tape ended at 10:03". According to who? I can't see how we can know that the clocks that timed the crash and the tape are synchronised in any way. There are four clocks visible to me at the moment (watch, computer, desk phone and mobile phone) and they are all reading different times and are up to 13 minutes different.

I'm also not surprised that the impact is not heard. Surely the tape must stop recording on impact. I know the casing must be pretty indestructible but the tape mechanism can't be that robust... Surely nobody is seriously suggesting that there is a more sinister significance to all this?
posted by jontyjago at 2:56 AM on September 17, 2002


Clearly, we can see that the plane was taken at the last moment into in a post-apocalyptic future where humanity has been rendered infertile by the pollution that blights the atmosphere. Once there, the people on the plane were used to replenish a dwindling population, and replaced with perfect replicas incapable of thought (or something like that), and the plane was replaced in our time for its crash. However, due to a problem in temporal mechanics in which no point in the past can be visited twice by a time traveller, the plane had to be replaced three minutes after the black box was artificially stopped by these "future people."
posted by kaibutsu at 3:13 AM on September 17, 2002


Jeez, guys, there's a reason that I didn't actually suggest any sinister reasons for the discrepancy. I was just thinking that it was kind of odd that the people in charge of making the chronology of Flight 93's last moments had somehow missed it by three minutes. I mean, there were fighter jets tailing it and there were people on the ground watching it and there were cell-phone calls from the plane that could be cross-referenced to figure out when things occurred.

And I realize that even with those elements, they could be forgiven for not being perfectly exact. I wouldn't think it was a big deal if it was 15 or 30 seconds, but three minutes is a pretty large gap for what is quite possibly the most famous plane crash of all time. (Apologies, of course, to all you Buddy Holly fans out there.)

By the way, here's a pretty straightforward but still educational resource on how black boxes work.
posted by textureslut at 3:28 AM on September 17, 2002


The last line of this story is particularly telling.

While there is no shortage of individuals who question the official party line on Flight 93, it is notable how the mainstream U.S. media, to a man, have refused to touch the story.

Probably it's just still too soon after the event; the wounds are still wide open, and no-one wants to rock the boat too hard. There's no doubt that the story of the Flight 93 heroes continues to play an immense role in assisting the nation's mourning and recovery process.

I want to believe the official story as much as anyone, but the questioners will only grow louder in years to come as history will demand more answers than have hitherto been provided.
posted by plenty at 3:35 AM on September 17, 2002


A snippet from the article: New evidence that came out last week may support the electrical-failure theory. A federal air traffic controller from Cleveland, Stacey Taylor, told "Dateline NBC" that Flight 93's transponder, initially shut off by the hijackers, came back on briefly only to give out - at 10:03 a.m.

So, if there is messing with the aircraft systems, it's possible the flight recorder could be powered down intermittently or prematurely. Apparently On Swissair Flight 111, which crashed off the coast of Nova Scotia in September 1998, the cockpit fire that caused the crash also killed power to the plane's two black boxes six full minutes before the crash.

The timing of the transponder reportedly cutting out is consistent with this theory.
posted by walrus at 4:02 AM on September 17, 2002


Although, the corroboration of the flight recorder and the transponder cutting out is still not telling us what may have caused an aircraft power failure at 10:03 ...
posted by walrus at 4:09 AM on September 17, 2002


First of all, let me say again that I don't think this article is evidence for Flight 93 being shot down. Second of all, let me say that even if Flight 93 had been shot down, it would have been a justifiable decision, given what had just happened in the last couple of hours.

However, I must agree with plenty that the Todd Beamer story is so useful (both politically and emotionally) that people are loath to actually consider the very real possibility that the passengers of Flight 93 were not the reason that the plane went down.

We do know that there were fighter jets in the area with orders to shoot down nonresponsive civilian aircraft. This is not in dispute. The only question is whether they actually followed through on the order. The following comes from a Washington Post series on the 10 days after 9/11:

In the White House bunker, a military aide approached the vice president.

"There is a plane 80 miles out," he said. "There is a fighter in the area. Should we engage?"

"Yes," Cheney replied without hesitation.

Around the vice president, Rice, deputy White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, tensed as the military aide repeated the question, this time with even more urgency. The plane was now 60 miles out. "Should we engage?" Cheney was asked.

"Yes," he replied again.

As the plane came closer, the aide repeated the question. Does the order still stand?

"Of course it does," Cheney snapped.

Within minutes, there was a report that a plane had crashed in southwestern Pennsylvania-what turned out to be United Flight 93, a Boeing 757 that had been hijacked after leaving Newark International Airport. Many of those in the PEOC feared that Cheney's order had brought down a civilian aircraft. Rice demanded that someone check with the Pentagon.

On Air Force One, Bush inquired, "Did we shoot it down or did it crash?"

It took the Pentagon almost two hours to confirm that the plane had not been shot down, an enormous relief. "I think an act of heroism occurred on board that plane," Cheney said. Later, reports of cell phone conversations before the plane crashed indicated that some passengers had fought with the hijackers.


Two hours for the Pentagon to figure out that they didn't shoot down a plane? I know that the morning of 9/11 was chaotic as hell, but two hours? I mean, what's really involved in figuring it out, other than placing a call to the CO of the fighter pilot and saying: "Excuse me, but did your pilot fire or not?" Honestly, it seems to me that two hours would be more the amount of time required to decide whether or not they could plausibly say that it had not been shot down. And if it had been shot down, there would probably be some sort of evidence of that on the black box ... say, in the last three minutes or so.

If I were Dick Cheney, I would not want to have to defend myself against charges of trading the lives of airline passengers for the lives of politicians. And I don't think that the administration would have to be evil to lie about something like this -- it could very well be a lie they felt was in the geniune best interests of the country.

I'm sure I'm coming off as one of the tinfoil-hat crowd, but I'm really not. Swear. I'm just wondering whether the official version of events is perfectly accurate.
posted by textureslut at 4:28 AM on September 17, 2002


tape gap? hmmmm.
posted by quonsar at 4:34 AM on September 17, 2002


Doesn't the aftermath of the plane tell the story. Like the debris field would be scattered over more area of land if you blew the plane up out of the sky compared to it hitting the ground making impact and then exploding into pieces. Ever been skeet shooting?
posted by thomcatspike at 4:58 AM on September 17, 2002


I would not want to have to defend myself against charges of trading the lives of airline passengers for the lives of politicians.

I don't want to sound harsh here, but the passengers on Flight 93 were going to die no matter what happened. If the plane gets shot down, they die. If the plane reaches its target, they still die. I don't see how Cheney could be accused of making a trade rather than just trying to prevent more people from getting killed.
posted by Cyrano at 5:07 AM on September 17, 2002


Nah, nor do I Cyrano. I think America would completely understand if the plane was, in fact, shot down.
posted by ph00dz at 5:26 AM on September 17, 2002


thomcatspike
from the article"The debate has also been driven by the wide debris field from Flight 93 - including papers found eight miles away"
posted by poodlemouthe at 5:29 AM on September 17, 2002


Because, you know, paper falls straight down when dropped in air.....
posted by dwivian at 5:32 AM on September 17, 2002


Cyrano, I'm not saying that I personally would have accused Cheney of trading civilian lives for those of politicians. If you'll read the second line of my last post, you'll see I specifically say that I think shooting down a plane in those circumstances is justifiable. What I am saying is that there are definitely people out there who would not see it the same way, and the adminstration would have to be aware of that.

And remember, it's not just whether Americans would completely understand such a decision. Think of how it could get spun overseas ... the cowardly infidel leaders killing their own civilians to save their office space from Allah's righteous wrath, etc.

thomcatspike: There's actually a fair amount of controversy over exactly how large the debris field was. Some eyewitnesses reported seeing debris fall from the sky before seeing the plane hit the ground. Some light debris was found as far as six to eight miles away from the crash site. Whether or not the wind blew it there after the crash is a matter of some dispute.

(Admittedly, the above link is kind of tabloid-ish, but at least it provides good sourcing for most of its assertions and quotes.)
posted by textureslut at 5:44 AM on September 17, 2002


I think all planes have GPS now, and if this plane did, the clock would, in fact, be synchronized to a clock we could check.
posted by Nothing at 5:49 AM on September 17, 2002


Debris field won't tell you much. If the plane broke up in mid-air, trying to recover from too steep a stall after a control struggle, that would account for the spread of debris. It would also be consistent with loss of power to the transponder and flight recorder, three minutes before the crash. So would shooting the plane down, so it still doesn't tell us anything ...
posted by walrus at 5:57 AM on September 17, 2002


Nothing: there's no reason to assume the time signal for the flight recorder is sourced from the GPS. However, it's still unlikely to be a synching problem, because there was at least one transmission from the cockpit to air traffic control that would have been captured by the ATC tapes, which could be used for synching the tapes.
posted by walrus at 6:01 AM on September 17, 2002


Of course if the plane was shot down, then the relatives would seem to have a very strong case if they were to sue the US government!

To me, it sounds as though the aircraft was shot down, the chances of an electrical failure coinciding with the cockpit being charged seem rather remote. The aerial breakup theory would make sense, but from the report, the end of the recording suggests an unexpected yet catastrophic failure (more like an explosion than stall related break up)
posted by daveg at 6:11 AM on September 17, 2002


kaibutsu, you're not allowed to watch Millennium before going to bed anymore... ; )
posted by stifford at 6:15 AM on September 17, 2002


Two hours for the Pentagon to figure out that they didn't shoot down a plane?

No, two hours to confirm that they hadn't.
posted by oddovid at 6:34 AM on September 17, 2002


My above comments were more as a question, whoops if I came across as more of a doubter. I can see the plane being crippled(who knows what technology was used) out of the sky, then the impact being so immense that it covered up the crippling of the plane. As a plane flown straight into the ground, the impact could strip the flesh off your bones. With the power loss did someone flip an "off switch"?
posted by thomcatspike at 6:51 AM on September 17, 2002


or could it be evidence of the FBI tampering with the tape so the call of "lets roll" could roll us right into iraq? personally i think this whole thing is a bunch of hooey 1/2 true 1/2 constructed to manufacture some convenient heroes. Or like tomascastspike says perhaps the plane was downed by the government (dubbya would never come clean that he had an american jet shot down to save his own skin)
posted by hoopyfrood at 6:54 AM on September 17, 2002


According to a short article in Discover magazine:
Wallace, a seismologist at the University of Arizona, has studied records of ground vibrations triggered by the crash to reconstruct how the event unfolded.

Based on the amount of seismic energy, Wallace could estimate how the plane came down: "The UA flight produced a significant signal, consistent with a fully-loaded jet that was intact, or nearly intact, on impact." That finding disputes rumors that the hijacked jet was shot down, he says, because a missile or other explosion would have broken the craft into smaller pieces that would have caused less seismic disturbance. The Pan Am crash over Lockerbie, Scotland, which blew apart in midair, produced only a faint signal, even though the crash occurred close to an array of ground-motion sensors.
posted by maudlin at 6:54 AM on September 17, 2002


Ahhh but what a shit-storm would fall if it were found that the crew and passengers of flight 93 had gotten control of the plane but dubbya still had it shot down -coincidentally in the middle of nowhere- because the decision was already made
posted by hoopyfrood at 7:00 AM on September 17, 2002


Maudlin... the goverment has been tinkering with EMP type weapons that could in theory take a plane down. now I know this is getting x files but it could account for it
posted by hoopyfrood at 7:03 AM on September 17, 2002


Thanks, maudlin, that's interesting info about the size of the seismic signal. Could the plane have been forced down by a fighter without the use of a missile and resulting mid-air explosion, I wonder? As long as we're looking for every possible hole in both arguments... (on preview, thanks, hoopyfrood)

If the plane broke up in mid-air, trying to recover from too steep a stall after a control struggle, that would account for the spread of debris.

Can you give an example where this has happened to a plane, walrus? Not the control struggle but the mid-air breakup after a steep stall and resulting large debris field?
posted by mediareport at 7:10 AM on September 17, 2002


No, hoopyfrood, I don't think there would be. Well, maybe a bit of a shitstorm. There's always a bit of a shitstorm...

Even if the passengers did gain control at about the time the plane was going to be shot down...how the hell could anyone in a position to make the shoot down decision be expected to know that? Presumably the decision would have been make minutes before and you're talking about what could have been a matter of seconds.

If you think the passengers on Flight 93 are manufactured heroes now just imagine what it would have been like if they had managed to bring that plane home. Or had been able to just try. There's no way in hell if they had control of that plane that any politician who knew that would have ordered it shot down.
posted by Cyrano at 7:14 AM on September 17, 2002


Although, on further consideration, I suppose you could make the "dead heroes vs living heroes" argument. But living heroes look better on TV...
posted by Cyrano at 7:16 AM on September 17, 2002


So why don't black boxes have an internal battery that they can switch to in the event of power failure?
posted by tpoh.org at 7:16 AM on September 17, 2002


Doesn't the aftermath of the plane tell the story. Like the debris field would be scattered over more area of land if you blew the plane up out of the sky compared to it hitting the ground making impact and then exploding into pieces.

Air-to-air missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow or the AIM-9 Sidewinder wouldn't typically blow a civilian airliner into small fragments. They might blow parts off (a wing, for example), and would definitely damage it sufficiently to cause it to crash into the ground and explode.

This would still be reflected in the debris field, but not necessarily in such a manner that it would be immediately observable to non-governmental investigators.

However, the most important thing to my mind is that there is no reason believe that the passengers didn't take the action claimed for them. IIRC, several of these people knew the fate of the other hijacked airliners through communication with the ground. If the only chance you have of surviving is by fighting, I believe that there were probably a few people on that plane willing to start that fight.

After all, a box cutter will give you a nasty gushing wound and you might die, but impact with a skyscraper at 300 mph+ will kill you most certainly.
posted by moonbiter at 7:18 AM on September 17, 2002


Two hours for the Pentagon to figure out that they didn't shoot down a plane?

No, two hours to confirm that they hadn't.


I'm not in the military, and barring extremely unfortunate occurrences I never will be, so I'm not quite sure what the difference is. Does it require a bunch of different people up and down the chain of command? I still don't see how confirming it would be any more complicated than finding out who was in charge of the fighter pilots, calling him, and asking him whether or not his men had fired.
posted by textureslut at 7:22 AM on September 17, 2002


I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy.... but this isn't one. I do, however, believe that there needs to be some advances made in black box technology. These things seem like they're just about next to useless.
posted by spilon at 7:27 AM on September 17, 2002


The Air Force chain of command

textureslut: I've never been in the air force nor do I know whether there was any Hollywood-style "damn your chains of command!" going on that day, but you still have to go through a few levels to get to the actual pilots. I don't think it's so much that someone in Washington couldn't call the pilot/flight commander himself, rather that they probably wouldn't know who to call without asking someone below them, who it turn would ask someone below them, etc. Something like that can take a while in the military even on the best days.
posted by Cyrano at 7:35 AM on September 17, 2002


If the plane was shot down by a missile from one of the jet fighters trailing it:
There is just too much to cover up at this point.
posted by grum@work at 7:45 AM on September 17, 2002


I disagree with the premise of the Oliver Stone crowd around here, that a coverup exists because if it were known the plane was shot down, we no longer have the Heroes of Flight 93 and the concomitant made-for-TV movies about same. As noted by a better man than me*, quoting a WAY better man than me, "what we say here is far beyond our poor power to add or detract from what they did here."

Those folks who fought back against the hijackers would be no less heroes for the USAF having taken them out than if they themselves caused it to crash. The point is, they were willing to try and willing to die.

*As posted to MeFi by a man pretty similar to me.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:58 AM on September 17, 2002


I think that I might actually feel safer if I thought that the government had shot it down. Incidentally, I do think that and I don't understand why they do not just admit to it. It scares me that the government could know that 2 other planes had killed thousands of civilians and know that this one was hijacked and not shoot it down. There was no chance for survival of the people on the plane anyways, let them be martyrs. I understand that the families need to feel that these people were heros and I don't doubt that they are, but isn't it also nice to know that our government can occasionally keep it s$%t together in a catastrophe?
posted by Raichle at 7:58 AM on September 17, 2002


There is just too much to cover up at this point.

Whether or not there was a missile strike covered up - and you have to wonder why the govt would admit they were willing to shoot down the plane if they were working so hard to cover it up - this too-vast-a-conspiracy argument doesn't hold much water. Basically, you've listed civilians in the area (always easily swayed by "experts" into believing that what they saw at a traumatic moment was not what they remember seeing), other planes in the air (was there even a single other commercial aircraft within sight of the plane?), and military personnel.

To take just one of these:

none of the ground crew that equips the planes have mentioned any missing missiles when the jets returned


. . . Who would the ground crew have told, exactly? The PR detachment of their squadron? Air Force News? The countless thousands of hard-hitting investigative reporters who have been relentlessly double-checking the official story of the events of Sept 11 since moments after it occurred?
posted by gompa at 8:00 AM on September 17, 2002


texture slut quoted the Washington Post series on 9/11:
Around the vice president, Rice, deputy White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, tensed as the military aide repeated the question, this time with even more urgency. The plane was now 60 miles out. "Should we engage?" Cheney was asked.

"Yes," he replied again.

As the plane came closer, the aide repeated the question. Does the order still stand?

"Of course it does," Cheney snapped.

Within minutes, there was a report that a plane had crashed in southwestern Pennsylvania-what turned out to be United Flight 93, a Boeing 757 that had been hijacked after leaving Newark International Airport. Many of those in the PEOC feared that Cheney's order had brought down a civilian aircraft. Rice demanded that someone check with the Pentagon.


The thing is, Somerset County PA, where Flight 93 went down, meets the Maryland border more than 100 miles from Washington DC. The actual crash site is even further away than that. The plane discussed with Cheney was less than 60 miles out, and was being tracked with enough accuracy to give position updates every 20 miles or so. So we've got (at least) two different civilian aircraft involved, and (at least) two different sets of Air Force pilots tracking those aircraft. Yeah, it could very easily take two hours to sort things out.

Katherine
posted by kewms at 8:00 AM on September 17, 2002


If the hijackers were smart enough about the systems to initially disable the transponder-- as noted in the article-- they certainly knew their way around the cockpit. When the transponder came back online (for whatever reason), it is within the realm of possibility that the hijackers simply yanked the breakers to the transponder to put it out of action permanently. It is at this point that the breakers to the cockpit voice recorder could have been pulled.

But it's more fun to believe in a conspiracy. 8)
posted by Cerebus at 8:03 AM on September 17, 2002


So why don't black boxes have an internal battery that they can switch to in the event of power failure?

Good question.

Can you give an example where this has happened to a plane, walrus? Not the control struggle but the mid-air breakup after a steep stall and resulting large debris field?

I've just looked, and I can't find any specific examples. That might be because I don't know exactly where to look, and don't have much time to spend on this. However, I always understood that trying to pull something as big as an airliner out of a graveyard spiral could cause a loss of the integrity of the airframe. Struck me as more likely if the plane was being piloted by someone inexperienced ... but you're right to call me on it, because I don't have the relevant examples to give you ... I was just mooting an alternative explanation.

it is within the realm of possibility that the hijackers simply yanked the breakers to the transponder to put it out of action permanently. It is at this point that the breakers to the cockpit voice recorder could have been pulled.

I don't know about the one in this crash, but the model of flight recorder I have experience with is tied to the aircraft power. It isn't possible to stop it recording without a power failure of some variety.
posted by walrus at 8:11 AM on September 17, 2002


Although, the corroboration of the flight recorder and the transponder cutting out is still not telling us what may have caused an aircraft power failure at 10:03 ...

Prior to a mass recall and renovation of the wiring systems, F-16 fighter jets were crashing because of power failures that occurred only when the jets had flown at a very high rate of speed at steep angles. The g-forces involved in the steep angle flights caused stresses on the wiring which eventually caused the wiring to literally snap. There was a series of lawsuits, and the first successful one was so noteworthy that a made for TV movie came out of it.

If this passenger jet was (as reported by eyewitnesses) flying in an extraordinarily fast, steep dive and was, perhaps (as has also been reported) flying inverted, why not consider the possibility that similar g-force stresses caused wiring malfunctions which led to the eventual failure of the transponder after it was turned back on. After all, passenger planes were not designed to withstand extreme conditions and stresses, because they're far outside of the scope of their use.

Another possibility to entertain is an on-board explosion. In his phone call, Todd Beamer advised that one of the hijackers in the cockpit had a bomb of some type strapped to his body. If that bomb were set off in the cockpit (as a last ditch effort to bring the plane down despite the intervention of the passengers, or by accident, who knows) then a failure of critical plane systems could have easily followed even though it was still several minutes before the impact which destroyed the plane entirely.

I still go back to the eyewitnesses who were interviewed within the hour by the local media. (Pittsburgh media being "local" to Somerset County, PA, that is.) No one, in all the clamor, ever said a word about fighter jets being in the area until well after the plane was down, even though fighter jet pilots who have just shot down a plane (especially a rogue passenger jet) would have unquestionably done a fly-by (at the very least) to get a visual confirmation that the target had been hit, and to ascertain the outcome of that hit.

In addition, there was no report of two explosions. While that may bode poorly for my bomb in the cockpit theory, that explosion would not have been so loud as a hit from a missile which would've taken out a portion of the plane or an engine. If there was a shoot-down, why didn't anybody hear it?
posted by Dreama at 8:13 AM on September 17, 2002


I work for the DoD, and I have been in the USAF, and 2 hours to *confirm* a report isn't unreasonable.

Consider-- assuming for a moment that the interceptors were armed (they were diverted from a training mission and were most likely *not* armed, which jibes with reports I've read elsewhere; yes, the pilots would have been ordered and prepared to collide mid-air had the decision to down the airliners been made), you have to communicate down the chain to the wing commander, wait for the pilots to be relieved on station and return to base, *then* visually verify that no ordinance had been discharged, check the returning load-out against the pre-flight manifest, and finally communicate all this back up the chain.

They wanted a *confirmation*, not an informal report. There's a difference.
posted by Cerebus at 8:14 AM on September 17, 2002


Tangentially:

The black box cannot have an idependent power supply because it runs on a tape loop. If it continued to run, the box would have to be recovered w/in 30 minutes and stopped or else it would record over the data leading up to the crash.

One could argue for some modifications, but the box--designed as a self-contained, maintenance free system-- is probably the most effective solution to the task. It requires zero maintenance so a groundcrew member doesn't forget to swap/rewind or mis-label a tape. The box itself is insulated from damage by placement w/in the super-structure of the plane so is difficult to access for maintenance. It is relatively low-tech which minimizes risk of failure and maximizes survivability.

Features like an on-board battery or a capacitor to extend the taping beyond catastrophic power failure unnecessarily increase failure risk or jeopardize relevant crash data.
posted by Fezboy! at 8:16 AM on September 17, 2002


nobody on the ground heard the missile explosion

"Then I heard a loud thump that echoed off the hills and then I heard the plane’s engine. I heard two more loud thumps and didn’t hear the plane’s engine anymore after that."

and:
(I) heard the engine gun two different times...(I) heard a loud bang and the windows of the houses all around rattled.

grum@work, did you miss the questions above about whether a plane could be forced down *without* a missile explosion? Reading the reported statements of eyewitnesses at flight93crash.com seems to me to boost the electromagnetic pulse theory. EMP weapons might also explain the 3-minute gap at the end of the flight recorder.

spilon, why don't you think that's a plausible explanation? You say this isn't a good conspiracy theory but don't explain why you feel that way.
posted by mediareport at 8:16 AM on September 17, 2002


This pulse of energy produces a powerful electromagnetic field, particularly within the vicinity of the weapon burst...it can result in irreversible damage to a wide range of electrical and electronic equipment, particularly computers and radio or radar receivers...[computers] embedded in military equipment, such as signal processors, electronic flight controls and digital engine control systems, are all potentially vulnerable to the EMP effect."

It's talking about an EMP bomb, of course, not a pulse from, say, one plane to another. Anyone have a link to help us understand if that kind of pulse is possible yet?
posted by mediareport at 8:26 AM on September 17, 2002


Features like an on-board battery or a capacitor to extend the taping beyond catastrophic power failure unnecessarily increase failure risk or jeopardize relevant crash data.

Modern flight recorders don't use tapes (think static memory: no moving parts), but still use a circular buffer approach. The available time is probably more than six hours now, as opposed to thirty minutes, so you could arguably give it five or ten minutes more juice, shake and bake tests allowing.
posted by walrus at 8:33 AM on September 17, 2002


Ugh, mediareport. So you think that the government decided to use a secret weapon to further its political goals and pulled together this masterful plan in minutes on the same day that no one else seemed sure of how many planes were in the air or whether there was a car bomb at State. What about the time traveller theory? Isn't that a plausible explanation? Do you have any evidence against it?

I feel dirty reading conspiracy theorists sometimes. It's this apparent love of corruption, this hope that the worst explanation is the true one.

People on cell phones heard the passengers say they were rushing the cockpit. The families have heard the cockpit recording with the sounds of a struggle and the words "pull up."

How do you get from there to EMP weapons? Does that make any sense at all?
posted by Yogurt at 8:47 AM on September 17, 2002


Walrus:

Then we should all shame UA for using out-of-date equipment. From the article:
The cockpit voice recorder a roughly 30-minute tape loop, is supposed to record the sounds inside the cockpit right up until the moment of impact and usually does.

*Emphasis mine.
posted by Fezboy! at 8:48 AM on September 17, 2002


Walrus:

Then we should all shame UA for using out-of-date equipment.


I'm not making any claims about the air-worthiness of UA planes, I'm just letting you know what I know. Black boxes utilising static memory have been around since the early 90s, but it's a matter of what the aviation authorities decide it's reasonable to demand. I expect one can usually glean what information one needs, regarding an accident, from the thirty minutes before the plane crashes. In any case, a newer box would still have cut off when the power did ... so there would have been no information gained in this case, even if the plane was fitted with a newer box.
posted by walrus at 8:58 AM on September 17, 2002


So you think that the government decided to use a secret weapon to further its political goals and pulled together this masterful plan in minutes on the same day that no one else seemed sure of how many planes were in the air or whether there was a car bomb at State.

Secret weapon? Masterful plan? Where do you get this stuff? Look, I know it's emotionally jarring to try to carefully sort through facts and possible explanations for an uncertain event, but can we try to stick to what's actually happening in the thread, please? Thanks.

this hope that the worst explanation is the true one

Up yours, Yogurt. That's a disgusting thing to say; I'm trying to look at the situation as dispassionately as possible. Unlike, for example, you.

People on cell phones heard the passengers say they were rushing the cockpit. The families have heard the cockpit recording with the sounds of a struggle and the words "pull up."

How do you get from there to EMP weapons? Does that make any sense at all?


Well, if you're asking me to imagine a plausible scenario for you, I'll be happy to do it. In fact, it's easy. But if you're just looking for something to sniff at and dismiss while insulting me again, it's not worth my time. You game for an actual conversation here or not, Yogurt?
posted by mediareport at 9:11 AM on September 17, 2002


To take just one of these:

none of the ground crew that equips the planes have mentioned any missing missiles when the jets returned


. . . Who would the ground crew have told, exactly?


Each other. Their wives, girlfriends, and significant others. Their families. At least one of whom would have told other people. The bigger the secret, the harder it is to keep.
posted by kewms at 9:33 AM on September 17, 2002


I think America would completely understand if the plane was, in fact, shot down.

And then [the families of those killed] would completely sue the ass off the government...
posted by five fresh fish at 9:45 AM on September 17, 2002


And then [the families of those killed] would completely sue the ass off the government...

...and lose. Just show the jury a clip of people jumping out of the WTC and say, "We had to stop this. Even the people on the plane knew that. I don't believe Mark Beamer would want his family to sue the government for doing what he himself did. Do you?"

Even if it could be proven that a fighter jet fired a small missile or sent out an EMP burst that sent the plane into a steep descent (for Yogurt's sake, we'll point out the burst could easily have occurred just as the passengers began rushing the cockpit, accounting for the phone calls, the flight recorder time delay *and* the "pull up" statements), I doubt anyone would be able to get a jury to go against the government on this one.

The families who sue over the government ignoring obvious warnings would probably have a better shot.
posted by mediareport at 10:08 AM on September 17, 2002


I somehow doubt that a trial of that nature could involve a jury, the jury pool is a bit contaminated.
posted by agregoli at 10:42 AM on September 17, 2002


Probably it's just still too soon after the event; the wounds are still wide open, and no-one wants to rock the boat too hard.

Yes, because that's the job of a journalist, to not rock the boat.
posted by rushmc at 11:40 AM on September 17, 2002


I have to agree with Cerebus. Having been in the military, getting down the chain of command that far might have taken some time. Not two hours but then again as Cerebus said, you don't casually ask whether or not someone shot down a civilian aircraft. If I was the commander I would visually inspect the craft, check the records on what they took off with and what they came back with, listened to the communications between base and aircraft and then and only then would I report back up to the office of the President of the United States that I was sure that I (my men) had not fired on a civilian aircraft. Believe me, your career would be over if you had to call and revise your report.
posted by billman at 12:19 PM on September 17, 2002


mediareport: Reading the reported statements of eyewitnesses at flight93crash.com seems to me to boost the electromagnetic pulse theory. EMP weapons might also explain the 3-minute gap at the end of the flight recorder.

mediareport: Secret weapon? Masterful plan? Where do you get this stuff?

I was wondering that same thing about you, mediareport... This hypothetical weapon (and, thus a secret weapon, if deployed) that seems to you to be reasonable enough to "boost the [EMP] theory", is not something that would be deployed normally. If it was on the plane, and the plane thus logically armed with other ordinance, I'd be surprised. It's just not normal. Advancing that thought is one that REQUIRES that some masterful plan have been formulated, as it is too coincidental otherwise.

Now, if you admit you don't accept that a plan was in force, you'll have to accept that it would take an exceptional string of coincidences to make a targeted EMP burst from an unknown weapon plausible.
posted by dwivian at 12:56 PM on September 17, 2002


The fact that within two hours Cheney publically confirmed that the plane had not been shot down offers the best evidence that he was being honest. To lie or coverup is a rational decision only if the risk of being caught is times the damage of being caught is less than the value being gained by the lie itself. While the value assigned to the lie itself can be determined within reasonable bounds (desire not to get bad press for shooting down citizens etc...), the chance that within two hours Cheney could assess the probability of being caught as lying within acceptable limits is preposterous. He would have to realize that untold numbers of people could have seen the fighter, might have video cameras, that reporters might find missle debris and so on. The choice to lie under these cirumstances, when the cost of being discoverted would obviously be great, would be irrational
posted by flagrante_delicto at 1:00 PM on September 17, 2002


I see stuff like this and it reminds me of how the dittoheads and the media snowballed nothing into a big "scandal" every day during the Clinton era.

Bush has a ton of strange factoids connected to him, but no one in the media seems to care.They didn't care before 911, either.
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 1:02 PM on September 17, 2002


I don't think Flight 93 was shot down but it is a possibility and as such I think it's important to point out that F-16's and F-15's are equipped with standard issue Vulcan 20 mm cannon's that could easily bring down the flying duck of a airliner with a couple of short bursts. With a minimium of in flight damage mind you and with a small chance that the airliner might be able to perform a semi decent emergency landing. I know if I was a pilot in one of those fighter planes that would be my first option. Not to mention warning shots before hand and all that....maybe 3 minutes worth of ??

The talk of EMP's is interesting but it weakens this thread to conspiracy theory wank off territory... The air force barely had a chance to get planes in the air and someone, somehow had the presence of mind to send out a top secret new weapon. Yeesh...
posted by BruceLee_Archdiocese at 1:23 PM on September 17, 2002


Whoops forgot these links:

F-16 and F-15 armament and specs.
posted by BruceLee_Archdiocese at 1:30 PM on September 17, 2002


Advancing that thought is one that REQUIRES that some masterful plan have been formulated, as it is too coincidental otherwise.

I dunno, dwivian; the piece of information we're missing in this discussion is the current status of the military's EMP weapons programs. I'd love to find a link to that. Could there have been a "not normal" plane at one of the many bases in the area, with instructions to do an EMP pulse before firing a missile? *shrugs* You may not think it's the best theory, but it's certainly not an insane one. Why the "crank! loon!" reaction, then?

Look, I'm not saying the EMP theory is the best, either. Dreama's point about no eyewitness accounts of fighters is good, although she was wrong about no witnesses saying they heard multiple booms. And moonbiter's point about air-to-air missiles not necessarily blowing a plane into small fragments is interesting, too.

What I am saying is I'm willing to explore the tendrils of all these theories *fully,* particularly in light of the FBI's inexplicable refusal to comment about this fascinating piece of new information. I've just seen too many truths quickly dismissed in the past to allow all 9/11 "conspiracies" to get lumped into one bucket and tossed in the trash. If others don't want to engage in that kind of exploration, fine. But don't waste our time by insulting those of us who do.
posted by mediareport at 1:37 PM on September 17, 2002


Mediareport: I think you're right. Absolutely no need to create a dismissive atmosphere... sorry if I sounded to harsh in my post of "Conspiratorial wank off territory".
posted by BruceLee_Archdiocese at 1:50 PM on September 17, 2002


Another theory is that Shanksville, PA was actually the target!

By the way, it is not true that the Flight 93 passengers were automatically dead regardless of what happened. One of the passengers was a licensed pilot and could have landed the plane, and I guarantee you that if ATC had heard an American give his name and say that the hijackers were subdued and please help him land somewhere, they'd have done it.
posted by anser at 3:50 PM on September 17, 2002


While there is no shortage of individuals who question the official party line on Flight 93, it is notable how the mainstream U.S. media, to a man, have refused to touch the story.

I don't know if I'd go that far. Even among local journalists with whom I socialize, the case of Flight 93 triggered the most "too good to be true" alarm bells (focusing, admittedly, more on the actions credited to the passengers than the possibility of a shoot-down). In any case, I'm pretty sure more effort has gone into investigating this "conspiracy theory" than, well, some of the other ones out there regarding Sept. 11.

Though I shudder to cite it, MSNBC/Dateline posted one of the more comprehensive wrap-ups of what apparently happened on that plane earlier this month, with clear effort to rely on reliable soures rather than hearsay:

"And then the hijackers begin talking about, ‘Should we finish?’ And on the transcript it says, ‘Finish it/her off.’" ... "Near the end you hear in english words, ‘Roll it up,’ and ‘lift it up,’ or ‘turn it up,’ or ‘pull it up.’ The families have taken that as a sign that the passengers and perhaps crew were trying to regain control of the plane."

One of the passengers was a licensed pilot and could have landed the plane...

Yep. On board were Don Greene, a pilot, and Andrew Garcia, an ATC with the Air National Guard.
posted by pzarquon at 4:08 PM on September 17, 2002


I have a feeling that Plan B for the hijackers was, if you can't reach your target, crash it into anything you can. When the passengers forced the cockpit, the hijackers "finished it" by augering in, and the passengers were unable to stop it.
posted by anser at 4:28 PM on September 17, 2002


Confirmation that the fighter jets intercepting Flight 93 were on a training mission and unarmed, including names. They don't have any weapons on board that they can use, says the commander who ordered the jets to close with the plane.
posted by dhartung at 6:16 PM on September 17, 2002


"The point is, they were willing to try and willing to die."

IF I DIDN'T KNOW BETTER I'D THINK YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THE HIJACKERS.
My gut feeling is that the plane was shot down and the same pimps the used a quote from a murdered student at Columbine (that probably wasn't said) to sell books are now using "let's roll" in the same way.And calling those who question offical versions "the Oliver Stone crowd" is asinine and niggardly.Labeling sucks.
posted by joemeek at 5:51 PM on September 18, 2002


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