Flight 93: The Improbable Truth
Author's note: the flawed "seismic event"
article is here, unchanged (as a matter of record) since I put it up at the end
of July 2002. As many of you know by now, Ed Haering from NASA was kind enough to lend his
brain to the issue of the seismic event I interpreted as a sonic boom. He thinks it wasn't
one, and I'm still in agreement with him. His analysis is below.
...but there's something new below.
starts upon the supposition that when you have eliminated all which is impossible, then
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's
Three minutes, four possible coincidences,
and one odd lack of evidence, have created a problem with the official story regarding the
crash of United Airlines Flight 93.
It begins with the matter reported in the
Philadelphia Daily News in September 2002 by William Bunch. Several seismologists, some
commissioned by the Department of Defense to investigate the question, agree that Flight
93 struck the earth at 10:06. Yet family members allowed to hear the cockpit voice
recording were repeatedly told the tape ended at 10:03, three minutes before impact.
The problem continues: shortly before
striking the ground, Flight 93 made a dramatic course change. The doomed airliner turned
nearly 90 degrees to the northwest. The turn, according to aircraft tracking records at
FlightExplorer.com, occurred at 10:03.
Three minutes before impact.
A third event took place when Flight 93's
transponder signal, which had over the course of the hijacking been turned off, and then
on again, ceased transmitting. When NBC's Tom Brokaw interviewed air traffic controller
Stacey Taylor, she told him she had assumed the worst when the signal stopped -- that
Flight 93 had crashed.
The signal ended, Taylor said, at 10:03.
Three minutes before impact.
Shanksville-Stonycreek Elementary school,
two miles from Flight 93's impact site, was evacuated after the crash knocked out
electrical power to the school. The Mayor of the nearby borough of Indian Lake called the
utility company when power to his small town was disrupted by the crash. In the days to
follow, photographs of the impact point showed a newly repaired power line stretching over
the scene, leading to the reasonable conclusion that the airliner severed the wires as it
hit the ground.
The time of the outage, however, remains
Understanding the possible concurrence of
these four events requires the understanding that time, when measured by those involved
here, is a matter of fine precision. Flight recorders, seismologists, air traffic
controllers, and utility companies all depend upon the accuracy of their clocks
tremendously, and even use tools such as satellites to keep errors to a minimum. These
clocks, if not exactly synchronized, should at most be off by a matter of a few seconds.
assessment is perhaps the most difficult supporting technology of all to develop. Since
HPM weapons usually depend on electronic kill or upset, there is no "smoking
hole" as an observable. - Bacon/Rinehart, "A Brief Technology Survey of
High-Power Microwave Sources", High Power Electromagnetics Department, Sandia
National Laboratories, April 2001
The possibility is that United Flight 93
crashed as a result of being attacked by a high-powered microwave weapon, most likely
fired from the C-130 aircraft acknowledged by the Department of Defense to be present that
This is an incredible thesis, and requires
several points to be addressed in order to comprehend the idea, much less believe it.
First, it must be shown that such a weapon not only exists, but is operational within U.S.
Armed Forces. Second, it must be shown that evidence exists of an attack by this weapon on
9/11. In this article, I will present explanation in three parts:
1) The Case for the Existence of
Deployable High Power Microwave (HPM) Weapons
2) The Case for the C-130 as HPM Platform
3) The Case for an HPM Weapon Discharge on
9/11: Four Events at 10:03 A.M.
The Case for the Existence of Deployable
In order to understand how a microwave
weapon might have been used on 9/11, some historical context for the technology must be
established. The implications of radio frequency (RF) warfare has been understood since
the first significant electromagnetic pulse (EMP) was observed in 1962 following a nuclear
test blast above Johnston Island in the Pacific. In a test code-named STARFISH PRIME, a
1.5 kiloton nuclear weapon was detonated above the island; 1500 kilometers away in Hawaii,
streetlights blinked out, alarms were triggered, and power lines fused as a result of the
The disruptive effect of EMP on electrical
systems was not lost on military planners; but the use of nuclear weapons for the
relatively small-scale effect was deemed less than pragmatic. Over time, technology was
created which could produce EMP without a nuclear blast, but its effect was difficult to
focus. It was also not immediately apparent to Western forces what operational use such a
weapon would offer over conventional munitions.
But the Soviet Union recognized the
advantages very quickly. Lagging behind the West in electronics, the USSR saw EMP as a
critical technology; if they could not compete in the development of smaller and faster
electronic weapons, they could exploit their inherent susceptibility to RF. The Soviets
began to develop high-power microwaves (HPM), a technology which not only required no
nuclear blast, but also could be focused and required a smaller apparatus to generate.
HPM disrupts electrical systems very
briefly, for around a few hundred nanoseconds. But in the high-speed world of
computer-driven defense technology, this is long enough to reset chips, record faulty
data, an effectively neutralize any system dependent upon electrical impulses for its
NATO and former Soviet nations have developed HPM weapons. These weapons are
designed to exploit this inadvertent vulnerability to RF power by concentrating as much
power as possible into a controlled field. This has proven very effective, and anecdotal
data suggest successful combat deployment. -A.E. Pevler, "Security Implications of
High-Power Microwave Technology, IEE International Symposium on Technology and Society,
On September 6, 1976, the West saw its
most compelling evidence of how seriously the Soviet Union took the concepts of HPM
weapons. Lt. Victor Belenko defected from the USSR, landing in Hakodate Airport in
northern Japan in his state-of-the-art Soviet fighter, the MiG-25. As NATO scientists
began to dissect the aircraft, they discovered its critical communications, target
acquisition, and navigation systems were strangely designed with such antiquated parts as
vacuum tubes where computer chips should be. Such a system appeared anachronistic until
placed in the context of HPM weapons: this design was nearly impervious (or in the words
of the trade, "hardened") to an HPM attack.
developed at Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute are based upon very fast (nanosecond and
picosecond) solid state "on" and "off" switches developed by Prof.
Igor Grekhov and Dr. Alexi Kardo-Syssoev. These switches have recently been used to
generate 10 nanosecond, 10 KHz pulses....Jammers based upon these switches can be made
small enough to fit into a briefcase. A recent version is said to weigh 6.5 kg and to
deliver fields of 30 kV per meter at 5 meters. This is comparable to high-altitude EMP
(HEMP) field strength. - Dr. I.W. Merritt, Chief, Concepts Identification and Applications
Analysis Division, Advanced Technology Directorate, Missile Defense and Space Technology
Center, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, "Proliferation and Significance
of Radio Frequency Weapons Technology", before the Joint Economic Committee, United
States Congress, 25 February 1998
The origins of the U.S.-developed HPM are
difficult to trace. The efforts gained support during the Reagan administration, when
various directed-energy (DE) concepts were researched in connection with the Strategic
Defense Initiative, or "Star Wars". But HPM's trail becomes more apparent by the
early 1990's, as the technology begins to mature. As early as 1993, the United States
Marine Corps was building such phrases as "...shielding against radio frequency (RF)
and High Power Microwave Weapons effects is desired" into its operational
requirements documents (ORDs) for assets such as its Technical Control and Analysis Center
(TCAC), a hub for Marine signal intelligence and electronic warfare (SIGINT/EW) support
for air-ground operations (24 November 1993, www.fas.org/irp/doddir/usmc/ord93109da.htm). It must be inferred
that by this time, the Department of Defense did not think it unreasonable to defend
against HPM weapons, and that such a threat must have existed, or been on the verge of
Useful documents in following HPM
development include DoD Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) budget
item justification sheets. These are simply non-classified budget documents which
indicate, for each funded project, the goals, what was done in the previous fiscal year,
what is planned for the following fiscal year, and how much was and will be spent.
Of particular interest to the discussion
of HPM is how the mission description and accomplishments have evolved from the quite
specific to the very general as the technology improved, and the desire for public
knowledge of the program diminished. In FY 1994, for example, the mission includes the
are developed that support a wide range of Air Force missions such as space control,
command and control warfare, and counter-air warfare.
By FY 2001, the same project (with a new
that support a wide range of Air Force missions such as the potential disruption and
degradation of an adversary's electronic infrastructure and military capability are
Specific missions such as counter-air
warfare are replaced with the idea of a "potential" disruption of electronics.
Of course the new mission statements do not reflect the growth of the technology; careful
scrutiny of RDT&E documents from 1994 to 2001 show an increase in funding and
technical sophistication, and a decrease in specificity that suggests a program becoming
In FY 1994, a new pulse forming network
created a 100% efficient ultra-wideband source. A new pyramidal horn antenna created 70 KV
per meter at a 10 meter range. Solid-state gallium arsenite switches allowed 10,000 shots,
100 times better than the previous technology. And in FY 1994, a study on the HPM effects
on the F-16 aircraft and Stinger missile launch tubes was completed.
In FY 1996, advanced computer modeling
which could predict HPM effects on various aircraft was developed, and subsequent
shielding technologies to harden military assets to HPM created; specifically,
specifications, standards, and maintenance technology for systems including the F-16, Hawk
missile, and F-22 Raptor were developed. "Counter-air effectiveness analyses" of
HPM weapons were completed, and, most significantly, a contractor was chosen (but not
named) to produce a wideband HPM source for aircraft self-protection.
By FY 1998, the documents state the ending
of the Advanced Concepts Technology Demonstration, or ACTD, for HPM weaponry. An ACTD is a
joint user/developer effort to demonstrate an operational capability that meets a military
need; it is designed to accelerate application of mature technologies into the field,
usually with the help of an active warfighting unit. Essentially this is the period where
soldiers and contractors work out details of technical manuals and operating procedures, a
time when a specific piece of equipment is hauled into the field and subjected to whatever
hardships the soldiers deem necessary, while the contractor provides tech support and
advice as the equipment is integrated into use.
the ACTD. Demonstrated the capability to neutralize specific targets in a real-world
environment. Validated logistics, training, and maintenance assumptions applied to the
operational use of this specific system. -PE 0603750D8Z, RDT&E Budget Item
In FY 2000, a single-shot HPM device was
field tested for control of enemy air defenses, and components for repetitively-pulsed
narrowband HPM (power, sources, and antennae) were developed. FY 2001 saw the development
of frequency-agile HPM sources, as well as increasingly sophisticated computer modeling
and the "completed design of subscale breadboard multiple-shot HPM for airborne
attack". Obviously HPM was by now considered serious weapons science.
Bits and pieces of information regarding
HPM have surfaced in various official military documents, with the clear pattern that the
technology is mature and deployable (and thus probably deployed):
[Live Fire Test and Evaluation] has supported the development of prototype high-power
microwave (HPM) weapons and tests of these devices at DoD open-air ranges since FY97. -
FY01 Annual Report, "Vulnerability Assessment to Radio Frequency Threats", The
Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E)
high power microwave technologies have matured to the point where they are now ready for
the transition from engineering and manufacturing development [EMD, the stage after ACTD]
to deployment as operational weapons. - "High Power Microwaves: Strategic and
Operational Implications for Warfare", Col. E.M. Walling, USAF, Occasional Paper 11,
Center for Strategy and Technology (Air War College)
There is even, interestingly enough, a
Directed Energy Professional Society, which has put out a newsletter since 2000:
DEPS activities have focused mostly on lasers with minimal high power microwave
representation. I believe that this was principally because of the greater funds being
spent on lasers and the greater informational release restrictions on high power
microwaves. Future DEPS activities should provide a more balanced view of directed energy.
The last issue of this newsletter featured the very popular high power microwave active
denial system. It is currently the only HPM application that can be discussed publicly,
but many other HPM applications can be discussed within the DEPS classified forums. -
William L. Baker, "Wave Front: The Directed Energy Technical Newsletter", Winter
The Case for the C-130 as HPM Platform
As one peruses the available literature
regarding HPM, two aircraft continually gain mention: the F-16, and the C-130. The
constant appearance of the F-16 is no great surprise; it is common knowledge that the F-16
and its LANTIRN pods underwent significant HPM testing and hardening in the mid-1990s.
Phillips Laboratory just completed a multiyear program to measure and understand the
effects of HPM on an F-16 testbed aircraft....As part of this program, the susceptibility
of the low-altitude navigation and targeting IR system for night (LANTIRN) to
electromagnetic radiation was measured and hardening countermeasures developed and
demonstrated. This technology was transitioned to the LANTIRN System Program Office (SPO)
for implementation. - Dr. W.L. Baker, AF Phillips Labs, "Air Force High-Power
Microwave Technology Program", Aircraft Survivability Newsletter, Fall 1995
The greater mystery is the ubiquity of the
present we think of large aircraft as bombers, tankers, surveillance aircraft, or air
launched cruise missile launch platforms. In the future, large aircraft will be the first
to carry directed energy weapons. - New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st
Century, Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, 1995
United States has supplied major weapons system to its allies for decades. In the case of
technologies that are relevant to microwave weapons, a number of nations now own F-16 and
C-130 aircraft.... - Col. E.M. Walling, ibid.
There are a few obvious advantages to the
C-130 when discussing HPM weaponry. The most obvious is its remarkable payload abilities;
any HPM weapon that could produce a beam of enough power to do damage would of necessity
be large and heavy, especially in its infancy. Less obvious are issues such as the C-130's
quite capable electrical system, which without modification could run a hundred hairdryers
simultaneously, and the fact that a C-130 can fly with even a total electrical failure.
This latter could be useful in the field of unpredictable RF weapons. And the EC-130E
variant already has acknowledged microwave-powered equipment which sends out high energy
RF output for interference.
USAF supports the feasibility of developing an RF gunship within the next decade that can
target tanks and other ground vehicles much the way today's AC-130 Gunship performs its
mission. - B. Hillaby, "Directed Energy Weapons Development and Potential", the
Defence Associations National Network News, July 1997
The Case for an HPM Weapon Discharge on
9/11 - 10:03 A.M.
Three, and likely four, interesting things
occurred at the same time, 10:03 A.M., on the morning of 9/11 in and over Pennsylvania.
Individually, each can be explained by a less outlandish theory than an HPM discharge, but
taken as a group, another comprehensive explanation remains elusive.
First, the FBI has confirmed that aboard
United Flight 93, the cockpit voice recording (CVR) ends at 10:03. This was reported as a
significant event, primarily because the Army's own study of seismic data indicates that
the plane's impact occurred three minutes later. Prosaic explanations for this included
the effect of a total electrical failure aboard the airliner. In this discussion, however,
such a failure becomes much more interesting.
Second, at 10:03, Flight 93 makes a
dramatic change in course. This is another confirmed event, thanks to FlightExplorer's
accurate aircraft tracking software. Again, a change in heading is not in itself
significant; it is the timing which bears investigation.
Third, the transponder signal from Flight
93, which had been turned off, then on again, ceases transmitting. This was confirmed by
the NBC interview between Tom Brokaw and air traffic controller Stacey Taylor, and at the
time the assumption was that at 10:03, the airliner had crashed. Since this has been
determined not to be the case, again the timing of the event increases it's significance.
The fourth event to take place was a power
outage on the ground.
who attend the nearest elementary school, Shanksville Elementary, two miles from the crash
site, were evacuated earlier after the midmorning crash knocked out power to the school.
-"Officials, media swarm over site", Peirce/Erdley, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,
Lichty, the mayor of Indian Lake Borough, said the ground shook and the town's electricity
went out. He called the utility company to find out the cause. -"Crash rattles home,
Early photographs released by the
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PDEP) show a newly repaired power
line stretching over Flight 93's crash site. The conclusion could be that the airliner
severed the electric wires as it hit the ground.
The question is whether the power outage
began before the line could have been severed.
This was not an easy piece of information
to obtain. I first tried to retrieve outage records from Penelec, the First Energy Company
which services Shanksville and its school (circuit 00017-12). Interestingly, and to my
customer service representative's amazement, there is no record of the outage on their
overview screens. The rep also checked nearby accounts on Melva Rd, Lake Shore Rd, Marilyn
Way, Main St., Stoney Creek Rd, and Lake Stoney Creek Rd. We were both startled to find
that there was no record of an outage at any of these nearby accounts.
An electrical disruption onboard Flight 93
explains the why the CVR stopped recording. The same disruption explains the transponder
signal going silent. It can also explain the sudden course change as the
"fly-by-wire" components of the aircraft fail. But it is the suggestion of the
coincident electrical failure in the air, and that in the power grid on the ground, which
speaks to a single source which could cause both disruptions: a high power microwave
pointed at the aircraft, affecting both its avionics and electrical systems on the ground.
Some Final Thoughts
significance of the perturbation [caused by an HPM attack] is proportional to the
importance of the system corrupted. A portable compact disc player may react by garbling
music or changing the track it was playing. A similar amount of energy directed at a
commercial aircraft could corrupt the plane's control and navigation systems enough to
cause a crash. -A.E. Pevler, ibid.
HPM was "sold" early on as a
desirable weapons system for several reasons. First, it is "nonlethal", in that
it targets equipment, not people; it feels like the moral equivalent of the Lone Ranger
shooting the gun out of the bad guy's hand. It is very stealthy, in that it leaves no
evidence within its target of its attack. It is an easy technology to keep secret, since
the development has been so vastly underreported; the idea sounds much like science
fiction, a "death ray" only deadly to electronics.
One early argument against a shoot-down
scenario regarding Flight 93 was that it would be impossible to keep secret, and too risky
to try; anyone on the ground could be holding a camcorder these days, and could
inadvertently capture the image of a missile streaking towards the airliner. One point
brought up early in HPM development, and reiterated after the "CNN-ization" of
the Gulf War, was that no television camera could ever record an HPM attack, since its own
electronics would be ruined by the wide swath of microwave energy.
The history of classified weapons systems
speaks to what the late Ben Rich, former head of Lockheed's Skunk Works (home of the SR-71
Blackbird and the F-117A Stealth Fighter) called "silver bullet" systems. These
are breakthrough technologies, applied to Defense, which are held in secret and not
revealed until absolutely necessary. The advantage to this is that any potential enemy
cannot begin to defend against what they don't know you even have.
A good example comes from Rich's own
company. The F-117A stealth was operational well before its "debut" in the Gulf
War; in fact, planning was quite far along to use the aircraft to bomb Khaddafi. At the
last minute, "conventional" aircraft were sent instead, Libya having been
considered not a crucial enough target to jeopardize the secrecy of the stealth program.
This thinking is quite relevant to the
events of 9/11. If an HPM weapon could have been deployed over Pennsylvania that morning,
strategists were offered an easy choice. If this non-lethal weapon worked, they had the
advantage of not having "really" fired upon U.S. citizens; they were shooting at
the electronics. If it didn't work, there were still fighters over Washington, D.C., and
more drastic measures could be taken as Flight 93 approached the nation's capitol. Either
way, there was no chance of the weapon's secrecy being compromised, since no record of the
attack could exist.
(This also, interestingly, suggests why
the fighters themselves were not ordered towards the doomed airliner; hardening technology
notwithstanding, the safer bet would be to keep the valuable aircraft and pilots away from
the HPM weapon.)
Sadly, none of the above can constitute
definitive proof that Flight 93 was brought down by HPM. The only thing that could would
be a government or military source confirming events as outlined here, and given the
nature and record of classified programs (and those involved in them) that seems quite
However it is still possible that someone
who took part in these events may eventually come forward. There are heroes possibly yet
unsung, not only the passengers and crew of Flight 93, who gave their lives in defense of
their country, but also those who risked their own safety and the exposure of a secret
weapon whose implications are changing the face of modern warfare -- who risked all this
to protect not only our nation's capitol, but also its sense of conscience.
Budget Documents and Explanations
Research Lab Bid Sheet
High-Power Radio Frequency Weapons: A Potential Counter to U.S. Stealth
and Cruise Missile Technology
Microwaves: Strategic and Operational Implications for Warfare
Impact of Emerging Technologies on Future Air Capabilities
A BRIEF TECHNOLOGY SURVEY OF HIGH-POWER MICROWAVE SOURCES
10:03 In The News
of MSNBC report of transponder signal ending
to Philadelphia Daily News article of cockpit recorder ending
Directed Energy Professional
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Good analysis
of why I'm probably wrong on this (9/13/02)
If I link to it AGAIN,
hopefully you'll read it. Don't make me email all of you.
investigative article by Robb
Truth, mused Tolstoy, is like gold, in
that it is obtained by washing away from it all that is not gold.
Sadly, there seems to be less gold in the
official story of United Airlines Flight 93 than we would like to think.
The relatively obscure field which
considers the seismology of supersonic aircraft has produced something of a smoking gun in
the mystery surrounding Flight 93's final moments. Evidence from the seismic record
indicates there was at least one supersonic warplane within striking distance of Flight 93
on the fateful morning of September 11, 2001. A signal exhibiting the seismic signature
characteristic of a passing sonic boom was recorded at 9:22 A.M. local time by an
earthquake monitoring station in southern Pennsylvania. This station is just 60 miles from
the abandoned stripmine in Somerset County where the Boeing 757-200 hit the earth at
sonic boom is the audible pressure wave that travels along the path of an aircraft moving
faster than the speed of sound. The effect of this increase in pressure is to displace,
albeit slightly, the surface of the earth in a very predictable way: the earth is pushed
downwards, then released and pulled upwards. The resulting chart of displacement versus
time is quite distinct from other seismic events:
Seismographs of the sonic boom, recorded at approximately 9:22 AM local time on 9/11
presence of this particular sonic boom at 9:22 A.M. refutes the story we have been told of
the military's response to 9/11.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, issued a press release
one week after the attacks. The timeline told of Air National Guard fighter jets taking
off from bases in Massachusetts and Virginia at 8:46 A.M. and 9:30 A.M., respectively. The
first jets, two F-15's from Otis Air National Guard Base, responded to an 8:40 A.M.
scramble order and screamed towards New York City six minutes later. The second group,
F-16's from Langley AFB, responded to a 9:24 A.M. order and again were en route to their
target in six minutes, this time pointing towards Washington D.C. and the threatened
The problem with this story is that
neither group of fighters could have made the sonic boom recorded in Pennsylvania by 9:22.
The F-16's from Langley hadn't even been
told to get into the air yet, so they're out. The F-15's from Otis reached New York at
9:06, 3 minutes too late to stop the second World Trade Center impact, having averaged a
speed of around 800 miles per hour to get there. They could have covered the 207 miles
from NYC to the seismic station in Pennsylvania in a mere 15 minutes at that speed. But
this would have required them to leave New York City undefended at 9:07, merely one minute
It would also have required a sixth sense,
since the FAA didn't even warn NORAD that Flight 93 was considered a possible threat until
While we don't know where the jet that
created the sonic boom came from, we can safely assume that any aircraft moving
supersonically over the continental U.S. by 9:22 on September 11th was part of our own
military. And not knowing the fighter's home base does little to change the fact that it
would have been in excellent position to intercept Flight 93 well before it crashed at
Major General Paul A. Weaver Jr., Director
of the Air National Guard, has told reporters
that National Guard aircraft "weren't even close" to the fourth hijacked
airliner. Thanks to the seismic record, we can now suggest there was little gold in his
Tracking aircraft in flight with seismic
networks is not a new idea. NASA has looked at ground-recorded sonic boom signatures
of aircraft like the F-18
and the SR-71; scientists at the California Institute of Technology have
examined data from existing networks for events like the landing of the space
Seismic networks have also been used to
determine the time of aircraft crashes; indeed, when the United States Army wanted to know
with greater accuracy exactly when Flight 77 struck the Pentagon on 9/11, they turned to
seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, and the
Maryland Geological Survey. Won-Young
Kim and Gerald R. Baum were unable to definitively set the impact time of the Pentagon
crash, but they were able to determine the time of Flight 93's impact to within 5 seconds
(10:06:05 ▒5, EDT).
In the days and weeks following the crash,
rumors circulated of a shoot-down, the scenario being that the military brought the
airliner down before it could reach a more populated area. It should be said that just
because we now know a fighter was close enough to do the grim job, it doesn't necessarily
follow that the job was done: there is still no direct proof that the unknown fighter
chose to fire upon Flight 93.
The question, however, remains:
Why would NORAD misrepresent where their
fighters were if they didn't shoot it down?
Back in December, we learned from Lt. Colonel Robert Marr, Commander of the
North East Aerospace Defense Sector (NEADS) that there was a third group of fighters in
the air on the morning of 9/11. This group launched from the Toledo Express Airport in
Ohio, and was comprised of F-16's from the 112th Fighter Squadron, part of the 180th
Fighter Wing. These pilots, known as the "Stingers", were not on any active
alert status; in fact, when they were told to scramble aircraft to defend New York, their
fighters needed to be reconfigured from training missions and armed for the new duty.
The Stingers were still able to launch in
sixteen minutes, a time Lt. Col. Marr considered "phenomenal", considering how
much they had to do to get combat-ready F-16's airborne.
Could these F-16's have caused the sonic
boom at the seismic station?
According to Lt. Col. Marr, the 112th's
F-16's were not ordered to scramble until 10:01, lifting off at 10:17, well after the
sonic boom at 9:22.
However, the math gets rather interesting.
Think of what follows as an airborne version of the old story problem that begins,
"...a train leaves Boston, and another leaves San Francisco...."
Imagine that the fighters based in Toledo
got the order to defend New York at the same time that the same order was received by the
fighters in Massachusetts, i.e. 8:40. With the 16-minute response time
("phenomenal") the 112th could manage, they would be in the air at 8:56.
Our hypothetical fighter group is now
headed for New York City where, at the time, all the trouble is. Let's give them 2 minutes
to assemble and head out in formation; the time is 8:58.
Interestingly, their hypothetical flight
path goes almost directly over an obscure seismic station in southern Pennsylvania. That
station is some 314 miles away from their starting point, and, traveling at 800 miles per
hour, they reach it in just about 24 minutes.
They reach the station at just about 9:22.
In two minutes, NORAD will learn from the
FAA that Flights 77 and 93 have apparently been hijacked. At 9:24, NORAD will order the
Langley F-16's to try to intercept Flight 77. They will nearly make it.
The Otis F-15's have been flying over New
York for 18 minutes. With all the threats in the air, NORAD has no intention of telling
them to leave.
In about ten minutes, Flight 93 will make
a dramatic U-turn near Cleveland. Its new, unscheduled flight path puts it into a dead-on
course for Washington, D.C. It will likely overfly at least one nuclear reactor and the
U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis before reaching the beltway. *[What? See the FAQ....]
The closest force that can intercept them
are the hypothetical fighters, which have already made a not-so-hypothetical sonic boom.
Assuming the fighters had been continuing toward New York, they now had merely to make a
U-turn of their own to handily intercept Flight 93, well before the 10:06 crash.
Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed
that the order to shoot down any airliner headed for D.C. that refused to alter course had
been given after the Pentagon had been hit, and a fourth plane appeared to be headed for
The fighters were in place. The airliner
refused to change course. The order had been given. And there was plenty of time.
History was about to take place, and to be
covered up. But for an obscure seismic station, it might never have come to light.
Questions and comments may be directed to
the author here. A FAQ is
The facilities of the IRIS Data Management
System, and specifically the IRIS Data Management Center, were used for access to waveform
and metadata required in this article. This article may be reproduced with the express
permission of the author.
Note: this site has been, to put it
mildly, significantly updated. If you've come here from anywhere besides the front page,
you'll be doing yourself a favor to go there now.
Letter from the author, 9/13/02
I've been contacted by Ed Haering, a
researcher with NASA whose work with sonic booms is well-known (at least within those
circles which concern themselves with such things). He was contacted by a reporter and
asked to duplicate my process and give his opinion.
Put simply, he doesn't think
the event was a sonic boom, and frankly, I'm inclined to agree with him. Below are salient
excerpts from his email:
|Dear Mr. Magley,
was able to retrieve the SSPA data. Bottom line, I don't think what this seismograph
measured on 9/11/2001 in Pennsylvania is a sonic boom.
First, for reference, see: http://www.galcit.caltech.edu/SonicBoom/f-18
especially the last plot. This is a known sonic boom, from a known aircraft, hitting a
1) Notice that in all three directions,
U(p), N(orth), and E(ast), the first downward peak happens simultaneously. It also shows
the ground initially moving down, south, and east, which is consistent with the direction
of the sonic boom from the F-18.
2) The time difference between the first
downward peak and the first maximum peak is on the order of 0.15 seconds. This is
consistent with the first plot of the website above showing 0.13 seconds for a pressure
measurement of the sonic boom. The pressure plot is the same shape as the initial part of
the seismograph displacement plot, just flipped vertically.
3) Prior to the sonic boom, the
seismograph data is very flat, and there is oscillations after the boom that dampen out in
a few seconds.
Now referring to the SSPA data, I looked
at the three axes of displacement of the earth. Plots are attached to this email.
1) In the closeup plot, sspa20sec.gif,
the event does not happen simultaneously in all three axes. The Z axis on the bottom plot
has the event occuring a full second after the north and east axes events, which is an
eternity as far as a sonic boom is concerned.
2) The duration of the event is much
greater than one would expect of a sonic boom. The shape of the event is not consistent
with the "N" shape of a sonic boom.
3) In the plot sspa2min.gif,
there is a considerable amount of oscillations before the event in question.
I don't know what caused these wiggles,
but it doesn't look like a sonic boom to me.
P.S. You can trust me, I'm with the
Government, and I'm here to help! :-)
31,000 -odd people later....
I've always said that if I were shown to
be off track on this, I'd be here on the site letting people know. So, to my thinking,
I've been off-track. There are others looking at the data as well, and perhaps they'll
have some good idea what the event was, on that singular day, at that singular time, and
in that singular place in the country.
Amazing coincidence? It appears so. I plan
to leave the article up for a week or so, with the note at the top pointing people here.
Then I'll scoot the article onto a back page, put another note where the home page goes,
and call the thing done -- unless someone with Mr. Haering's credentials tells me he's the
one that goofed. Which I'm not expecting.
What caused the event -- still a mystery,
sure. But it looks like it's not what I (and some others) thought it was. Am I
disappointed? Far from it; I'm thrilled to have corresponded with the interesting people
that have taken the time to write. I'm not convinced this completely exonerates our good
Air Force from any involvement in Flight 93's demise, but I'm pretty sure I've got nothing
here that will turn the debate one way or another.
I'll be keeping up with ongoing
investigations at Flight93Crash.com,
and the discussion board attached to it. There are still stories to tell, and some pretty
remarkable people to tell them.
But I don't think they have to do with
seismic monitoring stations detecting aircraft....
At least, not military aircraft... (was
that some foreshadowing, or what?)
Thanks again to everyone, and take care of