I’ve become fascinated by one particular element of the conspiracy surrounding Flight 77, the plane that (allegedly) struck the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. There’s something on one of the two publicly released CCTV camera recordings from the Pentagon. Pause the following video at 1:27 and look carefully. You can see the nose of the aircraft entering view on the right.
I’m prepared to ignore the suspicious fact that the video is recording only one frame per second, which is stupendously cheap-skate for one of the most important buildings in the world. I’m even prepared to ignore the statistical unlikelihood of both cameras almost completely missing the plane as it passed by. Why? Because what’s in front of me at 1:27 looks like straightforward evidence of a cover-up.
If you look at the comments on YouTube, some people say, “That’s the nose of the plane. Nuff said.” Well, it appears to be the nose of something, but it’s certainly not the nose of Flight 77. Flight 77 was a Boeing 757-223, and a simple Google search will show you what a Boeing 757-223 looks like.
Some have suggested that it’s not the nose of the plane, it’s the wing-tip, visible first because the plane approached at a 45-degree-ish angle. In figuring out whether that is the case, we can look carefully at a computer simulation of the plane’s approach, a simulation that is designed to debunk the conspiracy from the perspective of the other CCTV camera, but is useful here, too:
Helpfully, the simulation shows the exact approach of the aircraft by mapping the lamp-posts that were knocked down, so there can be no doubt about the angle. Pause the simulation at 0:56. Now, place a ruler (or anything straight) on your monitor and make a line from the little black dot at the top left (which is the security hut where the camera is located) to the nose of the plane. This may seem like an oversimplification, but this is exactly how line of sight works geometrically; it isn’t rocket science. You can see that the wing-tip is already in view ahead of the nose. But the plane is too far away, much further than the camera is picking up. Now, allow the video to play on, and pause it in a couple of places to take new measurements. You will see that the angle of nose to wing-tip grows ever closer until eventually the nose meets the line of sight prior to the wing-tip. 1:31 is the crucial moment.
This is, unfortunately, where we have to make an estimation. I look at the CCTV camera angle and I notice that it shows a great deal of the building and not much of the lawn. At 1:31 in the simulation, the plane looks like it’s still pretty far from the camera’s field of vision. I would estimate that the camera is picking up the plane at 1:34 or thereabouts. At that point, line of sight is clearly in favour of the nose. This, of course, assumes the accuracy of the simulation and the accuracy of my own judgement on the timing. And it doesn’t help that the security camera has a fish-eye lens that’s designed to pull in more from the sides.
Man oh man, it’s never simple, is it? Many people are jumping to the conclusion that it’s the nose of a missile entering view, but I have to confess, there’s no conclusive evidence that this is the case. It could very well be a simple case of wing before nose on a Boeing 757.
This brief little flight into conspiracy really illustrates for me the sheer
minefield of it all, where it’s so easy to believe the wrong thing because you’ve researched something to a degree, but not far enough. Partway through this personal investigation I though I had concrete evidence that Flight 77 was nowhere near the Pentagon, until I looked deeper.
The questions remain. Why won’t the government release their confiscated CCTV footage of the impact? Why is their own camera operating at only 1 frame per second? Why is the impact hole so small in comparison to the size of a Boeing 757? But I have to admit, a hundred suspicions don’t make a concrete case.
As the saying goes, the camera never lies, but unfortunately our perceptions of what the camera says do.