Introduction

The PentaCon is the most recent in a long series of efforts to persuade skeptics of the official account of 9/11 that the attack on the Pentagon did not involve the crash of Flight 77, a Boeing 757. However, the creators of PentaCon, the grassroots-sounding 'CIT' (Citizen's Investigation Team), have seemingly taken care to isolate their effort from its historical antecedents, even labeling as disinformation the missile strike theory advocated by earlier proponents of the premise that the crash of Flight 77 was faked, and giving scant credit to the original author of the Flight 77 flyover theory, Dick Eastman, or its subsequent supporters Jerry Russell and Richard Stanley. And PentaCon's incarnations are virtually free of references to the earlier campaigns that effectively promoted the conclusion that a Boeing 757 couldn't have crashed at the Pentagon -- from Hunt the Boeing, to Painful Deceptions, to In Plane Site, to Pentagon Strike, to Loose Change, Second Edition.

Thierry Meyssan's 2002 book, translated into 28 languages, was the first of a series of well-resourced campaigns to promote the idea that the Pentagon jetliner crash was faked. The Big Lie, and Le Pentagate introduced millions to the equation of the Big Lie to Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon, while not so much as questioning the official explanation of the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Yet absent the success of these 'no Boeing' efforts, PentaCon couldn't have achieved anything like the notoriety it now enjoys, because acceptance of the no-757-crash premise is the key prerequisite to taking The PentaCon seriously. Instead of reconciling that premise with the vast body of eyewitness evidence by insisting that onlookers mistook a cruise missile or other small aircraft for a Boeing 757, The PentaCon holds that the witnesses were right about seeing a jetliner but were fooled into thinking that it crashed. The jetliner, we are told, disappeared behind the huge explosion and snuck away, unobserved.

The PentaCon and earlier proponents of the 'flyover theory' describe the attack on the Pentagon as a magic trick that, incredibly, succeeded in fooling everyone who witnessed it. The real sleight of hand, however, appears to be on the part of CIT, which has cleverly backgrounded the key presumptions required to buy their theory behind an attention-grabbing drama involving their interviews with a few witnesses -- drama amplified by their accusations of witness complicity in the crime and uncivil responses to their critics. Three such presumptions of CIT's self-referential universe are:

  1. The only meaningful eyewitness accounts are those taken by CIT, and the only valid elements of those are the ones that support their theory.
  2. A jetliner did not crash at the Pentagon, and all of the apparent impact damage to the surroundings and building, and the plane debris, passenger DNA identification, etc. was faked.
  3. The jetliner observed approaching the Pentagon and appearing to crash into it actually overflew the building.

Presumption 1 has been exposed, perhaps most thoroughly, by Arabesque in a series of articles including A Critical Review of 'The PentaCon - Smoking Gun Version'.

Presumption 2 is the subject of my earlier essay The Pentagon Attack: What the Physical Evidence Shows. If you have been persuaded against the crash of a 757 by the paucity of plane parts in post-crash photos, as was I, this article is for you.

Presumption 3 is the subject of this essay. In it, I will show that the flyover theory isn't even remotely plausible, primarily because it would have been observed by hundreds of people around the Pentagon.

'The PentaCon has it all -- from the unlikely accomplice (an elderly cabbie) to the greatest aeronautical feat of all time. Get yours while supplies [of credulity] last!'

Apart from the presumption that a jetliner couldn't have crashed into the Pentagon, The PentaCon's entire case for the overflight rests on interviews with a handful of witnesses who recalled seeing the plane approach to the north of the Citgo gas station located directly west-southwest of the crash site. Such a flight trajectory is about 15 degrees clockwise of the "official" one indicated by the downed light poles, damage to objects in the construction yard, and the path of debris through the building.

Never mind that the same witnesses claim to have seen the plane crash into the building, or that the CIT's premier witness Lagasse seems to infer the north-of-the-station trajectory from his mistaken placement of the downed light poles. And never mind the scores of other witnesses, and what they have said or might be able to tell us about their recollection of the plane's final approach. To the end of focusing on the overflight in this essay, I will overlook CIT's thoroughly unscientific treatment of witness accounts, and I will ignore the physical evidence that fits a 757 clipping light poles, gouging the generator and retaining wall, puncturing the Pentagon's facade throughout a span of about 100 feet, and injecting its remains into the building.

Contents



click image to play video

Flyover According to CIT

Despite the fact that the flyover theory is the central premise of The PentaCon, CIT has had little to say about its specifics, rejecting requests to publish a flight path, for example. An animation found on ThePentaCon.com shows a jetliner flying through an explosion like that seen on the released Pentagon security videos and just clearing the building's roof.

An image on a page entitled "The Pentagon Flyover; How They Pulled it Off" shows a gray 737 climbing above the Pentagon opposite the rising explosion. The image, which is based on a photo from a wooded area northeast of the Pentagon, seems crafted to give the false impression that the building is surrounded by forest. The text of the same page explains that:

... the C-130 and white E4B or "mystery plane" were used as cover for the decoy jet that was meant to fool people into believing it hit the building. We expose the methodology behind the operation and demonstrate how they were able to successfully pull off this military deception in broad daylight.

Contrary to the assertion, The PentaCon provides none of the promised details about the operation. They neglect to show the reader that the C-130 is a four-engine straight-wing turboprop, and they neglect to mention that the E4B, a four-engine Boeing 747, was not less than several thousand feet above. Given those assiduously avoided realities, neither plane could have been mistaken for a 757 flying away from the explosion.

More to the point of this essay, The PentaCon, like any good magician, selectively presents imagery of the Pentagon and its surroundings in an apparent attempt to insulate its audience from the physical realities next to which the flyover theory looks so absurd. Those realities are obvious to anyone who drives by the Pentagon on its many surrounding highways and access roads or flies into Reagan National Airport on its north approach just east of the normally-empty airspace over the vast office building. Fortunately, those realities can now be obvious as well to anyone with a web browser thanks to Google Earth™, Google Maps™, and the Street View feature of Google Maps.

Method Overview

The presentation in the following section, entitled Vantage-Point Simulation, provides a tool for critically evaluating the flyover theory by simulating its appearance from a set of 20 vantage points on roadways surrounding the Pentagon. The simulation uses Google Earth with models of the Pentagon, the explosion, and a Boeing 757, and shows the explosion and the plane at five points in time. Snapshots show what would be seen at each vantage point for each of the five points in time, and a link to Google Street View for each of the vantage points is provided to check the simulated views against the real-world views. Street View shows visual obstructions such as trees and small buildings that are not realistically rendered in Google Earth.

In the simulation, the plane (a to-scale Boeing 757-200 with Delta instead of American Airlines livery) is positioned first just above the center of the Pentagon's impact damage, and proceeds along a level trajectory with a due east heading at an altitude that puts the bottoms of the engine housings about 10 feet above the Pentagon's roof line.

That trajectory, which has the plane hugging the Pentagon's roof and flying over the middle of its central courtyard, is selected to fit CIT's north-of-the-Citgo-station path and to provide the maximum possible concealment of the aircraft for the duration of its overflight. A trajectory that climbed during the overflight would have made the plane more obvious to observers on all sides of the building except possibly the east side, and a trajectory with a significant turn is incompatible with small degree of banking permitted by such close proximity to the roof.

The plane's speed is taken as 780 feet per second (532 mph) -- the figure given by the FEMA Building Performance Report. At that speed, the plane takes about 1/5 of a second to move the distance corresponding to the 155-foot length of its fuselage.

For more information on how I created the simulation, see The Making of: Google Earth Exposes Pentagon Flyover Farce.

Vantage-Point Simulation

The following satellite view lists the 13 locations whose views of the flyover are simulated in the panoramic views below. The controls to the left of each view allow the selection of each of the five points in time.

view locations:

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StreetView

Analysis

From the preceding presentation, it is clear that a Boeing 757 flying over the Pentagon, despite making the best efforts to conceal itself from view, would have been obvious for all or part of the overflight from every side of the building. The viewscapes from the sprawling I-395 are particularly revealing, in part because most of the roadway near the Pentagon is elevated so as to be at about the level the Pentagon's roof line. For six of the nine simulated viewpoints along I-395, and the northern-most viewpoint along Route 27, virtually the entire plane is visible for the duration of the overflight.

Whether the plane was visible for all or part of the flyover at a given vantage point, it would have been almost impossible to miss, primarily because the thunderous explosion alerted most motorists, pedestrians, construction workers, and occupants of facing offices and hotel rooms within a half-mile radius at least. The normal human reaction to hearing a blast is to immediately turn to look, and that reaction typically takes less than a second. Even considering the time it takes sound to travel from the explosion's center to the various vantage points, most bystanders and drivers alerted by the sound would look up to see the unforgettable sight of a jetliner fleeing the explosion as if it had dive-bombed the Pentagon.

If any observers could have been fooled into thinking that the plane crashed when it actually escaped through the explosion, as CIT's video suggests, they would have to be positioned on the west side of the Pentagon close to the plane's flight path so that the explosion could obscure its escape.

Flying Through an Explosion?

Speaking of the plane escaping the explosion, there are some problems with this crucial part of the flyover theory.

Let's ignore the fact that numerous witnesses describe the plane plowing into the Pentagon's facade at or near ground level, several describing the left wing grazing the heliport just before impact, and let's ignore that fact that, among the scores of accounts describing the final trajectory or moment of impact, none describe it having enough altitude to clear the building.

Instead, let's imagine the scenario implied by CIT's video, where an explosion swallows the plane just as it reaches the top of the facade. The explosion has to develop quickly so as to engulf the plane without obviously starting ahead of the plane, and that implies a rapidly-moving flame front and a pressure wave of at least moderate intensity. (Quite apart from my reasoning, witness accounts describe a pressure wave that, although low and 'bassy' was strong enough to shake things more than a mile away.)

The 757-through-explosion scenario looks problematic at best. First, few if any aircraft are designed to fly through explosions. Even if the airframe could survive the shock, what about control of the aircraft, particularly given its reportedly high speed? With the plane slipping over the Pentagon's roof with only a few feet to spare, there would be no room for even slight deviations in the plane's flight path or attitude. Apart from that, even a mild pressure wave could cause a flameout in both engines, requiring the initiation of an engine restart procedure at an altitude of less than 100 feet.

It is possible to imagine ways that the explosion could have been engineered to look more impressive while having a less intense pressure wave, such as using invisibly-dispersed and subsequently ignited pyrotechnics and/or aerosolized fuels. However, such methods, which don't appear to have evidentiary support, would also present flameout hazards to the plane.


Apart from these physical difficulties to impossibilities, any such fly-through of an explosion, fireball, and/or smoke would have left the unmistakable swirls showing the jet's wake vortices.

Conclusion

The Pentagon 'flyover theory' is the central premise of The PentaCon, despite the fact neither CIT nor any of its supporters has provided a detailed account of how the "magic trick" could have been accomplished. That theory isn't even remotely plausible when one considers the number of observers who would have had a clear view of the purported overflight, even if the maneuver were engineered to be as inconspicuous as possible. Given the topography of the Pentagon's immediate surroundings, with its vast parking lots, highways and access roads of at least six lanes on each of its sides, and highrise buildings starting 300 feet to the south, such an event would have been witnessed by hundreds at least, as an unmistakable sight of a commercial jetliner leaving a huge explosion, as if it had bombed the building. The thunderous sound of the explosion would have guaranteed that most of the people in a position to see the event would have turned their heads to see the explosion and the plane in close proximity. The same witnesses would have been riveted to the action as the plane departed from the scene, whether it made a spectacular banking turn to land at National Airport, or made an equally spectacular climb away from the Pentagon over the Potomac.

Had that happened, nothing could have silenced the hundreds of diverse witnesses who saw something so unmistakable and so utterly irreconcilable with the official story that the silver jetliner had hit the Pentagon. Had that happened, CIT would have more to work with than a few witnesses who recalled seeing the jetliner flying to the north instead of the south of the Citgo station.

Further Reading

This essay, which is narrowly focused on the 'flyover theory', does not address the methods and tactics of CIT. That subject makes for an interesting case study in the disruption of social justice movements, and is covered in the slideshow Breaking Down CIT's Bill of Goods and in the article To Con a Movement: Exposing CIT's PentaCon 'Magic Show'.




* 'PentaCon (Smoking Crack Version)' doesn't refer to an existing product of the creators of The PentaCon but to a hypothetical product by them were they ever to attempt to provide an detailed account of the premise underlying their effort: that a jetliner-sized plane merely appeared to crash into the Pentagon's west side, while it actually snuck away, taking advantage of the explosion fireball and smoke to fool the hundreds of observers who would have witnessed the event.

Although that premise -- the 'flyover' -- may seem reasonable to those who haven't studied it, it becomes transparently ludicrous when one considers the number of witnesses such an event would necessarily have generated, given the viewscapes surrounding the Pentagon, and the number and distribution of observers at any daylight hour.

The level of disconnection from the reality of the situation needed to take the flyover seriously is such that, perhaps a more fitting title for a detailed defense of the flyover theory would be: 'PentaCon (Smoking Wack Version)' -- a reference to the dissociative drug PCP (Phencyclidine).