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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

The Two-Plane Theory

Surgical Strike by Fighter Combined with Overflight by Flight 77

A theory of the Pentagon attack by researcher Richard Eastman attempts to reconcile conclusions that a 757 did not hit the building with eyewitness accounts of such an aircraft apparently flying into it. Many other skeptics of the official story of Flight 77's crash, such as Thierry Meyssan, Eric Hufschmid, and Gerard Holmgren, have tended to minimize eyewitness accounts, highlighting inconsistencies and suggesting that people mistook a painted drone for an American Airlines jetliner. In contrast, the two-plane theory accommodates most portions of the eyewitness accounts except those relating to the moment of impact. Eastman corresponded with some witnesses about their recollections.

According to the theory, the attack combined a hit by a small attack jet with an overflight by Flight 77. The attack jet, likely an F-16 single-engine supersonic fighter, flew in at treetop level, clipping lamp-posts on the highway overpass, and smashing into the Pentagon's west wall, with the engine penetrating the C-ring and producing the eight-foot-diameter punch-out hole. Meanwhile Flight 77 approached on a slightly more northerly trajectory, diving down over the Naval Annex and leveling out as it approached the Pentagon. Before reaching the huge building, the 757 disappeared behind a blinding flash and fireball, overflew the Pentagon, and blended into traffic landing at Reagan National Airport.

Further distracting observers from the actual fate of Flight 77 were other simultaneous events including: a missile, possibly fired by the approaching attack jet; a C-130 following the 757 toward the explosion and turning away; and a 4-engine jet, perhaps a KC-135, flying over the capital at the time of the attack. (For a more complete exposition of Eastman's theory, see the pages listed on the Pentagon Attack web resources page.)

The theory's postulated overflight of the Pentagon by Flight 77 strikes many -- especially people familiar with the geography of the area -- as absurd. Vocally promoted only by Eastman before 2007, it remained relatively sidelined until the appearance of PentaCon. Yet it, or the overflight of a Flight 77 look-alike, appears the only way to reconcile the abundant eyewitness evidence of a 757 approach with the conclusion that the Pentagon strike did not involve a 757 crash.


Presented as Evidence

Eastman cites a number of pieces of evidence to support his theory, including the following:

  1. The impact damage to the Pentagon precludes the collision of a 757 -- a large twin-engine airliner.
    • The central impact hole has a smaller diameter than a 757 fuselage.
    • The damaged area to the right of the central hole has still-standing walls, and could not have admitted the starboard engine.
    • The facade where the wings and tail of a 757 seemingly would have impacted contains intact windows.
    • The one large hole through the C-ring is aligned with the attack plane's flight path, and photographs show parts of only one engine, indicating the impact of a single-engine plane.
  2. Many witnesses reported seeing a large jetliner approaching the Pentagon.
  3. Witnesses' accounts of the jetliner indicate it was on a different flight path than the attack plane, which downed lamp poles on the highway overpass.
  4. The Pentagon security camera frames show the attack did not involve a 757 collision.
    • The apparent plane behind the pillar in the first frame is much too small to be a 757.
    • The exhaust plume in the first and second frames is consistent with a rocket engine (missile), not a jetliner's turbofan engine.
    • The explosion in the second frame is not consistent with an airliner crash, since jet fuel burns yellow and orange, not white.

We argue that the evidentiary value of the video frames is suspect, and others may find the eyewitness evidence ambiguous on the exact trajectory of the jetliner. However, even if one rejects pieces 3 and 4, the ability of the two-plane theory to reconcile piece 1 (widely accepted by skeptics of the official Pentagon story) and piece 2 (widely accepted by their opponents who reject other aspects of the government's account of 9/11/01) sets it apart from the drone- or missile-attack theories.

One of the few sizable scraps of aircraft debris found on the Pentagon's lawn matches the skin of an American Airlines 757 located just behind the forward starboard-side cabin door. Even the positions of the rivets match.

Faked Remains, Prisoners

Other key elements of the theory require the involvement of multiple teams of insiders on the ground to manipulate the crash scene. The widely publicized photograph of a scrap has markings matching the lettering of an American Airlines 757's starboard side just aft of the forward cabin door. But the photograph shows it lying on the ground far to the port side of the attack plane's flightpath, and shows no signs of scraping or burning. Eastman argues that the piece was planted, either by being dropped from the C-130, or by being moved into position by people on the ground in the minutes following the explosion, in order to bolster the government's fraudulent account.

Eastman's account of the fate of Flight 77 also implies the existance of additional operatives to dispose of the flight and its crew and passnegers, especially if, as he suggests, Flight 77 landed at Reagan National Airport and the passengers taken into custody to either be disposed of or released if they were operation insiders. This idea may seem less incredible after reading this run-down of the 59 people on Flight 77's manifest by the internet persona 'Killtown'. Passengers' connections to the military may or may not be significant given the demographics of flights between the capital area and the San Francisco Bay Area, and in any case would not favor the flyover theory over the crash at the Pentagon.



Even in the abstract, the complexity of the two-plane theory works against it. Other things being equal, Occam's Razor favors the simplest explanations for natural phenomena, and is seen in human constructs, where simplicity is desirable for a number of reasons. However, psychological operations are neither natural phenomena nor typical human endeavors. They may employ complexity as a principal weapon of deception.

Nonetheless, psychological operations, especially of the magnitude of 9/11/01, must be highly robust, given the huge investment in their success. Robustness means that the perpetrators can have a high degree of confidence that the event will go as planned, where any deviations can be handled with alternative plans and/or explained with fallback stories. The overflight element of the two-plane theory is problematic in this regard, since video or film capturing critical elements of the overflight could create profound problems for the official account.


Operation Details

To create the illusion of crashing low on the Pentagon's west facade, Flight 77 would have to fly through a fireball only a few hundred feet from the facade at well below its 77-foot height, then suddenly pull up and clear the facade in the space of about a second. Then it would have to level out to just a few feet above the roof so as to remain hidden from traffic on adjacent highways while executing the overflight. Finally it would have to make a sharp turn after emerging from the Pentagon's east side to quickly merge into National Airport's traffic pattern before the sound of the explosion caught the attention of people in populated areas south of I-395 and west of the Potomac. Such complex and extreme maneuvers are well beyond what jetliners normally perform. However, they appear to be physically possible for a 757.

An incident report of an IcelandAir 757-200 shows that this aircraft is capable of withstanding G forces of over 3.5. This suggests that Flight 77 could have have transitioned from level flight at 40 feet to level flight at 80 feet in under two seconds and in a distance of few hundred feet, and that it could have executed turns on arcs of 400-meter radius at over 200 knots as indicated by the graphic below. Here is an excerpt from the report: 1  

REPORT 7/2003 - Date: 22 January 2003
serious incident to icelandair BOEING 757-200 at oslo airport gardermoen norway 22 january 2002

... At this time the First Officer called out PULL UP! - PULL UP!. The GPWS aural warnings of TERRAIN and then TOO LOW TERRAIN were activated. Both pilots were active at the control columns and a maximum up input was made. A split between left and right elevator was indicated at this time. It appears the split occurred due to both pilots being active at the controls. The pilots did not register the aural warnings. During the dive the airspeed increased to 251 kt and the lowest altitude in the recovery was 321 ft radio altitude with a peaked load factor of +3.59 gs.

Certainly such maneuvers would be beyond the capabilities of almost any human pilot. However, a computerized flight system could be trained to execute the maneuver with great precision using multiple practice runs (in a remote location) with detailed monitoring of the flight path.

This graphic was found on a page of Desmoulins' website devoted to attacking Eastman's theory. Desmoulins asserts that the maneuver required to land at National Airport would have required "a turn with a too high load factor and was impossible". But was it? The load factor would be due to the centrifugal force resulting from the turn. This is easily computed using the following formula:
RCF = 0.001118 * r * N^2
RCF = Relative Centrifugal Force (gravities)
r = rotation radius (meters)
N = rotation speed (revolutions per minute)
The tightest arcs in the diagram appear to have a radius of about 400 meters, meaning that a circle of that radius would have a circumference of 400*2pi or 2513 meters. If the 757 was flying at 100 meters/second, or 224 mph, it would take about 25 seconds to traverse that circumference, meaning that rotation speed in the tightest arcs is 0.04 revolutions per second, or 2.4 revolutions per minute. That gives a centrifugal force of 0.001118 * 400 * 2.4^2 or 2.576 gravities, well below the 3.59 gravities documented in the above incident report.

Conflicting Evidence

The ability of the two-plane theory to explain the many eyewitness accounts describing a large twin-engine jetliner approaching the Pentagon sets it apart from other no-757-impact theories. However the overflight element is highly implausible to many people familiar with the Pentagon and its surrounding geography, and does not appear to have any support in the eyewitness accounts. It is conceivable that some witnesses could have been fooled into thinking that a jetliner had crashed into the Pentagon by a pyrotechnic display concealing the plane's overflight, but it is difficult to imagine that such a trick could have fooled all of the witnesses.

If the overflight element of the two-plane theory seems bizarre, it illustrates the difficulty in reconciling the eyewitness evidence with the conclusion that no 757 crashed at the Pentagon. That conclusion, accepted as gospel by many skeptics, may in fact be based on a series of errors in interpreting the photographic evidence. 2  



The Pentagon flyover element of the Eastman's two-plane theory, wich garnered little attation for years, was resurrected in 2007 by the "Citizen Investigation Team" ("CIT"), who applied the science of sales and marketing to provote the theory indirectly, claiming to prove the "north side flyover" with interviews of a select few witnesses.

A detailed simulation of the appearance of the alledged Pentagon flyover shows that it would have been cleary visible from vast expanses of highways surrounding the Pentagon -- particularly I-395 to the south.


1. REPORT 7/2003 - Date: 22 January 2003, www.aaib-n.org, [cached]
2. Pentagon Attack Errors, 911Review.com,

page last modified: 2013-03-21