By John Bursill – Licensed Avionics Aircraft Engineer, Boeing 767/737/747 Series
For most 9/11 Truth Advocates the question of what hit the World Trade Centres on 9/11 is valid, though it is generally accepted likely that it was as reported, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175. It has been suggested by some that the aircraft were drones or military cargo aircraft, but this hypothesis has failed to develop beyond some anomalies found in the grainy video of that day and a few witness reports. This ambiguous evidence of something other than AA11 and UA175 was predominantly brought to light by Dave von Kleist in his popular film “In Plane Site”. Von Kleist asked questions about the flights that hit the WTC; in particular, what he suggested was an appendage to the lower fuselage of Flight 175. He argued that this appendage or “pod”, as it came to be known, was not consistent with a standard Boeing 767-200 and could indicate a military aircraft. While interesting and not being dismissed by many pilots and industry professionals, this argument has been left behind by most as inconclusive and problematic. I for one have never dismissed out of hand the possibility that aircraft were swapped on the 11th of September 2001, but have chosen to accept the official version due to a simple lack of clear evidence of another.
Just when we seemed to move on, a much more problematic suggestion of “no planes” hitting the WTC on 9/11 raised its head in 2008. This assertion was thought completely ridiculous and immediately dismissed by the vast majority of the 9/11 Truth Movement, many of whom in New York City knew people that saw the planes. Unfortunately, a small minority of people picked up the issue as the “real truth” and dug in their heels. Rather than seeing this hypothesis as a possible disinformation campaign to distract the public from the real questions and to discredit our movement in general, some found it plausible and took great offence to it being ignored. In their minds, the censorship we all oppose about 9/11 Truth was apparently being used on them. I and many other researchers did not think the issue would have any traction at all due to its ludicrous nature and were surprised when we saw a very vocal group fighting hard for this hypothesis to be considered both scientific and as based in evidence. Obviously, this was helped by the usual suspects, Reynolds, Fetzer, Haupt, et al., getting behind the campaign. The “no planers” produced films, did interviews with “experts” (?) and moved to attack our best web sites proclaiming us, the “non-no plane” believers as agents, idiots, gatekeepers and fools. This is when some of us put aside important work to nip this hysteria in the bud, by debunking the claims made.
Examples of the work of advocates of the no-plane at the WTC theory are easy to find! Some of the more prominent ones are films such as “September Clues” and more recently “Continuos Pieces – 9/11”. There have been many articles pulling these films and ideas to pieces, so that now we can say the hypothesis of video fakery, holograms and implausible debris are obviously false, even to the gullible layperson, if fully considered. There was only one thing that I saw as an argument that still had some legs–the “impossible speed” of AA11 and UA175.
Impossible Speed of AA11 and UA175?
It was after viewing a YouTube of an interview done by Project Camelot with pilot John Lear talking about “no planes” (found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N2RrQWsGes) that I became extremely concerned! Lear stated during this interview that AA11 and UA175 demonstrated “impossible speed”. This obviously needed to be addressed and debunked, especially due to the fact Lear was an experienced and qualified pilot. I spent a day and debunked his video in an e-mail I sent out widely, which was also posted on the Net. Unfortunately, the problem persisted due to Lear being a member of “Pilots for 9/11 Truth” and the logistical difficulty of proving his “impossible speed” argument clearly false. Consequently this interview was still seen by many as credible regarding the capabilities of the 767-200, thereby keeping the “No Planers” alive a little longer.
I thought I could solve this problem by addressing the need to revoke Lear’s membership at Pilots for 9/11 Truth as a way of undermining his credibility. So I wrote to Robert Balsamo, the head of Pilots for 9/11 Truth, to discuss this video and Lear’s membership. He subsequently refused my request to remove him from Pilots for 9/11 Truth and actually defended his right to his opinion, as he was “qualified to have it.”
Lear brought up one other issue that I found very concerning in this interview which I will mention here briefly. Lear stated that remote control of a 767-200 was basically impossible. This statement, made as if fact, then gave credence to his no plane argument (straw man). I agree it would be truly very difficult to hit those towers in a 767 at that speed, even for an experienced pilot, using just manual control. Luckily this statement had little or no credibility, as most well informed researchers know Boeing had flown aircraft themselves during testing by remote control and it is well known that Autopilot Systems these days can do nearly anything. From my own experience as an Avionics Engineer I know that the installation of such a system is no big deal at all. (See http://www.journalof911studies.com/volume/2008/AutopilotSystemsMonaghan.pdf for technology plausibly used on 9/11.) I personally believe the most likely scenario was the use of remote control via a remote flight management program and parts of the aircrafts autopilot system, with the aid of GPS; for all the hijacked flights on 9/11.
Let’s now get to the question of Lear’s statement regarding the “impossible speed” at which both AA11 and UA175 were flying, according to official reports. Here are the simple facts relating to the Boeing 767-200’s AA11 & UA175 on 9/11;
1. The speed of the aircraft that hit the WTC was officially reported as between 500mph and 560mph ground speed, calculated by the observed point to point distance covered over time.
2. A Boeing 767-200 airframe is rated to .86 of Mach speed (speed of sound) at any altitude before the risk of structural failure. It as the aircraft approaches the speed of sound when the properties extreme high and low pressure areas can have destructive effects on the airframe. This figure is as with all limits set conservatively.
3. The speed of sound at approximate sea level is 761 mph on a standard day. Therefore the theoretical maximum speed the 767-200 can reach intact is, conservatively, .86 x 761mph = 654mph or approximately 100mph above the officially reported speed of AA11 or UA175.
4. The 767-200 is an aircraft that’s considered highly powered due to its requirement to function with only one engine for ETOPS – Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards. It is capable of taking off fully loaded with only one engine.
5. Lear’s argument: The normal maximum operating speed at sea level is 360Knots/h (Nautical miles) which equates to 415mph (a lot less than seen on 9/11). It is not, as Lear stated in his interview 360mph, which is considerably less. This maximum operating speed (Indicated) used is something that is decided by Boeing in conjunction with the operator and is not a structural or performance limit; rather it has been determined to be a safe speed at which to operate with commercial passengers on board and to prevent the need for increased maintenance.
6. The 767-200 is considered by pilots and aviation professionals to be a “slick” or “low drag” aircraft, being without bulbous construction and with highly swept 31.5 degree wings. It is well known that it is difficult to keep the 767 aircraft from over-speeding during decent; due to its low drag/high power configuration.
Considering all of these facts we are still left with the question: Can a 767-200 make 560mph ground speed at sea level or the equivalent of .74 of Mach speed? We know that it is definitely within its design parameters and that it can do so at high altitude (not in question), but can it do this at sea level (higher air density)? Considering that 560mph is 145mph faster than its recommended maximum operating speed (Lear’s argument), it is simply not possible to test this speed in a commercial 767-200 aircraft; it would be against the aircraft manufacturer’s recommendations, outside of standard company operating procedures and against the authorities’ rules (FAA in US). For these reasons we will not see a 767-200 attain 560mph in operation unless it is in the middle of an aircraft incident or accident. The only way to test this is in an accredited Full Flight Simulator.
Boeing 767-300 Simulator Experiment on the 29th of April 2009
The idea of using a Full Flight Simulator accredited by the FAA or relevant authority to test the maximum attainable speed for a Boeing 767-200 is only possible if you have the thousands of dollars it costs to hire such or access to one through your vocation. Well it just so happens that during my training in Sydney I worked in our Simulator Centre as a technician where Australian 767 pilots are trained and certified. The simulators are extremely busy and it is difficult to get access during the day or evening. On the 29th of April, after I had completed my work for the night shift, I drove to the Simulator Facilities at our Flight Training Centre at the Jet Base. I rang the nightshift maintenance staff and gained access to the building at just after 3am on the 29th of April 2009. Being licensed on the 767 and familiar with the facilities, I asked if I might access the simulator under the supervision of the technician on duty, Daniel Gazdoc. He agreed to help and I explained what I wanted to do and why.
We boarded the simulator (#2) which was configured as a GE powered 767-300 (marginally different from the 767-200, being a little longer and a bit heavier) and booted up the computers, placing the aircraft at 2000ft above Sydney (This altitude was set to prevent us hitting any obstacles if I lost control, resulting in an insignificant 6mph difference compared to AA11 and UA175; that is compared to Mach speed). We set the aircraft weight to 130,000kgs (286,000 pounds), approximately what it would have been on Flight 11 and 175; that is, lightly loaded. We pulled the aural warning circuit breakers on the overhead panel so that we would not be annoyed by configuration and over-speed warnings during our test. I sat in the pilot’s seat and pushed the throttles to the stops, maintaining wings level and a flat trajectory. To my surprise, within a few seconds we had exceeded the maximum operating Indicated Air Speed of 360Knots/h (415mph); then the needle continued to rise until it hit the stop on the indicator at over 400Knots/h (460mph). At this very fast speed you only have the Mach indication to go off, as IAS (Indicated Air Speed) is off the scale. The aircraft continued to increase speed until it reached .86 Mach (654mph), which is its rated airframe Mach speed limit. This makes complete sense, as the manufacturer does not want you to exceed this but wants you to have the maximum thrust available in case of emergency. At this air speed I was surprised at how easy it was to maintain my attitude once the aircraft was trimmed.
Originally thinking I was going to have to do a dive to attain the speeds of AA11 and UA175 due to the engines possibly struggling to make enough thrust, I thought it would be good to see what speed we could achieve in a shallow dive. We took the aircraft to 10,000ft and I commenced a 5 degree dive to 2,000ft and found that the aircraft attained and maintained a speed of .89 Mach (approaching 700mph) and was reasonably easy to control for a non-pilot. We did these tests a couple more times to be sure and then at about 3:45am I left the simulator. Daniel was happy for me to record his name.
How accurate are Full Flight Simulators and how does the 767-300 compare to the 200?
The flight simulator in which I carried out this test is considered to be an exact representation of the real aircraft. It takes into account all of the test data gathered during the initial flight testing of the 767-200/300 and ongoing data gathered from Flight Data Recorders and observed performance. The instrumentation is exactly the same as the actual aircraft and can be put into service in a real aircraft. The performance of the aircraft engines and the aircraft’s structure are modelled so that a pilot can remain current without doing as many actual flight hours. Basically it is fair to say that what you can do in the simulator can be done in real life, especially as relates to thrust, lift and drag.
After doing this test I then spent a few days on the flight line checking whether the average 767 pilot thought that the engines could achieve .86 Mach at sea level considering what I found in the sim. Mostly they agreed–due to the exceptional power to weight ratio of the 767 series, and its low drag airframe, it was probable it could do just that. I also asked the older pilots that flew in the Pratt and Whitney (JT9-7R4) powered 767-200 series aircraft if those aircraft were similar to fly to the 767-300 General Electric (CF6) powered aircraft they now fly (current simulator configuration). They said they were very similar, having a little less power but being a little shorter and lighter, thus giving them nearly exactly the same power to weight ratio. Once again this was no surprise to me as this is what the manufacturer does–matches the airframe to the power plant to meet the performance specifications which are basically the same for 200 and the 300 series Boeing 767.
Conclusion: Is it probable that the 767-200 can make 560mph at sea level?
It is highly probable that AA11 and UA175 could easily make the airspeeds quoted in the official reports and as seen in the video footage. Here is a summation of the facts;
1. The aircraft were seen to make those airspeeds on September 11, 2001. This has never been questioned by any peer reviewed paper or team of experts, so it stands as fact.
2. The aircraft were well within their structural limit of .86 Mach by a margin of .12 Mach or approximately 14%; flying at maximum of reported speed of .74 Mach.
3. The simulator test carried out on an actual certified Full Flight Simulator (the best available), in a fully accredited pilot certification facility, showed that the 767 aircraft can reach an airspeed of .86 Mach in a flat trajectory at approximate sea level. It was also shown that .89 Mach could be achieved in a similar shallow dive as seen made by AA11 and UA175 on 9/11. These results show far greater speeds possible than the required official airspeed of 560mph or .74 Mach by some 16% at the minimum and 20% if the actual flight conditions were simulated in a shallow dive.
4. Considering the large margins demonstrated here, we can now conclude that the “Impossible Airspeed” stated by John Lear et al. is false.
Obviously there will be the usual suspects that may complain that I have not caught this on film and I have left out some of the details of exactly where I did this test (you can figure it out). I have done this because I like my job and our campaign is not part of my function there. What I would say to the “No-Planers” is why don’t Lear et al. hire a simulator and prove me wrong. I would have thought that John Lear, being a rich, well-connected pilot so outspoken on this issue would have already done so.
It is my hope that this puts the final nail in the “No Planes at the World Trade Centre on 9/11” hypothesis and we will see an end to this great time waster!