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UNLIKELY: 'The Pentagon Attack Plane was a Boeing 737 Instead of a Boeing 757'

Of the many theories that something other than Flight 77 -- a Boeing 757 -- crashed into the Pentagon, the theory that the plane was a Boeing 737 is claimed by its proponents to be more consonant with the pattern of impact damage than would be the crash of a 757. Proponents have noted that the approximately 90-foot-wide expanse of breached first floor walls is closer to the 93-foot wingspan of a Boeing 737-200 than the 124-foot wingspan of a Boeing 757-200.

While this argument is much more reasonable than those for small-plane or missile theories based on erroneous assertions about a small impact hole, it is flawed nonetheless. The idea that the attack aircraft should have punctured the facade walls out to its wingtips, or even near to its wingtips, is often ridiculed as 'cartoon physics' for good reason. The outermost portions of a jetliner's wings are of very light construction, and could not be expected to puncture the heavy masonry walls of the Pentagon, even given very high crash speeds. Comparisons of photographs of the Pentagon crash damage to the Twin Towers' crash damage often miss the point that the outermost portions of the Towers' impact signatures were superficial: the ends of the wings destroyed the Towers' aluminum cladding but not the underlying steel columns. Most of the weight in the wings themselves is in the fuel tanks, which do not extend nearly to the ends of the wings.

Moreover, other aspects of the damage, such as to the diesel generator trailer are consistent with a 757 but not a 737. French researcher Jean-Pierre Desmoulins provides a detailed rundown on the differences between the damage that could be expected from a Boeing 737-200 and Boeing 757-200.

e x c e r p t
title: Impact simulation: which plane type is it?
authors: Jean-Pierre Desmoulins
The "737" hypothesis

The following diagram shows the arrival of a Boeing 737-200.

The plane is figured, at right scale, on the path where it is after having struck the lamp poles. This axis is confirmed by the damage inside the building. The purple central axis impacts building between pillars 13 and 14. The two purple dotted lines correspond to the damage made to the wire netting fence on starboard and ventilation structure low wall on port. They are supposed to be the paths of the two engines. It is obvious on this diagram that the two engines of a 737-200 are too close from the centerline to account for these damage. The yellow line touching the building's front is the extension of the damage on the building, from pillar 8 to pillar 20. Two dotted lines have been drawn from it's extremities, parallel to the trajectory. It seems that, if the port wing could be supposed to have damaged the front on this extension, the starboard cannot. But this is not an evidence: admitting that the central axis could be shifted a little, a 737 could be responsible of the damage seen on the Pentagon's front. In a previous version of this web site, I even wrote that the damage fitted exactly the size of a 737, and I was not very far from the truth if considering that the plane kept it's structural integrity when hitting the building. It allowed me to state the hypothesis of the "junked 737" attacking plane. It is, indeed, reasoning at the limit, and excludes smaller planes such as a commuter plane, a fighter like a F 16 or - still smaller - a cruise missile.

The "757" hypothesis

Now the following diagram shows the arrival of a Boeing 757-200, which is officially the hijacked plane of flight 77.

The plane is figured, at right scale, on the same path as for the 737. The purple central axis and supposed paths of the two engines are the same. It is obvious on this diagram that the two engines of a 757-200 are just at the right spacing from the centerline to account for the damage on the generator and on the ventilation structure.


In summary, the Boeing 737 theory has several problems.

  • The damage to the Pentagon's facade is more consistent with the crash of a 757 than a 737.
  • The damage to the fence and generator at the edge of the construction yard fits a 757 but not a 737.
  • The swath of damaged lamp poles on the plane's approach is too wide to have been made by the wings of a 737-200.
  • Specific parts photographed at the crash site, such as an engine diffuser ring, match 757 parts, but not necessarily 737 parts.
  • If the aircraft was a 737, then it could not have been Flight 77, and thus requires answers to the following questions:
    • What happened to Flight 77 and its passengers?
    • What was the source of the DNA identified as being from Flight 77's passengers?

page last modified: 2010-12-18
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