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ERROR: 'The Wings of a 757 Should Have Been Visible Outside the Pentagon'

According to a common argument against the crash of a 757 at the Pentagon the wings, which were too wide to fit through the impact pictures in the Pentagon's facade, should have remained outside the building and been visible in photographs. This argument is the central thesis of the paper The Missing Wings , whose abstract states, "Wings that should have been sheared off by the impact are entirely absent." The following excerpt enumerates and rejects four reasons the wings may be absent in the photographs.

e x c e r p t
title: The Missing Wings
authors: A. K. Dewdney and G. W. Longspaugh

According to the principle that we have stated above, two wings, each approximately 18-20 m long (however crumpled and damaged) must have appeared in virtually all the photographs taken of the Pentagon damage on the morning of September 11, 2001.

However, there are other reasons why the wings might be absent from the crash scene. Such reasons must be systematically listed and evaluated:

1. Could the damaged wings have been carted off by cleanup crews? The cleanup of the site did not begin until well after the morning hours of the day in question.

2. Could the damaged wings have "telescoped" into the body of the aircraft, as claimed by the Dept. of Defense? This claim was clearly meant for reporters, whose technical competence, as a general rule, would be unequal to the task of evaluating such a statement. There would have been no significant lateral force acting along either wing axis and there is no possibility of a wing actually entering the fuselage of the aircraft. If you fixed a Boeing 757 firmly to a given piece of ground, then used a team of bulldozers to push the wings into the body, the wings would merely fold up like an accordion or crumple and bend.

3. Could the wings have been entirely fragmented by the explosion of the fuel tanks after the aircraft struck the building? The fuel tanks of a 757 are located under the fuselage, as well as in the wing roots. The entire fuel storage area of a 757 would easily fit inside the initial entry hole and, consequently, the explosion would have been largely confined to the building's interior. As we shall see, the wings could not have entered the building, where they might possibly have encountered such a fate. The blast, as such, had little effect outside the building, as cable spools near the entry hole remained standing, for example.

4. This raises the question of whether the wings could have folded as the aircraft entered the building, bending backwards and following the aircraft in.

Reason 3, which asks if the explosion of the fuel tanks could have fragmented the wings, ignores the possibility that the impact itself could have shredded the wings. The F-4 crash test described on the crash debris page suggests that the crash of a 757 into the Pentagon would have shredded the wings into confetti. The wings of the F-4 in the crash test contained no fuel, but were entirely reduced to confetti.

Also, note that Reason 3 relies on the erroneous assertion that a 757's fuel tanks are located "under the fuselage, as well as in the wing roots". In fact, the fuel tanks extend nearly to the ends of the wings.

Source: Boeing.com
page last modified: 2011-08-20
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