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ERROR: 'Eyewitnesses Saw a Small Plane'

Literature of the no-757-crash theorists is full of suggestions that eyewitness saw something other than a 757 fly into the Pentagon, such as a commuter jet or cruise missile. In fact only a few eyewitness recalled seeing a plane smaller than a jetliner, and none reported seeing a missile. In contrast there is an abundance of accounts describing a large twin-engine jetliner like a 757.

9-11 Research extracted from Eric Bart's Pentagon eyewitness compilation those accounts that described the appearance of the airplane. It found 11 witnesses describing a large jetliner compared to only two describing a small jet.

It's easy to imagine that the two witnesses who described a small-plane mistook a 757-like jetliner for one because:

  • The two small-plane witnesses were both considerable distances from the plane.
  • The plane was going very fast -- over 400 mph -- which is about twice as fast as jetliners normally fly at low altitudes on takeoffs and landings. One of the cues that people use to judge the size of an aircraft in flight is its apparent speed: a small plane traveling at 200 mph will traverse the length of its fuselage much more quickly than a large plane. Thus a large plane flying uncharacteristically fast can easily be mistaken for a much smaller plane.

e x c e r p t
title: Eyewitness Accounts Describe Jetliner Approaching Pentagon
authors: 9-11 Research

Large Jetliner

Alan Wallace -- firefighter with safety crew at Pentagon's heliport
We have had a commercial carrier crash into the west side of the Pentagon at the heliport, Washington Boulevard side. The crew is OK. The airplane was a 757 Boeing or a 320 Airbus.
Albert Hemphill -- from inside the Naval Annex
Immediately, the large silver cylinder of an aircraft appeared in my window, coming over my right shoulder as I faced the Westside of the Pentagon directly towards the heliport. The aircraft, looking to be either a 757 or Airbus, seemed to come directly over the annex
James S. Robbins -- Robbins, a national-security analyst and 'nationalreviewonline' contributor, watched from his 6th story office window in Arlington
The Pentagon is about a mile and half distant in the center of the tableau. I was looking directly at it when the aircraft struck. The sight of the 757 diving in at an unrecoverable angle is frozen in my memory, ...
Tim Timmerman --
... said it had been an American Airways 757.
Tim Timmerman -- from 16th floor apartment near National Airport
It was a Boeing 757, American Airlines, no question.
Mike Dobbs -- observed from upper level of outer ring of Pentagon
... looking out the window when he saw an American Airlines 737 twin-engine airliner strike the building.
Terry Morin -- watched from 5th wing of BMDO offices at the old Navy Annex
The plane had a silver body with red and blue stripes down the fuselage. I believed at the time that it belonged to American Airlines, but I couldn't be sure. It looked like a 737 and I so reported to authorities.
Jim Sutherland -- from his car
... saw ... a white 737 twin-engine plane with multicolored trim fly 50 feet over I-395 in a straight line, striking the side of the Pentagon.
Noel Sepulveda --
... saw a commercial airliner coming from the direction of Henderson Hall the Marine Corps headquarters.
Madelyn Zakhem --
... she heard what she thought was a jet fighter directly overhead. It wasn't. It was an airliner coming straight up Columbia Pike at tree-top level. It was huge! It was silver. It was low -- unbelievable! I could see the cockpit.
Joel Sucherman --
Do you know how many engines? - I did not see the engines, I saw the body and the tail; it was a silver jet with the markings along the windows that spoke to me as an American Airlines jet, it was not a commercial, excuse me, a business jet, it was not a Lear jet, ... it was a bigger plane than that.
Dave Winslow -- Winslow is an AP reporter
I saw the tail of a large airliner ... It ploughed right into the Pentagon.

Small Jet

Steve Patterson -- watched from 14th-floor apartment in Pentagon City
... it appeared to him that a commuter jet swooped over Arlington National Cemetery and headed for the Pentagon ...
Don Wright -- watched from the 12th floor, 1600 Wilson Boulevard, in Rosslyn
I watched this ...it looked like a commuter plane, two engined ... come down from the south real low ...

Most no-757-crash literature ignores the body of eyewitness evidence indicating the presence of a twin-engine jetliner, and in many cases cherry-picks certain eyewitness accounts that seem to support the presence of a small plane. A common tactic is to present one part of Mike Walter's account:

I mean it was like a cruise missile with wings. It went right there and slammed right into the Pentagon.

while leaving out the earlier part of his account:

I looked out my window and I saw this plane, this jet, an American Airlines jet, coming. And I thought, 'This doesn't add up, it's really low.'

In the context of his full account, it is clear that Walter was using "cruise missile with wings" to describe the way the plane was being flown, not the kind of plane he saw.

page last modified: 2006-08-18
Copyright 2004 - 2011,911Review.com / revision 1.10 site last modified: 05/16/2019
Boeing 757s with American Airlines colors
Boeing 737 with American Airlines colors
Airbus 320

None of the three types of aircraft specifically named by eyewitnesses -- a Boeing 757, a Boeing 737, and an Airbus 320 -- looks anything like a cruise missile. (images source: jetphotos.net)
A Tomahawk cruise missile. These aircraft are only 18 feet long. (image source: www.fas.org)
The RQ-4A Global Hawk Unmanned Reconnaissance System