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ERROR: 'The Bumble Planes Theory'

The term Bumble Planes was coined by an article published on Carol Valentine's site entitled "Flight of the Bumble Planes", which presented a speculative theory of the fates of the four jetliners commandeered on 9/11/01. The scenario goes as follows:

  • A Boeing 767 is secured and fitted with remote controls and painted up to look like a United Airlines jet (Pseudo Flight 175).
  • On the morning of the attack, a NORAD insider calls the jetliners' pilots, instructing them to switch off their transponders, maintain radio silence, and land at a military base.
  • In the meantime, substitute remote-controlled planes are dispatched to match the flight-paths of the landing jets but at a higher altitude, so that their radar blips match those of the jetliners. With the jetliners' transponders disabled, air traffic controllers mistake the swapped planes for the original jetliners and do not realize that the original flights landed.
  • The substitutes for Flights 11 and 175 continue on to their targets of the Twin Towers.
  • A small remote controlled commuter jet filled with incendiaries/explosives crashes into the North Tower.
  • Pseudo Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower.
  • Another remote controlled commuter jet filled with incendiaries/explosives crashes into the Pentagon.
  • The passengers from Flights 11, 175, and 77, now at the military airfield, are loaded onto Flight 93.
  • Flight 93 takes off again, and is then shot down or bombed over Pennsylvania.

Aside from the lack of any evidence to support this theory, this article contains logical errors such as the following.

e x c e r p t
title: Flight Of The Bumble Planes
authors: Snake Plissken
Some people have suggested the original passenger planes were used with the flight computers hacked and loaded with the collision coordinates for the targets. Maybe the job could have been done that way, but it was not. You know for sure it was not because flight computers do not fly planes the way those were flown. A flight computer is given a set of GPS points (geographic coordinates) to follow, and the computer charts the path between them, correcting for cross-winds and other errors. The flight computer flies smooth and gentle, the way passengers like it, without jerky corrections.

The flight control computers may have an interface which thus constrains the possible maneuvers, but a hack could allow any such limits to be re-programmed. Such is the nature of computers: they are programmable.

Operation Pearl, etc.

Detail lacking in the Bumble Planes scenario was later provided in Operation Pearl, presented in an article by Professor A.K. Dewdney. The Canadian's credentials as a professor and former writer for Scientific American apparently assisted the reach of his theory in the community of 9/11 skeptics. In the article, Dewdney uses literary finesse to impart a sense of realism to his scenario.

e x c e r p t
title: Operation Pearl
authors: A.K.Dewdney

5.3 The World Trade Center

It would have been an eerie experience to ride the 757 that we have called Flight 175-X. Walking the aisles, we would have seen the seats all stripped from the aircraft, the walls lined with fuel drums, like so many token passengers. Cables ran up the aisle to the cockpit, where a large black box sat on the floor, just in front of the control console. The pilots' seats were missing. Some of the cables fed into several openings in the console, others passed through openings in the floor into the aircraft's belly, where the antenna system communicated with a ground station.

At the ground station, an operator watched a color television monitor. On it, he could see the Manhattan skyline looming steadily larger. He adjusted the joystick slightly to the right, aiming for the south tower, then pushed the stick forward slightly. The aircraft slowly descended until it was level with the upper third of the still distant building. An ironic smile crossed the operator's face. This was not exactly the intended use of the Predator technology.

False Implications

Given that there appears to be no evidence to support the plane swap scenarios, why, one might ask, have they gotten as much traction as they have? Part of their appeal may be that they make for good science fiction. Another part may be that they dovetail with several other ideas that have enjoyed varying degrees of success, such as:

The final idea is addressed by Eric Salter in his paper containing detailed refutations of the WTC 'no-plane theories'.

e x c e r p t
title: A Critical Review of WTC 'No Plane' Theories
author: Eric Salter
Radar Data

With the combination of the civilian and military radar recordings from 9/11, either the transponder or primary radar returns from flights 11 and 175 were recorded for the entirety of those flights, according to documents recently released by the NTSB which show both the complete flight path and the altitude profiles of each flight. It doesn't appear that either plane was missed by primary radar for any significant length of time during the flights.

If the data presented is authentic, two things are clear: The flights started and ended where they were claimed by the official reports, and the altitude profiles show that neither plane was anywhere close to the ground except at takeoff and the termination of flight at Manhattan, which would rule out substitution scenarios involving landing at some other unknown airport along the flight path.

It is true that the civilian flight controllers lost track of flight 11, but it seems this happened for the following reason: civilian radar apparently did not have full primary radar return coverage, so flight 11 would have disappeared from their scopes (because the transponder was turned off) and would have been difficult to re-identify when it reappeared later without the transponder signals (which broadcast the identity of the flights). But this loss of identification does not support plane swapping. The entirety of the plane's flight path has been plotted with the recorded radar data, eliminating the possibility that the plane deviated from the course described in the official reports. Whether a plane swap was achieved by two planes coming close together and switching flight paths is something that cannot be discerned from the data available and will always be nothing more than speculation unless someone can get access to the original radar data recordings and demonstrate through expert analysis that the data supports this possibility.

The burden of proof now lies on those who wish to support plane substitution to prove that the information provided by the NTSB is inaccurate.


page last modified: 2011-08-20
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