ERROR: 'A Pod Was Attached to the South Tower Plane'
There is no credible evidence that what crashed into the South Tower
on 9/11/01 was anything other than
The jet was seen by hundreds of people and recorded by scores of
cameras as it flew over the Hudson River,
approaching the World Trade Center from the southwest,
and careened into the South Tower,
erupting into a spectacular fireball.
But ideas that something entirely different occurred
have been a staple of some 9/11 skeptics
since at least the middle of 2003,
and have been promoted to much greater visibility in 2004.
These ideas are so numerous and shifting that a full accounting
of them would be next to impossible.
We examine only the more prominent and recurrent ideas here.
Two of the more polished campaigns to promote the above ideas
in 2004 are the letsroll911.org website and the
In Plane Site
Both promote a very similar set of assertions about the
South Tower plane.
The Pod Menagerie
Of the many ideas based on seeming peculiarities in the photographic evidence
of the South Tower crash,
the idea that the plane had a bulge and/or
attachments to its fuselage and/or wings
foreign to a 767 airliner
has enjoyed the greatest publicity and popularity.
We name this page for this idea,
that some kind of pod or pods were attached to the plane.
The Pregnant Plane
The pregnant plane idea holds that belly the South Tower plane
had a peculiar bulge, and therefore was not Flight 175.
The originators of this idea apparently relied on their audience
being so gullible that they would not bother to look at the
underside of modern commercial jetliner,
since the entire idea ignores
a feature common to all large modern jetliners:
the wing fairings that surround
the structure that unifies the wings and fuselage
and houses the landing gear.
This idea was apparently seeded with
The mysterious reflections of 9/11,
an article published in Spanish in LA VANGUARDIA on June 6, 2003.
Here the authors suggest both the pregnant plane
and the later-popularized cylinder-mounted plane ideas:
They consist of two long shapes located underneath the fuselage,
one towards the bow and the other towards the stern of the plane.
There is a third, seemingly pyramidal in shape, on the underbelly,
almost in the center of the plane.
The article claims that "aeronautical engineers at official Spanish"
used "contour-detection digital analysis",
and then discloses that they relied on an ignorant characterization
of the geometry of airliners such as 767s:
given that the fuselage of commercial airplanes is cylindrical and flat,
according to the cited technical report.
The Cylinder-Mounted Plane
The cylinder-mounted plane idea is based on an imaginative misinterpretation
of a specular reflection of the sun by the shiny dark underside
of the South Tower plane's fuselage.
This idea is promoted with great specificity in
which has precisely characterized the object as:
a 20m. long cylinder about 30 cm. in diameter.
Looking at the underbellies of 767-like jetliners,
such as the 777 to the right,
in a variety of different lighting conditions,
reveals a simple explanation for the broken streak
seen in the featured video frame of the South Tower plane:
The plane was reflecting the sunlight off its fuselage
in a specular reflection interrupted by the shape of the wing fairings.
We use the pod-plane moniker as a designation for both
the pregnant plane and cylinder-mounted plane ideas, as well as similar ones,
all of which are frequently associated with the missile-firing idea.
The Missile-Firing Plane
The idea that the plane (or hologram!) that flew into the South Tower
fired a missile just before impact is a common element of
all of the "pod-plane" ideas.
The pod, be it a bulge or cylinder, is the supposed source
of the supposed missile, fired just before impact.
A bright spot that appears on various images seemingly at the point of impact
is cited as evidence of
the missile strike.
However, there are other explanations for the bright spots,
such as specular reflections of pieces of the fracturing plane,
or electrostatic effects of the collision.
The Hologram and/or Video Plane
The hologram plane idea holds that the approach of the aircraft
was faked through the use of an aerial hologram.
The video plane idea holds that there was no plane
but that images of a plane were edited into the videos
that allegedly captured the event,
and then broadcast on 9/11/01.
The video and hologram ideas can be used together --
when pressed on the far-fetched idea of a hologram
that can be projected in the air and seen in broad daylight
from many different perspectives,
the theorist can shift to a position of "pure video",
and the insistence that no one actually saw the approach of a plane
preceding the South Tower fireball.
The Windowless Plane
The windowless plane idea holds that,
since the plane's windows aren't visible in the grainy silhouettes
of the plane in the videos, it must not have windows,
and therefore must be a cargo or tanker version of a 767.
This idea arises, as do nearly all the ideas here,
from a failure to appreciate the fact
that details disappear as resolution decreases.
The windows on the taxiing UU 767 to the right
are barely visible even at several times the resolution of the
South Tower videos.
Apparently, the first document to debunk the various pod-plane
and related ideas was that of Mark Hungerford, in
Later, on September 9, 2004,
published an article that illustrates exactly how the lighting
and shapes of the aircraft can account for all of the
imagined appearances of the alleged pods and missiles.
e x c e r p t
The 767 wing fairing vs. the "pod"
The fuselage bulges out where the wings join it. This is called the wing fairing.
The landing gear assembly folds into this area when it is retracted,
which is seems to be a problem if the alleged pod is a missile launcher:
As is clear in comparing the photos above, under the right lighting conditions
the wing fairing can look more pronounced. Notice how the reflected sunlight
(specular highlight) on the right side of the plane in the center photograph
changes from the fuselage to the fairing. This will be important later.
As it stands, the presence of a pod cannot be absolutely proven or disproven
given the low quality of the visual record. The only evidence presented so far
for it's existence is that in several low quality images it looks like
there is a pod there. The pod advocates, who overwhelmingly bear
the burden of proof, have not systematically proven that it could not
have been an optical illusion. There is more than sufficient reason to
conclude that the alleged pod is most likely the result of the play of light
on the body of the 767 around its normal wing fairing, especially because
this hypothesis holds up the best with the better quality images:
the CNN footage, the Taylor photo and the new black and white photo
of the underside of flight 175. So the question is, even if one still
graciously allows for the remote theoretical possibility of a "pod"
given the limitations of the visual record, should this be something
that the 9/11 community embraces and presents to the public? Absolutely not,
in my opinion, given the evidence we've seen so far. I'm not ideologically
opposed to radical arguments like this, but if they're to be promoted they
should be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. The pod advocates haven't
come anywhere close to that.
page last modified: 2007-02-25