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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 Flight 175. 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 video. 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 911review.org, 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 911wideopen.com.

Later, on September 9, 2004, Eric Salter 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
title: Analysis of Flight 175 'Pod' and related claims
authors: Eric Salter, with contributions by Brian Salter


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
Copyright 2004 - 2011,911Review.com / revision 1.08 site last modified: 12/21/2012
Eric Salter demonstrated how specular highlights could account for the shape of the streaks on the South Tower plane.