I received the following post by email, from Nila Sagadevan, an investigator on the 9/11 case. I don't agree on the general theme of this post, which is intended to demonstrate that Hani Hanjour was unable to bring his plane to Washington DC and execute a 270° turn to place it on an approach trajectory to the Pentagon. I have added to Nila Sagadevan's text (in black) my own comments (in dark red).

Date: Mon, 30 Jan 2006 14:11:08 -0800
Subject: The Jet-Jocks
From: Nila Sagadevan <nila@truepennymedia.com>
To: "All@truepennymedia.com" <All@truepennymedia.com>

THE JET-JOCKS (Who Couldn’t Solo A Cessna)

There are some who maintain that the mythical 9/11 hijackers, although  proven to be too incompetent to fly a little Cessna 172, had acquired the impressive skills that enabled them to fly airliners by training in flight simulators.

What follows is an attempt to bury this myth once and for all, because I’ve heard this ludicrous explanation bandied about, ad nauseam, on the Internet and the TV networks—invariably by people who know nothing substantive about flight simulators, flying, or even airplanes.

A common misconception non-pilots have about simulators is how “easy” it is to operate them. They are indeed relatively “easy” to operate if the objective is to make a few lazy turns and frolic about in the “open sky”. But if the intent is to execute any kind of a maneuver with even the least bit of precision, the task immediately becomes quite daunting. And if the aim is to navigate to a specific geographic location hundreds of miles away while flying at over 500 MPH, 30,000 feet above the ground the challenges become virtually impossible for an untrained pilot.

I have read that Hani Hanjour had 600 hours of flight. I wonder how somebody having such an amount of training time could be unable to simply fly a trainer Cessna 172. It's something like saying that after one month 8 hours a day somebody couln't learn to ride a bicycle. I'm sceptic about the declarations of the flight instructors of the 9/11 hijackers pilots. First because those were arabs, and there can be some racism in the instructor's judgements. Second because these flight schools, apparently, were operated by CIA linked companies, which means that such declarations can be tagged "CIA origin".

And this, precisely, is what the four hijacker pilots who could not fly a Cessna around an airport are alleged to have accomplished in multi-ton, high-speed commercial jets on 9/11.

For a person not conversant with the practical complexities of pilotage, a modern flight simulator could present a terribly confusing and disorienting experience. These complex training devices are not even remotely similar to the video games one sees in amusement arcades, or even the software versions available for home computers.

In order to operate a modern flight simulator with any level of skill, one has to not only be a decent pilot to begin with, but also a skilled instrument-rated one to boot — and be thoroughly familiar with the actual aircraft type the simulator represents, since the cockpit layouts vary between aircraft.

The only flight domains where an arcade/PC-type game would even begin to approach the degree of visual realism of a modern professional flight simulator would be during the take-off and landing phases. During these phases, of course, one clearly sees the bright runway lights stretched out ahead, and even peripherally sees images of buildings, etc. moving past. Take-offs—even landings, to a certain degree—are relatively “easy”, because the pilot has visual reference cues that exist “outside” the cockpit.

Take off is straightforward. Landing is more difficult. I found more difficult to land a flight simulator Cessna than a real small trainer plane. Because when flying really, you have multiple references (two eyes, internal ear orientation organs, ass, ...) which gives you a complete sensitive set of information. On a flight simulator, you get only the 2D screen...

But once you’ve rotated, climbed out, and reached cruising altitude in a simulator (or real airplane), and find yourself en route to some distant destination (using sophisticated electronic navigation techniques), the situation changes drastically: the pilot loses virtually all external visual reference cues. S/he is left entirely at the mercy of an array of complex flight and navigation instruments to provide situational cues (altitude, heading, speed, attitude, etc.)

In the case of a Boeing 757 or 767, the pilot would be faced with an EFIS (Electronic Flight Instrumentation System) panel comprised of six large multi-mode LCDs interspersed with clusters of assorted “hard” instruments. These displays process the raw aircraft system and flight data into an integrated picture of the aircraft situation, position and progress, not only in horizontal and vertical dimensions, but also with regard to time and speed as well. When flying “blind”, I.e., with no ground reference cues, it takes a highly skilled pilot to interpret, and then apply, this data intelligently. If one cannot translate this information quickly, precisely and accurately (and it takes an instrument-rated pilot to do so), one would have ZERO SITUATIONAL AWARENESS. I.e., the pilot wouldn’t have a clue where s/he was in relation to the earth. Flight under such conditions is referred to as “IFR”, or Instrument Flight Rules.
And IFR Rule #1: Never take your eyes off your instruments, because that’s all you have!

I'm not sure that's all they had. I think that the best solution for the hijackers would have to buy handheld GPS receivers and use them to reach their targets. The waypoints could be programmed in the previous days by one of the hijackers - or somebody else doing that for them - and the pilots on 9/11 would have had only to deconnect the autopilot (just a red button to push) and follow a simple graphical pattern on the screen of the GPS to reach the vicinity of the target. Just try to do it with your car, your boat, ... these things are very simple to use. That day the weather was good all over the east of the USA, which means that they could do it without having to fly in blind conditions with the artificial horizons. And even if this had been the case, there is always a "last chance" classical artificial horizon on the cockpit board which can be used by a pilot unable to dialog with the FMC and read the graphical indication on the LCD screens.

The corollary to Rule #1: If you can’t read the instruments in a quick, smooth, disciplined, scan, you’re as good as dead. Accident records from around the world are replete with reports of any number of good pilots — I.e., professional instrument-rated pilots — who ‘bought the farm’ because they screwed up while flying in IFR conditions.
Let me place this in the context of the 9/11 hijacker-pilots. These men were repeatedly deemed incompetent to solo a simple Cessna-172 — an elementary exercise that involves flying this little trainer once around the patch on a sunny day. A student’s first solo flight involves a simple circuit: take-off, followed by four gentle left turns ending with a landing back on the runway. This is as basic as flying can possibly get.

I wonder, if this was true, i.e. that Hani Hanjour was unable to perform this simple circuit task, how he could be admitted to follow a training course on flight simulators for learning to pilot commercial jets. It simply doesn't make sense. It's like saying that somebody who couln't drive and park a car was admitted to learn to drive a semi trailor truck.

Not one of the hijackers was deemed fit to perform this most elementary exercise by himself.

Now let’s take a look at American Airlines Flight 77. Passenger/hijacker Hani Hanjour rises from his seat midway through the flight, viciously fights his way into the cockpit with his cohorts, overpowers Captain Charles F. Burlingame and First Officer David Charlebois, and somehow manages to toss them out of the cockpit (for starters, very difficult to achieve in a cramped environment without impacting the yoke and thereby disengaging the autopilot). One would correctly presume that this would present considerable difficulties to a little guy with a box cutter— Burlingame was a tough, burly, ex-Vietnam F4 fighter jock who had flown over 100 combat missions. Every pilot who knows him says that rather than politely hand over the controls, Burlingame would have instantly rolled the plane on its back so that Hanjour would have broken his neck when he hit the floor. But let’s ignore this almost natural reaction expected of a fighter pilot and proceed with this charade.

I find highly probable that captain Burlingame knew that hijacking and anti-hijacking exercises were to be run that day.

imagine that Hanjour overpowers the flight deck crew, removes them from the cockpit and takes his position in the captain’s seat. Although weather reports state this was not the case, let’s say Hanjour was lucky enough to experience a perfect CAVU day (Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited). If Hanjour looked straight ahead through the windshield, or off to his left at the ground, at best he would see, 35,000 feet -- 7 miles -- below him, a murky brownish-grey-green landscape, virtually devoid of surface detail, while the aircraft he was now piloting was moving along, almost imperceptibly and in eerie silence, at around 500 MPH (about 750 feet every second).

In a real-world scenario (and given the reported weather conditions that day), he would likely have seen clouds below him completely obscuring the ground he was traversing. Indeed, it’s altogether possible he could have found himself in cloud, and could see nothing at all outside the cockpit except for an enveloping, luminescent, dense, white ‘fog’. With this kind of “situational non-awareness”, Hanjour might as well have been flying over Argentina, Russia, or Japan—he wouldn’t have had a clue as to where, precisely, he was.

This is true. I tried sometimes to bring with me aerial navigation maps, when taking commercial flights over France, to follow the flight path and know where I was. Very difficult... if you loose the connection beetween ground a map, and don't have plotted time tagged points on the map, knowing the heading and speed of the plane, you get lost.

After a few seconds (at 750 ft/sec), Hanjour would figure out there’s little point in looking outside—there’s nothing there to give him any real visual cues. For a man who had previously wrestled with little Cessnas, following freeways and railroad tracks (and always in the comforting presence of an instructor), this would have been a strange, eerily unsettling environment indeed.

I agree. Without the plane's instruments or a hand held GPS, it would have been difficult to fly straight ahead to Washington DC. However, if I had been in this situation, I would have taken a heading 10 degrees south of the estimated route, reached the Atlantic coast over Maryland, and from there taken a north heading until I saw the Potomac river, or done something similar to come from the north. In clear weather conditions, this is possible. And it's possible that the hijacker pilots were trained to do this.

Seeing nothing outside, Mr. Hanjour would be forced to divert his attention to his instrument panel, where he’d be faced with a bewildering array of instruments. He would then have to very quickly interpret his heading, ground track, altitude, and airspeed information on the displays before he could even figure out where in the world he was, much less where the Pentagon was located in relation to his position!

This is not a good argument. First because Hani Hanjour lived for a while in an appartment located in Bayley's crossroads, near the Pentagon, and he could have observed the environment, for example from the top of the ANC hill. Secondly, the flight path of this plane when arriving over Washington DC was quite a bit erratic : it was plotted over the white house, anbd then did a 270° turn in order to arrive precisely over Bayley's crossroads and from there fly over Columbia Pike up to the Pentagon. This looks a little like "Where am I...? Oh this big monument, I recognize it, it's Washington Monument, so, let me see... on the left, it's where I live... let me take this direction and come back to the Pentagon."

After all, before he can crash into a target, he has to first find the target.  

It is very difficult to explain this scenario, of an utter lack of ground reference, to non-pilots; but let it suffice to say that for these incompetent hijacker non-pilots to even consider grappling with such a daunting task would have been utterly overwhelming. They wouldn’t have known where to begin.

But, for the sake of discussion let’s stretch things beyond all plausibility and say that Hanjour — whose flight instructors claimed was so clueless he “didn’t know how an automobile engine worked” — somehow managed to figure out their exact position in relation to their intended target as they traversed the earth at a speed five times faster than they had ever flown by themselves before.

Once he had determined exactly where he was, he would need to figure out where the Pentagon was located in relation to his rapidly-changing position. He would then need to plot a course to his target (one he cannot see with his eyes — remember, our ace is flying solely on instruments).

I don't think he was flying solely on instruments, except perhaps his handheld GPS. So, once he figured out that he was over the center of Washington DC, that the Pentagon was there (easy to see even from 7000 ft high), that the place were he lived was there, he had just to choose a trajectory to circle approximately around Rosslyn, and finally reach the place where he lived. From there, he had probably done the path several times, with a car or a bicycle, on Columbia Pike, to be able to follow it from over in a plane. This doesn't seem impossible to me.

In order to perform this bit of electronic navigation, he would have to be very familiar with IFR procedures. None of these chaps even knew what a navigational chart looked like, much less how to how to plug information into the flight management computer (FMC) and engage LNAV (lateral navigation automated mode). If one is to believe the official story, all of this was supposedly accomplished while flying blind at 500 MPH over unfamiliar (and practically invisible) terrain, using complex methodologies and employing sophisticated instruments.

All this is true. But following a path to reach waypoints on a handheld GPS is really much simpler than that.

Since we’ve come this far, let’s push beyond the ridiculous and presume Hanjour overcame this hurdle also. He would then need to disengage the autopilot and auto-throttle, and hand-fly the aircraft to its intended — and invisible — target on instruments alone until such time as he could get a visual fix. This necessitated him to fly back across West Virginia and Virginia to Washington DC. (NB: This portion of Flight 77’s flight path cannot be corroborated by any radar evidence that exists, because the aircraft suddenly disappeared from radar screens over Ohio, but let’s not mull over that little point.)

I have read that the transponder had been set off approximately when the plane made it's U turn to come back to Washington DC. I think this U turn and the following trajectory were not done under control of the FMC and autopilot, but manually piloting the plane.

According to FAA radar tapes, “Flight 77” then suddenly pops up over Washington DC and executes two incredibly precise diving turns at a rate of 360 degrees/minute while descending at 3,500 ft/min, at the end of which “Hanjour” allegedly levels out at ground level. Oh, I almost forgot: he also had the presence of mind to turn off the transponder in the middle of this incredibly difficult maneuver (one of his instructors later commented the hapless fellow couldn’t have spelt the word if his life depended on it).

I have read indications that the 270° turn had been done in approximately two minutes, which is a different rate : 135° per minute. Data are not precise on that point.

And then, all of a sudden we have magic—Voila! Hanjour finds the Pentagon sitting squarely in his sights right before him.

Not so miraculous. Hanjour lived for a while (probably months) in this vicinity. He had all the necessary time to walk, in the ANC, on the hill which is over the Pentagon and Columbia Pike, and memorize the zone.

But even that wasn’t good enough for this fanatic Muslim kamikaze pilot. You see, he found that his “missile” was heading towards one of the most densely populated wings of the Pentagon—and one occupied by the top military brass, including the Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld. Presumably in order to save these men’s lives, he then executes a sweeping 270-degree turn and approaches the building from the opposite direction and aligns himself with the only wing of the Pentagon that was virtually uninhabited due to extensive renovations that were underway (there were some 120 civilians construction workers in that wing who were killed).

This is right.

I shan’t get into the aerodynamic impossibility of flying a large commercial jetliner 20 feet above the ground at over 400 MPH. A discussion on ground effect energy, tip vortices, downwash sheets, wake turbulence, and jet blast effects are beyond the scope of this article. Let it suffice to say that it is physically impossible to fly a 200,000-lb airliner at 400+MPH, 20 feet above the ground.

I’ve heard this ludicrous explanation bandied about, ad nauseam, on the Internet and the TV networks—invariably by people who know nothing substantive about physics and aerodynamics. First, this plane did not fly at 400+MPH during it's approach of the Pentagon. It was probably at a much lower speed, something like 200 to 250 MPH. A witness reported that the pilot had put full throttle when passing over the Sheraton Hotel, half a mile before the Pentagon. Until that point, the plane flew on an horizontal trajectory, according to the witnesses "at tree top level". Obviously it was over some buildings which are along Columbia Pike, and high enough to avoid the top of the Sheraton hotel (16 story building) and the GSM antenna located close from there besides the VDOT STC building. So, during this horizontal flight, the plane was high enough (something like 150 ft over ground) and it's speed not so high, and NO GROUND EFFECT COULD OCCUR.

From the Sheraton hotel, the pilot took a diving angle (-5°), and flew approximately at a 50 to 100 ft over the ground, except when it crossed Washington Blvd (approximately 20-30 ft over the road). There could have been a short ground effect on this point. From there, the altitude of the plane gradually decreased from 40-50 ft (when entering the heliport zone) to zero, when the port engine hit the low cement wall protecting the ventilation structure and the nose hit the first floor wall of the Pentagon near column 14AA. As the plane was banked to the left when it crashed, the ground effect probably occured under the port wing and prevented the tip of this wing to touch the ground, with a strong push under this wing which decreased the roll angle. Some witnesses reported that the plane dragged it's wing on the ground before hitting the Pentagon. There is no trace in the lawn of this : this proves that this port wing was probably lifted by the ground effect, until it finally hit the first floor wall beetween columns 8 and 13.

I add that it was 9 o'clock on a september morning, that the sun had not yet heated the ground, and that the final flight before the crash took place over a lawn and not over a tarmac. All the conditions were OK to avoid a ground effect.

The author, a pilot and aeronautical engineer whose specialty is aerodynamics, challenges any pilot in the world to do so in any high-speed aircraft with a relatively low wing-loading (such as a commercial jet). I.e., to fly the craft at 400 MPH, 20 feet above ground in a flat trajectory over a distance of half a mile. The reactive force of the hugely powerful downwash sheet, coupled with the compressibility effects of the tip vortices, simply will not allow the aircraft to get any lower to the ground than approximately one half the distance of its wingspan until speed is drastically reduced, which is what happens during normal landings. In other words, if this were a Boeing 757 as reported, the plane could not have been flown below about 60 feet above ground. [NB: Such a maneuver is entirely possible within the performance envelope of aircraft with high wing-loadings, such as military fighters, the B1-B bomber—and the Global Hawk.]

I challenge any pilot still in life, who has experienced approaching the ground with a 350 MPH speed, a -5° pitch angle, rolled 15° on a side, to tell us exacly how he felt the ground effect. I'm certain that the only way to discuss with one reporting such a sensation would be to use spiritism with a rotating table.

Ditto, the pilots who flew the two 767s into the Twin Towers. They, too, would have had to have first found their targets. Again, these chaps, too, miraculously found themselves spot on course. And again, their “final approach” maneuvers at over 500 MPH are simply far too incredible to have been executed by pilots who could not solo basic training aircraft.

The writers of the official storyline  expect us to believe, that once the flight deck crews had been overpowered, and the hijackers “took control” of the various aircraft, their intended targets suddenly popped up in their windshields as they would have in some arcade game, and all that these fellows would have had to do was simply aim their airplanes at the buildings and fly into them. Most people who have been exposed only to the official storyline have never been on the flight deck of an airliner at altitude and looked at the outside world; if they had, they’d realize the absurdity of this kind of reasoning.  

Just rethoric.

In reality, a clueless non-pilot would encounter almost insurmountable difficulties in attempting to navigate and fly a 200,000-lb airliner into a building located on the ground, 7 miles below and hundreds of miles away and out of sight, and in an unknown direction, while flying at over 500 MPH — and all this under extremely stressful circumstances.

I don't agree with all this. I think that the only impossible thing for a pilot like Hani Hanjour, if we admit that he was poorly trained, would have been to execute the last part of the trajectory, avoiding the Sheraton Hotel, the GSM antenna (on both sides of Columbia Pike, i.e. on both sides of the trajectory), then avoid from a few feet the VDOT cam mast located on the side of Columbia Pike, the road signes on a portico, and from then, rolled 15 to 20° on the left, dive on the Pentagon to hit precisely the first floor. Seems to me too difficult. I agree with the remark of Nila Sagadevan on the choice of this zone (newly renovated and almost empty). For the rest, it's possible to build a scenario (plane manually controlled, handheld GPS, final turn in manual control, which are coherent with a 600 flight hrs pilot like Hani Hanjour was said to be. What is much more doubtful is that with such a number of flight hours, he could be said "unable to fly a Cessna 172". This last information coming from instructors of a CIA operated flight school, I don't add too much credit to it.