9-11: AA 77; Research Sources, an update


This article updates researchers and historians on the state of publicly available information concerning American Airlines Flight 77 (AA 77). I reference previous articles I have written which may also be helpful.

Informative Web Sites

The website, undicisettembre.blogspot, an Italian web site, has published an interview of Patrick Smith, a professional pilot. The pilot discusses the capabilities of the hijacker pilots, specifically Hani Hanjour, the designated pilot for AA 77, once commandeered. According to the website:

Patrick Smith is an airline pilot with more than twenty years of experience. He currently flies Boeing 757s and 767s. He is the host of the well-known Ask The Pilot website and author of the book Cockpit Confidential: Questions, Answers, and Reflections.

Another web site, new to me, is a worthwhile compendium of diverse information from multiple sources concerning the flight of AA 77 on September 11, 2001.

The blogger, cjnewson88, updated an article, “American Airlines Flight 77 Evidence.”  The article covers nearly every aspect of the AA 77 story.  Embedded are You Tube videos created or referenced by Newson.

Newson references the work of Tom Lusch.  Lusch has long been concerned about radar issues, such as the Indianapolis Air Traffic Control Center loss of AA 77 as a primary target on controller scopes.

Lusch’s own work is exhaustive and one outcome is that he suggested refined language for the Commission Report to more accurately describe what happened at Indianapolis.  Newson includes Lusch’s language in his article. Two members of the Commission Staff have reviewed Lusch’s work and pose no objection to his refinement of our work.

Unfortunately, Lusch lost his web site some months ago and has just recently begun a reconstitution effort.  Interested readers can follow Lusch’s work at his new web site, “Thomas G. Lusch.”

Reagan National Tower and TRACON

Newson includes a video, “Ronald Reagan National Airport with ATC Audio,” that counts down the final minutes of the flight of AA 77. The radar time and air traffic control time may be off a bit when combined, but they are close enough to provide a history of the event as it happened. [Note: the title, above, is Newson’s title used on his website, not the title of the You Tube video, itself.]

At about 9:34 EDT radar time, a voice is heard in the background sounding an alert for the presence of an unidentified unknown approaching the nation’s capital. Shortly before 9:35 EDT an “S” tag appears on the track of AA 77. That tag marked the track so all TRACON and Tower personnel could easily follow its progress. That tag also allowed the Secret Service to follow the track since they had a radar feed from National TRACON.

The Secret Service did follow the track, once tagged, and provided screen prints depicting the advance of AA 77, as seen by the Service, to Commission Staff.  My archived AA 77 slide set has the times of those screen prints annotated.  I made those annotations, lightly in pencil, on the slide depicting the gradual, descending turn of AA 77 back to target.

Military aircraft in the area

The combined TRACON radar and Tower air traffic control communications also account for the presence of military fixed-wing aircraft in the area: Venus 22; Word 31; the Bobcats, 14 and 17; and Gofer 06.  I discussed all but the Bobcats in a 2009 article, “9-11: The Mystery Plane; not so mysterious.” I discussed the Bobcats in another 2009 article, “9-11: The Bobcats; a teachable moment.”

I recently posted a transcript of the Commission Staff interview with the Gofer 06 pilot.

AA 77

The convergence of evidence compiled by Newsom is conclusive. AA 77 was commandeered by five hijackers who then flew it into the Pentagon between 9:37 and 9:38 EDT, September 11, 2001.





9-11: Twelfth Anniversary; a quick update

I continue to  be largely inactive because of a continuing family situation. Nevertheless, there are some important developments that deserve mention on this the 12th 9/11 anniversary.


Both the Commission and Joint Inquiry Staffs considered Congress to be dysfunctional in its ability to provide proper oversight of the terrorist threat to the nation. That dysfunction continues, to the point that Commission chairs Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton  co-authored a serious New York Times article today, “Homeland Confusion.”

The former co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission specifically address the oversight of the Department of Homeland Security. The pair wrote:

In a cumbersome legacy of the pre-9/11 era, Congress oversees the Department of Homeland Security with a welter of overlapping committees and competing legislative proposals. The department was created in 2002 out of 22 agencies and departments. More than 100 congressional committees and subcommittees currently claim jurisdiction over it. This patchwork system of supervision results in near-paralysis and a lack of real accountability.

That “patchwork” system existed prior to 9/11 concerning oversight of the government’s counterterrorism policies and practices.  Kean and Hamilton pull no punches. “That has to change.”


“Carrie Cordero, writing for the “Lawfare” blog,  recently wrote an assessment, “What the 9/11 Commission Report says about Syria.”

Cordero twice quotes the Commission Report

Our enemy is twofold: al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorist that struck us on 9/11; and a radical ideological movement in the Islamic world, inspired in part by al Qaeda, which has spawned terrorist groups and violence across the globe. The first enemy is weakened, but continues to pose a grave threat. The second enemy is gathering, and will menace Americans and American interests long after Usama Bin Ladin and his cohorts are killed or captured. Thus our strategy must match our means to two ends: dismantling the al Qaeda network and prevailing in the longer term over the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism.


The U.S. government must define what the message is, what it stands for. We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring with our neighbors. America and Muslim friends can agree on respect for human dignity and opportunity. To Muslim parents, terrorist like Bin Ladin have nothing to offer their children but visions of violence and death. America and its friends have a crucial advantage—we can offer these parents a vision that might give their children a better future. If we heed the views of thoughtful leaders in the Arab and Muslim world, a moderate consensus can be found.

She concludes:

Government leaders, in considering whether it is appropriate to take action in Syria, and to what degree, should, this week [article written August 13, 2013] in particular, reflect on the advice and observations provided by the 9/11 Commission. I think they will find that the takeaway is, to borrow a phrase that is of the moment, don’t blink.

American Airlines Flight 77 (AA77)

Serious, important work has been done on the radar issue concerning AA 77 by Tom Lusch.  Lusch has published his extensive work in a detailed article, “Radar Sort Boxes in the area of American Airlines Flight 77’s Turnaround/Disappearance,”  that refines the work of the Commission staff.  Two members of the Commission Staff have reviewed Lusch’s work and have found it to be an authoritative and responsible extension of our work.

Lusch has worked radar issues for many years and for at least the past four years has conducted a detailed investigation into both the work of the Commission and the disappearance of AA77.  He has published a chronology of that work since 2010.  It is fair to say that the false flag theorist, Paul Schreyer, played a key role in the final analysis.  Schreyer conducted detailed separate email conversations with both Tom and me.  Schreyer provided Lusch a link to critical information that he had not previously considered.  Schreyer’s analysis is available at this link.

Correction, Sep 12, 2013. Tom Lusch advises that the key information came via a conversation with Vincent Moreau  not Schreyer.

9-11: Dulles TRACON called by FAA Eastern Region; asked about UA175; was told about fast mover

This article documents a call from Ron Ruggieri, Eastern Region, to John Hendershot, Dulles TRACON manager.  It is clear and explicit primary source evidence that the alert about the fast mover later identified as AA77 passed to NEADS by Boston Center was a result of Colin Scoggins listening to the results of this conversation.

In this call Ruggieri is turned over to the Supervisor, John Hendershott,  and asked about UA 175, but then confirmed it was out of Boston.  Here is the the start of that call.  0934 Ruggieri to Hendershott about UA 175

Hendershott then told Ruggieri that they were tracking a primary target headed toward  the White House [P56].   Hendershott advised that National Approach and the White House had been notified.  It is clear from this next cut that Ruggieri was briefing someone else who was then passing along the information.  0935 IAD Tracking a fast moving unknown toward White House

Ruggieri asked for a position and was told the target was six miles southwest of the White House, identical to the information that Colin Scoggins was concurrently passing to NEADS.

0936 six miles SW of White House

Note the confusion, however.  Hendershott opined that the target could be military.  In the background a voice is heard saying that the military had been notified.  That is either a garble of Hendershott’s opinion or an acknowledgement of the Boston Center notification to NEADS.  There is no evidence that anyone in the military other than NEADS was notified.  The FAA primary net did not include the NMCC and the NMCC had closed down its Significant Event Conference and was in the process of bringing up an Air Threat Conference, one that did not include FAA.

Hendershott, clearly looking at a TRACON radar scope, then provided near-real time updates to Eastern Region.   It’s “maneuvering,” now turning back “towards the White House.” A background voice asked if it was military.  Hendershott responded, “we have no knowledge.”  The background voice immediately passed along that information, “they have no knowledge, Dave.”  0937 Turning Back Toward the White House

That is likely a reference to Dave Canoles.  If so, then Eastern Region was passing the information immediately to FAA Headquarters.  Given that Colin Scoggins was listening to the Eastern Region phone bridge, then it is likely that the false earlier report that AA11 was still airborne originated on that bridge.  Scoggins has long contended that the false report came from Canoles’ office, if not from Canoles, himself.

Headquarters, via Eastern Region, became concerned that National was not on the bridge and that the hot line to the White House had not been activated.  National had done that immediately when Daniel O’Brien and her supervisor sounded the alarm, but no one at FAA Headquarters or Eastern Region apparently knew that.  Hendershott took an action to call National and confirm that the hot line had been activated.  0937 Concern About Hot Line to White House

Hendershott reported that  the primary dissappeared shortly after 9:38.  Then reporting got confused as apparent false returns from the aftermath of the Pentagon impact caused Hendershott to also report that the target was a mile from the White House.  It was a chaotic moment and in that moment Hendershott confirmed that the White House hot line had been activated.  0938 Target Disappeared False Returns Confuse White House Hot Line Confirmed

A  little more than a minute later Ruggieri told  Hendershott, with resignation, that  “he went into the Pentagon, West side.”  Ruggieri heard that first in background just as he was explaining that the only reason he called had to do with UA 175.  0939 He Just Went into the Pentagon West Side

The Ruggieri call provides a unique and perhaps the only real time window into the FAA’s Eastern Region.  Once John Hendershott was asked to keep the line open the window opened.  Eastern Region was and is an administrative headquarters.  It served FAA poorly by interjecting itself into a battle being fought by Herndon Center.

Eastern Region had no business being in the middle of the situation once the focus changed from UA175 to a fast moving unknown being tracked by Dulles TRACON.  Yet, ironically, had Eastern Region not made the call looking for UA175 then FAA Headquarters would not have had near real-time information from a radar scope displaying the track of what would later be determined to be AA77.

9/11: AA77; NEADS located in 34 seconds, when cued

The purpose of this brief article is to document the NEADS successful search for AA77 when cued with accurate, timely information.

The primary source documentation is found on Ch 5 ID TK, in the first NEADS delivery of audio files to the Commission.  The Channel recorded as an open mike and the stream of audio conversations is chaotic, intermingled, and largely in the background.  Here is a 39 second segment of that file.  The time is approximately 0936 EDT.

There he is Ch 5 ID TK

From the moment MSGT Dooley announced the first results of a Colin Scoggins alert call to the Sector floor it took 34 seconds for the aircraft to be found.  Here is a partial transcript of what can be made out on the file

Watson:  OK, copy

Dooley:  We have an aircraft 6 miles southeast of the White House

Dooley:  Southwest

Dooley:  He’s deviating

Watson:  OK, sir, it’s six miles

Male Voice:  Here it is

For comparison, here is the clear call between Scoggins and Watson.  Dooley began here floor announcements as soon as Watson said, “OK, copy.”

093536 AA77 Scoggins VFR 6 Miles

This establishes the metric by which to measure the NEADS response time when provided timely, accurate information.  Note that in this case, they did not have specific information–a mode 3, a lat long, or a range and bearing from a known navigation point.  The general point out, “six miles from the White House” was sufficient.  NEADS was then able to establish a track, B032, which faded [Pentagon impact] before the track could be forward told to CONR and NORAD.

Some researchers speculate that NEADS was unable to locate targets on 9/11, based on the fact that AA11 was not found.  Those who so speculate overlook the fact that NEADS did not have timely, accurate information concerning AA11.  NEADS established a “last known” Z point to the north of where AA11 actually was.  Further, New York TRACON, when given a general reference was also unable to spot AA 11, as can be heard on this third audio file.

NY TRACON difficulty finding AA11

9-11: AA 77; independent investigation, validation and verification

Addendum, Feb 20, 2011

Warren Stutt has updated his AA77 FDR output files.

Addendum, Feb 19, 2011

An additional piece of research and analysis has come to me attention that adds to the work cited in my original post.  John (not Commission) Farmer has provided a link to a definitive, primary source-based, analysis of radar pertinent to 9-11.  His paper is titled, “Radar and NTSB Time Normalization for 9/11 Data Sources.”

Here is Farmer’s lead paragraph:

“Perhaps one of the most contentious aspects of the analysis of American Airlines Flight 77’s (AAL77) flight path is the reconciliation of the radar data released by the U.S. Air Force’s 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron (84 RADES), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). However, this should not be the case since alignment of the individual data sets is rather straight- forward in the case of AAL77. Also, the abundance of data from such a wide spectrum of sources and measurement systems, from take-off to within seconds of the termination of flight, gives a complete and unequivocal historical record.”

Farmer’s work is technical and, based on my all-source knowledge of the radar issue, is definitive.  Taken together with the other sources I cited earlier the public has an articulate, rigorous, and nearly complete story of AA 77 and the Pentagon, one constructed independent of the work of the Commission.

This body of work is a logical extension of the work of the Commission and the Congressional Joint Inquiry before it.  The work stands on its own merit and can be replicated, a measure of its validity.  Historians and researchers now have available a body of work, one that can be used and cited with a high degree of confidence in its accuracy.


The purpose of this article is to acknowledge responsible research and investigation concerning AA 77 and the Pentagon.  A body of work has now been completed largely independent of the work of the Commission and the Joint Inquiry before it.  Taken together, three independent efforts comprise a valuable publicly available source of accurate information.

The three are the work of Legge and Stutt in reconstructing the data from the AA 77 flight data recorder, the work of the American Society of Civil Engineers in assessing the damage to the Pentagon, and the work of Creed and Newman in detailing the rescue and recovery efforts by first responders.  We start with the recent web publication of the work of Legge and Stutt

Frank Legge and Warren Stutt

Warren Stutt, a knowledgeable and dedicated researcher, spent months obtaining and analyzing the most critical and accurate primary source information available, the data from the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) for AA 77.  The result of that work, “Flight AA77 on 9-11: New FDR Analysis Supports the Official Flight Path Leading to Impact with the Pentagon,” resolves multiple issues that arose because the National Traffic Safety Board’s own work did not account for the final seconds of the flight of AA 77.

Legge and Stutt conclude that: “Previous analyses were…confounded by uncertainty of the position of the last data point; failure to consider possible calibration errors in the pressure altimeter data, caused by high speed and low altitude; and false information in the NTSB flight animation.  The recent complete decoding of the FDR file has enlarged and clarified the information available and has thereby enabled resolution of the contradictions. It is clear that this file supports the official account of the course of flight AA 77 and the consequent impact with the Pentagon. The file thus also supports the majority of eyewitness reports.”

The words “complete decoding” are important.  The authors took the raw data from the FDR and reconstructed every frame of data, to include data previously thought not to have been recorded.  Their dedicated effort completes the work of the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) which left the technical story hanging.

However, their work only takes the AA77 story up to the point it impacted the Pentagon.  For the rest of the story we turn to two previous studies, “The Pentagon Building Performance Report” and the Creed/Newman book Firefight: the Battle to save the Pentagon on 9-11. We begin with the building performance report.

The Pentagon Building Performance Report (PBPR)

The Performance Report, [PDF file available at this URL: https://fire.nist.gov/bfrlpubs/build03/PDF/b03017.pdf (copy/paste into browser] published in January 2003 under the auspices of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Structural Engineering Institute, provides a detailed technical analysis of what happened once AA 77 penetrated the building.

According to the authors the purpose of the report was to “…examine the performance of the structure in the crash and the subsequent fire for the benefit of the building professions and the public.”  Their work extends the trajectory established by Legge and Stutt into the Pentagon and describes the resultant damage. 

Together, the two analyses so far discussed conclusively document the final moments of AA 77 and provide a technical account of what happened.  Although the Performance Report  did consider some eye witness testimony the human aspect of the story has best been told by Creed and Newman.

Creed and Newman

In their 2008 book, Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11, Creed and Newman tell the story of the emergency response, what happened in the immediate aftermath once AA 77 slammed into the Pentagon.  According to the dust jacket summary, the authors were “Granted unprecedented access to the major players in the valiant response efforts, [the authors] take us step-by-step throught the harrowing minutes, hours, and days following the crash…into the Pentagon’s western facade.

According to Creed and Newman, “The instant its nose struck the outer wall of the Pentagon, Flight 77 ceased to be an airplane.”  At that moment physics [and chemistry, the laws of science] took over.  It became a “roaring mass of fluid and debris…a tidal wave…”  “The Pentagon finally arrested the forward movement of Flight 77. The mass plowed through the C Ring and blew a round hole, about 12 feet in diamenter, through the ring’s inner wall.”  From the moment of impact, the entire event had taken place in eight-tenths of a second.”

Independent of the 9-11 Commission

The three investigative efforts described, taken together, tell a complete story of the last moments of flight AA 77 and the Pentagon.  There work can be replicated and it stands apart from the work of the 9-11 Commission and the Joint Inquiry.  The work of Legge, Stutt, Creed, Newman, and the authors of the ASCE report is definitive and validates and verifies the work of the 9-11 Commission.

Moreover, it provides an independent baseline for assessing the multiple eye witness and participant recall accounts.  Some researchers have speculated, based on eye witness accounts that somehow something quite different happened to both AA 77 and the Pentagon.

Creed and Newman have this to say concerning eye witness accounts in their Epilogue:  “In addition to the documentary evidence we’ve cited as source material, we have relied on the memories and personal records of more than 150 people…Memories, of course, can be incomplete and faulty…We checked personal recollections against official documents wherever possible…”

Eye Witness Accounts

Eye witness and participant recall accounts are important but only when validated and verified by primary sources and secondary information.  Given the complete story of AA 77 and the Pentagon we can now add to the account an exceptional eye witness account, that of Penny Elgas.  Her detailed, articulate, and reflective narrative is consistent in its detail and provides a vivid picture to complement the technical work of Legge and Stutt.

9/11: AA 77; Flight Data Recorder, a definitive analysis

This short article serves to document the work of Warren Stutt.  Warren has taken it upon himself to parse the data from the AA 77 flight data record down to its most elemental level.  His work is definitive and significantly extends the work of the Commission on this issue.

For those interested in definitive, supportable research on the technical details of the flight of AA 77 this is your best source.

9-11: AA 77; detailed work on the radar coverage issue

There is a dedicated group of individuals who are working diligently and thoroughly to document technical information pertaining to the flight of AA 77.  Their work builds on the work of the Commission and extends that work in depth and detail. One such individual is Tom Lusch whose interest is the radar coverage issue.  Here is a portion of his vitae.

Tom Lusch is a Certified Professional Controller with over 28 years of experience in the enroute, terminal, and tower options of the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control system.  In 1992, a paper he authored, “Real Targets – Unreal Displays: The inadvertent suppression of critical radar data” was republished in the Journal of Air Traffic Control (link) His treatise focused on the low-altitude environment.
As demonstrated with the vanishing of AA 77 from the screens at Indianapolis Center, the processing of multiple radar data remained a challenge for the FAA.  On his web site he counters the contention that  there was “…poor primary coverage where American 77 was flying.” (link).  His thesis is that the problem was radar data processing not radar coverage.