Journal of 9/11 Studies 26 June 2006/Volume 1

The Flying Elephant: Evidence for Involvement of a Third Jet in the WTC Attacks

Reynolds Dixon
Writer and professor of English, former lecturer and Fellow at Stanford University.
Currently an editor for RR Donnelley.
Send correspondence to:

No mention of a large, commercial-class aircraft loitering in the restricted airspace of lower
Manhattan during the strikes on the WTC towers will be found in the 9/11 Commission Report.
It does not appear in any version of the Official Story. It is largely unknown even in critical
studies of 9/11. Yet substantial evidence exists to support its presence coincident with the
attacks, actually orbiting in close proximity to the towers for several minutes while the North
Tower burned and the South Tower was struck. Photography, video footage and eyewitness
accounts, including FDNY transcripts and mainstream media audio, confirm this fact.

Why is this significant? Let us consider the commercial air traffic on a typical Tuesday morning
over New York City. There are three major airports servicing the city: La Guardia and JFK
International to the east, and Newark International across the Hudson to the west. Normal
holding patterns for these airports do not intersect the borough of Manhattan at any point. Lower
Manhattan is, and was on the morning of 9/11/01, a low-altitude flight-restricted (no fly) zone
for commercial jets, as designated by the FAA, for the obvious reason that heavy, fast-moving
aircraft and tall buildings pose mutual hazards. Air traffic near the WTC towers was doubly
restricted, with a minimum ceiling extending two thousand feet above the towers (3,300 feet)
within a radius of one nautical mile, excepting only police aviation without special permit. These
were the VFR (visual flight rules) parameters in effect on the morning of 9/11. Once WTC1 was
hit, the black smoke plume expanding southeast from the tower would pose an additional threat
to navigation.

No avoidance warning from Air Traffic Control would be necessary, as no rational commercial
pilot (no matter how curious) would risk his aircraft, crew or passengers in a "fly-by" of the
burning North Tower. But in this anonymous Camera Planet segment we see a large, twin-jet
aircraft (757/767-class) doing just that at approximately 8:58am (assuming the time signature is
uncorrected by one hour), five minutes before WTC2 will be struck. Even disregarding the
indicated time, as WTC1 is burning and WTC2 is not, the segment is clearly recorded between
8:46am and 9:03am. Note this white aircraft with dark engines and vertical stabilizer is not the
aircraft that will impact WTC2.

This still from the video isolates the aircraft:

plane passes World Trade Center on 9/11
(right click and "save as" to download flash video)

According to the 9/11 Commission, two F-15s were scrambled from Otis Air Force Base at
8:52am (39 minutes after flight controllers lost contact with AA11), and were inbound to NYC at
supersonic speed, presumably to intercept suspicious airliners. Presumably commercial flights in
NY airspace would be alerted to this danger. Yet this aircraft cruises slowly near the stricken
North Tower, seemingly unconcerned its behavior makes it a logical target for these fighters. Of
course, the absurdly late scramble and non-arrival of the F-15s is a serious problem for the
official narrative, which remains obscured by contradictory accounts from the FAA, NORAD,
NEADS, the news media and the pilots themselves. (The Commission has these fighters finally
arriving for Combat Air Patrol over NYC at 9:25am, after being vectored into a holding pattern
off Long Island.)

At least one photograph captures this aircraft (or one with a similar profile) in the interval
between the tower strikes, flying another pass almost directly above WTC2 at an altitude of
approximately 2,000 feet, judging by its size and position relative to the smoke plume, to which
it is recklessly close:

flyby plane september 11 WTC attack not 175

At 9:03am, "UA175" approaches from the south at an improbably high speed and impacts the
South Tower. CNN aired this "amateur video" of the event, which captures (without notice by
Aaron Brown or Paula Zahn) what is evidently the same jet seen in the Camera Planet segment,
making a similar northwest pass (but farther west, approximately over Battery Park) as the South
Tower hit occurs.

This still from the video isolates the aircraft as "UA175" rips through the South Tower:

september 11 plane or F-16 ?

At 9:04am, Diane Sawyer of ABC News made remarks on-air about the "circling" jet she and her
colleagues "all saw" prior to the second strike. She admits she "just assumed" it was the same
one that struck the South Tower.

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Of interest with respect to this "mystery jet" is the phenomenon, acknowledged but unexplained
by the Commission, of the "phantom Flight 11". At 9:21am, after both towers had been hit, and
long after "AA11" had struck the North Tower, Boston flight control, relaying information from
FAA headquarters, informed NEADS that "AA11" was still in the air and heading south, perhaps
to Washington, DC. Were they tracking this "third aircraft"?

Notable in this context are reports by FDNY personnel that they received a warning about a third
aircraft. Deputy Chief Peter Hayden, in an interview with Firehouse Magazine in April 2002,
explained "We had a report from OEM that there was possibility of a third plane coming in."
Even more intriguing, in the Naudets' documentary 9/11,a firefighter is filmed explaining what
caused the collapse of the South Tower: "The FBI thinks it was a third plane."

Much research has focused on the details and effects of various military exercises apparently
underway on 9/11, especially "live-fly" NORAD drills designed to mimic multiple terrorist
aircraft attacks on high-profile US targets. One NORAD drill, "Vigilant Guardian", is admitted
by the Commission to have been in progress but is dismissed in a footnote as being unrelated to
the hijacking scenario and as posing no impediment to defensive response, despite the welldocumented
confusion among NORAD personnel as to whether the attacks were "real world or
exercise", the presence of artificial radar "injects" on their screens, and the recognition of as
many as eleven simultaneous potential hijackings.

Was the "third jet" an actor in such an exercise? Was it meant to confuse defensive
response? Was it monitoring (or controlling) the attacks? Was it a back-up in the event of a
miss on the towers? Was it one of these?
If it is a civil aircraft, records of its take-off and landing must exist. A FOIA request to the
FAA should be filed. If it is military, it is automatically suspect. Any proper investigation of
9/11 must account for this aircraft.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to Brian P. Duncan and Robert E. Moore, Esq. for their
research in support of this study.

original PDF


New Plane video WTC - 9-11Review

helicopters around the WTC on sept 11 Discussion of 2nd hit explosion

Here's an interview with an NYPD helicopter pilot who saw the second plane make its attack run:

portland imc - 9/11: Only live feed of "2nd hit" done with military cam

Videos of the WTC Crashes

wtc attack plane about to hit the tower

Journal of  911 studies


Flash video of plane in the area (mentioned above)

This audio talks about another plane in the area after the second hit

(audio) There was a plane flying around, it dissappeared, then there was an explosion

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