Allahpundit piqued my curiosity with his link to Robert Fisk's latest screed at the Independent, wherein he claims to be unable to find answers to many questions about the 9/11 attacks. Don't call me a conspiracy theorist, he says, and "spare me the plots", but he implores Karl Rove to tell him about how the Bush administration created the reality of 9/11. But spare him the plots, of course.
This puzzles me, because Robert Fisk claims to be a journalist, and one would expect a journalist to understand how to conduct research. Let's see if we can help Mr. Fisk with his questions, which unfortunately get spread throughout a paranoid harangue.
Where are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon?
Shockingly, this information actually can be found at Popular Mechanics, along with eyewitness testimony:
Blast expert Allyn E. Kilsheimer was the first structural engineer to arrive at the Pentagon after the crash and helped coordinate the emergency response. "It was absolutely a plane, and I'll tell you why," says Kilsheimer, CEO of KCE Structural Engineers PC, Washington, D.C. "I saw the marks of the plane wing on the face of the building. I picked up parts of the plane with the airline markings on them. I held in my hand the tail section of the plane, and I found the black box." Kilsheimer's eyewitness account is backed up by photos of plane wreckage inside and outside the building. Kilsheimer adds: "I held parts of uniforms from crew members in my hands, including body parts. Okay?"
Why did flight 93's debris spread over miles when it was supposed to have crashed in one piece in a field?
Answer: it wasn't. One piece went a mile and a half from the site after the plane exploded on impact, and the rest was found within that radius. Coincidentally, Popular Mechanics also did the legwork on this question:
Experts on the scene tell PM that a fan from one of the engines was recovered in a catchment basin, downhill from the crash site. Jeff Reinbold, the National Park Service representative responsible for the Flight 93 National Memorial, confirms the direction and distance from the crash site to the basin: just over 300 yards south, which means the fan landed in the direction the jet was traveling. "It's not unusual for an engine to move or tumble across the ground," says Michael K. Hynes, an airline accident expert who investigated the crash of TWA Flight 800 out of New York City in 1996. "When you have very high velocities, 500 mph or more," Hynes says, "you are talking about 700 to 800 ft. per second. For something to hit the ground with that kind of energy, it would only take a few seconds to bounce up and travel 300 yards." Numerous crash analysts contacted by PM concur.
If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers – whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C – would snap through at the same time?
Oddly enough, the journalist in Mr. Fisk apparently missed the explanation for this -- but the journalists at Popular Mechanics didn't:
Jet fuel burns at 800° to 1500°F, not hot enough to melt steel (2750°F). However, experts agree that for the towers to collapse, their steel frames didn't need to melt, they just had to lose some of their structural strength — and that required exposure to much less heat. "I have never seen melted steel in a building fire," says retired New York deputy fire chief Vincent Dunn, author of The Collapse Of Burning Buildings: A Guide To Fireground Safety. "But I've seen a lot of twisted, warped, bent and sagging steel. What happens is that the steel tries to expand at both ends, but when it can no longer expand, it sags and the surrounding concrete cracks."
"Steel loses about 50 percent of its strength at 1100°F," notes senior engineer Farid Alfawak-hiri of the American Institute of Steel Construction. "And at 1800° it is probably at less than 10 percent." ... NIST reports that pockets of fire hit 1832°F.
Really, given the international stature of Mr. Fisk, it's hard to believe that he really could be this lazy. Perhaps he's just terribly unintelligent. Fortunately, the journalists and engineers at Popular Mechanics are neither, and their work speaks for itself, with real engineers and eyewitness testimony to answer everyone but the ravers and the conspiracy nuts ... and Mr. Fisk.
For the rest of us, I'd recommend their book, which gives even greater detail.