Part II

"Hunt the Boeing!" is a provocative display of smoke and mirrors, but there's little else to recommend the site. Its authors present a fraction of the available evidence in a highly selective, distorted, titillating way, proving absolutely nothing — except, perhaps, that there's always room for another conspiracy theory.

While making few explicit allegations, the authors argue, in effect, that based on photographic and physical evidence, the damage to the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 could not have been caused by a crashing jetliner, contrary to the official and overwhelmingly accepted explanation.

The argument is weak. For starters, it conveniently ignores important, compelling evidence. For example:

  • Eyewitness testimony of bystanders who saw and/or heard American Airlines Flight 77 approach and collide with the Pentagon
  • The recovery of both black boxes belonging to the Boeing 757 from the Pentagon wreckage
  • The recovery and identification of the remains at the crash site of all but one of the people known to be aboard Flight 77

Of course, the evasion of bedrock evidence is standard fare for conspiracy theorists. If pressed, they would doubtless claim that all the above must have been planted or manufactured. But they can't even prove such a claim plausible, let alone true beyond a reasonable doubt.

Eschewing the plain facts, they ask us to focus instead on misleadingly posed condundrums such as the following:

  • Question: "Can you explain how a Boeing 757-200, weighing nearly 100 tons and travelling at a minimum speed of 250 miles an hour only damaged the outside of the Pentagon?"

    Answer: It didn't only damage the outside. Structural damage extended at least 150 feet inside, well into the third ("C") ring of the building.

  • Question: "Can you explain how a Boeing 14.9 yards high, 51.7 yards long, with a wingspan of 41.6 yards and a cockpit 3.8 yards high, could crash into just the ground floor of this building?"

    Answer: It didn't just crash into the ground floor. According to official statements and news reports, it took out both the first and second floors on impact.


  • Question: "Can you find debris of a Boeing 757-200 in this photograph?"

    Answer: No, but we can in this one taken by an Associated Press photographer. Bear in mind, eyewitnesses say the Boeing 757 virtually disintegrated when it struck the reinforced wall of the building, so the assumption that aircraft wreckage ought to be strewn all over the site isn't necessarily justified. Still, one Pentagon visitor who surveyed the damage a few days after the attack, Representative Judy Biggert of Illinois, told reporters she saw remnants of an aircraft. "There was a seat from a plane," she said, "there was part of the tail and then there was a part of green metal, I could not tell what it was, a part of the outside of the plane." (Chicago Sun-Times, 16 Sep, 2001)

(For a more detailed consideration of these and further "Hunt the Boeing" puzzles, please read the excellent commentary by engineer Paul Boutin and astrophysicist Patrick Di Justo, Web-posted on May 14.)

You're no doubt wondering who's behind these flights of fancy and what exactly they're driving at. Well, according to the French newspaper Le Monde, the culprit is Thierry Meyssan, well-known leftist radical and president of the Voltaire Network, a controversial site devoted to "the fight for freedom and secularity."  His son, Raphaël Meyssan, is credited as the Webmaster of both the Voltaire Network and Utopian Asylum, which, uncoincidentally, hosts "Hunt the Boeing!"

What are they trying to prove?  That the attacks of September 11 were perpetrated not by foreign terrorists, but by the U.S. government upon its own citizens — a conspiracy theory in the grand tradition.

To quote the late Carl Sagan, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."

So far we haven't seen any proof at all.

Sources and further reading:

Hunt the Boeing!
The original site on

'Hunt the Boeing' Answers
Debunked by Paul Boutin and Patrick Di Justo

'Hunt the Boeing!'
Debunked by the Urban Legends Reference Pages

Attentat contre le Pentagone, enfin du scientifique!
Debunked by (in French)

Un avion a bel et bien frappé le Pentagone
From Le Monde, 20 March 2002 (in French)

Internet véhicule une rumeur extravagante sur le 11 septembre
From Le Monde, 20 March 2002 (in French)

Images Show September 11 Pentagon Crash
From CNN, 8 March 2002

Countdown to Doom on Flight 77
From The Age, 13 Sep 2001

Interactive Look at Pentagon Attack
From USA Today

The Battle-Scarred Pentagon
From Jane's Information Group, 13 Sep 2001

Rebuilding the Pentagon
Graphics showing structural damage caused by Flight 77, from the Washington Post

Experts ID 184 Pentagon Fatalities
From the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology

The Pentagon: Facts & Figures
Offical Pentagon statistics

Past articles here

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