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The Phantom Planes Meme

The idea that the crashes of jetliners on 9/11 were faked has been the staple of disinformation and misinformation standing in the way of exposing the nature of the crimes of that day. We use the heading of phantom planes to describe this cluster of ideas, which are better known as "no-plane" or "no-jetliner" theories. Of these ideas, that asserting that the Pentagon was not hit by a jetliner has achieved by far the greatest measure of acceptance, supported by a number of arguments that appeal to reasonable people. The fallacies of those arguments are treated in the Pentagon Attack Errors section. In this section we examine the claims that the other three crashes were faked:

The Tower Crashes

The idea that the North and South Towers were not hit by jetliners (Flights 11 and 175 were Boeing 767s) is one of the more absurd ideas that has been promoted as 9/11 truth. It includes claims that either or both of the apparent tower collisions were either produced by planes other than Flights 11 and 175, or were faked using holograms, explosives, missiles, and so forth.

Despite the lack of any credible evidence supporting such ideas, vocal proponents have continued to insist on variants of them. Nearly all of these proponents accept four key conclusions of researchers focusing on physical evidence of the attack:

  1. The Twin Towers were destroyed by controlled demolition.
  2. Building 7 was destroyed by controlled demolition.
  3. The Pentagon was not struck by Flight 77 flown by a hijacker.
  4. The commandeered jetliners were guided to their targets by remote control.

Partly because several of these conclusions, and especially conclusion 3, continue to be contested in the larger community of skeptics of the official 9/11 myth, many researchers who reject the phantom planes theories have nonetheless promoted the work of such theories' proponents, based on their support of said conclusions. This strategy may overlook the potential of the phantom planes meme to discredit work to expose the core facts of the 9/11/01 attack to a larger population.

We break down the phantom planes meme applied to the Twin Tower crashes into five assertions for closer inspection:

  1. 'The object which flew into the North Tower, if any, was not a jetliner'
  2. 'The North Tower impact involved missiles and/or explosives'
  3. 'The apparent jetliner which approached the South Tower was simulated'
  4. 'A pod was attached to the South Tower plane'
  5. 'The South Tower impact involved missiles and/or explosives'

Note that whereas assertions 1 and 2 are compatible, assertion 3 is not compatible with 4 and 5. Nonetheless, some proponents have argued for both assertions 3 and 4.

Given the lack of evidence for theories that the towers were not hit by Flights 11 and 175, it is interesting that they continue to be so zealously promoted by personas such as Webfairy. If the collisions of those flights with the towers were faked it would prove that the attack was an inside job. But so do dozens of facts about the attack that have evidentiary support. Moreover, we have yet to find a single person outside of 9/11 skeptics' circles who takes the phantom planes theories seriously. This contrasts with numerous such people who came to accept that the WTC buildings were demolished when presented with the evidence.

The Shanksville Crash

Shortly after 10 o'clock on the morning of 9/11/01 United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in the edge of a reclaimed strip mine near Somerset, PA, leaving a large crater. Evidence that jetliner was shot down was reported in the in Pennsylvania newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Perhaps stories that the crash was faked were circulated in part to conceal this evidence.

Plane Swapping Claims

Theories accounting for the fates of Flights 11 and/or 175 are cited by promoters of the phantom planes memes. Two such theories are examined are based on the following propositions.

Both of these theories are possible, and intriguing. However, there appears to be no credible evidence supporting either.


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