It is possible to produce the appearance of a terrorist attack on the
United States by means that do not employ terrorists, as such, but by the
simple substitution of one aircraft for another, particularly when the
transponders of the aircraft involved are turned off. The only people who
need to be deceived by such an operation are the radar operators at air
traffic control (ATC) centers.
The scenario explored here, called Operation Pearl (after Pearl
Harbor), has been described in sufficient operational detail that sound
judgments can be made about a) feasibility and b) consistency with
evidence on the ground. At the time of this writing it is probably the
best available description of what probably took place on September 11,
Under the Operation Pearl scenario, the passengers of all four flights
died in an aerial explosion over Shanksville, PA and the remaining three
airliners are at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Since March of 2002, persons probing the web for further information
about the 9/11 attacks could not fail to encounter, sooner or later, a
scenario advanced by Carol Valentine. Called the "Flight
of the Bumble Planes" (Valentine 2002), it allegedly came from an
informant who would only identify himself as "Snake Plissken," the name of
the hero of the movie, Escape from New York (footnote
The informant outlined the basic hijacking method in an email message
to Carol Valentine, comparing it to a flight of bumble bees. Watching bees
as they buzz around among flowers, it is very difficult to follow
individual bees, since they are always passing close to one another.
This metaphor translates into the flight of two aircraft in a confined
locale of airspace. If the separation between them is small enough, radar
operators will see not two aircraft, but one. On the morning of September
11, 2001, according to this scenario, all four "hijacked" aircraft landed
at a single airport or air base, transferring their passengers to a single
aircraft, the one that crashed in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, remotely
controlled aircraft of various types carried out the actual attacks. The
scenario, as presented by Valentine, consists of little more than I have
Of course, there is a vast difference between an outline and a detailed
operational plan. It may turn out, for example, that any attempt to
imagine how a specific scheme is implemented runs into snags, as in the
attempt by Spencer
(2003) to get all four aircraft to one air base long enough for the
combined list of over 200 passengers to board a single aircraft, take off
and crash near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Spencer, however, assumed that
the takedown of aircraft coincided with the turning off of transponders.
In the present paper the scenario is modified to allow takedown prior to
the turning off of transponders, assuming that takedown occurred at the
first deviation of each aircraft from its flight plan. The refurbished
scenario has now been completed to a level of detail that makes it
possible to evaluate its feasibility, as well as its consistency with the
evidence, as presently acquired and developed.
A scenario named Ghost Riders in the Sky was previously constructed by
the author (Dewdney 2002). The purpose of that scenario was simply to
demonstrate that alternate scenarios that fitted all the facts (as then
understood by the author) could be constructed. The scenario involved
killing all the passengers and flight crew with a fast-acting nerve agent,
then triggering a software patch in the aircraft flight control systems to
direct the aircraft to their various destinations. However, when it became
evident that no Boeing 757 had actually struck the Pentagon (see The
Pentagon Evidence, also on this website), the scenario was rendered
invalid. The Ghost Riders scenario, like the Bush-Cheney scenario,
required that the aircraft that struck their respective targets were as
advertised, two 767s and two 757s.
The fact that the Ghost Riders scenario must now be rejected
illustrates the nature of this inquiry. As in science, hypotheses must be
formulated, then tested against the available evidence. If found wanting
in the light of that evidence, they must be rejected. It is normal in any
scientific inquiry to formulate and analyze more than one hypothesis
before one is found that actually works. The same remark also applies to
3 The Evidence Filter
Any scenario constructed to account for the events of September 11 2001
must pass a graduated test, as embodied in the following items. These fall
into three classes:
- Four of the named hijackers were not in the United States.
- The WTC towers collapsed without adequate heat stress.
- Smaller aircraft accompanied Flights 77 and 93.
- Most of the alleged hijackers were rather poor pilots.
- Evidence of the alleged hijackers developed too quickly.
- Westward excursion of Flights UA93 and AA77 are inexplicable as
terrorists hurrying to targets."
- The US Air Force failed to intercept any of the flights.
- The hijackers' names did not show up on passenger lists.
- The hijackers' faces did not appear on boarding gate videos.
- Black boxes were missing from all but one flight.
- The Pentagon was not struck by a large passenger aircraft.
- Cellphone calls alleged to have been made by passengers were
A successful scenario must at least explain the contradictions and
account for a majority of the anomalies. It is of course desirable that it
also account for the suspicious circumstances, but no scenario need stand
or fall in this regard.
It must be remarked that the only scenario ever supplied to the public
via the official media was the Bush-Cheney scenario, that Arab hijackers
seized control of the four aircraft and proceeded to pilot them into
national landmarks, killing both themselves and their passengers. Clearly,
the Bush-Cheney scenario, considered in detail, explains none of the
suspicious circumstances, none of the anomalies and is directly
contradicted by the facts adduced in the third category. As scenarios go,
it is a distinct failure.
4 Technical Elements
The two major technical aspects of the Operation Pearl scenario involve
radar and remote control. Radar technology has been with us since World
War Two, some 60 years ago. Remote control technology has been around in
various forms for at least twenty years. With a basic understanding of
both radar and remote control in relation to 9/11, it becomes possible for
the average citizen to think for himself or herself.
4.1 Radar Substitution
A radar screen is essentially a circular CRT (cathode ray tube — like a
television screen) that displays aircraft within the circular airspace
represented on the screen. Radar operators are the only people who can be
aware of what planes are in the sky and where they are going. The vast
majority of people are completely unaware of what is going on in any large
volume of airspace and, when an aircraft passes overhead, can usually not
tell one type from another, let alone what airline or aviation company may
own it. This observation, while something of a commonplace, has important
implications. If an organization wishes to substitute one aircraft for
another without anyone knowing it, the only people it has to deceive are
the radar operators.
The resolution of a radar screen is the size of the smallest point that
can appear there, approximately two millimeters in diameter — a "blip." A
typical radar screen, less than a meter in diameter, could therefore be
described as less than 500 "blips" wide. If the airspace represented on
the screen were 500 kilometers in diameter (approximately 300 miles, a not
atypical size), each blip would represent a piece of airspace that is more
than 500/500 = 1 kilometer wide.
In other words, as soon as two aircraft get within a kilometer of one
another, there would be a tendency for their respective blips to merge.
With half a kilometer separation or less, the two aircraft could easily
appear as one.
Of course, two aircraft that are that close together run a distinct
risk of collision — unless they are at different altitudes. Radar screens
are two-dimensional in that they represent airspace in the same way as a
map, with the vertical dimension of altitude suppressed. Thus, without
additional information in the form of a displayed altitude number, it is
impossible for a radar operator to tell whether two merged blips represent
a potential collision or not. Altitude information is displayed if an
aircraft's transponder is turned on, otherwise, the radar operator has no
idea of the altitude at which an aircraft happens to be flying.
If one aircraft happens to be within a half kilometer of another,
whether above that aircraft or below it, the radar operator will see only
one aircraft, as long as the two maintain a horizontal separation that is
no greater than half a kilometer (about 500 yards).
Imagine now two aircraft, both headed for the same approximate point on
the radar screen, both with their transponders turned off. One is well
above the other but, as the blips merge, both planes swerve, each taking
the other's former direction. The operator would simply see the aircraft
cross and would have no way to realize that a swap had taken place.
There are many other swapping patterns available. For example, one
plane could apparently catch up and "pass" another when, in fact, it
slowed after the blips merged, even as the other speeded up.
Another method involves the replacement aircraft climbing out of a
valley where it would be invisible to distant radars, even as the other
aircraft descended into the valley. Again, a radar operator would see a
more or less seamless flight without realizing that he or she had been
momentarily seeing not one, but two aircraft on the radar screen.
Of course, if the transponders are turned on, as explained in the next
section, such confusion is less likely to occur. Even in this case,
however, the deception can be complete if the aircraft switch transponder
4.2 Aircraft transponders
Every commercial passenger jet carries a transponder, a device that
emits a special radio message whenever it senses an incoming radar wave.
The signal carries the transponder code, a multi-digit number that serves
to identify the particular aircraft to radar operators at air traffic
control centers. The purpose of the code is to make it clear to ATC
operators which plane is which. Other information sent by the transponder
includes the altitude at which the aircraft is flying. Transponders were
implemented many years ago precisely for the reason that radar blips are
otherwise easily confused. Transponders make the radar operator's job much
The pilot of an airliner can turn the transponder on or off in the
cockpit. He or she can also change the code by keying in a new number.
Transponder codes for all aircraft departing from a given air traffic
control region are assigned by the ATC authority more or less arbitrarily.
The only important criterion for the numbers so assigned is that they all
be different. It sometimes happens that an aircraft entering the control
area carries the same transponder code as another aircraft that is already
in the area. In such a case, one of the pilots is requested to change his
or her code to avoid confusion.
4.3 Remote Control
A remote control system of the type used in this scenario uses a signal
interface that does two things: It reads signals from a ground station and
sends signals back to it. Both sets of signals must pass through the
aircraft's antenna system. In the Boeing 757 and 767 the antenna system is
located in the forward belly of the aircraft.
The outgoing signal from the aircraft would include a video signal from
a camera located in the nose or other forward portion of the aircraft.
Flight data such as control positions, airspeed and other instrument
readings are also included in the outgoing signal. The incoming signal
from the ground station would include the position of a virtual control
yoke (governing direction of aircraft), thrust, trim, and other essential
The virtual pilot would sit in front of a reduced instrument panel and
a video monitor. A simplified control yoke or "joystick" control would
also be part of the operator's equipment. The remote pilot would watch the
instruments, as well as the video image, making continuing adjustments in
the aircraft's flight path, just as if he or she sat in the cockpit of the
Many claims of the attacking aircraft being under "remote control" have
appeared on the web since 9/11, but typically with little or no supporting
documentation. The claim of a pre-installed anti-hijacking system (Vialls
2001) has proved impossible to verify. Similarly, claims that Global Hawk
technology (USAF 98) was used are rampant, but do not quite fit the
specific version of Operation Pearl presented here. For one thing, the
Global Hawk system does not use remote visual guidance, but onboard
navigation electronics that bypass the need for direct, minute-by-minute
The system invoked for the attacks in Operation Pearl is based on the
Predator unmanned surveillance vehicle (USAF undated), a modularized
aircraft that can be broken into components for ease of shipping and rapid
deployment. One of the components includes a remote guidance module which
could be refitted to another aircraft (with appropriate modifications)
without the need to strip a predator vehicle. The predator operates under
remote human guidance from a ground station that, once deployed, would
require as few as two human operators during a "secure" operation.
A second possibility involves a system known as a "flight termination
system," manufactured by the System Planning Corporation. (SPC 2000) This
system permits hands-on control of a nearly endless variety of aircraft,
the control interface being to a large degree customizable. For the
purposes of the Operation Pearl scenario, either of these systems might
well be adaptable to the remote operations of nonmilitary jet aircraft.
Without question, however, the basic technology for the remote guidance
of aircraft has been on hand for many years. For a large intelligence
organization it would be a straightforward technical operation to install
a remote control system in virtually any type of aircraft, whether a large
commercial airliner or anything smaller. The aircraft carrying the
installation would be available and prepared in advance, then substituted
for the passenger aircraft it was meant to replace.
4.4 Electronic towing
An interesting but different form of remote control is invoked by the
Operation Pearl scenario in the "cleanup" phase, namely the disposal of
the three aircraft that did not crash in Pennsylvania or anywhere else. I
call this facility "electronic towing," It consists of two "black boxes"
that pick up signals from an aircraft's data bus, a shared electronic
pathway travelled by all electronic signals that control the aircraft.
(Spitzer 2000) Each black box can read the bus through the data bus
monitor, as well as insert information into the bus. Because the
connections are already available, installation of the boxes could be
completed in a matter of hours on any aircraft. In this relatively simple
form of remote control, one aircraft would be called the "slave," the
other the "master." In addition, two 2-way radios allow the black boxes to
communicate, specifically for the master box to send its signals to the
slave box. Under identical conditions, the slave aircraft will do
precisely what the master aircraft does. Such control signals could also
be taped and replayed later to invoke in the slave aircraft exactly the
same behavior as the master.
To initiate towing, the master aircraft takes off first, while the
slave aircraft remains on the runway, completely unoccupied. As soon (or
as late) as the pilot of the master aircraft wishes to, a recording of the
master signals is played over the radio to the slave aircraft, which then
takes off precisely as the master aircraft did. The slave will then follow
the master wherever the pilot of the master wishes to go. With a short
time delay in the control loop, the slave aircraft would appear literally
to be towed by the master, always maintaining the same distance and
position behind it. If the pilot of the master aircraft wished to
"unhitch" the slave, he could simply cut the control signal. Over the
ocean, the unhitched aircraft might fly until it runs out of fuel or it
might be blown up by implanted explosives.
5 Operation Pearl
In the detailed scenario to follow, Harrisburg International Airport
was selected as the base of operations. However, any airport, airbase or
landing strip of suitable length within, say, 50 km of Harrisburg might
work just as well. The following table displays the takeoff times of the
respective aircraft from Boston's logan Airport, Newark International, and
Washington's Dulles Airport on the morning of September 11, 2001. Assuming
a takedown at the first deviation, the flying times to Harrisburg
International Airport are calculated and the arrival times of the
respective aircraft at Harrisburg are displayed. All flying times are
based on the assumption of an average airspeed of 805 km/h (500 mph). In
each case, 5 minutes is added at either end of the flight to allow for
takeoffs and landings.
||Distance to Harrisburg
|AA11 8:16 am
||32 + 5 min.
|UA175 8:42 am
||15 + 5 min.
|UA93 8:42 am
||20 + 5 min.
|AA77 8:46 am
||18 + 5 min.
As a convenience, the takedown of Flight UA93 has been made
simultaneous with the aircraft's takeoff. Since the flight path was
directed toward Harrisburg, the takedown time is not relevant to the
calculation as it could have taken place anywhere along the route,
yielding the same result for arrival in Harrisburg.
As a feasibility check, we may now calculate whether there was adequate
time on the ground in Harrisburg to deplane three of the aircraft, loading
their passengers onto Flight UA93. Working backwards, the flight of UA93
from Harrisburg to Shanksville involved a distance of 144 km for a flight
time of 18 minutes. Thus, to "crash" at 10:06 am, it had to leave
Harrisburg no later than 9:45 am. This would give the agents of Operation
Pearl (see Appendix C) some 36 minutes to board
the passengers from the other flights onto Flight UA93.
A master timetable for the entire
operation has been provided at the end of this article. Readers may wish
to consult this table, along with the accompanying map,
in order to obtain a birdseye view of all four flights.
We will now examine key elements of the scenario in the form of
mini-dramatizations that place the reader in the scene, as it were. The
following sketches supply enough detail to provide a secondary check on
feasibility. I have used a compact notation to refer to the four
replacement flights, simply appending an "X" to the flight number. Thus
"UA175X" refers to the replacement aircraft for flight UA175.
5.1 The takedown
The morning of September 11 dawned bright and clear over Boston's Logan
Airport as crews arrived for the first flights of the day. The departure
lounge for American Airlines Flight 11 was already filling with passengers
when John Ogonowski, the pilot, and Thomas McGuinness, the second officer,
arrived to board their Boeing 767 and begin the preflight check.
As passengers slowly filed past the check-in counter and onto the
boarding ramp, the flight officers proceeded through the cockpit
checklist. The weather would be perfect for flying. Only one little detail
soured Ogonowski's day. He had been informed that an FBI antiterrorism
agent would be aboard the aircraft. Among the incoming passengers, a
nondescript gentleman in a business suit settled into a seat in first
class. Just as the giant turbofan engines began their warmup, a stewardess
reminded the gentleman, now scribbling on a piece of paper, to fasten his
"Certainly. Er, would you mind giving this note to the captain?"
She took the note forward, handing it to Ogonowski, who read it with
more than passing interest.
"Hmmm. I guess it's real. Take a look at this, Tom."
McGuinness read the note.
My name is Bill Proctor, FBI anti-hijacking
team. We have information that hijackers may be aboard the aircraft
today. I repeat, may. My partner and I are on this flight to prevent
such a happening. We wish our presence on board to be kept confidential.
I am in seat 7A. Thank you for your cooperation.
"I'd better take a look at this guy," said Ogonowski. Take her out
while I go back for some coffee."
The engines roared to life and the aircraft began to taxi out to the
runway. Ogonowski spotted the gentleman and pulled the note from his
breast pocket. The gentleman nodded and smiled back.
"I'm sorry. I still have to ask to see your ID."
"Certainly." The man handed Ogonowski a small wallet, flipped open to
reveal the famous logo.
On his way to the galley, Ogonowski scrutinized the passengers from the
corner of his eyes. Instinctively, he looked for swarthy, middle eastern
types, somewhat reassured to see none.
The takeoff was smooth and the 767 climbed into clear blue skies, with
several wisps of cirrus off to the west. About 15 minutes into the flight,
just as the flight officers were relaxing and thinking a hijacking rather
unlikely, another note arrived via the stewardess.
We have spotted two terrorists on board. I
must come forward to discuss the situation with you. Bill
"What the hell! Is this guy serious?"
"Jeez. I guess so."
Inside the cockpit, the gentleman wore a serious frown.
"We'll have to land at Harrisburg, where we have facilities to deal
with this problem. Use the 80.7 kHz frequency and do not engage in any
other radio activity at this time, please. Identify yourself as American
Flight 380 and tell them you have a faulty fuel pump in Number Two
"Where are the terrorists?"
"Don't worry, they're here. By the way, you must also turn off your
Ogonowski turned on the PA system.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have experienced a slight difficulty with one
of our fuel pumps and must land to have it checked. American is sorry for
the delay. We'll have alternate transportation ready for you as soon as
The gentleman smiled, nodding approvingly. A murmur of groans and
complaints filtered into the cabin.
"One more thing. As soon as we touch down, proceed immediately to the
military hangars at the north end of the airport. We have a team of agents
there who will board the aircraft as soon as you can get the doors open."
Although Ogonowski sent no messages to New York ATC, he could hear the
chatter and knew something was up. About seven minutes before they would
land at Harrisburg, he heard that one of the World Trade Center towers was
on fire, having been hit by a "commuter aircraft," as the rumor had it.
Ahead of him the layout of Harrisburg Airport, faintly discernible in the
distance, grew slowly in size. The aircraft banked and made its final
approach. Unknown to Ogonowski, another Boeing 767 shadowed flight AA11,
below and slightly behind them. It climbed, even as flight AA11 descended.
More radio chatter revealed that aircraft had been ordered down all over
the United States. Ogonowski would be the first of many emergency landings
at Harrisburg International that day.
The 767 glided smoothly to touchdown, its air brakes howling. The
aircraft slowly rolled to a crawl, then turned onto a taxiway that led to
an Air National Guard hangar, where a man with orange batons waved them
in. As soon as the flight crew got the doors open, one of the group of
waiting officials rolled a large gangway to the open door and three agents
dashed up the stairs. One of them had a bullhorn.
"Ladies and gentlemen. We must ask that you leave the aircraft
immediately. Leave all personal belongings and carryon bags aboard the
aircraft. This includes cellphones. Do not attempt any cellphone calls, as
they could trigger any explosives on board. We'll begin evacuation from
the front of the aircraft."
Dutifully, the passengers streamed from the aircraft in orderly
fashion, making their way down the steep gangplank and joining a crowd
that had formed around another official.
"Ladies and gentlemen. It is now safe to tell you that you have just
escaped being hijacked by Arab terrorists. We will apprehend the suspects
and search the aircraft for bombs and other dangers to public safety.
Unfortunately, this procedure may take some time and we have no facilities
for you here. We'll have to put you on another flight, as soon as it
arrives. I realize that this is very inconvenient and we apologize.
However, you can think of yourselves as among the luckiest people in
As he spoke, two officials led a disheveled man in handcuffs down the
gangplank. He had olive-colored skin and a dark beard. A murmur went up
from the crowd.
"Where the hell did he come from?" muttered McGuinness. He had a
feeling of unreality in the pit of his stomach. He felt nauseous.
By then, another aircraft, flight UA175, had landed and was now taxiing
toward the same hangar. The officials herded the passengers into the
hanger, where they were told to wait. Then they went to greet the second
aircraft, where they repeated the procedure.
Tower personnel were of course aware of the two flights parked at the
Air National Guard hangar. They were aware that the aircraft were being
inspected by some kind of security team but, beyond that, they paid little
heed to the operation. They were too busy coordinating some very busy
5.2 Swapping aircraft
At the New York air traffic control center rows of radar operators
"pushing tin," as they call it, monitored flights into and out of New York
airspace, talking to the pilots occasionally on their throat mikes. Each
operator had several flights to monitor, a job that guaranteed one of the
highest stress levels of any occupation in the travel industry.
The time was 8:37 in the morning. Operators were about to become aware
that something was amiss in their airspace. We pick up the conversation
between one of them (bold face) and the aircraft under his
responsibility. (NYT 2001) My commentary within the transcript has been
placed in square brackets.
"USA583 checking in at FL350."
"42-39 see the 823 FL350 reference that guy on left."
"I gave the FDX turns. Do what you want, reference the FDX."
" R49 310."
"FDX226 contact New York Center on 133.47. Good day."
"33.4 FDX3226 heavy."
"New York UAL 457."
"Sector 10 point out west of LRP 712 at FL410."
"Point out approved."
"UAL175 at FL310."
[The time was 8:40 am. United Airlines Flight 175 came on the air with
some information to report.]
"UAL 175 New York center. Roger."
"New York do a favor. Were you asked to look for an aircraft, an
American flight about about 8 or 9 o'clock 10 miles south bound last
altitude 290? No one is sure where he is."
"Yeah, we talked about him on the last frequency. We spotted him
when he was at our 3 o'clock position. He did appear to us to be at 29,000
feet. We're not picking him up on TCAS. I'll look again and see if we can
spot him at 24."
"No, it looks like they shut off their transponder. That's why the
question about it."
"New York UAL175 heavy."
"UAL 175 go ahead."
"We figured we'd wait to go to your center. We heard a suspicious
transmission on our departure from BOS. Sounds like someone keyed the mike
and said, 'Everyone stay in your seats.'"
O.K. I'll pass that along.
"It cut out." (UAL 175)
"IGN 93 line."
"UAL 175 just came on my frequency and he said he heard a suspicious
transmission when they were leaving BOS: 'Everybody stay in your seats.'
That's what he heard as the suspicious transmission, just to let you
[Then US Air Flight 583 called in.]
"Center, where do you place him in relation to 583 now?"
"He's off about 9 o'clock and about 20 miles. Looks like he's
heading southbound but there's no transponder, no nothing, and no one's
talking to him."
"Hello New York good morning DAL2315 passing 239 for 280."
"DAL2315 New York Center. Roger."
"New York center DAL2433 310."
"DAL2433 New York Center. Roger."
[Four minutes later the time was 8:46 and the mystery had not been
solved. Flight 11 was flying an angular route south, then east. Other
flights continued to converse with New York ATC.]
"Direct PTW DAL 1489 heavy."
"DAL2315 contact the New York Center on 134.6. Have a nice day."
"34.6 3-4-point 6."
"USA429 leveling off at 350."
I'm sorry, who was that?
"USA429 leveling at 350."
"USA429, New York Center roger."
[As we will shortly see, the radar operator lost track of Flight AA11,
as evidenced by his queries of pilots in the area, as well as his failure
to make any connection between the World Trade Center fire (about to be
reported) and Flight AA11. It appears that the flight had simply been lost
in the swarm of blips that crowded every screen at the New York ATC.]
"Anybody know what that smoke is in lower Manhattan?"
"I'm sorry, say again."
"A lot of smoke in lower manhattan."
"A lot of smoke in lower Manhattan?"
"Coming out of the top of the World Trade Center building, a major
"And which was the one that just saw the major fire?"
"This is DAL1489 we see lower Manhattan. Looks like the World Trade
Center on fire, but its hard to tell from here."
"Let us know if you hear any news down there."
"DAL 1043 cleared direct PTW."
"Direct PTW DAL 1043."
[At 8:51 am, the operator was still in touch with Flight 175, asking
the pilot to change his transponder code.]
"UAL175 recycle transponder squawk code 1470."
"UAL175. New York."
[But at 8:52 am, things went wrong with Flight UAL175, as well.]
"UAL175 do you read New York?"
"DAL1489 do you read New York?"
"DAL1489. Go ahead."
"O.K. Just wanted to make sure you were reading New York. United,
United 175. Do you read New York?"
"IGN on the 93 line. Kennedy."
"IGN on the 93 line East Texas."
"Do me a favor. See if UAL175 went back to your frequency."
"He's not here. East Texas."
"10 — Do you see that UAL175 anywhere? And do me a favor. You see
that target there on 3321 code at 335 climbing? Don't know who he is, but
you got that USA 583. If you need to descent him down you can. Nobody. We
may have a hijack. We have some problems over here right now."
"Oh you do?" [another operator]
"Yes, that may be real traffic. Nobody knows. I can't get a hold of
UAL175 at all right now and I don't know where he went to."
[The transcript reveals a new aircraft with transponder code 3321. The
aircraft has already climbed to 33,500 feet. This may have been the
"UAL 175 New York."
"New York 583."
"USA583 go ahead."
"Yes. Getting reports over the radio of a commuter hitting the World
Trade Center. Is that nordo [no radio] 76 [Boeing 767] still in the air?"
It is interesting that the initial report of the first WTC attack
involved not a 757, but a smaller commuter aircraft. From that point on
however, things got increasingly hectic at the New York ATC center.
Operators glanced at the screen space centered on Manhattan and eastern
New Jersey, trying to guess which aircraft was Flight 175.
On all screens there were often several aircraft without transponder
codes. Some of these were local flights, mostly smaller aircraft. The
presence of such blips would probably have made the radar operator's job
much harder. Taking one's eye off a suspicious aircraft to check other
aircraft in the area might make it impossible to be certain which aircraft
it was when the operator glanced back. This, in any case, was apparently
5.3 The World Trade Center
It would have been an eerie experience to ride the 757 that we have
called Flight 175-X. Walking the aisles, we would have seen the seats all
stripped from the aircraft, the walls lined with fuel drums, like so many
token passengers. Cables ran up the aisle to the cockpit, where a large
black box sat on the floor, just in front of the control console. The
pilots' seats were missing. Some of the cables fed into several openings
in the console, others passed through openings in the floor into the
aircraft's belly, where the antenna system communicated with a ground
At the ground station, an operator watched a color television monitor.
On it, he could see the Manhattan skyline looming steadily larger. He
adjusted the joystick slightly to the right, aiming for the south tower,
then pushed the stick forward slightly. The aircraft slowly descended
until it was level with the upper third of the still distant building. An
ironic smile crossed the operator's face. This was not exactly the
intended use of the Predator technology.
About a minute from impact, a steady crosswind that the operator had
not taken into account had pushed the aircraft off course to the east,
even as the tower loomed faster than he thought it would. He was going to
miss! Damn. He pulled the joystick sharply to the left.
Just when the corner of the south tower was about to disappear from the
screen , it swung back into view again, the building now appearing sharply
tilted to the right. He saw several rows of windows. Close, then very
close. In the last frame, he caught a glimpse of some office people
staring from one of the windows in horror. Then the screen went blank. To
think of how close he came to missing!
5.4 Back at the base
Under the operation Pearl scenario, the takedown of all four flights
would be conducted in the same manner, flights UA93 and AA77, being no
exceptions. By the time Flight UA93 arrived over Harrisburg, the alarm had
been out for a good 20 minutes. Flights were coming down everywhere.
Airport tower personnel, as well as those at all air traffic control
centers, were simply overwhelmed. In this context, bringing flights UA93
and AA77 into Harrisburg were relatively simple and secure operations
involving little more than switching to a new transponder number, landing
and proceeding to the same processing area. The same cover story still
worked, since it was not known at the time whether aircraft might be
targeted, as well as buildings.
The swap of flight UA93-X for flight UA93 would have been far less
exposed to radar than the swaps in the NY phase of the operation. As
Flight UA93 descended into the radar shadow of the Susquehanna valley
close to Harrisburg International, an executive jet rose out of the
valley, below and immediately behind the aircraft. The swap would have
been seamless, with Flight UA93 turning off its transponder about the same
time that the pilot of Flight UA93-X turned his on. Flight UA93-X then
turned north to follow an erratic path to the west as far as Cleveland
before looping back to head for southern Pennsylvania.
The search for bombs on Flights AA11 and UA 175 may have already been
completed by the time that Flight 93 touched down at 9:07 am. The
officials in charge of the operation nevertheless had a good 20 minutes to
search flight UA93 before hurriedly boarding all the passengers into the
one aircraft, an operation that could have been carried out in 20 minutes.
As the passengers boarded Flight UA93, the officials held a special
conference with pilot Jason Dahl and First Officer LeRoy Homer.
"Fellows, we've made a thorough check for bombs on board, and we're
sure it's clean. Unfortunately, we have some problems with the other
aircraft, so we're going to have to keep them grounded for the time being.
We don't have proper facilities for all these people here, so we're going
to have to ask you to take them all to Dulles where they can be looked
after properly. We'll send all personal goods and luggage along on one of
the the other aircraft, as soon as we have completed our work. We'll have
to board the other passengers now, without delay. You will be picked up by
a military escort aircraft as you leave. Please be sure to follow that
aircraft and stay in communication with it. Frequency will be 118.7 MHz.
all the way. Fly at the same level of 4000 feet. If it should happen to
deviate from its flight path, it may be checking something out. Just stay
on course for Dulles. Your escort will rejoin you soon enough."
Pilot and first officer nodded, then climbed the stairs, entered the
cockpit and began the preflight check for the second time that morning.
Meanwhile, passengers filed into the aircraft, urged on by the officials,
until the aircraft was full. As it happened, flight 93 had just enough
seats to accommodate the passengers of all four flights.
At 9:45 the 757 roared off the runway at Harrisburg and set course for
Washington, even as a military-looking all-white aircraft rose from low
altitude to fly off their port wing.
"This is your Escort Bravo One. We're not very fast, here." said the
military pilot. "Reduce your airspeed to 400 knots and stay directly
behind with minimal separation."
"I've seen that kind of aircraft before," said Homer.
"Yup. That's an A-10 Warthog," said Dahl. "And she's armed to the
teeth. See the missiles under the wing?"
"Warthog? Funny name."
"Actually, it's called the Thunderbolt, but I guess everyone thinks the
thing is too ugly to be called anything but a warthog."
5.5 The Crash at Shanksville
The two aircraft climbed out along the valley of the Susquehanna, then
headed southwest along a succession of valleys, emerging at last into a
large, relatively flat basin, partly forested and dotted with farms and
villages. Ahead of them, the white aircraft, flight UA93-X, suddenly
turned off and began circling around to the east, descending as it went.
Shanksville resident Susan Mcelwain watched the white aircraft pass
directly over her minivan:
"It came right over me, I reckon just 40 or 50 feet above my van," she
recalled. "It was so low I ducked instinctively. It was traveling real
fast, but hardly made any sound. (UF93 2001)
"Then it disappeared behind some trees. A few seconds later I heard
this great explosion and saw this fireball rise up over the trees, so I
figured the jet had crashed. The ground really shook. So I dialed 911 and
told them what happened . . . "
"There's no way I imagined this plane — it was so low it was virtually
on top of me. It was white with no markings but it was definitely
military, it just had that look. It had two rear engines, a big fin on the
back like a spoiler on the back of a car and with two upright fins at the
side. I haven't found one like it on the internet. It definitely wasn't
one of those executive jets. The FBI came and talked to me and said there
was no plane around."
The description of the mystery aircraft given by Ms Mcelwain happens to
match only one military aircraft currently in use by the US armed forces,
namely a (repainted) A-10 Thunderbolt, a heavily armed aircraft used in
ground support roles. (McChord 2003) Several other witnesses saw the same
aircraft, both before the crash and after it, circling the area. (Flight
Two area residents, both quite close to the crash scene, heard missiles
being fired. One, a Viet Nam veteran, was quite sure about what he had
Mcelwain and many others heard one or two tremendous explosions rock
the sky over Shanksville. Debris rained down for miles around. One engine
landed nearly a mile from the alleged crash site. Body parts, luggage,
scraps of metal, bits of in-flight magazine plummeted or fluttered to the
ground a mile or more away.
The white aircraft turned, took one more pass, then headed back to its
base of operations. Mcelwain called 911.
The Shanksville "crash" of Flight 93 presents us with a number of
mysterious reports of a midair explosion (or explosions) as well as the
presence of a white "mystery jet" seen in the area by many local
The midair explosion was heard by virtually everyone in the area, of
course. The debris field resulting from the explosion was apparently much
more extensive than what would result from an ordinary crash, with all the
debris within a narrow compass laterally to the incoming flight path. New
Baltimore resident Melanie Hankinson, who lives some eight miles from the
crash site, found paper debris from the aircraft, including remnants of
United Airlines in-flight magazine, Hemispheres. Other debris, including
body parts, were scattered over a space of miles. One of the engines were
found a "considerable distance from the crash site," according to State
Police Major Lyle Szupinka.
Shanksville Mayor, Earnest Stuhl, has stated that at least two area
residents, both living within a few hundred yards of the debris field,
heard missiles being fired. One of the witnesses, a Viet Nam veteran, had
heard missiles fired from aircraft many times during his tour of duty and
claimed that it could not be anything else.
5.6 The Attack on the Pentagon
About the time that Flight AA11-X struck the north tower of the World
Trade Center in New York, Flight AA77-X took over from Flight AA77. Like
Flight UA93, Flight AA77 dropped into one of the numerous valleys that run
the length of the Alleghenies, possibly the valley of the Shenandoah
River. Meanwhile, Flight AA77-X, an executive jet, fled westward across
West Virginia before looping back, close to the border of southern Ohio.
At this point, the pilot turned off his transponder and headed straight
for Washington, DC.
By 9:30 am Flight AA77-X was already over Virginia, closing rapidly on
the capital. As it approached the Pentagon from the west, another smaller
aircraft, possibly a cruise missile, came into the Pentagon from the
southwest. It came very fast. Flight AA77-X banked sharply to pass over
the Pentagon from the same direction, then flew off to its base. Although
visible on local radar as an overflight, it was confused with the incoming
missile, which would have been visible as a second blip. Operators would
have been led to assume that the second blip represented the overflight.
The small military aircraft (or missile) slammed into the lower half of
the 80-foot high wall of the Pentagon, its fuselage punching a hole in the
two-foot thick limestone block wall.
Getting rid of the original aircraft was trickier than one might
suppose. One could not simply wash off the paint with an acid scrub and
sell the aircraft to a third world country. Nor could one break the
aircraft up and sell the parts. Indeed the parts, thousands of them, were
all stamped with serial numbers that were registered to their respective
aircraft. They could be traced. For this reason, it would have been much
cleaner to dump the aircraft in the Atlantic Ocean.
Perhaps it was not until nightfall of September 11 that the disposal
operation started. By then each aircraft had been fitted with slave
technology. The master aircraft had already flown out over the Atlantic,
the signal from the data bus monitor having been transmitted back to shore
and recorded. It would then have been a simple matter to replay the tape
to each of the three "non-existent" aircraft at half-hour intervals. Each
aircraft would have gone through exactly the same motions as the master
aircraft, continuing its flight out over the Atlantic Ocean — until the
implanted bomb destroyed it. Under the Operation Pearl scenario, the three
aircraft ended up in pretty much the same state as the Bush-Cheney
scenario alleges. The locations are quite different, however.
Inspiration for the electronic tow technology came from the eyewitness
account of two aircraft sighted by a New Jersey resident and his wife
(names witheld by request).
"Several days before 911, my wife and I were walking on Long Beach
Island. It was late in the afternoon when I looked out over the ocean and
saw these two passenger jets flying toward us, due west. They were flying
amazingly low and amazingly slow. I was amazed to see these two jets were
flying closely behind the other [sic], nose to tail, and what was most
amazing was that they were perfectly spaced, about fifty feet apart, with
absolutely no fluctuations in their spacing. It looked just like one plane
was towing the other. They flew right over our heads, and I watched them
as they flew westward."
Under the operation Pearl scenario, the strollers witnessed a final
test of the master/slave control system.
6 The Evidence Filter
We are now in a position to review the evidence and its relationship to
the Operation Pearl scenario described above. Below each item in the
original checklist, I have placed a brief explanation of the relationship.
- Four of the named hijackers were not in the United States. The
alleged hijackers were not on the aircraft, in any case. Their names may
have been selected from a list of lapsed or stolen passports.
- The WTC towers collapsed without adequate heat stress. The lack of
passenger corpses, luggage, etc, had to be concealed by burial.
- Smaller aircraft accompanied Flights AA77 and UA93. Surrogate
aircraft were used as substitutes for the originals.
- Most of the alleged hijackers were rather poor pilots. The alleged
hijackers were not aboard the aircraft, in any case.
- Evidence of alleged hijackers developed too quickly. Evidence was
planted in order to have the story develop quickly.
- Westward excursion of Flights UA93 and AA77 are inexplicable as
terrorists hurrying to targets. The excursions gave time to load all the
pasengers onto Flight 93.
- The US Air Force failed to intercept any of the flights. No
interceptors were deployed since their pilots would have reported the
- The hijackers' names did not show up on passenger lists. The
hijackers were not aboard the aircraft.
- The hijackers' faces did not appear on boarding gate videos. The
hijackers were not aboard the aircraft.
- Black boxes were missing from all but one flight. Black boxes were
not present on attacking aircraft
- Aircraft striking the Pentagon was not a large passenger aircraft.
Flight AA77 did not strike the Pentagon.
- Cellphone calls made by passengers were highly unlikely to
impossible. Flight UA93 was not in the air when most of the alleged
calls were made.
Expanded timeline for Operation Pearl
||UA11 takes off from Boston's
||UA175 takes off from Boston's Logan
||First deviation of AA11 north of Albany,
||AA77 takes off from Washington's Dulles
||AA11 transponder turned off
||First swap: Flight AA11-X takes over,
||Beginning of NY ATC transcript
||UA175 transponder is turned off
||UA93 takes off from Newark, NJ
||First deviation of UA175 over northern NJ
||Second swap: Flight AA77X
takes over, same t-code
||AA11-X strikes north tower of WTC
||Nationwide alert begins
||Third swap: Flight UA175X takes over,
||AA11 lands at Harrisburg
||End of NY ATC transcript
||AA77X transponder is turned off
||UA175X strikes south tower of WTC
||UA175 lands at Harrisburg
||Fourth swap: Flight UA93X replaces UA93
||UA93 lands at Harrisburg
||AA77 lands at Harrisburg
||AA77X overflies the Pentagon, aircraft or
explosion at Wedge 1
||UA93 takes off from Harrisburg
||UA93 crashes near Shanksville, PA
Footnote 1: The plot of the movie, set in a decaying future New
York ruled by warlords, involves the rescue of the President of the United
States who is being held for ransom. Snake Plissken (played by Kurt Russel)
is released from jail by authorities eager to use his talents to rescue
(USA Today 2001) USA Today. 2000. Weapons of destruction. Accessed from
July 5, 2003.
(Dewdney 2002) Ghost riders in the Sky. Feral News. Retrieved from
(Flight 93, 2001) How did Flight 93 crash? Retrieved from
May 20, 2003. Note: this site uses mostly local and national media
(McChord, 2003) A-10 Thunderbolt. McChord Air Museum. Retrieved from
(NYT 2001) The New York Times. October 16, 2001, Transcript of United
Airlines Flight 175. Retrieved from
(Ostrovsky & Hoy, 1990) Hoy C, Ostrovsky V. 1990. By Way of Deception.
Toronto, Canada: Stoddart.
(SPC 2000) FTS Flight termination system. 2000. System Planning
Corporation, Langley, VA. Retrieved from
http://www.sysplan.com/ May 17 2003. See
http://www.sysplan.com/Radar/FTS/ (flight termination system) and also
http://www.sysplan.com/Radar/CTS/ (command transmitter system)
(Spitzer 2000) Spitzer, C. R. 2000. Digital Avionics Systems:
principles and practices. The Blackburn Press (McGraw-Hill), Caldwell, NJ.
(UF93 2001) United Flight 93 Crash Theory Home Page. 2001. How did
Flight 93 Crash? Retrieved from
http://www.flight93crash.com June 10, 2003.
(USAF no date) RQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle. United States Air
Force Fact Sheet. Aeronautical Systems Center, USAF, Langley, VA. No date
on document. Retrieved from
May 18 2003.
(USAF 98) Global Hawk: U. S. Airforce Fact Sheet. Global Hawk.
Aeronautical Systems Center. USAF Langley, VA. Retrieved July 4 2003 from
A: The Basic Timeline
(All times are ante meridian or am, EDT)
B: Table of aircraft
||81 passengers, 11 crew
||56 passengers, 9 crew
||58 passengers, 6 crew
||30 passengers, 7 crew
C: Estimates of equipment and personnel used in
The following lists represent the core requirements in equipment and
personnel required to execute Operation Pearl. Additional equipment as
well as operatives playing minor roles are not included. Also not included
are the operatives running "Operation Footprint," the flight training
program for approximately ten Arabs from a variety of middle eastern
- 1 Boeing 767 fitted with remote guidance systems
- 3 Executive-sized jet aircraft, one fitted with a remote guidance
- 1 A-10 Thunderbolt
|2 agents on each of four aircraft
|10 agents at the base of operations
|4 agents to set up WTC demolition explosives
|2 agents as flight crew on substitute or escort aircraft
|4 agents as technicians to install RC controls
(also to act as remote pilots)
This number is certainly an underestimate, but easily mustered by any
large intelligence organization. Under the Operation Pearl scenario, the
most likely perpetrator would be Mossad, Israel's spy agency. An
arm's-length relationship with the Bush administration, with neocon
elements acting as go-betweens, would enable Rumsfeld, Bush and other
members of the US administration to disclaim any "specific" knowledge of a
forthcoming attack. (See Ostrovsky and Hoy, 1990.)