NOVA: What can the spread of the wreckage on the ground tell you about the kind of catastrophe that might have befallen the plane?
KING: The spread of wreckage over the ground considered in the context of the local terrain can tell us quite a lot about the arrival of the aircraft in terms of the amount of energy and the nature of the flight immediately prior to hitting the ground. If the aircraft has come down vertically with relatively low energy, the wreckage will be contained in a relatively small area, dependent on the size of the aircraft, of course. If the aircraft is flying straight and level at high speed when it first touches the ground, then the wreckage will distribute itself typically in a fan shape over quite a large area. If the aircraft starts to break up in the air, particularly at significant height, then it will start to distribute pieces that will travel with the wind and be spread over sometimes many hundreds of square miles. If you consider the Lockerbie event, which happened at 31,000 feet, then the wreckage distributes itself over a large area of countryside.
The primary debris field:
"There was a crater in the ground that was really burning. There were pieces of fuselage and clothing all over the area, burning, said Peterson. He said he didn’t see any debris longer than a couple of feet long.
Spallone said the plane was still smoldering at 12:30. He said officials were trying to keep people from scene and confirmed that there are no survivors. He said the "debris field spread over an area size of a football field, maybe two footballs fields." The impact of the crash was so severe that the biggest piece of debris he has seen there is no bigger than 2 feet.
The secondary (and tertiary) debris fields:
The Pennsylvania state police said debris from the crash has shown up about 8 miles away in a residential area where local media quoted some residents as seeing flaming debris from the sky.
But investigators were unwilling to say whether the presence of debris in two separate places evinced an explosion.
Finding the flight data recorder had been the focus of investigators as they widened their search area today following the discoveries of more debris, including what appeared to be human remains, miles from the point of impact at a reclaimed coal mine.
Residents and workers at businesses outside Shanksville, Somerset County, reported discovering clothing, books, papers and what appeared to be human remains. Some residents said they collected bags-full of items to be turned over to investigators. Others reported what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly six miles from the immediate crash scene.
"John Fleegle, an Indian Lake Marina employee, said FBI agents were skeptical of his reports about debris in the lake until they traveled to the lake shore Wednesday afternoon.
By Wednesday morning, crash debris began washing ashore at the marina. Fleegle said there was something that looked like a rib bone amid pieces of seats, small chunks of melted plastic and checks.
He said FBI agents who spent the afternoon patrolling the lake in rented boats eventually carted away a large garbage bag full of debris. "
Comment: If the debris was somewhat continuous, as you’d expect if the debris all originated at the main crash site, the FBI wouldn’t have been skeptical, and wait over 24 hours until the next afternoon to check it out. It’s only 2.5 miles away to the lake. But when they got there they rented boats and bagged up a bunch of debris.
"Fleegle, marina owner Jim Brant and two of Brant’s employees were among the dozens who witnessed the crash from Indian Lake. Fleegle had just returned to the marina to get fuel for a boat that had run out of gas when Carol Delasko called him into the drydock barn to watch news of the World Trade Center attack.
All of a sudden the lights flickered and we joked that maybe they were coming for us. Then we heard engines screaming close overhead. The building shook. We ran out, heard the explosion and saw a fireball mushroom," said Fleegle, pointing to a clearing on a ridge at the far end of the lake.
Delasko, who ran outside moments later, said she thought someone had blown up a boat on the lake. "It just looked like confetti raining down all over the air above the lake," she said. (archived at http://library.triblive.com – search Delasko from 9-10-01 to 9-20-01)
Comment: If debris was simply dropped from 5,000 feet – it would take a couple minutes just to fall straight down on the lake. They hopped in their cars right away – and still saw the debris fall BEFORE they left.
Witnesses say they heard the plane fly over, felt their building AT THE DOCK shake. The debris evidence also supports the plane flying over Indian Lake AND that plane was falling apart. This debris would have taken 15-20 minutes to float at 10mph and then descend on Indian Lake from the main crash crater. The testimony and evidence do not support the NTSB story that the debris floated from the main crash site.
In a morning briefing, state Police Major Lyle Szupinka confirmed that debris from the plane had turned up in relatively far-flung sites, including the residential area of Indian Lake. Investigators appealed to any residents who had come across such debris, in the surrounding countryside or even in their yards, to contact them, emphasizing that even the smallest remnants could prove to be important clues."
Szupinka said searchers found one of the large engines from the aircraft "at a considerable distance from the crash site."
"It appears to be the whole engine," he added.
Szupinka said most of the remaining debris, scattered over a perimeter that stretches for several miles, are in pieces no bigger than a "briefcase."
(archived at http://library.triblive.com – search whole engine from 9-10-01 to 9-20-01 or read it here)
Crowley related that 95 percent of the airplane had been recovered. The biggest piece of aircraft found was a fuselage skin measuring about 6 to 7 feet. The heaviest piece was from one of the engines and weighed 1,000 pounds.
Comment: It’s important to recall that every description of the main crash site is that the airplane was OBLITERATED. Very small debris was spread over a couple hundred yards. This is exactly what you’d expect to see when an Airliner impacts nearly vertically as Flight 93 did. Nothing survived this impact… yet a 1000lb fan was found elsewhere. It fell off before impact, just like Flight 587’s engine that was found basically intact did.
John Fleegle, an Indian Lake Marina employee, said FBI agents were skeptical of his reports about debris in the lake [2.5 miles away from main crash site]
… said he climbed on the roof of an abandoned cabin and tossed down a burning seat cushion that had landed there. (Archived at http://library.triblive.com – search burning seat cushion from 9-10-01 to 9-20-01 or read it here. It’s unclear exactly how far this seat cushion is from the primary crater.)
Pennsylvania state police officials said on Thursday debris from the plane had been found up to 8 miles (13 km) away in a residential community where local media have quoted residents as speaking of a second plane in the area and burning debris falling from the sky. http://investor.cnet.com/investor/news/newsitem/0-9900-1028-7147291-0.html
Theory 1 – It blew there (The NTSB/FBI Story).
Comment: Wind speed that day was 9 knots (or 10.4 MPH). Video from that morning shows a very light breeze.
The NTSB theory is that a lot of lightweight paper-like material survived the crash fireball and escaped the 35 foot deep, wet mud crash site and floated at 10 mph 2 – 8 miles over more wet, muddy fields. And how did clothing, books and large engine parts blow there again? And is there stuff 2 to 8 miles away at the Pentagon crash? Or another crash you can think of? Oh yea, at Lockerbie and Flight 800 there was (both had in-air explosions).
Remember, the debris is NOT continuous. They didn’t even have a clue the secondary debris existed until phone calls from residents brought skeptical investigators looking. If this debris was heavier than feathers it would not have floated from an explosion the height of 600 feet to 11,000+ feet sideways. Even if it could, there would have been a continuous trail back to the crash with the heavier items falling first. Remember, all the debris at the crash crater bounced South and Southwest. The secondary debris is East in the direction of, and beyond, Indian Lake.
Indian Lake is where witnesses heard the airliner fly over, and saw debris falling from the sky moments after the crash. If the debris floated from the crash site, it would have taken 10-15 minutes at 10 mph to get there.
Flight 427 is another airliner that crashed intact and ALSO had debris found 2.5 miles away. We can try to compare it’s debris field with that of Flight 93. From the 427 report in 1999:
Several lightweight items (for example, pieces of interior insulation and a passenger business card) were discovered as far as 2