What happened to the black boxes from the four flights on 9/11? There is a great deal of misinformation concerning this issue. This article attempts to provide the most accurate information: both the official government version and some possible scenarios.
Thanks to Phil Jayhan for his comments and recommendations, which has resulted in some changes and edits.
What are Black Boxes?
Every airliner is required to have two black boxes: 1) A Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and, 2) A Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR). The black boxes are actually painted orange. The FDR records a variety of data concerning the aircraft: speed, direction, engine settings, etc. Approximately 50 types of data are recorded for each trip or series of trips for 25 hours. The CVR records the last 30 minutes of all transmissions and receptions made through the crew’s headphones, plus there is a recorder in the cockpit. Black boxes are mounted in the rear of the aircraft, which is usually the least damaged section in a crash.
What happened to the Black Boxes? – The U.S. Government Official Version
Flights 11 & 175
No black boxes were found from Flights 11 and 175, allegedly Boeing 767-200 airliners, which crashed into the World Trade Center Twin Towers. A massive search was undertaken with no results.
The black boxes from Flight 77, allegedly a Boeing 757, which crashed into the Pentagon were found. There are two conflicting government stories concerning the cockpit voice recorder (CVR).
On 25 February 2002 FBI Director Robert Mueller stated to CNN that Flight 77’s flight data recorder provided altitude, speed, headings and other information, but the cockpit voice recorder contained “nothing useful”.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said the data in the cockpit voice recorder was unrecoverable.
The black boxes from Flight 93, allegedly a Boeing 757, which crashed in Pennsylvania were found. Both the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) were recovered. Data was downloaded from both. The CVR recording was played to the passengers? families of Flight 93 after requiring them to sign non-disclosure forms.
The flight data recorder was found buried in the crash crater and its data apparently retrieved as revealed in the 9/11 Commission report in Chapter 1. See “911 Commission Report & Notes” at the end of this post.
Black Box Theories
Flights 11 & 175: The Twin Towers Hit
Will Bunch, a journalist with the Philadelphia Daily News, reported that three of the four black boxes were found at Ground Zero. His article was published on 28 October 28 2004 on page 7 of the Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
Flights 11 & 175 Black Box Theory: Research Instruments
First, Flight 11 was not a scheduled flight. It was not listed in the BTS databse. It was a remote control drone. So was Flight 175, except it was listed in the BTS.
The FDRs recorded the required flight data and perhaps some additional data. This information would be extremely valuable in comparing actual flight performance vs. planned flight performance while being flown by remote control. For example, if the objective was to make the final approach at 1000 feet (308 m) ? what was the actual altitude?
A question is was one of the black boxes not found? — or where there only three for some reason? Or, are the eyewitnesses in the Will Bunch article incorrect or lying? Maybe there were no black boxes. The planes were, after all, drones. At this time, we dont’ know.
Flight 77: The Pentagon Hit
There was no Flight 77, no Boeing 757, no black boxes.
Flights 77 Black Box Theory: Props for the Cover-Up Story
Black boxes had to be publically “found” for the media, public and rescue workers to reinforce the story that a Boeing 757 hit the Pentagon. And they were found by the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team (FCUSRT), which is one of the first special FEMA emergency response teams. FCUSRT was at the OKC bombing site. The black boxes were found just inside the famous “punch out” hole in the Pentagon’s third ring, next to the internal AE Drive . The distance was 310 feet (100 m) from the entry point of the aircraft into the Pentagon. They were planted there shortly after the crash, along with some front landing gear, during the confusion.
See my post: Pentagon: New Cover-Up Revelations
See my post: Debunking Popular Mechanics Article “9/11 Myths, The Pentagon: Flight 77 Debris”
I am surprised that the government states the flight data recorder was recovered and downloaded, since the 757 made an incredibly difficult manuever on its final approach: a 330 degree turn while descending 7,000 feet (2.150 m). FAA air traffic controllers said the plane “manuevered like a fighter”. Not bad for Hani Hanjour, who had less than 50 hours of flying time and was a poor pilot. I can only surmise that the perpetrators decided that destruction of the FDR would raise more red flags than not releasing the data. Keep in mind that the FDR is bogus ? planted evidence.
The cockpit voice recorder is also intriguing. FBI Director Mueller stated there was “nothing interesting” on the tape. The hijackers said nothing interesting for the last 30 minutes of their flight? Again, keep in mind that the CVR is bogus ? planted evidence.
The FDR and CVR were planted as evidence. Did the perpetrators fake the data and voice recordings or were they left blank? If they faked the data and voice recordings, it would be very interesting to review them.
Flight 93: Crash into Heartland America
There was no Flight 93, no Boeing 757, no black boxes.
Flight 93 Black Box Theory: Props for the Heroic Passengers Story
The FDR and CVR were planted as evidence. Did the perpetrators fake the FDR data or was it left blank? The CVR had the faked 31 minutes of voice recording.
The faked data in the FDR would be extremely interesting to review since there is overwhelming evidence that no Boeing 757 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The cockpit voice recorder is an amazing story. Keep in mind that there was no crash, no passengers, no hijackers, no cell phone of airfone calls, no “LetsRoll”. The entire story is propaganda. Remember that the first government version was “heroic passengers crash plane, sacrificing their lives, to save the White House”. When the families wanted to hear the tapes, the story got changed to “hijackers crash plan to prevent passengers from getting into the cockpit”. Remember that the government had the voice recording (supposedly) within days and would have known that the hijackers crashed the plane. Keep in mind the recording is a fake.
The CVR data was recovered and was listened to by family members. Remember that the government didn’t want to release the tape, but family members insisted. Finally the government relented, but required them to sign a waiver agreeing not to sue the government. There was an argument concerning allowing families listen to the last three minutes. Remember that there is a three minute discrepency in the time of the crash: the government says 10:03, seismic records show 10:06. The last three minutes apparently record the sounds of passengers trying to break into the cockpit. There is more to this story which will have to wait for another article.
911 Commission Report & Notes
|911 Commission Report Chapter 1 wrote:|
|By all accounts, the first 46 minutes of Flight 93’s cross-country trip proceeded routinely. Radio communications from the plane were normal. Heading, speed, and altitude ran according to plan. At 9:24, Ballinger’s warning to United 93 was received in the cockpit. Within two minutes, at 9:26, the pilot, Jason Dahl, responded with a note of puzzlement: “Ed, confirm latest mssg plz-Jason.”70|
The hijackers attacked at 9:28. While traveling 35,000 feet above eastern Ohio, United 93 suddenly dropped 700 feet. Eleven seconds into the descent, the FAA’s air traffic control center in Cleveland received the first of two radio transmissions from the aircraft. During the first broadcast, the captain or first officer could be heard declaring “Mayday” amid the sounds of a physical struggle in the cockpit. The second radio transmission, 35 seconds later, indicated that the fight was continuing. The captain or first officer could be heard shouting:” Hey get out of here-get out of here-get out of here.”71
|911 Report notes wrote:|
|70. On FDR, see NTSB report, “Specialist’s Factual Report of Investigation-Digital Flight Data Recorder” for United Airlines Flight 93, Feb. 15, 2002; on CVR, see FBI report, “CVR from UA Flight #93,” Dec. 4, 2003; Commission review of Aircraft Communication and Reporting System (ACARS) messages sent to and from Flight 93 (which indicate time of message transmission and receipt); see UAL record, Ed Ballinger ACARS log, Sept. 11, 2001. At 9:22, after learning of the events at the World Trade Center, Melody Homer, the wife of co-pilot Leroy Homer, had an ACARS message sent to her husband in the cockpit asking if he was okay. See UAL record, ACARS message, Sept. 11, 2001.|
71. On FDR, see NTSB report, “Specialist’s Factual Report of Investigation-Digital Flight Data Recorder” for United Airlines Flight 93, Feb. 15, 2002; on CVR, see FBI report, “CVR from UA Flight #93,” Dec. 4, 2003; FAA report, “Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events: September 11, 2001,” Sept. 17, 2001; NTSB report, Air Traffic Control Recording-United Airlines Flight 93, Dec. 21, 2001.
|911 Commission Report, Chapter 1 wrote:|
|At 9:32, a hijacker, probably Jarrah, made or attempted to make the following announcement to the passengers of Flight 93:”Ladies and Gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit.” The flight data recorder (also recovered) indicates that Jarrah then instructed the plane’s autopilot to turn the aircraft around and head east.75|
The cockpit voice recorder data indicate that a woman, most likely a flight attendant, was being held captive in the cockpit. She struggled with one of the hijackers who killed or otherwise silenced her.76
|911 Report notes wrote:|
|75. Like Atta on Flight 11, Jarrah apparently did not know how to operate the communication radios; thus his attempts to communicate with the passengers were broadcast on the ATC channel. See FBI report, “CVR from UA Flight #93,” Dec. 4, 2003.Also, by 9:32 FAA notified United’s headquarters that the flight was not responding to radio calls. According to United, the flight’s nonresponse and its turn to the east led the airline to believe by 9:36 that the plane was hijacked. See Rich Miles interview (Nov. 21, 2003); UAL report, “United dispatch SMFDO activities-terrorist crisis,” Sept. 11, 2001.|
76. In accordance with FAA regulations, United 93’s cockpit voice recorder recorded the last 31 minutes of sounds from the cockpit via microphones in the pilots’ headsets, as well as in the overhead panel of the flight deck. This is the only recorder from the four hijacked airplanes to survive the impact and ensuing fire. The CVRs and FDRs from American 11 and United 175 were not found, and the CVR from American Flight 77 was badly burned and not recoverable. See FBI report, “CVR from UA Flight #93,”Dec. 4, 2003; see also FAA regulations, 14 C.F.R.