July 31, 2009

Misinformation: Flight 77 Flight Path "Contradicts" Official Story according to "Black Box Data"

Misinformation: Flight 77 Flight Path "Contradicts" Official Story according to "Black Box Data"

By Arabesque

In Summary:

  1. The Flight Data Recorder (FDR) of Flight 77 supports the official flight path
  2. The Animation could not exist without the FDR data. The Flight animation is supposed to be a "reconstruction" based on the black box data (FDR), and yet it does not match the data found in the FDR for Flight 77.
  3. Many mistakenly believe and claim that the flight animation "is" the FDR when they are two separate things.
  4. It cannot reasonably be claimed that the "animation" represents the actual flight path of Flight 77 because the animation does not match data found in the FDR. An animation is a "reconstruction" and is not the "original" source of the data.
It is frequently claimed that the "Black Box" data of Flight 77 shows a flight path which contradicts the official story of the Pentagon attack. On the truthaction forum, Snowy Grouch, also known as Callum Douglas, a 9/11 researcher who has studied the flight data recorder and animation writes:
I would also like to know who EXACTLY are these people who are claiming that the animation is the black box data or similar. Provide some links please otherwise its just conjecture.
Unfortunately, this belief is fairly widespread from the comments on forums that I have encountered. I have had to post responses several times on 911blogger, correcting this claim. In fact, shortly after Callum Douglas requested evidence of these individuals, a forum poster in the very same thread no less, repeated this false claim saying, "The 'imaginary' north flightpath is supported by the FDR raw data file". So much for "conjecture", then. It is hardly the only example. Pilots for 9/11 Truth Rob Balsamo also confuses the FDR and animation on the radio stating:
The information that we have from the NTSB right now as it stands, this airplane's not hitting the Pentagon. And that's from the flight data recorder. What they say is from the Flight data recorder.... The NTSB data. The plot, the animation that they plot out, It has it on the north side of that CITGO gas station... [The CIT witnesses]... corroborate the flight data recorder as far as the flight path being North... The heading... that they show in the hard data file that we have... it shows that it kind of lines up with the south path.
In this interview, Rob Balsamo refers to a "flight data recorder" and "animation they plot out". These are two separate things and the flight data recorder (FDR) does NOT support a north path. In fact, as you can see above, Balsamo also later acknowledges that the "hard data file" supports the official flight path. Callum Douglas writes that the claim that the "FDR" supports the north path is completely false:
The raw FDR files do show the plane on the correct path as I make perfectly clear in all my public engagements.
The controversy and confusion exists because the FDR data does not match the flight animation as Caustic Logic has pointed out:

The Animation and FDR are two separate things. In the 9/11 truth movement, many confuse this and mistakenly believe that the FDR and flight animation are the same thing. As a consequence of this mistaken belief, many mistakenly claim that the "FDR" contradicts the official flight path. While it is true that the animation contradicts the official flight path, it is also true that the FDR supports the official flight path as shown in the image above.

Several points should be made here:
  1. The Black box data is not the same as the flight path animation data
  2. The animation is supposed to be a "reconstruction" of the black box data and yet they do not match
  3. The Black box Data supports the official flight path.
Why the contradiction between the FDR and animation? This is unclear and where there is controversy. On his blog, Caustic points out that the animation has an incorrect magnetic declination and Calum Douglas responds:
The question is... do you believe that seasoned professionals at the NTSB with decades of experience in crash re-construction FORGOT about magnetic declination! One of the most basic concepts in map reading and navigation... Most unlikely, so the question is why does the animation give a north path and the FDR file a south one? If I were you I`d try phoning the NTSB, see how far that gets you.
Unfortunately, at this time the NTSB has refused to clarify or explain the discrepancy between the FDR and animation. This has resulted in adding to the ongoing controversy.

However, the "animation" cannot exist without the original black box data. This is because the original source of the data for the animation should originate from the FDR. It cannot be claimed that the "animation" is right and the "black box is wrong" since the animation is a reconstruction based on the black box data. It is possible that a mistake was made in the reconstruction of the data and seems to be the most plausible explanation at this point. John Farmer writes:
I have put in an FOIA with the NTSB requesting the parameters used to generate the animation, but to date there has been no response. Some have said that the animation is generated using the physics data in the FDR. If that is the case, then that would account for the deviation observed if the heading data had indeed been tampered with. That does not mean that is the case, but certainly is a possibility. That is why it is important to understand how the animation was generated. I will leave that to others since it really is in the domain of professional pilots and aeronautical engineers (outside my expertise).
The NTSB explains how they generate an animation from the FDR:
Dan Bower is an Aerospace Engineer at the NTSB who is directly involved with analyzing data gathered from Flight Data Recorders. Unfortunately, there are many different formats this information can take. The FDR data, says Bower "is different for each airplane and each style of Flight Data Recorder." Because of that, he adds, "as soon as we have an accident, we call the airplane manufacturer to get the conversion algorithms... On Bower's PC, which runs the Windows NT Operating System, he uses multiple software packages to manipulate and animate the FDR data in a variety of ways. "We have some flight performance software that allows simulations with three, four and six degrees of freedom," explains Bower. Within that software and other packages, Bower can animate the data as charts and graphs, using an airplane model or as cockpit instruments changing over time. While these animations don't offer the level of detail or realism that comes from the SGI, they are used to illustrate factual data in the best way possible. The software that Bower uses can also output data in the format used for the SGI-based animations. Once the data is moved to that machine, one goal is to make the animation look as realistic as possible. For this process, detailed models are used, backgrounds are carefully constructed and terrain models are incorporated into the scene. A lot of time is also devoted to determining which viewpoint or viewpoints to use for viewing the animation."
Far from being a "simple" process, it seems that there is indeed room for error in creating a flight animation. It stands to reason that it is possible that a mistake could have been made in the creation of the animation. And this is where the controversy only gets stranger because the 9/11 commission also had an animation of Flight 77 and this animation supported the official flight path. In other words there are at least two animations and they do not match.

Watch That Darn NTSB Cartoon, pt. 1: The "FDR" North Path

Also of interest is that the FDR data ends about "4-6 seconds" before impact. Caustic Logic quotes John Farmer who believes that the FDR was modified:
“The significance of this," Farmer contends, "is that at the final recorded position, the altitude data begins to make sense. The elevation of the area in the vicinity of pin #1 is ~150 – 160 feet above MSL. Add to that the radar altitude of 273 feet above ground level (AGL), […] an altitude of 420 – 430 feet above MSL matches well with witness accounts...” and explains in the conclusion: "Since investigators have assumed that the FDR data is representative until ~1 second prior to impact (stopping recording at impact) numerous false assumptions regarding the data have resulted. In fact, as discussed before, the EOF for the FDR reflects a position 4 – 6 seconds prior to impact due to the time error in the RADES data. Further investigation is warranted to determine how and why the FDR data set was altered."
It certainly appears as though data from the FDR is missing which I agree does warrant an explanation and additional investigation. This is not an insignificant question.

While some have claimed that they "faked" the FDR data, it cannot reasonably be claimed that the "animation" represents the actual flight path of Flight 77 because the animation supposed to be a "reconstruction" of the "original" data found in the FDR.

Interestingly, Citizen Investigation Team (CIT) has never used the animation to support their claims of an alternate flight path.