We have the following facts regarding UA175, that ostensibly hit the South Tower: the plane hitting the South Tower took off at 8:14. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that UA175 took off at 8:23. Both specifically refer to the Wheels-Off Time, the time the wheels leave the runway.
There is a saying, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."
Which of the following statements is the extraordinary claim? (Is there a third option? See the bottom of this post.)
- United Airlines reported an erroneous number to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
- UA175 actually took off at 8:23. The aircraft that took off at 8:14 and flew into the South Tower was an imposter.
If you've answered that question, see if the following facts change your answer:
- United Airlines (in 2001) was a huge airline, competent in all sorts of complex activities. Reporting the required data to the BTS is a routine activity, naturally automated through computer programming, and the humans don't intervene in the numbers. UA175, until being hijacked was just an ordinary commercial flight transmitting data in the ordinary way, and its data would be processed in an ordinary way.
- Hijack exercises by our military took place on 9/11, involving actual flying aircraft (fakers) posing as hijacked aircraft. The military may have had the authority to take over a flight's call sign and demand that the flight use an alternative call sign for communication with Air Traffic Control. (There were also references to non-existant flights: UA177, DAL89, UA1898, DAL1898. The real Delta flight that was diverted to Cleveland was DAL1989.)
Do these change your answer? In my view, United reporting an erroneous takeoff time is the extraordinary claim, given these facts.
Is there a third option? Maybe a hacker broke into the system and altered the wheels-off time, for whatever reason. I would hope that old backups would expose the change.