Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Airfones Issue Redux

(Update: See the bottom of this post)

Well, every now and then we get lucky. My co-blogger James B did a terrific job of debunking David Ray Griffin's claim about the Airfones having been removed from the 757s prior to 9-11; so good a job in fact that it was the first error that Griffin acknowledged making in his new book, at least briefly.

But then Rob Balsamo and the crackpots over at Pilots for 9-11 Denial got into the act. They posted a revision to the American Airlines 757 repair manual which seemed to indicate that the Airfones had been disabled prior to 9-11.

And here's where the luck comes in. At some point, we attracted the attention of a person who was in position to know a little more about the maintenance of American Airlines planes. He was mostly annoyed at the "Truthers" but when it came to this issue he really got ticked, so he did some digging.

He backtracked from ECO F0878 and came across ECO F0871 and F0874. F0874 tells the mechanics to put the airphone switch to the off position and pull the associated circuit breakers. F0871 requires installation of a placard on all the Airfones in the plane informing the passengers that the phones would no longer work. Both are dated March 2002.

Which means what, sports fans? Yep, that the Airfones on American's fleet of 757s still worked as of 9/11/01, and in fact were not turned off until a good six months later. Thanks greatly to our anonymous source on this! So now it's up to Rob Balsamo and David Ray Griffin to retract their claim that the phone systems were uninstalled prior to 9-11. Surely their source can check out ECO F0871 and ECO F0874 and tell them the dates those were issued?

Update: Rob Balsamo, obviously not the most trustworthy of sources, claims in the comments to have hoaxed me with this series of emails. So let's put up the red light on this one. I still think the JREF crew are right, that the PfT post is a phony. But unlike Rob, I'm not going to leave my post up without a disclaimer. I am no longer confident in this story, and in retrospect it should not have been posted.

Update II: I had a long phone conversation with Rob Balsamo last night. He stated eventually that he had not hoaxed me with the emails. I do feel that I jumped the gun a little with this post. On the larger issue (whether Airfones worked on Flight 77 on 9/11/01), I am confident that they did. Our buddy Pomeroo checked with American Airlines and this was their response:

Ron, I am doublechecking with my maintenance folks so I give you accurate data.

(June 29, 2007)

Ron, engineers at our primary Maintenance & Engineering base in Tulsa tell me that they cannot find any record that the 757 aircraft flown into the Pentagon on 9/11 had had its seatback phones deactivated by that date. An Engineering Change Order to deactivate the seatback phone system on the 757 fleet had been issued by that time.

It is our contention that the seatback phones on Flight 77 were working because there is no entry in that aircraft’s records to indicate when the phones were disconnected.

So this appears to be a validation of both sides on the issue. AA says that there had been an ECO to deactivate the phones prior to 9-11, but that change had not been made on the plane that turned out to be AA77. Note as well that in the Moussaoui trial, the government did not claim that phone calls had been made from Airfones; the phone calls that are listed in the flash animation do not list the row they were made from. This may be an issue with American Airlines as compared to United Airlines as I note that the only call from an AA flight that day that is identified by location on the plane called from is the call from Betty Ong, and that location may have been identified because she stated that she was in her jumpseat at 3R during the call.

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