Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Cellphone Calls

The cellphone calls are discussed starting at 1:06:07. As usual with this film, Avery likes having things both ways. In discussing Flight Attendant Betty Ong's phone call at 1:07:16, she's far too calm:

Does Miss Ong sound like a woman on a hijacked plane who just saw three people murdered?

But when others make mistakes out of nervousness, or fear, Avery highlights the mistake (1:07:24):

When Flight Attendant Madelyn Sweeney allegedly talked to the ground manager Michael Woodward for 23 minutes. She describes four hijackers. The FBI says there were five. She says the hijackers were in rows nine and ten. Yet the FAA says they were all in row eight.

Sweeney of course could not win here; if she had described the hijackers as all being in row eight, you know Avery would have duly intoned something about, "How likely is it that she would remember exacty which row the hijackers had been sitting in?"

And as usual with the film, the small parts contradict the big parts. If the cellphone calls were faked, then why the mistakes? Presumably whoever was doing the voice-morphing had a script. Why wouldn't they just have her say the hijackers were five in number and came out of row eight? Avery and company believe in this humongous master plan that is brilliantly executed by people who still make stupid and obvious mistakes, like having Mark Bingham say, "Mom? This is Mark Bingham."

At 1:08:50, Avery changes his mind:

But to be honest, none of that matters. Why? Because none of these calls could have taken place.

Avery goes on to describe what is known in the 9-11 conspiracy movement as Project Achilles.

Mr A.K. Dewdney conducted an experiment, going up in a Cessna plane while trying to make cellphone calls. He experienced substantial interference, and was able to get through on only a fraction of the calls he made.

There are several flaws in Dewdney's experiment, but the most important one is that he used a cellphone. Many of the calls on 9-11 were made with Airfones, those little phones in the back of the headrest of the seat in front of you. Airfones are designed to work in flight; that's their whole point. Avery even mentions Airfones twice while discussing Mark Bingham's call to his mother (1:08:12).

Here's Verizon's FAQ on Airphones.

Does the plane have to be in the air before I can make a call?
No, calls can be placed at the gate, during take-off, landing, while in-flight and even while the plane is on the ground at most major airports.

Note that "even on the ground"; there's not even a question that Airfones work in midair; that's their whole purpose. So where does Avery get off claiming that the calls could not have been placed? He's taking advantage of the fact that many reports have lazily referred to cellphone calls instead of Airfone calls, and ignoring Mark Bingham twice mentioning that he was calling on an Airfone. This is just simple dishonesty; there's no way this could be a mistake.


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