Wednesday, January 07, 2009

De Plane, Boss, De Plane!

Well, the Payne Stewart thread continues to attract attention from the kooks, so I thought I'd look further into the information presented.

First up is a CNN story, where our Troofer commenters point to this passage:

An Air Force spokesman says two U.S. Air Force F-15s from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, intercepted the plane shortly after it lost contact with aircraft controllers, and followed it to Missouri.

Shortly does not sound like 81 minutes later, says our commenter. But I notice this detail in the story as well:

Air Force Capt. Chris Hamilton said there was nothing he could do when his F-16 caught up with the Learjet over Memphis, Tennessee.

Okay, so Hamilton was the first to intercept the plane. More details on Hamilton's day at this USA Today story:

The 32-year-old Air Force pilot from Newport News, Va., was flying his F-16 Fighting Falcon, nicknamed "Bullet One," on a training mission over the Gulf of Mexico when he was sent to try to find out what was wrong with the jet.

Sports Illustrated has a very detailed story on the doomed flight.

When Jacksonville air traffic control lost contact with the Lear 35 at 9:33, the plane had just been cleared to proceed at 39,000 feet. All subsequent attempts to reach the pilots—"November-four-seven-bravo-alpha, do you read me?"—had been unsuccessful. Also, radar showed that the plane had not made a scheduled left turn to head toward Texas, continuing instead on its previous northern course.

The FAA's call for assistance was received at Cheyenne Mountain at approximately 10 o'clock. Two National Guard F-16 fighters at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Fla., were scrambled at 10:08 and airborne at 10:10 before Mayne realized that an F-16 from Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., already was in the air and could reach the Lear sooner. The Eglin plane was diverted, and the Tyndall jets recalled to their base.

So the FAA had not even called for assistance from the military 21 minutes later, and planes were not airborne from Tyndall until 37 minutes after the plane became unresponsive.

After meeting an Air Force tanker to add fuel in midair, Hamilton flew a course that would bisect the Lear's route. He was traveling at roughly 500 mph. The Lear was traveling at roughly 300 mph. Hamilton was told he would catch the plane somewhere above Memphis.

The chase took approximately 50 minutes. When Hamilton spotted the Lear, he slowed down to match its speed. He flew in formation with the Lear on the left side and then the right, flew underneath the Lear and above it. Visibility was perfect. Hamilton thought, as he stared from the bubble canopy of his fighter, that if he were standing and looking at the plane parked on the ground, he couldn't have a better view than he did now. He hoped to see people in the windows or at least to see some external damage that was causing some problem. He saw neither.

So there you have it. Approximately 30 minutes for the FAA to notify NORAD and approximately 50 minutes to chase down the plane. In other words, approximately 80 minutes. Of course, I am sure that this will not quiet down the nutbars because they have so much invested in the idea that the Payne Stewart story proves that 9-11 was an inside job.

There are numerous errors in media accounts; note that the CNN piece says that two F-15s were sent from Eglin; that appears to be wrong as the planes were F-16s (according to Sports Illustrated), and those planes were launched from Tyndall; the plane from Eglin was already airborne. The Troofers would have us focus on the ones that got the story wrong.