Fact check: False claim persists that planes weren't used in 9/11 attacks on World Trade Center

·5 min read

The claim: Planes were not used in the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners and killed thousands of Americans. Two decades later, conspiracy theorists are still claiming the attacks didn't happen the way they did.

On Sept. 11, terrorists hijacked and crashed two planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and one plane into the Pentagon. Another hijacked plane crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers attempted to retake it.

At the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, American Airlines Flight 11 struck the northern facade of the north tower less than 20 minutes before United Airlines Flight 175 struck the southwestern facade of the south tower.

But a June 13 Instagram post says there were not any planes used in the attack.

“No planez,” says a caption on a video shared in the post, which shows the south tower explosion.

In this Sept. 11, 2001, file photo, smoke rises from the burning twin towers of the World Trade Center after hijacked planes crashed into the towers, in New York City.
In this Sept. 11, 2001, file photo, smoke rises from the burning twin towers of the World Trade Center after hijacked planes crashed into the towers, in New York City.

That claim is wrong.

The use of planes in the 9/11 attacks is well-documented. A bipartisan report on the attacks detailed how terrorists hijacked and crashed the planes. The reason the plane is not visible in the video is due to the position from which it was filmed.

The Instagram post falls under the “false flag” umbrella of conspiracy theories, in which proponents say high-profile tragedies are staged for political gain. Independent fact-checking organizations and other media outlets have debunked conspiracy theories that planes were not used in the 9/11 attacks.

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The Instagram user who shared the video did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

Use of planes on 9/11 widely documented

Photographs, videos and eyewitness accounts all support the fact that hijackers flew commercial airliners into the World Trade Center.

Several television networks covering the first attack on the north tower broadcasted the moment Flight 175 hit the south tower. All those clips show the plane hit the south tower, and reporters can be heard describing the plane crash.

Several photographers captured the moments before the plane hit the south tower. Eyewitnesses that were near the World Trade Center at the time of the attack have said they saw the plane hit the south tower.

In 2013, surveyors found a piece of a plane wing from the 2001 attacks wedged between two buildings. A fragment from American Airlines Flight 11 is on display at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City.

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In July 2004, an independent, bipartisan commission on the 9/11 attacks released its report. The nearly 600-page document detailed how terrorists hijacked commercial aircraft to commit the attacks.

Video angle obstructs view of Flight 175

USA TODAY conducted a visual analysis of several architectural landmarks in the Instagram video and found it was most likely filmed from a position where the incoming plane was not visible.

The Southbridge Towers apartment complex, part of the Brooklyn Bridge and a building in the Sen. Robert F. Wagner Houses public housing complex are all visible in the foreground of the video.

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The original videographer most likely took the video of the second attack east of the World Trade Center while traveling southbound on FDR Drive. This position and the landmarks around it are visible on Google Earth.

Since Flight 175 struck the southwestern facade of the south tower, it's likely the plane would not have been visible to those watching from the east.

Our rating: False

The claim that planes were not used in the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center is FALSE, based on our research. Many news outlets filmed and photographed the plane hitting the south tower, and plane debris has been recovered from the area. A bipartisan commission report detailed how terrorists used planes to crash into the World Trade Center. The video is filmed from an angle opposite the collision, so the incoming plane is not visible.

Our fact check sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: 9/11 attack on World Trade Center wasn't 'false flag'