I submitted a comment to the AIAA Aerospace America Forum. It is a monitored forum, so they had to be OK with the submittal.
Posted 19 April 2010
A Responsibility to Explain an Aeronautical Improbability
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (Senior Executive Service - retired)
AIAA Associate Fellow
The airplane was UA175, a Boeing 767-200, shortly before crashing into World Trade Center Tower 2. Based on analysis of radar data, the National Transportation and Safety Board reported the groundspeed just before impact as 510 knots. This is well beyond the maximum operating velocity of 360 knots, and maximum dive velocity of 410 knots. The possibilities as I see them are: (1) this wasn’t a standard 767-200; (2) the radar data was compromised in some manner; (3) the NTSB analysis was erroneous; or (4) the 767 flew well beyond its flight envelope, was controllable, and managed to hit a relatively small target. Which organization has the greater responsibility for acknowledging the elephant in the room? The NTSB, NASA, Boeing, or the AIAA? Have engineers authored papers, but the AIAA or NASA won’t publish them? Or, does the ethical responsibility lie not with organizations, but with individual aeronautical engineers? Have engineers just looked the other way?