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The Plane That Crashed Into The Empire State

Empire State Crash The fall of the World Trade Center on 9.11.2001: a tragic and well-known event to all of us. And how can it not be? An aircraft crashing into an enormous skyscraper is no ordinary event, and it cannot be forgotten in a matter of few years, so how come most people who read about an aircraft which rammed into the world’s second-tallest building seem surprised? A rather peculiar fact in this story is that terror had nothing to do with it- the aircraft which hit the Empire State was American. This is how it all happened:

In a foggy Saturday morning on July 28, 1945, a single B-25D (“Mitchell”) bomber with three men onboard was on its way from Bedford to Newark airport to pick up the pilot’s commanding officer. The pilot, Lt. Colonel William Smith- a 27 year old combat veteran, decided to pass over the New York Municipal Airport in Queens (today called LaGuardia Airport) to ask for a weather report. The airport’s tower decided that flying in the dense fog was too dangerous, and asked William to land. However, William chose to go on, and received permission from the military to continue to Newark, so he kept on flying, with a warning from the tower, saying that it can't see the top of the Empire State Building.

Empire State Crash Over Manhattan, minutes away from destination, William decided to lower his altitude in order to regain visibility. By flight rules, his altitude should have been at least 610 meters (2000 foot), but he lowered the aircraft to less than half that height. He soon found himself flying between Manhattan’s tall skyscrapers, in a collision course towards the New York Central Building! At the last second, he made a turn to the west, followed by a turn to the south at the 42nd street - 5th Avenue intersection. The sight of the B-25 maneuvering between the skyscrapers was uncatchable, some people were actually high enough to see it flying below them, by their building. William was still half-blind because of the fog, and all of a sudden, the tallest building in the world (than it was the Empire State) appeared in front of him! He started pulling up, hoping to bank away, but it was too late, and his velocity was too big! In approximately 9:49, the B-25 plunged into the 78th and 79th floors of the skyscraper- about 295 m (975 ft) above ground level, shaking the building and creating a hole in the building 5.5 m (18 ft) wide and 6.1 m (20 ft) high. The plane's high-octane fuel exploded, releasing a 30 m (100 ft) high fireball, hurtling flames down the side of the building and inside through hallways and stairwells all the way down to the 75th floor. One of the B-25's engines fell down an elevator shaft and set off a major fire in the basement. The other engine hurtled across the building and fell onto a twelve-story building across 33rd Street. The debris crashed through the roof of a thirteen-story building across the street where another fire erupted. Other heavy wreckage, including the landing gear, also caused damage to the Empire State.

The toll of the disaster was 14 deaths, 26 people injured, 1 million dollar damage, and 3 months of repairs. If it wouldn’t have happened in Saturday, but in a regular business day, the disaster would have grown tenfold. Luckily, the B-25 did not carry any bombs, and it weighed only a little above 10 tons. In comparison, the twin towers were hit by 15 times heavier airplanes, carrying (up to 35 times) more fuel, releasing energy that’s 600 times bigger than the B-25’s crash, and penetrating deep inside before exploding.