Saturday, February 13, 2010

World Trade Center pictures from above.


One thing I've never read about is why, before the towers collapsed, didn't someone try and land a helicopter on the roof? (The building with the antenna may have been problematical.) I believe there were stories of people who - trapped on floors above where the planes hit - ran up the stairway only to find the door at the top locked. I've often wondered if a helicopter and crew could have allowed those to get out of the building and be ferried to safety.

NOTE: The pictures shown are of the collapse, but surely there were helicopters in the area for the time period between impact and then.

UPDATE: Good answers in comments. Thanks!


Hovering a helicopter close to a building is very difficult and dangerous under the best of circumstances. In a situation like the Twin Towers, you get to add human panic to the equation and it becomes pretty much impossible.

Back in the 1970s, the Sao Paulo office building fire demonstrated pretty conclusively the need for aerial rescue capability above the range of ladders. Some minor research was started, but never really progressed. Later that same decade, the MGM Hotel fire in Las Vegas once again demonstrated the need for some sort of aerial rescue device. Programs were funded and some actual hardware built--including a rescue platform that could "fly" independently while tethered by a line long from a helicopter.

One thing that kept coming up, though, was the fact that people trapped on top of burning buildings tend to panic. They would stampede to any perceived rescue and be uncontrollable. So if you have a rescue platform that can carry, say, 10 people and you have 20 people trapped, you'll probably wind up with 14 or 15 who will climb aboard the platform no matter what you do. Your platform is now too heavy to lift, so it either stays put (dooming the people you wanted to rescue along with the platform operator), or your brave chopper pilot tries to lift it off, resulting in the platform and helicopter crashing (killing the load of rescuees, the platform operator and helicopter crew--and dooming those left on the building).

The technology exists to make aerial rescue platforms that could carry a dozen people to safety. The problem is what happens when you have more than a dozen trapped.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/13/2010 5:56 AM  

It's extremely difficult to pilot an aircraft over a fire- ask the people who fight brushfires in the west, and that's staying way above them to drop water, not trying to get close enough to land. The air currents from the combination of surrounding skyscrapers and from the fires probably kept away any pilot who thought about it.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/13/2010 8:46 AM  

was it normal for the door at the top to be locked?

i remember choppers flying near and close to the roofs that morning and being frustrated that nobody was being picked up.

on that day, i couldn't stop watching. now, i can't bear to look at any of it. i really resent blogs posting these images without warning with people logging on and getting hit with shock. ty for not doing that.

By Anonymous omen, at 2/13/2010 3:16 PM  

Also, the enormous fire would have a chimney effect -- a large unstable updraft of hot air coming from the tower. Any attempt to land would have likely resulted in a helicopter crash.

I've thought about that too -- whether there was any way to effect a rescue from the air. I was thinking something in the way of a zip wire, shot from above the fire level in each building to a window below the fire level in the other building. But then you would have to have the wire ready to deploy, and carry out a pretty spectacular operation in a very short time between the plane impact and building collapse.

There just wasn't enough time to do anything.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/13/2010 4:29 PM  

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