Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sen. Edward Kennedy’s Plane Downed by Lightning?

I heard on the news last night that Sen. Edward Kennedy, brother of JFK and RFK, was alright after his plane was struck by lightning. According to the initial AP report, after the lightning struck,
The eight-seat Cessna Citation 550 plane lost all electrical power, including communications, and the pilot had to fly the plane manually, according to spokeswoman Melissa Wagoner.
This story didn’t make sense to me. Planes fly through lightning all the time. Planes get hit by lightning about once a year. Tony Blair has twice been in planes that were hit by lightning.

The last time a plane in the USA came down because of lightning was over 40 years ago, before President Kennedy was assassinated:
On December 8, 1962 lighting hit a Pan American Boeing 707 in a holding pattern over Elkton, Md. The lightning caused a spark that ignited fuel vapor in a tank, causing an explosion that brought the plane down, killing all 81 aboard.
Lightning has downed planes outside the United States, but I am having trouble finding a report of a plane that lost all its power. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility – few things in life are. But it would seem to be out of the range of probability.

Just last week, lightning struck a twin-engine Piper Seminole aircraft over Australia, and the plane had to make an emergency landing. But it only lost control of the landing gear. There was no catastrophic electrical failure.

Why isn't lighting more of an issue? According to this government site,
The key to a plane's protection is its aluminium skin which conducts the electricity away, says John Sherlock, of lightning protection company Furse.

"If the lightning goes in the front of the plane, it then travels along the outer aluminium skin and exits the other end," he says. "Quite a few planes get hit, but because they're made of aluminium, it goes in one end and out the other."

...Strikes usually hit on the extremities - the wing tips, the nose, fin or tailplane tips.
Typically, the electricity from lightning strikes is conducted across the skin of the plane, meaning, the electricity does not penetrate into the interior, which is why so often little to no damage occurs. It’s the same reason you’re safer in your car in a lightning storm than you are in open air. The metal shell conducts the electricity around, not into, your body.

Lightning can, of course, create electrical problems. According a goverment site called The Centennial of Flight,
Lightning does hit airplanes and when it does it can damage the electronic equipment needed to fly the plane. Lightning research done during the 1980s by NASA had an F-106B jet fly into 1,400 thunderstorms and lightning hit it over 700 times. The lightning did not damage the airplane but scientists found out that it could damage electronic systems on the plane. This led to requirements that all aircraft electrical and electronic systems have built-in lightning protection.
To reiterate - since electrical storms can cause damage, planes today are required to have built-in lightning protection. So why did the protection in Kennedy's plane fail?

There is undoubtely an answer to that question. There is also probably an honest answer to that question. My belief in whether the two are the same will depend on the rigor of the investigation, or lack thereof, that comes next.

Putting on my most skeptical hat, I am pondering an alternate scenario. Now that Wellstone is gone, Ted Kennedy is one of most liberal/progressive Senators in Congress. He’s been a strong advocate of investigating the details of the NSA spying activities. Just two days ago, he issued this strong, unequivocal statement :
Today's shocking disclosures make it more important than ever for the Republican Congress to end its complicity in the White House cover up of its massive domestic surveillance program. When three major telephone companies are supplying the administration with records of all Americans regardless of any hint of wrongdoing, Congress can't look the other way. The Senate and House Judiciary Committees have a constitutional responsibility to get answers. If the telephone companies and individuals in the administration with knowledge of this abusive surveillance refuse to testify voluntarily, they should be subpoenaed and required to testify under oath.

It's time for the White House to come clean. The American people deserve to know what's being done to them. They deserve a Congress that's not AWOL on basic issues like this.
Would it not be convenient for the Republican Power Cabal if Kennedy were to die in a small plane crash, like Senators Wellstone and Mel Carnahan before him? Now don’t get me wrong – I hope and pray this would never happen. But had Wellstone lived, the Republicans would not have had control of the Senate. Had Carnahan lost, John Ashcroft would have been the Senator from Mississippi. As it was, “the dead guy won” – it was too late to take Carnahan’s name off the ballot, and his wife stepped in and served in his place when the dead Carnahan bested Ashcroft in the Senate race.

With the strongest leader on the left in the party out of the picture, how much simpler it would be to make the NSA scandal disappear?

I was struck by the fact that the plane lost ALL electrical power. That sounded to me like an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). I wondered if a particle beam weapon could cause an EMP. According to this military site, it can:
A tertiary effect from the beam would be the generation of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) by the electric current pulse of the beam. This EMP would be very disruptive to any electronic components of a target.
This site also describes how particle beam weapons can fry electrical circuits at a distance:
In the case of a particle beam traveling through an atmosphere, the air is the conductor and the charged beam is the current. This ‘current’ produces a magnetic field perpendicular to the beam, which acts like a tunnel keeping the beam from diverging. A very useful byproduct is also produced when a beam of charged particles is fired through the atmosphere at very high velocity in a very short pulse; it’s called an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. The EMP is actually created by the magnetic field created by the ‘current’ through the air. An EMP destroys electrical circuits by passing a magnetic field by them in one direction, and then back in the other direction in a very short period of time. Since the beam is only present for a few nanoseconds, the magnetic field is produced and then collapses within that timer period creating a focused EMP. This EMP would render anything powered by a computer or any other electrical circuit useless within a couple meters of impact.
So I wondered, could such a beam get past the skin of the aircraft to affect the internal components? According to this military source, it can:
The subatomic particles that constitute a beam have great penetrating power. Thus, interaction with the target is not restricted to surface effects, as it is with a laser. When impinging upon a target, a laser creates a blow-off of target material that tends to enshroud the target and shield it from the laser beam. Such beam/target interaction problems would not exist for the particle beam with its penetrating nature. Particle beams would be quite effective in damaging internal components….
So what I want to know is this? Was Kennedy’s plane truly fried by lightning, was that the true cause of this unusual event, or was that a lie to cover up a much more sinister scenario? I truly don’t know. And I'd like to be able to know. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying anything other than lightning brought down Kennedy’s plane. I’m not. Read and repeat until comprehension occurs. The latter is just a wild speculation.

But it occurs to me if something other than lightning was responsible, we might never know. So far as I can tell, the media accepted without question the explanation provided. Maybe that was appropriate. But where an office-holding Kennedy is concerned, perhaps a little thinking outside of the box might be a useful endeavor for the mainstream media. If you won't consider an alternative scenario, you can’t ask the questions that could rule that out.

Is it wrong to wonder? It’s certainly sad that I have come to so deeply mistrust all reporting on the Kennedys by the media. But I have good reason. I’ve spent over 14 years studying the assassinations of the John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. And then there aas John Kennedy, Jr.

On July 16, 1999, I awoke early, turned on CNN, and saw a news report saying John Kennedy Jr.’s plane was “missing.” No one knew at that point if he was alive or dead or where the plane was. I sat up and felt my jaw drop to the pain my stomach. Nooooo. Not another Kennedy gone. I watched, trying to memorize every word, knowing it could matter in the hours and weeks and years that followed. Because his plane was only missing, the tone of the broadcast was cautious, and it wasn’t the sole story on the air. The news story was followed by the weather report. The weather person made a special point of talking about the weather in the area of the plane’s disappearance, noting how clear it was that night and morning, and the weatherwoman said words to the effect, that, whatever else had happened, “we can definitely rule out weather as the cause” of the plane’s disappearance.

So you can imagine my dismay when, hours later, I heard the story morph, based on a single report from a pilot who was never named that it had been foggy out, and that JFK Jr. must have lost his way. I was so angry. The fact that someone felt the need to lie about that gave me the most sinister, horrible, feeling. I bawled that morning. Truly sobbed. It had happened again. Another Kennedy taken from us.

Maybe it really was some horrible accident. But why change the weather if it was just an accident? Those are the kinds of things that keep me up at night.

And what about the “flash in the sky” report? Here’s the relevant section from the original UPI story:
A reporter for the Vineyard Gazette newspaper told WCVB-TV in Boston that he was out walking Friday night about the time of the crash and saw [a]"big white flash in the sky" off Philbin Beach.
At the time, I had just finished writing an article about a CIA operative who told the Church Committee that he was the guy who shot UN Secretary Dag Hammerskjold’s plane out of the sky for the CIA. He was asked to list six executive actions (E.A.’s), and this one was the one that bothered him the most. (Hammarskjold was backing Patrice Lumumba at the time the CIA was trying to kill Lumumba. The CIA viewed Hammarskjold as standing in the way of their, i.e. the business interests of America’s, control of the mineral-rich regions in the Congo.) In a letter to the Church Committee (source: Church Committee files, not online), Culligan wrote:
The E.A. involving Hammarskjold was a bad one. I did not want the job. Damn it, I did not want the job.... I intercepted D.H’s trip at Ndola, No. Rhodesia (now Zaire). Flew from Tripoli to Abidjian to Brazzaville to Ndola, shot the airplane, it crashed, and I flew back, same way.... I went to confession after Nasser and I swore I would never again do this work. And I never will.
I don't know whether Culligan was telling the truth or not. I only know that the notion of a plane being shot down was very much on my mind at the time John Kennedy Jr.’s plane went down.

It was also nearly three years to the day when TWA Flight 800 had gone down in nearly the same area on July 17, 1996. Many researchers who have looked into that case have concluded that the official story is a lie, and that a missile brought the plane down.

So what should we make of the incident with Ted Kennedy? There are three possibilities: 1)the official story is 100% true; or 2) the official story is partly true, but incomplete - lightning did the damage, but only because the lightning protection had been compromised; or 3) The official story is false, and something other than lightning caused the total power failure.

I’m not trying to inject a wild conspiracy theory here. I’m trying to show that there are other possible explanations, and we should be able to rule them out satisfactorily before we simply accept the first explanation given. If journalists thought more like conspiracy theorists, they would do a better job. They’d ask the questions necessary to confirm or dispel forever such notions.

I heard at one point an unconfirmed report that Ted Kennedy was supposed to be on Paul Wellstone’s plane when it crashed, but that Kennedy, for whatever reason, had chosen to fly separately. (Kennedy was in the state campaigning for Wellstone, and early reports indicated that Kennedy may have been on the plane. Fortunately, he wasn’t.)

What is it with Ted Kennedy and planes?

Ted Kennedy nearly lost his life in a plane crash in 1964, less than a year after his brother had been assassinated. (Two others on the plane did die, and Kennedy’s back was broken.) The famous Senator has also been detained at the airport when his name turned up, inexplicably, on a Homeland Security terrorist watchlist. Even as a United States Senator, and an extremely famous one at that, it took Kennedy several weeks to get the matter straightened out. (He feared for the rest of us, who are not as famous or powerful.) And ironically, Ted's oldest brother Joe died when his plane exploded due to electrical emissions.

The peril of combining politics with small planes was not lost on Rep. Sherrod Brown’s wife:

When Rep. Sherrod Brown proposed to Connie Schultz, she accepted with one condition: If the Ohio Democrat ever ran for statewide office, he must vow never to fly on small private planes.

"I said, 'I'm not going to marry you and have you go down on one of those planes,' " Schultz said.
Planes and politics are unfortunate bedfellows. Given that flying in small ones is a necessary part of politics, we should always press for complete and honest investigations of any incident that robs us, or could have robbed us, of our vote.

That's what happens when a politician is killed in the line of duty. Our vote becomes negated.

We should care. We must care. We must ask the difficult questions and try to get honest answers as to what happened in such cases. I'm not convinced that's been done in this case yet.


Blogger nascarblue said...

excellent job. Why isn't this article being carried on or some similar site? I've been reading the news and blogs all day and this is the first I've heard of this story. I am absolutely convinced that this is an EMP weapon, possibly HAARP based. Check out for more...

10:35 PM  
Blogger Blog Sinister said...

Politicians and generals would be well advised to avoid traveling by small aircraft under any circumstances, as this excellent compilation makes clear

2:49 AM  

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