Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Something you may not have known-2

9/11 wasn't the first time New York City has experienced an airplane-skyscraper disaster.

On July 28, 1945, at 9:45 a.m., a B-25 bomber struck the 78th and 79th floors of the Empire State Building, in the fog, from the 34th Street side, at 300 mph. The impact separated one of the engines, which plummeted down an elevator shaft, starting a fire in the basement. (The two women inside the elevator car survived, as automatic emergency safety brakes slowed the dropping car before impact, the flaming engine on top of the car.)

The crash sent fiery debris clear through the building, igniting another building across the street. The plane itself exploded within the building.

Though it was a Saturday, WWII had caused a shift to a 6-day work week, and the building was still occupied by many workers. The crash killed 14 people (11 office workers and the 3 crewmen.) 26 others were injured.

Oddly, the last radio transmission from LaGuardia tower to the plane's pilot was, "From where I'm sitting, I can't see the top of the Empire State Building."


  1. No, it's true, I didn't know. But the building - it was just repaired? Not too severely damaged?

  2. I didn't know it and it's fascinating, thank you.

    Couple things to note.

    First, there is a distinct difference between being hit with a bomber (hopefully unloaded) massing a max of ~33,500 and carrying (best estimate) 1300 pounds of fuel (at 300 mph) and being struck by a 315.000 pound airplane all filled up with up to 64,000 pounds of fuel (with a cruising velocity nearly twice the B-25's).

    Secondly, it's important to understand that the way the Towers came down was a deliberate design feature and one the architects don't get enough credit for. Imagine if these huge tall buildings hadn't been designed to collapse on themselves and, instead,slammed over, taking out a big chunk of New York.

    No building is designed to handle a rocket blast (which this effectively was. Not even in Japan where they have volcanoes, tsunamis and earthquakes to deal with.

  3. Interesting stuff, man!

    I had no idea this had happened. Ironic last transmission, too.

  4. @Sheila - No, sadly the Empire State Building had to be totally demolished. :)

    I'm sorry. Couldn't resist.

    @Stephanie B - Yes, a B-25 is a very small bomber and even smaller in comparison to a modern airliner. I didn't know the towers were deliberately designed to collapse upon themselves. So the Empire State Building would have just keeled over sideways? That's a pretty cruddy thought. Not much chance of retrofitting it, though, I guess. Your information is interesting to me. Thank you for your comment.

    @Shakespeare - I'm starting to get into this disaster and little known facts thing. I may become another Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

    Or not. :)

  5. I don't know specifically the World Trade Centers were designed that way except (a) many tall buildings are designed that way so that demolishing has a nice small footprint without destroying nearby construction and (b) that is, indeed, how they came down.

    Given the amount of destruction contained in two fast moving planes (160 tons) and all that fuel, I think it's a testament to good engineering that the destruction was not more widespread.

  6. And that it took them so long to come down. If they hadn't held up so long with so much damage, the losses would have been so much worse.

    Except among emergency personnel who went into the buildings to try to get others out.

  7. I thought everyone knew about the Empire State bomber crash?

  8. Apparently not, Soubriquet. I freely admit my education has been lacking. I had no idea New York had suffered such extensive damage during the war.

  9. @Stephanie B - Well, they WERE designed that way. 'Cause they didn't just tip over.

    Actually, I think ANY tall building which collapses not because of impact but because of heat weakening it's girder framework would come straight down, and continue straight down due to the increasing weight. Then again...

    You are the rocket scientist, after all. And a pretty good poet, too, though the connection of poetry to building design is tenuous at best, I suppose. :)

    It was indeed fortunate that the heat took quite a while to weaken the girders, thus allowing many to escape. That much is for sure.

  10. @Soubriquet - Everybody knew except three people. And now they know too. :)

    @Sheila - I assure you I did not intend this post to infer the U.S. suffered great war damage at home as did the UK and Europe and many others. It was only a "curiosity" post. The war was over when it happened and the fact that the plane was a military one was incidental to the story. No, it wasn't war damage at all. Sorry if I implied a connection.



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