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2.2.1.1 Initial Damage From Aircraft Impact

American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north face of WTC 1 approximately between the 94th and 98th floors (Figures 2-13 and 2-14), causing massive damage to the north face of the building within the immediate area (Figure 2-15).


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Figure 2-13 Zone of aircraft impact on the north face of WTC 1.


At the central zone of impact corresponding to the airplane fuselage and engines, at least five of the prefabricated, three-column sections that formed the exterior walls were broken loose of the structure, and some were pushed inside the building envelope.


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Figure 2-15 Impact damage to the north face of WTC 1.


Locally, floors supported by these exterior wall sections appear to have partially collapsed, losing their support along the exterior wall. Away from this central zone, in areas impacted by the outer wing structures, the exterior columns were fractured by the force of the collision. Interpretation of photographic evidence suggests that from 31 to 36 columns on the north building face were destroyed over portions of a four-story range. Partial collapse of floors in this zone appear to have occurred over a horizontal length of wall of approximately 65 feet, while floors in other portions of the building appear to have remained intact. Figure 2-16 shows the damage to the exterior columns on the impacted face of WTC 1.


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General notes:

(1) column damage captured from photographs and enchanced video,

(2) Damage to column lines 111-115 at level 96 is estimated. 

Figure 2-16 Impact damage to exterior columns on the north face of WTC 1.


In addition to this damage at the building perimeter, a significant but undefined amount of damage also occurred to framing at the central core. For an estimate of the likely damage to the central core (by the University of California, Berkeley professor, Astaneh-Asl) see the article Microsoft Software Used To Simulate The Crash Of A Boeing 747 Into The World Trade Centre. This article claims that the damage caused by the much, much larger and heavier Boeing 747, in a collision with the World Trade Center, would be insufficient to bring the central core down. Interviews were conducted with persons who were present in offices on the 91st floor of the building at the north face of the structure, three floors below the approximate zone of impact. Their descriptions of the damage evident at this floor level immediately following the aircraft impact suggest relatively slight damage at the exterior wall of the building, but progressively greater damage to the south and east. They described extensive building debris in the eastern portion of the central core, preventing their access to the easternmost exit stairway. This suggests the possibility of immediate partial collapse of framing in the central core. These persons also described the presence of debris from collapsed partition walls from upper floors in stairways located further to the west, suggesting the possibility of some structural damage in the northwestern portion of the core framing as well. Figure 2-17 is a sketch made during an interview with building occupants indicating portions of the 91st floor that could not be accessed due to accumulated debris.


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Figure 2-17 Approximate debris location on the 91st floor of WTC 1.


It is known that some debris from the aircraft traveled completely through the structure. For example, life jackets and portions of seats from the aircraft were found on the roof of the Bankers Trust building, located to the south of WTC 2. Part of the landing gear from this aircraft was found at the corner of West and Rector Streets, some five blocks south of the WTC complex (Figure 2-18).


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Figure 2-18 Landing gear found at the corner of West and Rector Streets.


As this debris passed through the building, it doubtless caused some level of damage to the structure across the floor plate, including, potentially, interior framing, core columns, framing at the east, south, and west walls, and the floors themselves. The exact extent of this damage will likely never be known with certainty. It is evident that, despite this damage, the structure retained sufficient integrity and strength to remain globally stable for a period of approximately 1 hour and 43 minutes.

The building's structural system, composed of the exterior loadbearing frame, the gravity loadbearing frame at the central core, and the system of deep outrigger trusses in upper stories, was highly redundant. This permitted the building to limit the immediate zone of collapse to the area where several stories of exterior columns were destroyed by the initial impact and, perhaps, to portions of the central core as previously described. Following the impact, floor loads originally supported by the exterior columns in compression were successfully transferred to other load paths. Most of the load supported by the failed columns is believed to have transferred to adjacent perimeter columns through Vierendeel behavior of the exterior wall frame. This is not true. The extra vertical load on the perimeter columns would have distributed itself symmetrically around the perimeter frame (and would not have been concentrated on the adjacent columns). Preliminary structural analyses of similar damage to WTC 2 suggests that axial load demands on columns immediately adjacent to the destroyed columns may have increased by as much as a factor of 6 relative to the load state prior to aircraft impact. However, these exterior columns appear to have had substantial overstrength for gravity loads. Indeed, these exterior columns were designed to resist significant lateral loading and would have had more than sufficient capacity to resist this extra load.


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Figure 2-14 Approximate zone of impact of aircraft on the north face of WTC 1.


Neglecting the potential loss of lateral support resulting from collapsed floor slabs and any loss of strength due to elevated temperatures from fires, the most heavily loaded columns were probably near, but not over, their ultimate capacities. Columns located further from the impact zone are thought to have remained substantially below their ultimate capacities. The preliminary analyses also indicate that loss of the columns resulted in some immediate tilting of the structure toward the impact area (extremely unlikely) subjecting the remaining columns and structure to additional stresses from P-delta effects. Also, in part, exterior columns above the zone of impact were converted from compression members to hanger-type tension members, so that, in effect, a portion of the floors' weight became suspended from the outrigger trusses (Figure 2-10) and were transferred back to the interior core columns. The outrigger trusses also would have been capable of transferring some of the load carried by damaged core columns to adjacent core columns. Figure 2-19 illustrates these various secondary load paths. Section 2.2.2.2 provides a more detailed description of these analyses and findings. The above paragraph is mainly nonsense. The building was in fact unlikely to have been stressed any more than it would have been in a hurricane force wind.


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Figure 2-19 Redistribution of load after aircraft impact.


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The resulting load distribution after the aircraft impact would have been almost identical to the load distribution incurred by strong wind from the back (i.e., from behind the plane of the page) as in the above graphic. Following the aircraft impact into the building, the structure was able to successfully redistribute the building weight to the remaining elements and to maintain a stable condition. This return to a stable condition is suggested by the preliminary analyses and also evidenced by the fact that the structure remained standing for 1 hour and 43 minutes following the impact. However, the structure's global strength was severely degraded. Although the structure may have been able to remain standing in this weakened condition for an indefinite period, it had limited ability to resist additional loading and could potentially have collapsed as a result of any severe loading event, such as that produced by high winds or earthquakes. WTC 1 probably experienced some additional loading and damage due to the collapse of the adjacent WTC 2. The extent of such damage is not known but likely included broken window and facade elements along the south face. This additional damage was not sufficient to cause collapse. The first event of sufficient severity to cause collapse was the fires that followed the aircraft impact.



2.2 Building Response | 11 сентября 2001 | 2.2.1.2 Fire Development