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First struck seconds to fall { February 24 2002 }

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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 04:31 GMT
Plane speeds 'explain WTC collapse'

By the BBC's Oliver Conway
New calculations by US scientists suggest the second plane to hit the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September had been flying nearly 160 km/h (100 mph) faster than the first plane.

The analysis was made by researchers looking at why the South Tower collapsed more than 20 minutes before the North Tower, even though it was hit second.

No one will ever forget watching the two airliners flying into the World Trade Center and then the towers collapsing one by one - but in reverse order to that in which they were hit.

Now two studies suggest that could have been because the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, was flying much faster than the first, American Airlines Flight 11.

Eduardo Kausle, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the BBC that analysis of video footage suggested the second plane was flying at 865 km/h (537 mph), more than a 160 kph faster than the first.

Angle of attack

The New York Times says figures calculated by radar data agree, although with both speeds higher.

It says an official from the makers of the plane, Boeing, said the second one had been moving so fast - exceeding the emergency dive speed - that it risked breaking up as it made a final turn towards the World Trade Center.

Professor Kausle said that the higher speed would have increased the severity of the initial impact, and therefore contributed to the tower's collapse.

But, he said, other factors were also important, including that the South Tower was struck about 15 floors lower than the North, and the way that the second plane hit at an angle.

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