I ran across an interesting set of post-9/11 photos and I noticed this picture in particular:

enter image description here

The closest item on the truck looks a bit like an airplane engine, but I can't tell for sure. Is it one of the engines from the 9/11 aircraft?


5 Answers 5


They are definitely not jet engines. They look more like electric motors or generators or blower units or something.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ yeah, that was my impression too. Way too solidly constructed, what OP probably thinks are fan blades aren't, they look to be non-moving structural parts. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 4:30
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    $\begingroup$ I'm guessing that those are actually elevator motors. In fact Google Image Search provides some very similar results and apparently one exists that you can go see at the memorial museum. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ The windings are a dead giveaway that the one on the right is a rotor from an electric motor/generator (which are essentially the same thing used differently). Also, the "fan blades" are actually fan blades, but they rotate together with the rest of the rotor. They're there to force air through the rotor to cool the windings. $\endgroup$
    – TooTea
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 16:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Also, jet engine cores don't have cylindrical casings. The diameter changes along the length. $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 17:08

It's too big and too intact.

In a turbofan engine, you see the fan upfront. The casing (nacelle) surrounding the engine would not survive. And the remaining core that runs the engine is much smaller compared to the fan and engine, in diameter and length, respectively.

For comparison, this is the remaining core from the 737 Max crash in Ethiopia (lower-right corner):

enter image description here


These are very large electric motors, used in HVAC plants or water distribution, probably. Or possibly main generators out of a diesel gen-set.

They are very dense and tough by design, though certainly beat to snot; they may have been inside a building that collapsed. They are on the trailer together because they are going a scrapper who specializes in hacking copper out of motors. Copper is worth $4-8 a kilo depending on market. They use copper for such windings because copper has the best conductivity per volume, for more efficient use of the magnetic fields.

Such a thing is far too heavy and dense to be any part of any airplane. Generally speaking, copper's density works against it in aviation applications; aluminum delivers the same conductivity at almost half the weight (although at nearly double the volume, but volume is not as important as weight).

  • 18
    $\begingroup$ The density of interesting facts in this answer is exceptional. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 19:38
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    $\begingroup$ "They may have been inside a building that collapsed": they were inside one of the World Trade Center towers when it collapsed. The building in the background is the former New York Telephone Company Building, which occupies the block bounded by West St., Barclay St., Washington St., and Vesey St. $\endgroup$
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 4:10

Those are Elevator shaft motors, they're wound for high starting torque, not like most pump motors.

Here is one of the motors from 2 other angles. It's on exhibit at the 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial & Museum.

Photo 1 (Source "More Than Route 66" blog):

Next to the radio tower was an elevator shaft motor also recovered from the rubble. The motor was most likely from one of the express or service elevators from inside the north tower.

angle 1

Photo 2 (Source Edward Stojakovic):

9/11 Memorial Museum - Elevator Motor

Angle 2


Unlike many of the others who have responded here, I have relatively little expertise in identifying motors and wouldn't be able to distinguish a pump motor from a high-torque lift motor at a glance.

I'm not even very expert when it comes to jet engines.

However, I do think that one reasonably reliable heuristic is this: if it appears to be attached to a large block of concrete, it is almost certainly not part of an airliner.

On that basis I think I can say with confidence that these are not jet engines.

  • $\begingroup$ This may well be the most convincing evidence of all! Thanks for pointing out the obvious that none of the rest of us saw. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 14:08
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    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan: Not to take away from the observation, but OP only inquired about the closest item, not all three. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 15:11

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