Cmdr. William S. Donaldson, III - USN, Ret.
Aviation Mishap Analyst
P.O. Box 90, Clements, Maryland 20624
Web site:

May 17, 1999

The Honorable John J. Duncan
Chairman, Subcommittee on Aviation
Committee on Infrastructure and Transportation
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20000

Dear Chairman Duncan,

First, I want to personally thank you for the opportunity to address the Subcommittee during the NTSB Reauthorization hearing on May 6, 1999. I sincerely applaud your courage, fairness and courtesy.  I recognize the pressure you were under to deny my access.  Members whose staffs are totally dependent on the NTSB for technical guidance surely viewed my appearance with as much enthusiasm as a loose cannon on deck.  It was truly a learning experience and was helpful to our investigation.

I ask that your staff enter into the written testimony this letter in its entirety to correct and amplify the record.

Mr. Traficant's statements and questions:
While I find Mr. Traficant's histrionic and sometimes bombastic style very entertaining, considering the seriousness of the attack on Flight 800, factual distortions demand redress.  In statements on the record and again repeated in a two page press release on May 6, 1999, Mr. Traficant repeatedly refers to "His 10 month probe", and "His 10 month investigation".  As far as I can tell, Mr. Traficant's total participation in that probe was limited to an interview with Major Meyers and a four hour discussion with me, followed by a nine month twenty-nine day hiatus that ended when he signed his nineteen page report that the NTSB staff sent to him, approved for signature.

I know this because I was called by Frank Murray of the Washington Times when the NTSB gleefully leaked the report to him before it was signed.  Mr. Marcone, Mr. Traficant's Washington office chief staffer, press liaison and only staff "prober" admitted to me he submitted the report to the NTSB before it went to Mr. Traficant.

In summary, Mr. Traficant's 10 month probe consisted of two trips to Long Island by Mr. Marcone to visit his parents interrupted by side trips for a VIP Calverton Hanger tour, a short visit with the Medical Examiner and a visit with a few helicopter and C130 crewman.

Mr. Marcone was Congressman Traficant's sole investigator and he had neither interest, spare time, or aircrash credentials for those duties. Consequently, I wrote most of the questions in the few letters that Mr. Trafficant's office sent to the NTSB and the FBI.

Mr. Marcone attended solo, closed door meetings with the NTSB Senior Staff, replete with an entourage of NTSB attorneys. Mr. Marcone seemed to lose his desire to press on after these meetings and my forcing the FBI to admit, through Traficant's questions, that they closed down the Flight 800 investigation without identifying a high speed boat underneath Flight 800 when it exploded. I then made every effort to achieve phone contact with Mr. Traficant, leaving urgent messages at all three of his offices without success. 

The fact is, until Mr. Traficant's denunciation of my investigation before your Subcommittee, May 6, 1999, I had no contact whatsoever with him since our first and only meeting in the Fall of 1997. Mr. Traficant timed the release of his report to you immediately before we submitted our 106 page Interim Report to the Subcommittee in July 1998.

His fact-less report is nothing more than a "good old boy, trust me on this one" personal opinion and tribute to the NTSB.  It appears to be designed for the singular purpose of discrediting our effort at exposure of the facts.

Mr. Traficant's Objectivity:
In 1983 Federal prosecutors indicted and tried Mr. Traficant on charges that while running for and occupying the office of Mahoning, Ohio county Sheriff, he took bribes totaling $163,000 from both the Pittsburgh and Cleveland factions of the Mafia. 

Despite the fact that prosecutors had a signed confession and two extensive wire taps of Traficant's meeting with mobsters in which he openly discussed laundering of the bribe money, Mr. Traficant was acquitted. In 1987, Federal authorities convicted Traficant in a civil procedure for failing to pay income tax on the bribes.

Far more pertinent to this hearing and Mr. Traficant's attack on my judgment is the fact that on 30 March 1998, Traficant's district director since 1985, Charles O'Nesti, pled guilty to two felonies related to his involvement with local mob boss Lenny Strollo.

The same week of the NTSB TWA Flight 800 Public Hearing in December 1997, the Justice Department indicted Strollo on murder for hire, gambling and other charges. They also indicted 29 others and very publicly released affidavits that alleged O'Nesti conspired with Strollo to violate laws pertaining to racketeering, gambling, obstruction of law enforcement, extortion, and mail and wire fraud. 

Immediately preceding the crackdown on politicians in Youngstown, the FBI had arrested TWA's senior crash investigator, captain Terrell Stacey and journalist, James Sanders.

On December 17, 1997, the headlines in the Vindicator (Youngstown, Ohio) read, "FBI: TRAFICANT AID IS LIASION FOR MOB!"

Mr. Chairman, I don't believe in coincidences. Mr. Traficant was the only congressman that publicly challenged the Administration's nonsense mechanical failure theory and actively supported my investigation with a strong desire to prove the FBI was not being truthful. However, beginning with the indictment of Mr. O'Nesti, Mr. Traficant had a sudden and severe change of heart.

Had I been aware of any of the above facts, Mr. Traficant would not have been allowed to participate in our investigation.

I am very uncomfortable with the timing of Mr. Traficant's betrayal of our investigation coincidental to the targeting of his senior aide in Youngstown by the Justice Department. At that point, I had severely embarrassed the FBI by publishing some of their lies and was soon to discover the fact they dropped the Flight 800 case without identifying the boat nearest Flight 800 that witnesses implicate as the shooter.

Considering the past, it is not unreasonable to assume that the Congressman was also under suspicion. Mr. O'Nesti's 12-page affidavit is still under seal by Justice.

This Justice Department brutalized the Stacey Family and the Sanders Family as well as threatened Obstruction of Justice prosecutions of other prominent airline captains and private citizens solely to prevent disclosure of facts relating to the investigation of Flight 800. Forcing Mr. Traficant to discredit our investigation would precisely fit the FBI's past pattern of behavior. 

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I would respectfully ask you to have Congressman Traficant recuse himself from any further Public pronouncements or business covering the investigation into the loss of TWA Flight 800.

Mr. Traficant's Factual Errors:
Virtually nothing Congressman Traficant said in your Committee Hearing was true, but as you are aware, Representatives are immune to charges of actionable slander. However, I must address one of the serious misstatements of Mr. Traficant that was not rebutted in the final minute of my testimony.

Part of the myth generated by Mr. Hall, repeated by Mr. Traficant and conveyed by NTSB Public Relations to the media, is their contention that there are no evidentiary holes in the aircraft that would support a finding of a missile impact. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The only written report generated by the few military missile experts who were finally allowed to look at the aircraft was the engineering snapshot done by Mr. Bott of the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Systems Command. This report is available on my web site at

A careful reading of his report shows that if a missile, flying a course opposite the aircraft, impacted on the leading edge of the left wing root, it would first shatter the aluminum honeycomb outside aerodynamic fairing. [Hence the reason shattered fairing parts were found in the early debris field.] 

The missile would then penetrate the forward spar, which composes the forward wall of the six-foot tall number two main fuel tank. [Hence, there is a 45 square foot hole of missing metal in the forward spar at precisely that point.] 

The missile would then explode in the fuel. The deep fuel of the number two main tank, 700 times denser than air, would trap warhead fragments. [Hence, the military's recommendation to detonate these warheads in a full inboard tank.] 

The combined effect of kinetic missile body energy and warhead detonation would hydraulically shock the entire left wing and center tank system, providing an overload perhaps 10 times that required for catastrophic failure. [Hence, the shattered common sidewall between the number two main tank and the center wing tank, 70% of that wall remains unidentified.] 

Mr. Bott outlined 4 specific extensive damage criteria of hydraulic ram overpressurization expected from such a missile impact. These effects would not be seen in any mechanical failure or natural air disaster. All four criteria are very strongly in evidence on the left wing / center tank. [Hence, the military recommendation to fire live shoulder fired missiles at inboard main tanks.]

An extremely reliable source has informed us that the FBI has a witness who precisely described a MANPADS engagement that terminated with missile impact on the left wing root. [Hence, the Top Secret handling of witness names, locations and statements.]

A more detailed assessment of Mr. Traficant's "Report" will follow under separate cover. 

Aviation Subcommittee Absenteeism
Candidly, the most disturbing aspect of my appearance before the Aviation Subcommittee was not Mr. Lipinski's attempt to defend the President, suggesting he need only bomb Iran to get re-elected, nor even the flamboyant verbal ambush by Mr. Traficant. The most disturbing, was the complacency of the forty-six members who declined to even attend. Consequently, I have a much clearer understanding as to how a 50 member oversight body can reach the convoluted position of publicly praising a politically appointed government board that didn't even follow Title 49 or any semblance of air-crash protocol in a failed $40,000,000, three year investigation.

Executive Briefing
Mr. Chairman, I have successfully briefed retired 4 star admirals, 4 star generals and Dr. Vernon Gross, a past NTSB Board member. Given a week's notice, I could provide an executive brief for you and any other interested member.

I am at your service.


Cmdr. William S. Donaldson, III USN Ret.
The Honorable Slade Gorton

Unites States Senate

The Honorable Orrin Hatch
Unites States Senate

The Honorable Charles Grassley
Unites States Senate

The Honorable Henry J. Hyde
U. S. House of Representatives

The Honorable Porter J. Goss
U. S. House of Representatives

District Attorney James M. Catterson, Jr.
Suffolk County Office of the District Attorney

Mr. Philip M. Condit
The Boeing Company

Mr. Jerry L. Gitner
Trans World Airlines

The Editor
The Vindicator

J. Bruce Maffeo
Attorney at Law
Col. Sommeres

Air Attaché, Embassy of France

Gen. Bernardis
Air Attaché, Embassy of Italy

Gen. Avi Barber
Air Attaché, Embassy of Israel

Adm. Jay Johnson
Chief of Naval Operations

Adm. G. W. Prueher
Commander in Chief, Pacific

Vadm. W. J. Fallon
Commander, Second Fleet

Vadm. H. E. Browne
Commander, Third Fleet

The Families of TWA Flight 800
P.O. Box 1061, Clifton Park, NY 12065