November 6, 2001
Captain Ray Lahr (ret.)
18254 Coastline Drive
Malibu, CA 90265
Daniel D. Campbell, Managing Director
National Transportation Safety Board
490 L’Enfant Plaza East, S.W.
Washington D.C., 20594-2000
Thank you for your letter of October 26, 2001, even though it again
denies my FOIA request to access your records pertaining to the zoom-climb of
TWA 800. The only reason that you
have put forward for denying my request continues to be the pretext that you
used information from Boeing that is considered to be “proprietary”, and
that Boeing will not allow you to disclose the information.
You have provided some papers to me that were purportedly sent to the
NTSB by Boeing, but all information had been carefully redacted. Also carefully
redacted were the identities of all parties within Boeing who I might contact
for confirmation of the origin of these documents, and who I might query
directly regarding Boeing’s opinion of the zoom-climb.
We do know that Boeing publicly denied any knowledge of the data and
conclusions used by the CIA in its nationally televised cartoon of the
zoom-climb. We also know that the
CIA received its data and conclusions from the NTSB. At any rate, for the
following reasons, my FOIA request for access to the NTSB records regarding the
zoom-climb still stands.
During my airline career, I was very active in ALPA safety matters from
1965 to 1985 when I retired. I
participated in all of United’s accident investigations during that period,
and as the ALPA Los Angeles Area Safety Coordinator, I also participated in
accident investigations for other airlines that occurred in southern California.
I got to know a lot of your good people very well during that period.
In all of that time, there was never a question of the NTSB withholding
evidence from the parties to the investigation. When it came time to interview
witnesses, all interested parties participated.
When it came time to determine the flight path and trajectories of the
wreckage, all interested parties participated.
And when it came to working with the manufacturers, Boeing and McDonnell
Douglas were open and cooperative in every case.
Perhaps you can understand my dismay with the TWA 800 investigation where
the interested parties were excluded from these activities.
A secret investigation is a meaningless investigation.
My particular interest in the TWA 800 accident pertains to the zoom-climb
hypothesized by the NTSB. In my
opinion, there is just no way a commercial aircraft can lose everything forward
of the wing and continue to fly long enough to climb 3,000 feet. The cockpit and
all control inputs were gone. The
center of gravity shifted so far aft that the aircraft immediately pitched up
past a full stall and became a freely falling object.
But for the moment, let us forget that this was a Boeing 747 shrouded in
“proprietary” secrecy. My
challenge to you and everyone on your staff is to show how any commercial
aircraft could have climbed 3,000 feet under those circumstances.
You pick the aircraft. When
any aircraft in balanced flight experiences an instantaneous shift in the
center-of-gravity from 21.1% MAC to 57.8% MAC, the pitch-up torque is
overwhelming. Where are the
aerodynamic forces that could nullify that torque and restrain the pitch-up long
enough to keep the wing in a flying attitude that could generate the lift
required to climb 3,000 feet?
If the NTSB can’t show how any commercial aircraft could have climbed
3,000 feet under the circumstances of this accident, then it is a tacit
admission that the NTSB has lied to the public and issued a false conclusion in
its accident report.
I look forward to your reply.