Associated Retired Aviation Professionals
Post Office Box 90, Clements, Maryland 20624 USA

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


Dear Mr. Campbell:

            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.


Ray Lahr

Open letter

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