Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

Captain Ray Lahr (ret.)                               June 18, 2001
18254 Coastline Drive
Malibu, CA  90265

Mr. Daniel D. Campbell, Managing Director
National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, D.C. 20594

Dear Mr. Campbell:

             This letter is in response to your letter of June 13, 2001, which denied my appeal for certain information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) #2001-0048.  Mr. Campbell, the NTSB has made the ridiculous claim that TWA 800 climbed several thousand feet with the nose blown off.  The NTSB refuses to reveal how it computed that climb. That climb has not been verified by independent parties.  Now you refuse to comply with the FOIA when information is sought regarding the climb.

            I submit that this is not the right way to conduct an accident investigation.

You assert that Boeing will not allow you to release data about the B-747, yet you have already published the pertinent data from Boeing in your own report.  That data plus the laws of aerodynamics demonstrates that TWA 800 couldn’t possibly have made the climb claimed by the NTSB and the CIA (the data and conclusions used by the CIA came from the NTSB).  Now if the NTSB has discovered some new law of aerodynamics, then the world deserves to know  about it.

            Let me explain the aerodynamic principles in simple terms.  Here is the Boeing data that the NTSB released to the public:

        Parameter                  Before Nose Separation            After Nose Separation

  Gross Weight (lbs)                       574000                                       494606
      C.G. %MAC                               21.1                                            57.8

       Iyy slug-ft^2                         27790000.0                                  15780000.0

       Ixx slug-ft^2                         19110000.0                                  18970000.0

                                    CARDINAL RULE NUMBER ONE 
                In order for an airplane to fly, the airplane must be in balance.

         Think of the airplane as a teeter-totter, or as the balance scales held by the Goddess of Justice.  The balance point is the center-of-lift (C.L.) where the upward force of the wing is located.  The center-of-gravity (C.G.)  is located ahead of the C.L. and it is trying to pull the nose down. It has a short lever arm. The horizontal stabilizer at the other end of the balance is trying to pull the tail down. It has a long lever arm. These forces must be in balance both vertically and rotationally in order for the aircraft to fly straight and level.

            Before nose separation, the gross weight of 574,000 lbs was pulling down at 1.3 ft (21.1% MAC) ahead of the C.L.  The nose-down torque was 748,000 ft-lbs.  The horizontal stabilizer was pulling down with a force of 6,800 lbs at 110 ft behind the C.L.  The nose-up torque was also 748,000 ft-lbs. The wing’s upward force  was 580,800 lbs.

            Look what happened when the 79,394 lb nose was blown off.  After nose separation, the C.G. of the remaining gross weight of 494,606 lbs shifted to a point 11 ft behind the C.L. (57.8% MAC).  Now instead of the gross weight producing a nose-down torque of 748,000 lbs, the gross weight was producing a nose-up torque of 5,445,000 ft-lbs.  The horizontal stabilizer was still producing a nose-up torque of 746,000 ft-lbs.  The combined nose-up torque was 6,193,000 ft-lbs. That is an enormous amount of torque.

            How long did it take for the aircraft to stall and fall out of the sky? Using Boeing’s Iyy of 15,780,000 slug-ft^2, the nose-up acceleration was 22.5 degrees/sec^2. Using that acceleration, it only took 1.5 seconds to pitch up to 25 degrees and the rate was still accelerating.  At 25 degrees, the wing was essentially stalled.

            How much could the aircraft have climbed in 1.5 seconds?  Assume generously that the wing with half of its center box structure blown away was still strong enough to pull 5 times the force of gravity.  In 1.5 seconds, the aircraft might have climbed 180 feet, and then it was in free fall.  The aircraft never even reached the top of the fireball.  The credible eyewitnesses saw the wreckage fall downward out of the fireball.

            Boeing disavowed the climb scenario in a public statement issued the day the CIA cartoon was shown on national television. “Boeing was not involved in the production of the video shown today, nor have we had the opportunity to obtain a copy or fully understand the data used to create it… The video’s explanation of the eyewitness observations can best be assessed by the eyewitnesses themselves.” 

            The whole purpose of an accident investigation is to openly debate all of the evidence so that the best probable cause can be determined.  That purpose  was defeated in the case of TWA 800 when one person within the NTSB, Dennis Crider, worked independently of the other interested parties to the investigation.  The only climb data Mr. Crider has revealed is the Boeing table above.  Mr. Crider’s calculations have never been verified by an independent party.  The conclusions reached by Mr. Crider are contradicted by accepted aerodynamic principles. 

            How did Mr. Crider get from the data in the Boeing table to the climb claimed by the CIA and the NTSB?  I have sought this information directly from Jim Hall, Dennis Crider, Bernard Loeb, and Jim Ritter. Under the FOIA, I have contacted Melba Moye and now you.  You are all hiding behind the pretext that Boeing won’t let you release the data. No documentation has been offered to confirm that Boeing has made any objections.  The above public statement by Boeing indicates that it is unaware of any data that would support such a climb. Furthermore, weight and balance information, stall characteristics, and operational performance is information that Boeing offers to all of its customers, and it is necessary for the safe operation of their aircraft.  There would be no reason to deny this information to the parties of an accident investigation.

            Be that as it may, Boeing voluntarily gave the NTSB the information pertinent to the performance of this particular aircraft, both before and after the nose separation, and the NTSB released it to the public. Using that same information, the NTSB came up with some strange conclusions.  The American public and the world deserve to know how the NTSB reached those conclusions.

I respectfully resubmit my request for that information.

cc      Sincerely, 

         Open Letter 

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