Response to e-mail to Dennis Crider - NTSB

From:       Loeb Bernard <>
To:           <>
Subject:    FW: TWA flight 800 
Date:        Thu, 30 Mar 2000 16:49:32 -0500

Dear Mr. Donaldson:

This is in response to your February 22, 2000, e-mail to Dennis Crider,
National Transportation Safety Board aerospace engineer, regarding the TWA
flight 800 investigation.  You shared your concerns regarding Exhibit 22c,
"Main Wreckage Flight Path Study," and you specifically questioned whether a
ballistic fall scenario might be a possible explanation for the radar data
recorded after the explosion. 

The Safety Board has recently added "Addendum 1 to Main Wreckage Flight Path
Study" to the public docket.  You may find the additional information in
this report helpful in understanding our evaluation of the radar data and
the trajectory of the wreckage.  In addition, the Board will soon enter the
Witness Group Chairman's Factual Report and the Witness Group Study Report
into the public docket.  These reports also contain information that you may
find helpful.  The Board expects to issue the final accident report
regarding TWA flight 800 this summer.

The most important factor in evaluating the flightpath of the main wreckage
is determining the physical response of the airplane to the loss of the
forward fuselage.  Engineering data indicated that this would result in a
pitch-up that exchanged speed for altitude.  Because there was considerable
scatter in the recorded radar data after the explosion, as outlined in the
addendum, the Safety Board investigators considered a large number of
flightpaths that would have matched the radar data. 

The Safety Board did analyze a hypothetical ballistic path for the main
wreckage.  However, the potential ballistic coefficients (weight/coefficient
of drag x wing area) were restricted by the fact that the main body had to
have been in the air at the time of the last radar return.  The calculations
based on the times of the last radar returns from the Islip, New York, and
John F. Kennedy International Airport radar sites revealed that, in both
cases, a ballistic path would result in the wreckage falling short (and to
the south) of the actual recovery position and of the radar data.
Therefore, the Board has ruled out a pure ballistic path because it does not
match the radar data.

The Safety Board appreciates your interest in the TWA flight 800
investigation.  Please be assured that our investigative team and our
consultants have carefully considered all of the evidence in determining the
events that led to the accident.  The investigation has determined that an
explosion of the airplane's center fuel tank resulted in the structural
breakup of the fuselage.  The investigation has also determined that little
energy was needed to ignite the fuel/air mixture in the fuel tank at the
temperatures and pressures that are believed to have existed in the center
fuel tank at the time of the explosion.  Numerous potential ignition sources
were also present in the fuel tank.

Once again, thank you for your interest in this important investigation.


Dr. Bernard S. Loeb
Director - Office of Aviation Safety

-----Original Message-----
From:   Bob Donaldson
Sent:   Tuesday, February 22, 2000 10:32 PM
To: <> 
Cc:     Paul Marcone;
Subject:        TWA Flight 800, Exhibit 22c


I have been reviewing Exhibit 22c and I have some questions.
1.      There seems to be a discrepancy between Figure 18 and Figure 10.  Figure 10 shows that the aircraft was in the air for 53.3 seconds, yet Figure 18 shows the aircraft was only visible on radar for 8 sweeps (the graph shows 9, but its wrong).  That's only 37.7 seconds.  The difference is 15.8 seconds or nearly 4 more radar sweeps.  Since the radar was picking up small boats in the area, the aircraft should have been visible to the radar all the way to impact.  Therefore, it appears that the radar data does not support the Zoom Climb scenario's proposed by the CIA and NTSB.

The two graphs I referenced can be found here:

Q. Did you find anything in the radar data that supports the Zoom Climb scenario?

2.      I did not find a time vs. altitude graph which plots a ballistic fall.  It would seem that this scenario would be far more likely than the zoom climb.

Q. Why didn't you calculate or simulate a ballistic trajectory for the main aircraft wreckage when you calculated one for dozens of other aircraft parts?

2.      When I plotted a ballistic trajectory on Figure 10 it shows the aircraft impacting the water after radar sweep 8.  Therefore, the radar supports this scenario more than the zoom climb. 

Q. Wouldn't you agree that a ballistic fall is at least as reasonable a scenario as the zoom climb and more probable based on the radar data?

3.      Figure 18 shows 9 radar hits with a trend line going through them.  When I plotted the raw data released recently at the NTSB web site, there are only 8 hits on the Islip radar.  There were two hits on sweep 6 and it appears someone mistook this as an additional radar sweep.  In the following graphic I plotted the raw radar data against figure 18.  It shows a discrepancy between your plot and the raw radar data.

Q. Why is there a discrepancy in the plots?
Q. Do you agree that there were only 8 radar hits?

4.      When I plotted the ballistic fall against the zoom climb scenario from the CIA and the NTSB it shows that radar contact would have been lost at 15,000 ft in the CIA scenario, or at 8,000
ft with the NTSB zoom climb scenario.  The ballistic fall scenario shows it impacting the water after the last radar sweep.  Following is a link for the graphic showing the above.
Q. How do you account for the loss of radar contact at 15,000 ft. or 8,000 ft. in the two zoom climb scenarios?
Q. Wouldn't you agree that the ballistic fall scenario fits the radar data better than the zoom climb scenario?
5.      It appears from all the evidence, including the eyewitnesses and the radar data, that the aircraft did not perform a zoom climb, but fell ballistically.

Q. If the plane fell after the nose came off, what did the 96 eyewitnesses see, who saw a streak of light rise from the surface and impact the aircraft?

Thank you for your time. I'm sure you are very busy, but since there is, as yet, no plausible explanation for the loss of Flight 800, I expect you are as anxious as everyone to "turn over every
rock" and explore all possibilities.


Bob Donaldson 
(Cmdr Donaldson's brother) 




  Evidence of a Missile

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  Fuel Tank --- 14%

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