Boeing Pursues Theories
in '96 Crash
SEATTLE (AP) _ Two years after the FBI
and federal aviation
inspectors ruled out sabotage in the crash of TWA Flight 800,
Boeing Co. continues to pursue theories that a missile or a
downed the jet. The Seattle Times reported
Sunday that chemical and
metallurgical tests were performed on the wreckage of the 747
nearly 12 hours on Thursday by scientists hired by Boeing. The
search was aimed at finding microscopic remnants of a bomb,
missile or shrapnel, the Times said, citing people familiar
with the tests.
``Boeing has not ruled out any possibilities,''
Susan Davis told The Associated Press on Sunday. Despite the
government's dismissal of the missile or bomb theory, Davis
``Until a cause has been identified, we'll look at all the possibilities.''
The FBI stepped out of the TWA Flight
800 investigation in 1997
after finding no evidence to support a bomb or missile theory.
National Transportation Safety Board has concluded that the
747 crashed when the jet's center fuel tank exploded.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who has
been scrutinizing the
investigation of TWA Flight 800, said Boeing risks ridicule
continuing to pursue a theory ruled out by the NTSB, the FBI,
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and other experts.
``I don't think they enhance their own
public relations if they
continue to pursue the missile or bomb theory,'' he said.
Most families of the people killed in
the July 17, 1996, crash
have sued TWA and Boeing for negligence. Boeing has settled
with several families for undisclosed amounts.
All 230 people aboard the plane were
killed in the crash.01:25 PM ET
11/06/99Crash Probers Learned From TWA Crash
Crash Probers Learned From TWA Crash By PAT MILTON= Associated
NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) _ When EgyptAir Flight
990 plunged into the
Atlantic last weekend, National Transportation Safety Board
Chairman James Hall was on the investigation scene within hours.
Since then, he's been virtually alone
in the public spotlight,
presiding over news briefings and visiting grieving relatives
investigators from the FBI and other agencies play much less
It's in stark contrast to the crash
of TWA Flight 800 in July
1996, when the NTSB took a secondary role to the FBI's dogged
search for evidence of a crime.
Within minutes of the explosion of Flight
800 off the coast of
New York's Long Island, the FBI was on the scene. Some 700 FBI
agents tracked leads in what became the biggest investigation
the agency's history.
Although a vice chairman of the 350-employee
NTSB was on hand
the day after Flight 800 went down, Hall was not.
``The biggest lesson needed to be who
was in charge of the
investigation from Day One,'' said Paul Marcone, aide to U.S.
James Traficant, senior ranking member of the aviation subcommittee
which oversees the NTSB.
In addition to taking the lead in the
investigation, the NTSB
now counsels grieving relatives and keeps them abreast of the
investigation _ the result of congressional legislation spurred
anguished relatives of Flight 800 victims.
The NTSB's stance at the head of the
investigation has changed
the tone of what the public hears about the crash and the investigation.
The specter of terrorism is not being
raised so swiftly or
insistently this time, although it is being considered because
plane was headed to the Middle East and Egyptian military officers
were on board.
There is also no initial evidence this
time suggesting a crime
as there was with Flight 800, when dozens of people claimed
seen a missile-like light streaking toward the plane before
The Paris-bound TWA Flight 800 fell
from 13,700 feet on July 17,
1996, shortly after leaving Kennedy International Airport. EgyptAir
Flight 990 left the same airport and minutes later plunged from
33,000 feet to 16,000 feet, then rose to 24,000 feet before
falling to the
No evidence of a crime was ever found
in the Flight 800 crash.
Although the NTSB has not formally declared its cause, the crash
apparently resulted from a center fuel tank explosion apparently
set off by a combination of mechanical problems including damaged
Joseph Valiquette, a spokesman for the
New York FBI office,
which has led the criminal investigation of both crashes, said
Flight 800 is considered a ``textbook case for us on plane crash
``It broke new ground and set new standards
for the FBI and is
being used as a model in this case,'' he said.
In 1996, the FBI was reluctant to share
interviews of witnesses
and people who touched the doomed plane with the NTSB.
This time, Hall said, ``relations with
the FBI are cooperative.
I communicate daily with FBI director (Louis) Freeh and his
here. They are going about their work, coordinating and
communicating with us.''
FBI Assistant Director Lewis Schiliro,
who heads the criminal
probe of EgyptAir Flight 990 from his New York office, said
lessons of Flight 800 enabled the FBI this time to set up quickly
and chase leads without getting into conflict with the NTSB.
``We both learned a lot about our cultures
but there was a lot
of cooperation in Flight 800. We do have a common goal to find
what happened,'' he said. And conditions
are different this time.
Valiquette said the high profile taken
by the FBI in Flight 800
was necessary to address the daily reports of eyewitnesses talking
about missiles. ``We had a duty to the public to respond to
questions,'' he said.
Also, Flight 800 crashed while the United
States was on its
highest state of alert for terrorism with the Atlanta Olympics
The agencies' relationship could change
investigators learn from flight data and voice recorders once
are retrieved from the ocean floor.
``They (FBI) would have a bigger profile
tomorrow if this was
declared criminal,'' said former FBI agent Joe Cantamessa, who
the supervisor of the recovery site during Flight 800.