July 14, 1999   

The Associated Press

          The long and costly investigation into the explosion of 
TWA Flight 800 will conclude by this winter at the latest, 
 the head of the lead investigative agency said Wednesday as the third 
 anniversary approached. Investigators are certain that a fuel-air explosion 
 in the center fuel tank brought down the Boeing 747 on July 17, 1996, killing 
 all 230 aboard, but a final determination of the ignition source still has 
 not been made, Jim Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety 
 Board, said in an interview with The Associated Press. 

...... Bernard Loeb, the panel's head of aviation safety, said investigators 
have already examined  the possibility of a static electricity buildup, stray 
current from nearby  fuel pumps and electrical shorts in the tank's fuel-quantity 
indicating system. The final phase of their work is now focusing on possible 
 electro-magnetic emissions. Investigators have studied external sources such 
 as radar-emitting military planes and ships. They have also looked at 
 carry-on items such as laptop computers and other personal electronics. Now 
 they are testing electronics built into the plane itself. "We don't favor any 
 particular ways of getting ignition, but we know there are a number of them 
 and the FAA has addressed some of them,'' Loeb said.

...... "I'm still hopeful that we will be able to have our final board meeting and 
final report by the end of the year,'' the chairman said as he sat in his office with 
 binders about the crash nearby. He said if there are delays, the meeting will 
 occur by "early winter.''

..... While some have speculated that the plane was 
 blown out of the sky by terrorists or the military, the FBI concluded that no 
 criminal act was involved. On Wednesday, Hall adamantly repeated that the 
 plane was not harmed by a missile. "Stories will probably continue past my 
 lifetime,'' he said. "One of the board's important roles is to protect the 
 integrity of investigations and, in doing so, the integrity of the government 
 we all work for.''