|NTSB: TWA 800 Probe Nearing
The Associated Press 7/15/99
By GLEN JOHNSON
WASHINGTON (AP) - Three years after TWA Flight 800 turned into
a fireball in
the skies off New York's Long Island, the end of the investigation
Investigators are certain that a fuel-air explosion in the center
brought down the Boeing 747 on July 17, 1996, killing all 230
aboard, but a
final determination of the ignition source will have to wait
until this fall
or winter, Jim Hall, chairman of the National Transportation
said Wednesday in an interview.
For the safety board, the investigation has been the longest and
expensive probe in its 30-year history. Hall said he didn't yet
diverting their time to tallying the cost, but ``it's clearly
going to be
millions and millions of dollars.''
Bernard Loeb, the panel's head of aviation safety, said investigators
have examined the possibility of a static electricity buildup,
from nearby fuel pumps and electrical shorts in the tank's fuel
The final phase of their work is now focusing on possible electromagnetic
induction, which occurs when electricity from an active source
or wire causes
a trace of activity in a nearby inactive wire.
Investigators have studied external sources such as radar-emitting
planes and ships. They have also looked at carryon items such
computers and other personal electronics.
Now they are testing electronics built into the plane itself,
have not ruled out any of the earlier possibilities.
``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,''
In directives issued since the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration
ordered a series of safety changes on a variety of airplanes.
new wiring checks on older aircraft, the installation of extra
insulation and a prohibition on draining the center fuel tanks
in 747s, a
practice that can cause overheating in fuel-pump bearings.
Both Hall and Loeb indicated the five-member safety board likely
recommend further safety precautions when it holds its final
``I'm still hopeful that we will be able to have our final board
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
were delays, the
meeting would occur by ``early winter.''
The Paris-bound flight exploded in a clear evening sky shortly
from New York's Kennedy International Airport. The wreckage fell
into the waters off Long Island. There were no survivors.
Over the following weeks, the Navy, FBI and other state, federal
agencies mounted a massive recovery operation and investigation.
checks for bomb-toting terrorists and eyewitness reports that
a missile was
seen streaking toward the jumbo jet.
Investigators also partially rebuilt the airplane in a hangar
N.Y., in their search for clues.
The relatives of the victims planned a series of remembrances
including a memorial service and the dedication of a monument.
Both Hall and
Loeb were to attend and also deliver an investigation update
to the families.
While some have speculated that the plane was blown up by terrorists
military, the FBI concluded that no criminal act was involved.
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
doing so, the integrity of the government we all work for.''
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.