NTSB's Hall Says TWA 800 Probe
to Be Concluded This Year
Washington, May 6
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board plans to wrap up its investigation
the 1996 crash of Trans World Airlines Inc.'s Flight 800 by the end
year, the board's top official said.
NTSB Chairman James Hall, in testimony before the U.S. House Aviation
Subcommittee, said that while investigators believe a fuel tank explosion
caused the fiery crash, they still don't know what ignited the tank.
board has already made a number of recommendations aimed at eliminating
possible ignition sources -- such as frayed wiring -- in and around
the fuel tank.
Pennsylvania Republican Representative Don Sherwood questioned why it
taken the board so long to complete the investigation. Among the TWA
victims were 16 high school students and their five adult chaperones
Montoursville, Pennsylvania, a small community in Sherwood's district.
Hall defended the agency, saying the investigation ``has already resulted
numerous safety recommendations.''
Congress is currently considering legislation that would set funding
for the independent safety board over the next three years.
The Clinton administration's request for the board, which investigates
accidents and makes safety recommendations for all modes of transportation,
includes $57 million in fiscal 2000, $73 million in 2001 and $76.4
2002. The increases in the latter years would enable the Board to hire
full-time employees, bringing the number of individuals on the NTSB
Hall got some support from Cynthia Lebow, the Rand Corporation's Associate
Director. She told lawmakers that the NTSB's financial and staffing
the coming years are only likely to increase. Rand is completing an
the NTSB's operations, which is due later this year.
``Research suggests that while there may be fewer major aviation accidents,
those that do occur will be far more complex, presenting NTSB investigators
with unprecedented analytical challenges,'' Lebow said.
Lebow said aviation investigators at the board in particular -- who
average of 52 hours a week and even longer during the immediate aftermath
airplane crashes -- ``operate under a continuing excessive workload.''
The hours, coupled with the current pay scale at the Board, have made
difficult for the agency to attract experienced professionals from
positions in the private sector, Lebow said.
Retired U.S. Navy pilot, William Donaldson, a persistent critic of the
handling of the Flight 800 probe, also testified before the Aviation
Donaldson accused the Board of participating in a vast cover- up conspiracy
and said his independent investigation of the Flight 800 crash concluded
the explosion was caused by a missile fired from a vessel off the coast
Long Island, New York.
The NTSB's Hall there is no physical evidence to support Donaldson's
Donaldson's allegations met with obvious skepticism from his Congressional
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