| Title: JIM HALL - REGARDING TWA FLIGHT 800 FINAL REPORT
Author(s): JIM HALL, CHAIRMAN, NTSB
Source: FDCH Political Transcripts, 08/22/2000
Place of Event: NEWS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
AUGUST 22, 2000
JIM HALL, CHAIRMAN NTSB CHAIRMAN
[*] (JOINED IN PROGRESS) HALL: ... many private citizens
valiant efforts in the immediate hours and days after
went down. I would also like to thank the Coast Guard,
the Navy, the
FBI, NOAA, and the many other state and federal agencies
major roles in the search and recovery effort. I would
like to note
the encouragement and support we have received from the
and Congress in providing the resources needed to conduct
become the most extensive, complex and expensive investigation
Safety Board's 33 year history.
From the beginning, the scope and dimensions of this investigation
have been extraordinary. The salvage effort, organized
by the Navy,
one of the largest diver-assisted salvage operations ever
extended from July to November, 1996.
The Navy divers worked in very difficult and dangerous
for a time, their efforts had to be halted because of
the onset of the
Atlantic hurricane season.
When the diving operations were completed, there followed
work by contracted fishing trollers that scoured hundreds
of miles of
the ocean floor.
In the end, we recovered the remains of all 230 victims,
and more than
95 percent of the aircraft. The reconstruction of the
of the fuselage, including the center wing fuel tank,
was unique both
in size and scope. More than 30 people worked meticulously
month to sort through innumerable pieces of wreckage and
wreckage in an effort to better understand what happened
The number of organizations, public and private, that played
significant role in this investigation is extensive. I
want to pause
for a few minutes, so you can see the almost 500 names
entities and individuals that contributed to the investigative
process. I direct your attention to the screens in front
(BREAK IN AUDIO FEED)
HALL: ... to study the temperatures and environment inside
aircraft's center wing tank. We also conducted extensive
the composition and explosive characteristics of jet A
addition, we conducted tests and computer simulation work
flame and pressure propagation in the center-wing tank.
Earlier on in the process, investigators began looking
at what roll
electromagnetic interference from external emitters or
internal to the aircraft may have played in the crash.
The investigation also included the most extensive radar
data study in
the board's history, including a review of several hundred
radar returns from nine radar locations in five states.
The investigative team also spent a great deal of time
carefully analyzing the summaries of witness interviews,
Bureau of Investigation provided to the board.
We will be reviewing the work done by the witness group
and many of
the others in the course of this meeting. All of the investigative
work undertaken as part of this investigation, was extremely
Because of the need for precision, and in some cases,
the danger posed
to those performing the test, the work had to be painstakingly
make sure that it was done properly, safely and accurately.
And of course, it was not inexpensive. We are fortunate
to secure the
assistance of a broad array of institutions, including
of Defense laboratories at Wright Patterson Air Force
Base, and the
Navy's China Lake and Patuxent River facilities. Important
also done at NASA's Langley Research Center and the Sandia
Laboratories, among others.
We also contracted with private institutions, such as the
Institute of Technology, and the University of Nevada-Reno,
various specialties to conduct research.
Experts from other countries, including the United Kingdom,
Canada, also assisted us. And the French aviation authorities
participated under the terms of the Convention on International
Much has been learned over the course of the past four
years. And the
five board members seated before you will be examining
the results of the staff's work during this sunshine meeting.
I must emphasize that, over the next two day, you will
extremely technical discussion about the issues raised
investigation. In preparation for this meeting, the board
read the 684-page report and the 177 pages of information
provided in party submissions.
The extensive record of this investigation now approaches
pages, and is available to everyone in the board's public
investigative group's factual reports can also be found
on our Web
page, the other supporting documentation is available
During the course of this investigation, the board received
number of suggestions and comments from many individuals
organizations on possible causes of the crash of flight
recommendations for possible lines of investigation.
Much of this commentary has been well-informed and we appreciated
receiving it. Safety board staff has reviewed all of this
took those ideas that appeared to have a scientific basis
a reasonable line of inquiry into account as the accident
In the early months of the investigation, it became clear
explosion of flammable vapors in the aircraft's center-wing
initiated the break-up and subsequent crash of Flight
In December, 1996, based on the board's conclusion, that
flammable vapors in the aircraft fuel tank poses a serious
safe flight, the board recommended that the Federal Aviation
Administration study design changes to deal with this
problem and, in
the interim, they require operational exchanges to enhance
April, 1998, the board issued another set of recommendations
on aircraft wiring and the fuel quality -- quantity indication
During this meeting, we will be assessing what has been
response to those recommendations, as well as what remains
More broadly, the flight 800 investigation has uncovered
the attention of the aviation community on some very important
issues: fuel tank protection; the vulnerability of aircraft
and a number of aging aircraft issues.
We will pursue each of these items in some detail over
the next two
This is a lot of ground to cover, but before moving ahead,
like to make one additional comment. I know that. at the
believe that the crash of flight 800 was caused by a criminal
for many, the efforts of the times, the ongoing court
trials and the
aftermath of the World Trade Center bombings in New York,
heightened concern about terrorism at the 1996 Olympic
Atlanta, seemed to lead a certain credence to the notion.
Certainly, the nature of the event, and its rarity, led
question whether the crash of flight 800 was really an
many of you know, a substantial law enforcement investigation
conducted in parallel with the safety board's investigation.
After conducting a thorough investigation, the FBI suspended
investigation in November, 1997, indicating that no evidence
found to indicate that a criminal act was the cause of
the tragedy of
TWA Flight 800.
Despite this finding, by our nation's law enforcement agency,
Federal Bureau of Investigation, some have urged the safety
assume, in effect, a law enforcement role, to prove or
assertion that the crash of flight 800 was the result
of a bomb or a
missile. That is beyond this agency's mandate and authority.
Our focus is safety. Our people are aviators, engineers
scientists. I believe some of the best in the world. But
they are not
However, even though our law enforcement -- even though
are not law enforcement personnel, they examined every
wreckage, for any physical evidence that the crash --
that the crash
of flight 800 could have been caused by a bomb or amissile.
Had we found such evidence, we would have immediately referred
matter back to the appropriate law enforcement agencies
Let me state unequivocally, the Safety Board has found
no evidence. To
the families of flight 800, I would like to add this comment.
unfortunate that a small number of people, pursuing their
have persisted in making unfounded charges of a government
this investigation. These people do a grievous injustice
to the many
dedicated individuals, civilian and military, who had
been involved in
this investigation. Some 75 NTSB members have participated
investigation. I'll pause while their name are listed
on the screens
in front of you.
(BREAK IN COVERAGE)
BERNARD LOEB, DIRECTOR NTSB OFFICE OF AVIATION SAFETY:
that massive effort symbolizes the extent to which this
has gone, and leaving no stone unturned.
Al Dickinson, the investigator in charge, will be discussing
on-scene portion of the investigation in his opening remarks,
will not go into detail about that at this time.
What I am going to do is to summarize the significant findings
investigation. This will be just an overview. More detailed
explanations will be provided by investigators during
presentations over the next two days. But I think an overall
of what you will be hearing would be valuable to put things
First, we knew almost immediately after the accident that
800 had experienced an in-flight breakup. This was strongly
by the radar data. There was a loss of transponder returns,
primary radar returns indicated that pieces had departed
and were fairly widely dispersed in the ocean.
The wreckage recovery locations made it evident relatively
the investigation that the in-flight breakup was initiated
by an event
in the area of the fuselage near the forward part of the
tank. Specifically, pieces from the forward part of the
tank and adjacent areas of fuselage were recovered from
westernmost portion of the wreckage field, the portion
of the wreckage
field closest to JFK Airport, from where Flight 800 took
first wreckage area is referred to as the Red Zone.
The recovery of the pieces from the Red Zone indicated
that they were
the first pieces to separate from the airplane. The nose
the airplane was found further to the east and what was
Yellow Zone, indicating that this portion of the airplane
later in the breakup sequence. And most of the remaining
found in the eastern-most portion of the wreckage field
JFK, which was labeled the Green Zone.
Further, analytical studies of the trajectories of the
pieces of the airplane were consistent with the wreckage
findings. This basic evidence, the radar data and the
recovery locations, indicated that the airplane broke
up inflight and
that the breakup initiated in the area of the fuselage
forward part of the center wing tank. On the basis of
information, we considered several possible causes for
of the in-flight breakup: a structural failure and decompression;
detonation of a high-energy explosive device, such as
a bomb or
missile warhead; and a fuel/air vapor explosion in the
We found no evidence that a structural failure and decompression
initiated the breakup. A thorough examination of the wreckage
engineers and metallurgists did not reveal any evidence
corrosion or any other structural fault that could have
led to the
As a side note, I would like to mention that there was
evidence of an in-flight separation of the forward cargo
door, one of
the many theories suggested to us by the members of the
physical evidence demonstrated that the forwardcargo door
and latched at water impact.
We also considered the possibility of a bomb or missile.
high-energy explosions leave distinctive damage signatures
airplane structure, such as severe pitting, cratering,
hot gas washing
and petalling. No such damage was found on any portion
recovered airplane structure. And as you know, more than
95 percent of
the airplane was recovered.
Our investigators, together with many outside participants
parties to the investigation, closely examined every piece
recovered wreckage. All of the participants agreed that
none of the
wreckage exhibited any of the damage characteristic of
explosion. That is, of a bomb or a missile.
Further, no missing portions of fuselage were large enough
represent the entry of a missile. You may have noticed
that some of
the photographs of the reconstruction show what appear
to be several
large missing areas, such as those that are shown on the
However, almost all of the fuselage structure in these
actually attached to the adjacent pieces but has been
folded back or
crushed in such a way that it does not cover its original
Therefore, these large gaps that appear to exist in the
fuselage do not represent areas of damage that could have
by a missile.
In addition, we found no localized area of severe thermal
fragmentation issues and no localized severe damage or
of the seats, as such as would be expected if a high-energy
device had detonated inside the airplane. The injuries
occupants and the damage of the airplane were fully consistent
in-flight breakup and subsequent water impact. In light
of all this
evidence, a bomb or missile strike has been ruled out
as an initiating
event of the in-flight breakup.
The FBI did find trace amounts of explosive residue on
three pieces of
the wreckage. However, these three pieces contain no evidence
pitting, cratering, hot gas washing or petalling, which
been there had these trace amounts resulted from abomb
Further, these trace amounts could have been transferred
pieces in various ways. For example, in connection with
troops during the Gulf War or during dog-training explosive
exercises that were conducted on the accident airplane
about one month
before the accident.
There is also the possibility that the explosive residues
been deposited on the wreckage during or after recovery
a result of contact with the military personnel ships
used during those operations. We don't know exactly how
residues got there, but we do know from the physical evidence
just discussed that the residues were not the result of
of a bomb.
Unlike the other two scenarios I've just mentioned, a structural
failure or high-energy explosive, the third scenario we
Jet A fuel/air explosion in the center wing tank, was
the physical evidence. Specifically, as I've already mentioned,
wreckage recovery locations indicated that the first pieces
the airplane were from in and around the front of the
Based on these recovery locations and damage characteristics,
investigative group led by Jim Wildey, known as the Metallurgy
Structure Sequencing Group, determined that the earliest
event in the
breakup sequence was an overpressure inside the center
wing tank that
caused structural failure of its forward part. This overpressure
started the breakup sequence that ultimately resulted
destruction of the airplane.
I would like to emphasize that all of the parties to the
investigation, as well as numerous outside experts and
have agreed with the findings of the sequencing group.
Jim Wildey will
be explaining the breakup sequence a little later today.
The point I would like to make now is simply that the initial
sequence and early departure of pieces from in and around
wing tank clearly indicate that the breakup was initiated
overpressure inside the center wing tank. Given that there
high-energy explosion in this or any other area of the
overpressure must have been caused by a fuel/air explosion
center wing tank.
However, questions were raised early in the investigation
whether the conditions necessary for a fuel/air explosion
existed inside the accident airplane's center wing tank;
whether a Jet A fuel/air explosion could generate sufficient
to break apart the fuel tank and destroy the airplane.
To address the first issue, the Safety Board conducted
flight tests at
JFK in July of 1997 using a 747 leased from Evergreen
Several test flights were conducted under conditions similar
experienced by Flight 800. The fuel/air vapor inside the
tank was measured at various locations during the flight.
temperatures inside the center wing tank at the altitude
at which the
accident occurred, approximately 13,800 feet, ranged between
127 degrees Fahrenheit. Extensive work done by scientists
California Institute of Technology showed that the Jet
A fuel under
the conditions experienced by Flight 800 would have been
these temperatures. In fact, their work demonstrated that
under those conditions may have been flammable at temperatures
as 96 degrees. Dr. Joseph Kolly will be talking more about
research later today.
The second issue, whether an explosion of Jet A fuel could
sufficient pressure to break apart the fuel tank and destroy
airplane, was also put to rest in the investigation. Laboratory
and quarter-scale tests under the direction of scientist
California Institute of Technology demonstrated the pressures
exceeding the structural limitations of the forward portion
center wing tank were produced from the combustion of
a Jet A fuel/air
mixture similar to the one that existed in the center
wing tank of TWA
(END AUDIO FEED)
COPYRIGHT 2000 BY eMediaMillWorks, Inc. NO PORTION OF THIS
TRANSCRIPTION MAY BE COPIED, SOLD OR RETRANSMITTED WITHOUT
THE EXPRESS WRITTEN AUTHORITY OF eMediaMillWorks, Inc.
Source: FDCH Political Transcripts.
Item Number: 101814474880
This email was generated by a user of EBSCOhost who gained
the BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY account, user brooklyn.main.web.
EBSCO nor BROOKLYN PUBLIC LIBRARY are responsible for
the content of
Home - Last Updated:
© 2000 William S. Donaldson III. All