Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

April 18, 2001
Captain H. Ray Lahr (ret.)
18254 Coastline Drive
Malibu, CA  90265

Mr. Daniel D. Campbell
Managing Director
National Transportation Safety Board
Washington, D.C.  20594

             Re:   Appeal of the NTSB denial of my information request (FOIA) #20010048

Dear Mr. Campbell:

             This appeal seeks to reverse the denial of my request for information regarding the NTSB computation of TWA 800’s flight path after the nose was blown off.  My request was denied on the basis that I was seeking information that is proprietary to  Boeing Aircraft, Inc.  That is not correct.  All of the necessary information from Boeing is already a part of the public record. The information that I have requested is the method used by the NTSB to manipulate the Boeing data into a 3,000 foot climb. The NTSB and the CIA maintain that the aircraft climbed as much as 3,000 feet trailing flames before diving into the ocean. This is supposedly what scores of eyewitnesses saw as a rising streak   I believe this scenario is impossible for the following reasons:

             My friend and fellow pilot, Captain Richard Russell, received a FAA radar tape of the final minutes of TWA 800.  I saw the tape before the FBI came to Dick’s home and confiscated the tape.  The NTSB dismissed the blips on the tape as anomalies.  One blip might be an anomaly.  Several high-speed blips leading to the end of the transponder trail of TWA 800 indicates a missile.  An unbiased accident hearing would have shown the radar tapes to the public.

             I have met and spoken with Major Fred Meyer, a National Guard helicopter pilot who was first to the scene of the accident. Major Meyer was searching the sky for another aircraft when he saw the streak across the sky.  He is unequivocal that it was a missile (Major Meyer is a Viet Nam veteran and he has seen many missiles).  The streak culminated in two bright white ordinance explosions followed immediately by a huge orange-red fuel explosion.  The wreckage fell downward out of the explosion, not upwards as the NTSB and CIA would have us believe (I have a video tape and a transcription of his testimony if you are interested).  Major Meyer should have been asked to appear as a witness at the public hearing.

            Captain David McClaine was the pilot of the Eastwind Airlines B-737, which had just leveled off at 17,000 feet on a flight from Boston to Trenton, NJ.  He was head-on to TWA 800, which was climbing through 13,800 feet.  Captain McClaine saw the lights of TWA 800 ahead and reached up to turn on his own landing lights to alert the other traffic.  As he touched his switch, TWA 800 exploded into a ball of flames. The remains of  TWA 800 fell downward out of the ball of flames.  Captain McClaine should have been asked to appear as a witness at the public hearing.

            I have met and spoken with Commander William Donaldson, a retired Navy pilot and accident investigator.  Commander Donaldson is very familiar with modern jet fuels and he couldn’t accept the “explosion from a spark” hypothesis put forward by the NTSB.  Modern jet fuels just don’t explode unless they have been misted.  This led Commander Donaldson into an exhaustive investigation of his own and he amassed a wealth of information (much of it can be found at  That investigation convinced Commander Donaldson that it was a missile (or two missiles) that brought down TWA 800.  No less a person than Admiral Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has endorsed the efforts of Commander Donaldson. Admiral Moorer has called for a Congressional investigation.

            I met investigative reporter Jim Sanders at the NTSB hearing on August 22, 2000, and we have become good friends.  Jim likewise has unearthed a wealth of evidence, and his evidence indicates two missiles were involved in the downing of TWA 800.  I have read both of Jim’s excellent books, “The Downing of TWA 800” and “Altered Evidence”.  The amount of abuse heaped on Jim and his wife Liz by our Department of Justice is unbelievable.  Fortunately, these good people are not easily intimidated, and they are determined to see the truth prevail.

            My own activity in this investigation stems from my experience as a kid with a flying model that lost its nose (fortunately, I have never lost the nose of an airplane I was flying).  When the nose comes off and the center of gravity shifts behind the center of lift, the model (or an airplane) immediately pitches up into a full stall and falls out of the sky.  There is no swooping climb as the NTSB and the CIA would have us believe in the case of TWA 800.             You see, a conventional aircraft in flight is like a balanced teeter-totter.  The center-of-lift of the wing is like the supporting pivot of the teeter-totter.  The center- of-gravity of the aircraft is normally slightly forward of the center-of-lift, and it is like a heavy rider sitting ahead of the pivot point.  The horizontal stabilizer in the tail has a negative angle-of-attack, and it is pushing down like a light rider on the other end of the teeter-totter.  As with a teeter-totter, those three forces must be in balance for an airplane to fly and climb.  We all know what happens if the heavy rider jumps to the other side of the teeter-totter.  Both riders slam to the ground.  I will come back to this point later.

            Well, I couldn’t believe it when James Kallstrom hosted a national television show and presented a video of TWA 800 climbing 3,000 feet with the nose blown off.  That video was produced by the CIA (the same CIA that told us the Glomar Explorer was a ship built to mine nodules off of the ocean floor when the real purpose was to raise a Russian submarine).  Later, when the NTSB accident report came out, the NTSB repeated the CIA climb scenario (although the NTSB backed off slightly on the number of feet in the climb).  During the coffee break at the NTSB hearing on August 22, 2000, I tried to talk to Dennis Crider, the author of the climb portion of the NTSB accident report.  However, Bernard Loeb intervened.  We had a lively discussion, but they weren’t about to tell me how the climb was computed.

            Subsequent to the hearing, I contacted Jim Hall, the Chairman of the NTSB, and again requested the information about the climb computation.  He seemed cooperative at first.  There were e-mails and a couple of phone calls, but then finally a letter came from Jim Hall saying that the information was proprietary to Boeing and that Boeing wouldn’t authorize the NTSB to release the information.  Previously however, on the day after the CIA video appeared on national TV, Boeing tried to distance itself from the climb scenario by issuing a statement that it was unaware of any data used for the video. Thus, it appears that the NTSB is simply hiding behind Boeing’s skirts as a pretext for not releasing its own secret calculations.

            It became clear that the NTSB was not going to willingly provide the requested information, so on November 10, 2000, I submitted separate requests to the NTSB and the CIA for the information under the Freedom of Information Act.  The CIA responded with a letter dated January 26, 2001, which stated, “We have researched this matter, and have learned that the pertinent data, and resulting conclusions, were provided by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)”. Thus, it appears that the CIA was just a strawman for the scenario that Kallstrom and Hall wanted to disseminate to the public.  This was midway in an active investigation when the FBI and the NTSB should have been neutral.

            All trails to the source of the climb calculations lead back to the NTSB.  Well, when the wreckage flight paths were calculated as part of the NTSB accident investigation, all of the interested parties should have participated in those calculations. A group should have been formed to determine the main flight paths of the wreckage.   ALPA and TWA and Boeing should have had representatives in that group.  The results of that group effort should have been part of the public record.  Ah, but in this case, the NTSB broke that basic rule of accident investigation.  A flight path wreckage group was not formed.  Instead, the NTSB kept the flight path wreckage data and calculations in house, and the NTSB did not even reveal its secret calculations to the other parties to the investigation. This is what ALPA had to say in its 43 pages of comments to the NTSB:

Component Trajectory Study
The NTSB trajectory study was conducted to calculate the airborne trajectories of certain key fragments of the aircraft in an effort to determine the breakup sequence of the aircraft.  ALPA is concerned that the independent nature of the study, as well as the use of uncertain wreckage recovery information, weakens any conclusions reached in this trajectory study.


The analysis conducted in the trajectory study requires numerous estimates and assumptions, both in initial object travel (velocity and direction) and resultant flight path (coefficient of drag of an individual piece).  A minute change in any of these variables can yield a substantial alteration of the calculated trajectory.  Since some of the input values can never be known accurately, uncertainty is introduced into the results of the study.  Furthermore, although ALPA does not doubt the technical capability of the NTSB, we are concerned that this analysis was essentially accomplished by only one individual at the Board, with little or no party input or participation. (my emphasis) It is a well known and accepted tenet of engineering analysis that the output (results) can only be as accurate as the input data.  As cited in the previous section, the trajectory study utilized several uncertain or erroneous component recovery locations, increasing the uncertainty of the study’s results.  Had this study been conducted as a group activity, opportunities would have existed for necessary cross-checking and party ‘consensus-building’, and it is likely that a more thorough, accurate and universally-accepted product would have been generated.

            The following two excerpts are from the TWA  21-page  submission to the NTSB:

The accuracy and integrity of the wreckage recovery database were “less than central” and did not form a “foundation” for the Board’s determinations and findings, including its reports pertaining to the structural sequence of the breakup of the aircraft and aircraft trajectory.

The captain of Eastwind flight 507 was in a good position to view the accident aircraft prior to the explosion.  He related observing the accident aircraft for several minutes in normal flight, with what appeared to be its landing lights on, whereafter the aircraft exploded in a huge orange ball and evidenced no climb above its pre-explosion altitude.  These observations did not comport with the trajectory of the aircraft in its final stages of flight and structural breakup, as depicted in the CIA videotape entitled “TWA Flight 800, What Did the Witnesses See”.

            As mentioned before, Boeing made it clear that it had no part in the CIA climb scenario.  However, Boeing had earlier provided the pertinent mass properties to the NTSB and they were included in the NTSB accident report.  That data is sufficient to analyze the climb. My FOIA request is not a request for additional Boeing proprietary data. My question to the NTSB is, “How did you manipulate the Boeing mass properties to come up with a 3,000 foot climb?”  The Boeing mass properties refute such a climb. 

Boeing estimates the weight of the aircraft at the time of the event as 574,000 lbs.  After nose separation, the weight was 494,606 lbs.  (In round numbers, the nose weighed about 80,000 lbs which is a considerable number).  For weight and balance purposes, aircraft engineers use the mean aerodynamic chord (MAC).  The MAC is a hypothetical average section of the wing.  It is located where the center-of-lift (CL) of the wing is normally 25% MAC.  Before nose separation, there was a downward force of 574,000 lbs located at the center-of-gravity (CG) which was 21.1% MAC  (the heavy teeter-totter rider was about a foot ahead of the pivot point).  The horizontal stabilizer, which is more than 100 feet behind the CL, was exerting a downward force of about 6,000 lbs (the light rider was at the other long-end of the teeter-totter).  The wing was exerting an upward force of about 580,000 lbs at the CL (the pivot point of the teeter-totter).  The three forces were in balance vertically and rotationally.

        After nose separation, the CG moved aft to 57.8% MAC  (the heavy rider jumped to about 11 feet on the other side of the teeter-totter).  This created a terrific rotational imbalance.  The CG and the downward tail force combined to create a nose-up torque of about 6,000,000 ft lbs.  Boeing calculated the angular moment of inertia at 15,780,000 slug-ft^2.  Dividing the torque by the angular moment of inertia gives an angular acceleration of about .39 radians per sec^2 or about 22 degrees per sec^2.  That much angular acceleration would rotate the nose upward to about 45 degrees in two seconds.  Of course, that is well beyond the point of complete stall.  The maximum lift the wing could generate in that short time span before stall would climb the aircraft less than 100 feet.  That is why the competent eyewitnesses saw the wreckage fall downward out of the fire ball.

There is another consideration that argues against the climb scenario.  FIFO (Flight 800 Independent Researcher’s Organization) is a group that has thoroughly researched this investigation.  FIFO is circulating a petition to reopen the investigation, and I endorse the effort.  During my career I participated in several accident investigations, and I had complete trust in the NTSB and the accident investigation process.  That trust was destroyed in the TWA 800 investigation.  Reopening the investigation and putting all the evidence on the table would help restore that trust for all of us who are disenchanted with the NTSB.  FIFO and others who have studied the radar returns of the falling wreckage have determined that the heavy objects followed a free-fall trajectory.  In order for TWA 800 to have climbed 3,000 feet, most of the forward velocity would need to have been converted into vertical velocity.  The radar only shows horizontal velocity, so the main body of the wreckage would have appeared on radar to slow down and fall much shorter in the debris field.  That didn’t happen.

In conclusion, the NTSB was derelict in its duty to the American people.

·        The NTSB withheld important radar information and did not present it at the public hearing. 

·        The NTSB did not interview all of the eyewitnesses and did not introduce the key eyewitnesses at the public hearing.

·        The NTSB did not form a Trajectory Study Group, and the NTSB did not allow participation in its own study by the other parties to the investigation, and the NTSB did not reveal its own secret calculations at the public hearing.

Mr. Campbell, please give me the NTSB climb calculations.


Ray Lahr

Open letter

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