Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

Newsday Staff Writer

July 13, 2006

A Massachusetts group has filed a lawsuit to force federal officials to release information about a piece of debris from Flight 800 that it hopes will show that a missile downed the plane.

Federal investigators have dismissed that explanation as the cause of the 1996 explosion that killed all 230 people aboard. Instead they concluded that a spark ignited fuel tank vapors.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Boston, demands that the National Transportation Safety Board respond to numerous freedom of information act requests made since 2004.

Tom Stalcup, who heads the East Falmouth, Mass.-based Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization, which filed the suit, said he is "very certain" that federal investigators found the piece of debris and are now concealing evidence of its existence.

Radar data show the piece of debris falling at high speed from the plane and a Navy salvage map shows it was later recovered, said Stalcup, 36, a physicist and owner of a West Falmouth, Mass., company that makes wireless weather stations. Despite this evidence, federal officials won't explain what happened to the debris once it was recovered from the ocean off Long Island, he said.

"All of the data requested is of great importance to the public understanding of the crash of TWA Flight 800," Stalcup's lawsuit says.

"One piece in particular landed closer to JFK Airport than any of the other thousands of recovered items ... after exiting the airframe at apparent supersonic speeds," the suit says.

NTSB spokesman Paul Schlamm said the agency does not comment on pending lawsuits, but said most federal agencies have limited resources to respond in a timely way to Freedom of Information Act requests. "We are aware that there's a FOIA backlog," Schlamm said.
Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.


  Robert E. Donaldson.  All rights reserved