Associated Retired Aviation Professionals
Post Office Box 90, Clements, Maryland 20624 USA

August 28, 2000
Insight Magazine
By Kelly Patricia O’Meara 

Amazing Report on Crash of TWA 800 

The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, showed during its two-day wrap-up meetings on the cause of the July 17, 1996, explosion of TWA Flight 800 that even a $40 million investigation can’t ensure satisfactory answers in an atmosphere of obfuscation, arrogance and secrecy. 

It isn’t a great shock that the lead investigative body for aviation accidents concluded its four-year investigation in late August with the finding that the Paris-bound 747 exploded in midair off Long Island, N.Y., because of a spark from a mysterious ignition source inside the aircraft’s center fuel tank. In fact, what would have been shocking — and what would have made news — is if even one of the men and women who worked on the investigation had disagreed publicly with so much as one of the official conclusions. 

It wasn’t difficult to understand what was going on when NTSB Chairman Jim Hall made it clear in his opening remarks how he felt about anyone who disagreed with the safety-board’s conclusions as he briefly paused, put on his best we-would-never-lie-to-you face and told the packed auditorium, “It is unfortunate that a small number of people, pursuing their own agendas, have persisted in making unfounded charges of a government cover-up in this investigation. These people do a grievous injustice to the many dedicated individuals, civilian and military, who have been involved in this investigation.” 

Going on and on about how complex the investigation was, Hall began to repeat himself lest the merest tyro miss his concern about “those who consistently distort the record and persist in making unfounded charges of cover-up.” While these are strong words directed at the independent investigators who have questioned many of the NTSB’s conclusions, there was nothing new about the arrogant tone. In fact, even the words being used were not unlike those of the former lead FBI investigator, James Kallstrom, who made a guest appearance at the meetings. 

Early in the FBI’s investigation of this bizarre explosion it was Kallstrom who left open the door to the possibility that a missile downed the aircraft, just as it was he who later referred to the independent investigators who continued along that path as “bottom-feeders.” Given the simplistic conclusions that came out of the two-day meetings, it is hard not to wonder why so much time was devoted to admonishing those who consistently have requested answers to legitimate,
evidentiary questions. 

For example, the NTSB concluded that the witnesses to the explosion — all 736 of them — did not see what they reported seeing. In fact, what has been concluded is that these witnesses, rather than seeing a flare-like object rise from the water and culminate in a huge fireball, actually witnessed only what has come to be referred to as the “fuel-falling-from-plane scenario.” 

That’s right. What the witnesses thought was ascending actually was, according to the NTSB, descending. And the eyewitnesses simply were discounted if their statements didn’t jibe with the NTSB master theory based upon its “evidence.” This makes no sense in light of the fact that the NTSB acknowledged it has no physical evidence to support its theory that a spark initiated the explosive event in the center wing fuel tank. 

Then there is the interesting concept of the 747-nose-falling-off-the-plane-but-continues-to-climb scenario. This conclusion has left most independent investigators scratching their heads, as it is widely recognized that such a feat defies the laws of physics. Nevertheless, the NTSB has concluded that the powerless and shattered aircraft continued to gain altitude. 

The radar data long have been a point of contention between the NTSB and independent investigators, and the conclusions put forward in this final public performance by the official investigators did little to ease concern about outright deception. Most notably, the NTSB still has not publicly explained the nearly 22 surface ships shown on radar heading into a military warning zone just minutes after the explosion of TWA Flight 800. 

But the NTSB’s lead radar expert, Charley Pereira, did provide a unique slide show, describing one slide as an average afternoon between 18:30 and 18:40, or 6:30 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. This slide was intended to prove that there usually are lots of boats on the ocean around the time of that explosion. 

Considering, however, that the explosion of TWA Flight 800 occurred two hours later — around dusk — this particular slide seems pointless. Unless Pereira selected the irrelevant time to avoid showing a snapshot at the exact time of the explosion when the scene was very different. Any photo at the time of the explosion would reveal what every sailor knows — which is that at dusk coastal vessels normally are returning to port, rather than heading out to sea, as is the case of the nearly two dozen ships conspicuously heading into that live-fire warning area. 

Pereira’s radar discussion was about as helpful as the safety board’s warning to the flying public that older aircraft such as the 747 that exploded off the coast of Long Island may have serious problems with their wiring. If this faulty wiring is responsible for the explosion of TWA Flight 800, and the flying public is to take Hall at his word, why have those aircraft not been grounded and the alleged electrical problems corrected? 

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