Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

                  Wednesday January 17 4:04 PM ET

TWA Wreckage to Be Teaching Tool at NTSB Academy 

                  By John Crawley

                  ASHBURN, Va. (Reuters) - The investigation of the TWA Flight 800
                  explosion was the most expensive and highest profile crash probe ever
                  conducted by U.S. safety and law enforcement investigators.

                  But investigators believe they can use the debris recovered from the crash as
                  the centerpiece of a new training facility.

                  It took more than four years and at least $35 million to determine that a
                  buildup of fuel vapors likely caused an explosion in the jumbo jet's center-fuel
                  tank, a finding facilitated by the painstaking reconstruction of the wreckage.

                  That wreckage, so critical in determining probable cause of the crash that
                  killed 230 people in July 1996, is stored for $400,000 a year in a hangar in
                  Long Island, abandoned by the carrier and insurers and now the
                  responsibility of the federal government.

                  But the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has plans to make
                  novel use of it as the centerpiece of a training academy set to break ground
                  on Thursday in Virginia.

                  ``There was a tremendous amount of funds being spent for the housing of that
                  wreckage,'' NTSB Chairman Jim Hall said of the 93-foot section of
                  reconstructed aircraft and boxes of other stored debris. ``We took those
                  funds and leveraged them into this new training academy.''

                  Hall will preside over groundbreaking ceremonies on his last day at the safety
                  board. He was an activist chairman who presided over the TWA
                  investigation and three other major air crash probes.

                  His permanent successor will be named by President-elect George W. Bush
                  (news - web sites).

                  The multimillion-dollar NTSB Academy will be built by George Washington
                  University on its satellite campus in Ashburn, Virginia. The federal
                  government will lease it for 20 years for $2.5 million per year. The school's
                  aviation institute, which studies safety and security issues, is located at the
                  same site.

                  The NTSB facility is scheduled to open in 2003, and will include a two-floor
                  building with classrooms, a lecture hall, laboratories, and office space.
                  Another building will house the TWA wreckage.

                  ``TWA is a very large and very complex system,'' said NTSB project
                  manager Robert Gilson. ``It's a big vehicle and there are an awful lot of things
                  we can use it for.''

                  He and other officials at the NTSB stressed the academy will serve as an
                  investigative tool for U.S. and international investigators, not a museum or a
                  facility for the public.

                  ``The goal is to teach people who will do these investigations -- what to look
                  for, what kind of questions to ask,'' said Gilson. ``The bottom line is we
                  investigate accidents.''

                  The NTSB is an independent agency that probes every civil aviation accident
                  in the United States as well as other transportation accidents. It reports on
                  probable cause and makes safety recommendations. 

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