U.S. board hopes to have TWA 800 report this year

WASHINGTON, May 6 (Reuters) - National Transportation Safety Board Chairman
Jim Hall said Thursday he was hoping to have a final report by December on
the TWA jet that crashed just after taking off from New York in July 1996.

Hall told a congressional committee he was certain an explosion of the air
and fuel fumes in the Boeing 747's center fuel tank had downed the plane
killing all 230 people on board, but the exact ignition source was still
being examined.

"I have asked Dr.(Bernard) Loeb (Office of Aviation Safety director) to try
and have this investigation completed by the end of this year," Hall told
the House Transportation aviation subcommittee.

The NTSB said it was also going over eyewitness accounts, originally taken
by the FBI, with Boeing Co., Trans World Airlines and other participants in the
investigation to ensure everyone agreed the investigation had been thorough.

Theories that TWA Flight 800 was downed by a missile were dismissed early in
the investigation by the NTSB and the Federal Bureau of Investigation later

Nevertheless, a small number of independent investigators remain convinced
there has been a cover-up of either a military or terrorist attack on the plane.

The committee heard from retired U.S. Navy Commander William Donaldson who
still believes in a missile.

But Ohio Democrat Jim Traficant, who conducted his own 10-month probe of the
federal government's investigation, said the probe had meticulously examined
the possibility of a missile or a bomb.

"...to suggest the NTSB and the FBI are involved in a cover-up is
unfortunate, sick and totally contrary to the facts," Traficant said.