Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

Report on the NTSB Hearings by Tom Stalcup - Chariman of FIRO

The NTSB Board meeting on TWA 800 was slanted heavily toward the spark
theory, as many FIRO members expected.  The NTSB spent an inordinate
amount of time and effort researching and discussing possible ignition
sources, leaving their knowledge of the details of other theories severely

This was most evident in their discussion of the eyewitnesses.  NTSB
Witness Group chairman Dr. Mayer made many mistakes while attempting to
discredit eyewitnesses, including those published by TWAEWA (TWA
Eyewitness Alliance) in the Washington Times full page ad.  I plan to
critique Dr. Mayer's statements within the next few weeks.

But what disturbed me the most was the Q&A session.  Board member Black
suggested that the eyewitnesses who reported seeing a missile or ascending
object were drunk.  The audience gasped and murmured after this
insinuation.  Prior to this, Chairman Hall asked Dr. Mayer, "Is it your
conclusion that the witnesses that said they saw a streak of light didn't
see a streak of light?"

I then yelled out from the audience, "Ask the eyewitnesses!"  Security
then began to descend upon me, only to be called off by Chairman Hall, who
warned me not to make any more outbursts.  I apologized and made no more

Earlier in the day, David Neal and I met with Chairman Hall privately in
his office.  His personal secretary was also present.  David and I
informed the chairman of our dissatisfaction with his opening
statement--specifically when he singled out the independent investigators,
saying that "they do a disservice to us all, but most especially to you,
the TWA 800 families, who have suffered so much in this tragedy."  I
informed the Chairman that there are several family members that deeply
appreciate our work and think that is the NTSB who is performing the

David and I also discussed some other differences, but remained cordial
and professional throughout the meeting.  Chairman Hall appreciated our
position and offered to meet privately with David, FBI Director Louis
Freeh, and myself some time soon, in an attempt to help answer any
remaining questions that we may have.  Two separate times during the day,
Hall told David and me that he is committed to setting up the meeting.  We
will definitely do our best to make this meeting happen.

Then at 6:00 PM today, at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, we held a press
conference to give our response to the NTSB meeting.  Family member Marge
Gross joined us in the press conference.  C-span covered this press
conference, which is scheduled to air later tonight at 2:45 AM, after the
NTSB coverage.  In summary, David did an excellent job representing FIRO's
position, and Marge Gross looked into the camera and spoke directly to
Chairman Hall, reversing his opening comment about the independent
investigators "with their own agendas."  Hall will be quite uncomfortable
if he watches.  I presented evidence the NTSB overlooked regarding the
eyewitness testimony and highlighted inaccuracies in the NTSB Witness
presentation by Dr. Mayer.  I also blasted member Black for his statement
about his suggestion that the "streak of light" eyewitnesses were drunk.

Family members Michel Breistroff and Donald Nibert were also present at
the press conference and were scheduled to make statements.  Each declined
during the press conference, and appeared quite disturbed after a family
member meeting with Chairman Hall.

Yesterday, I attempted to bring 25 copies of a letter to the Senate from
NTSB investigator Hank Hughes into the board meeting.  In the letter,
Hughes complained about "an inexcusable absence of leadership" in the NTSB
investigation, among other things.  NTSB security would not let me bring
any in, but I objected because there were 10 individuals seated with me
who wanted to see the letter.  NTSB allowed me to bring in 11 copies of
the letter.

Moments later, Reed Irvine (head of Accuracy in Media) was *carried* out
of the meeting room for handing out copies of a full-page ad from the
eyewitnesses, and refusing to leave on his own.  Irvine (> 80 yrs.) laid
on the floor before being carried out by NTSB security.  Strict control
over information was obviously a top priority for the NTSB.

There was plenty more that happened during the past few days, including
the fact that the first FIRO press conference, on Monday, was packed with
cameras and media reps. from CNN, ABC, NBC, AP, AFP, TF1, local D.C.
stations and others.  Many questions were asked of nearly all the
presenters, but surprisingly, there was little to no splash made in the
airwaves.  I plan to spend the rest of the summer writing up a full
critique of the NTSB's final report, and hope that other FIRO members will
be willing to help.

Tom Stalcup

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