Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

Major court ruling in TWA Flight 800 case

Eyewitness News Investigators Exclusive

 By Jim Hoffer


A retired pilot is talking about his major court victory in a decade long fight to obtain secret records into the crash of TWA Flight 800.

Government safety experts have long blamed the catastrophe on an exploding center fuel tank. The man you're about to meet hopes to disprove that.

Former retired United pilot Ray Lahr could easily be dismissed as just another conspiracy nut, until you consider his background and that he has the patience and determination to wear down even the nation's top intelligence agencies as he seeks to find what he says is the truth behind Flight 800.

At age 81, Ray Lahr could be kicking back, instead he's taking on the CIA, the National Security Agency and the NTSB.

"This country is no stronger than the truth and confidence in our government and if someone won't fight for that we'll lose it," Ray said.

For nearly nine years, Captain Lahr has been trying to gain access to records the government used to conclude that a center fuel tank explosion, not a missile, brought down TWA Flight 800 ten years ago.

Back then, the CIA crash investigation concluded that after the fuel tank exploded, separating the cockpit from the plane, the aircraft continued to climb 3200 feet. The NTSB concluded the 258 witnesses who reported seeing a streak of light from a possible missile, actually observed burning fuel coming from plane as it continued to move upward.

Captain Lahr refers to this as the zoom climb theory which he believes defies physics.

"They've made some false assumptions put into that simulation program and that's why I want that data," he said.

Captain Lahr may get some of the data. In a recent federal court ruling, a U.S. district court judge granted the former pilot access to most of the documents he's requested. The judge stating in his ruling that, "taken together this evidence is sufficient to permit plaintiff to proceed based on his claim that the government acted improperly in its investigation of Flight 800 or at least performed in a grossly negligent fashion."

Jim Hoffer: "What do you think these documents are going to show?"

Captain Lahr: "I believe that I could show that the zoom climb never happened. If the zoom climb never happened then they've got to find out what the eyewitnesses saw and the only logical conclusion there is is that they saw a missile."

Peter Goelz, former NTSB managing director: "There is absolutely no evidence that a missile was fired at this aircraft."

Goelz was NTSB managing director during the Flight 800 investigation. He says Captain Lahr and other conspiracy theorists continue to ignore the evidence.

"It shows clearly that the center wing tank exploded, ignited and tore the plane apart," Goelz said.

Goelz says the wreckage trail shows the plane did continue to fly after it exploded.

"So we know that the plane continued in flight whether it climbed 3200 feet or not is really irrelevant," he said.

Captain Lahr thinks it is most relevant and he's not about to give up.

Jim Hoffer: "Do you think you'll live to see these documents in your hands?"
Lahr: "My mother's 102."

Among the documents the judge says the government should hand over to Captain Lahr include eyewitness names, radar data and aircraft flight data. The NTSB declined to comment on the judge's ruling pending a possible appeal.



  Robert E. Donaldson.  All rights reserved