March 2000 Newsletter

 In October 1999, NTSB personnel whined to Washington Post reporter Michael
 Grunwald about Boeing's supposed nefarious conduct in not providing the
 board with a 1980 study on center wing tank fuel heating in the E-4B
 aircraft, a military version of the 747.

 O Perfidy!  Chairman Hall was "dismayed" and "displeased" and Senator
 Grassley claimed that if only this crucial document had been "released" our
 vigilant federal government would have prevented the TWA 800 disaster!

 This report was said to explain how excess heat from the air conditioning
 bay created highly flammable fuel vapors in the center wing tank of TWA 800.
 As the esteemed journalist Christine Negroni notes in her scintillating new
 book, this report showed that 747s are "fuel tank bombs."

 As required by law, the NTSB has made this report part of the public docket
 by publishing it on their website.  No press releases or leaks to Post
 reporters accompanied the release of this "smoking gun" document.

 Why have Senator Grassley and the NTSB been oddly silent about this report
 since their original hissy fits?  Perhaps because they read it.

 This study has nothing to do with normal operations of an airliner on a
 pleasant evening with temperatures in the 70's, as was the case with TWA
 800.  This report concerns "self-sustained ground operation for a 48-hour
 period" under "environmental extremes" as defined in Mil-Std-210A.  This
 specification calls for "Hot Day" testing under the following parameters:

 1. 125°F max air temperature
 2. 105°F max air temperature
 3. 85°F max air temperature
 Fuel supplied to the aircraft at 9O°F under all conditions

 Sure enough, the report shows that under these extreme environmental
 conditions the heat generated from the air conditioning packs can create
 flammable vapors in the fuel tank.  Of course there are four such packs on
 the E-4B as opposed to three on the TWA 800 747 model.

 The most important point of the tests conducted under this report is noted
 at the outset - these extreme environmental conditions exceed the design
 parameters of the aircraft.

 The NTSB was originally intent on presenting this report as a matter of the
 utmost relevance to the TWA 800 disaster.  Upon examination, it clearly is

 Yet is Chairman Hall dismayed and displeased that his agency misrepresented
 its content?  Will Howard Kurtz admonish his colleague for sloppy reporting?
 Will Senator Grassley retract his comments?


 A number of observers of the TWA 800 investigation have expressed a desire
 for congressional hearings where key participants such as James Kallstrom
 and Jim Hall could be questioned under oath.  We'd also like the questioning
 to be conducted under Mil-Std-210A Hot Day conditions.

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