Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

TWA Flight 800 Hulk to Anchor New GWU Facility
By Don Phillips
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 14, 2000; Page B07 

The reconstructed hulk of Trans World Airlines Flight 800 will be transported to the Loudoun County campus of George Washington University to become the centerpiece of a new accident investigation training academy, the National Transportation Safety Board said yesterday. 

NTSB Chairman Jim Hall said the university will build new classrooms, laboratory space and a large, open yard for accident reconstruction and equipment to be used in accident investigations. In turn, the safety board has agreed to a 20-year lease of the facilities.

The reconstructed wreckage of the Boeing 747 that was blown apart by a fuel tank explosion on the evening of July 17, 1996, killing 230 people, will be mounted in a large central area at the heart of the new facility.

Safety board spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said no firm plans have been made for when or how the 747 hulk will be moved from a large hangar on Long Island near the crash scene. The facility must be built before the move can take place, he said.

Recovery of nearly a whole airliner from the ocean bottom is a rare undertaking. However, the FBI and others originally suspected terrorism brought down the Paris-bound plane. Other groups continue to insist it was brought down by a missile, although the safety board and the FBI say there is no evidence of a missile or bomb.

To determine with relative finality what happened, the Navy spent months recovering every shred of wreckage it could find, and specialists from the safety board and Boeing reconstructed as much of the plane as possible.

Hall said the new facility is expected to be in operation in early 2003. It will give the safety board its first major training facility and will expand its available lab space. He said it will also allow the safety board to meet requests for training by foreign governments.

"Our new academy will train accident investigators from public and private organizations, both domestic and foreign," Hall said in a statement. "With transportation systems continuing to grow every year, and with the increasing need for well-trained accident investigators in many countries, the academy will serve the cause of transportation safety for travelers all around the world.

"A number of safety boards in other countries and U.S.-based organizations have expressed strong interest in helping NTSB establish the academy. We look forward to working with the George Washington University in making the academy a success."

Although today's statement did not go into details, Hall has said that he would like to see professor-exchange programs that would give GWU professors exposure to accident investigation while safety board technical experts learn from professors specializing in physics, metallurgy and other sciences.

GWU was in competition with other universities, but the NTSB made it clear from the beginning that it favored the Loudoun location. The university's Ashburn campus is relatively close to the safety board's Washington headquarters and to Dulles International Airport.

Hall, technically acting chairman, plans to leave the NTSB soon after several of the busiest years in the agency's history. It is unclear who will succeed him as chairman, a position appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Members of the five-member safety board are appointed for staggered five-year terms.

© 2000 The Washington Post Company 

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