Book Review of  Christine Negroni's "Deadly Departure" 
by Cmdr. William S. Donaldson

Having just finished Ms. Negroni's book "deadly departure"  I am tempted to dismiss it out of hand as just another CNN puff piece defending the Clinton administration. The overall theme seems to be:  these mean capitalist corporations [Boeing] are out to make a greedy buck by putting air travelers at risk.  This is discovered, of course, by hard working presidential appointees [NTSB] who have but a fraction of the credentials of  Boeing staff engineers. 

Ms. Negroni gets herself totally lost in the forest of access journalism.  It seems more important that she sensationalize the human tragedy and chronicle the interactions of the government personalities that were involved in this dismally failed crash investigation [because they gave her easy access] then it is to find fact.

It's obvious to an air-crash investigator that she has no technical credentials and bought the NTSB's story line virtually without checking anything.  A few examples:

Dismissal of witnesses:  She accepts the administration's position at face value that witnesses couldn't help the NTSB investigation and doesn't seem to be curious why the FBI would continue to hold their testimony secret or why the U.S. attorney in New York would prohibit NTSB investigators from doing such interviews in violation of the NTSB's own protocol.  Worse yet, she doesn't even bother to find or interview these witnesses herself.  We managed to independently find 140 witnesses in 60 locations, 20 of which weren't even interviewed by the FBI.

Fuel volatility:  She totally misrepresents the complexity of fuel volatility and the history of fuel tank explosions aboard aircraft.  She cites crashes in which tanks were ignited with bombs, tanks that were ignited by a collision with other aircraft, tanks that were ignited by lightning, Etc.  She totally ignores the chemical engineering data on the fuel that was used aboard flight 800.   Jet A fuel, which has an ignition flash point hundreds of degrees hotter [safer] than the fuels involved in these other crashes.  At sea level, liquid Jet A can't even be lit with a match until its heated above 127 degrees Fahrenheit at which point, if ignited, the flame would then propagate about one  ft. per second across the surface of the fuel - it would not explode.  She doesn't seem to realize the NTSB's own contracted flight tests proved the tank was non flammable [much less explosive] until the aircraft climbed above 14,000 ft. TWA flight 800 never got to that altitude.

She seems to be totally ignorant of:

  1. The hydraulic RAM over pressure of the left wing documented by military missile experts and their seven recommendations including firing of live missiles at 747 inboard fuel tanks.  She doesn't seem curious why the the FBI dropped their investigation without doing those tests at exactly the time they received a formal report from the military.
  2. The high energy implosion of the center wing tank left wall that points to a shoulder fired missile warhead detonation as the initiating event in the number two main tank.
  3. My testimony before congress in May of 1999 in which we introduced physical proof of a secret operation paid for by the NTSB but run by the FBI designed to recover stinger missile parts after extensive study of witness information and U.S. military missile expert consultation.
  4. Evidence of a missile hit on radar, evidence of a separate missile debris field captured on radar, radar evidence that the CIA's flight simulation video tape was a fraud, radar evidence that the NTSB's videotape was a fraud.
  5. Evidence that the White House had advanced warning of a missile threat.
I've been working on an outside investigation into the loss of TWA flight 800 since April of 1997. Mr. Hall first published this nonsense theory in the wall street journal that month.  I was warned more than a year ago that Ms Negroni intended to do a book that would defend the NTSB's mission failure.  In that regard she has done a remarkable job of advocacy journalism, considering her background at CNN I suppose that's not unexpected.

 William S Donaldson  CDR. /USN Ret.

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