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:
William S Donaldson CDR. /USN Ret.