Flight 800: Accident Or Terrorist
Attack? Part 1
Military Aviation Group Calls For Congressional Investigation
By Joey Mac Lellan for Suffolk Life Newspapers
December 14, 1998
A group of retired military personnel, experienced in aviation accident investigations, is calling for congressional hearings and possibly a special investigator to review the TWA Flight 800 incident which killed 230 people when the plane exploded over the Atlantic Ocean just south of Moriches on July 17, 1996. In the 109-page report, written by Commander William S. Donaldson, US Navy (Retired), the group charges that the plane was destroyed by two high explosive anti-aircraft warheads (one fired from near the Moriches Inlet and the other from a ship about 17 nautical miles off shore), and that the President and Department of Justice impeded the investigation. This report has been "intentionally narrowed to focus primarily on physical evidence, witness testimony and actions of officials in the Justice and Transportation departments that have had a direct impact on the historical record of the TWA Flight 800 incident," wrote Donaldson, whose investigation was conducted in cooperation with the Associated Retired Aviation Professionals.
The report was funded, in part, by the Subcommittee on Aviation under the authority of the U.S. House of Representative Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. "Like most Americans," said Donaldson, "I was very concerned when TWA Flight 800 mysteriously exploded ... just two days before the start of the Atlanta Olympics." The retired Navy commander said he followed the FL800 investigation in the media, initially, because "it was so unusual for something like this to happen to a Boeing 747 without an obvious external cause." Because the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) plays a "vital role in assuring the safety of the commercial airline industry," Donaldson said he was "confident the NTSB would quickly discover the cause." However, a year later, he said he read a letter in the Wall Street Journal from NTSB Chairman James Hall suggesting that "TWA FL800 exploded due to some undiscovered mechanical failure, rather than some external cause, such as a bomb or missile." The NTSB, with assistance from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), came up with its mechanical malfunction theory, he noted, "despite the known safety properties of modern Jet Fuel and the fact that there were hundreds of eyewitnesses who saw something streaking up from the surface which ended in the explosion of TWA FL800." In the report, Donaldson wrote, "As a Naval aviator and crash investigator, I was very familiar with anti-aircraft missiles as well as the properties of Jet-A Fuel and did not believe it possible that the fuel would explode spontaneously.
" In fact, he added, "the fuel, which is very similar to regular kerosene, will not easily light with a match, unless the fuel is misted in the atmosphere or aerated by a fuel injector." After consulting the Aviation Fuels Handbook and conducting simple experiments with Jet-A Fuel, Donaldson said, "I became convinced the Center Wing Tank did not explode without some external cause." He said he contacted Hall with his concerns, but was "immediately rebuffed." That reaction, along with the fact that the NTSB refused to allow any eyewitness testimony at an official FL800 hearing in Baltimore, and that the only discussions at the hearing concerned the Center Wing Tank (CWT) explosion theory, alarmed Donaldson. "They appeared to only be interested in selling their story to the media and the public." However, he added, "there are thousands of aviation professionals who do not believe the official version of the tragedy and there are hundreds of eyewitnesses on Long Island who know what they saw and do not appreciate the government telling them they were wrong." Using statements from 47 eyewitnesses, the report offers what more than 400 people (residents, scientists military personnel and business executives) saw on that clear night over the Atlantic Ocean. The report also lists 15 reported missile sightings off the East End of Long Island between June 1987, and September 1997 - including FL800 on July 17, 1996. "Based on the fact that TWA FL800 was the likely target of a state [another nation] sponsored terrorist attack , which is an Act of War, and the fact that the Administration has covered up this act for political expediency prior to the 1996 election, the Congress should ... Hold Congressional Hearings into the cause of the crash of TWA FL800 [and] Request the Justice Department appoint an Independent Counsel to investigate." Suffolk County Congressional members Michael Forbes, Rick Lazio and Gary Ackerman said they have not read the report but will have their respective staff review the information.