Tuesday, February 9, 2010
TWA Flight 800
On July 17, 1996, Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight 800, a Boeing 747-131, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York. It was a scheduled international passenger flight from JFK International Airport in New York to Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport in Rome, Italy. The flight departed the JFK International Airport at 20:19 with two pilots, two flight engineers, 14 flight attendants, and 212 passengers. The plane crash resulted in all 230 people on board being killed and the airplane being destroyed.
Although there was much initial speculation that the crash had been caused by a terrorist attack, the FBI announced that no evidence of a criminal act had been found. The NTSB concluded that there was an explosion in the center wing fuel tank (CWT), causing the ignition of the flammable fuel/ air mixture in the tank. They also concluded that the source of ignition energy for the explosion could not be determined with certainty, but that the most likely was a short circuit outside of the CWT allowing excessive voltage to enter through the electrical wiring associated with the fuel quantity indication system.
Now that we know what happened, lets see what some of the conspiracies are. On November 7, 1996, Pierre Salinger claimed that he had proof that TWA Flight 800 had been shot down by friendly fire, and that the events that took place had been covered up by the government. He based his assumptions on a document he received 6 months earlier by someone in French Intelligence with close contacts to U.S. officials. He refused to name his source and CNN quickly found the document to be a widely accessible e-mail letter that Richard Russell, a retired airline pilot, wrote six weeks earlier. Salinger was previously a White House Press Secretary and a long time correspondent for ABC News making his statements initially credible. The NTSB vice chairman, Bob Francis, said Pierre Salinger was an idiot and didn't know what he was talking about.
James Sanders, a retired police officer and his wife, Elizabeth Sanders, claimed that the "reddish" residue not present on other seats was missile fuel. The FBI declared the residue to be adhesive used in the seats. In response, the NTSB retested the samples and once again declared it as adhesive which the Sander's again disputed. They believed that testing by independent laboratories showed the samples to be inconsistent with the composition of the expected adhesive. In their first book on the incident, the Sanders published the book The Downing of TWA Flight 800 in which they proposed that the plane had been shot down by friendly fire and a government cover up had taken place. Later with the help of Jack Cashill, they published First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America which further expanded their theory stating that the plane had been brought down by a Navy missile, whose intended target was a terrorist plane on a collision course with the passenger aircraft.
Another conspiracy is by William S. Donaldson, a retired naval officer, who authored the Donaldson Report which was released on July 17, 1998. He claimed that TWA Flight 800 had been struck by two missiles which had been fired from the water. He said it was most likely a terrorist attack and that the FBI and NTSB had conspired to cover-up this due to political pressure. Donaldson disputed the CWT Fuel/Air vapor explosion scenario because there had never been an in-flight explosion in a Boeing Airliner of a Jet-A Kerosene fuel vapor/air mixture in any tank caused by a mechanical failure. His proof of the missile-attack scenario consisted of eyewitness accounts, the debris field, and victim injury evidence. Donaldson supported Sander's theory of the accidental shoot down and did not rule out U.S. Navy involvement. Most of Donaldson's report dealt with his belief that the FBI and NTSB covered up what really happened. He believed that the Clinton Administration wanted to cover up the events that occurred for political reasons especially the upcoming presidential elections. In his conclusion, he requested that Congress would hold Congressional hearings into the crash and that the Justice Department would appoint an independent counsel to investigate. Neither of his requests were granted.
Elaine Scarry published "The Fall of TWA 800: The Possibility of Electromagnetic Interference", on April 9, 1998. She was a professor of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard and proposed that electromagnetic interference could have caused the crash, specifically energy emitted by a U.S. Military Aircraft. In response to the NTSB's Final Report, Elaine Scarry published "TWA 800 and Electromagnetic Interference: Work Already Completed and Work that Still Needs to be Done" in which she praised NTSB's initial research. She also stated that more research was needed to form an accurate conclusion and expressed her belief that the investigation was biased. She felt the events that occurred within the aircraft were excessively detailed while not enough research was done on the electromagnetic environment outside the plane. Scarry believed that a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion flying close to the aircraft was the source of electromagnetic interference that caused the CWT explosion bringing down the plane.
The International Association of Mechanists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) submitted a report proposing a breakup sequence that started on the lower left side of the airplane when a high-pressure event "unzipped" the fuselage. They concluded that a major event may have occurred on the left side of the plane leading to the destruction of TWA Flight 800. They also concluded that the explosion of the CWT was a result of the breakup, not the initial event. The IAMAW criticized the "Tag Database" documenting the recovered wreckage and the accuracy of witness accounts. They also criticized how FBI agents removed pieces of the wreckage without documenting it. They however praised the FBI's cooperation during the investigation and their resistance to the media preventing it from being a force on the investigation. In the end, they concluded that the causes and circumstances of the crash are unknown.
Peter Lance wrote in his book Cover Up: What the Government Is Still Hiding About the War on Terror, that TWA 800 was blown up by a bomb to disrupt the trial of the 1993 World Trade Center bomber, Ramzi Yousef. Lance believes that Yousef planned that attack from prison to get a mistrial for master-minding the Bojinka Plot. He claimed that the FBI had prior knowledge of the attack but did not properly act on it. Supporting this theory is the fact that the FBI found residues of RDX, the same explosive that Yousef intended to use to blow up 12 airliners. It was later assumed that the residue was from a K-9 sniffing incident about one month before when an explosive substance was placed in the aircraft for dogs to sniff out.
The TWA Flight 800 crash was truly a tragedy that claimed the lives of 230 people. I think it is certainly possible that the plane was accidentally shot down by friendly fire. I think the "reddish" residue was just explosives used for a K-9 training exercise, not missile fuel. It is certainly plausible that the FBI and NTSB covered up the events that really took place on that tragic day due to political pressure. It seems highly unlikely that the breakup of the CWT fuel/air vapor explosion scenario took place due to the fact that such incident had never occurred before in aviation history in a Boeing Airliner using Jet-A Kerosene fuel. It is suspicious how FBI agents removed pieces of the wreckage without documenting it. A possible motive for the incident could have been to disrupt the trial of terrorist Ramzi Yousef and it is certainly possible that the plane was blown up by a bomb. I don't think the FBI had prior knowledge of the incident. Regardless of who is at fault, the lives of many innocent civilians were taken. This just emphasizes how bloody war, terrorism, and violence really are. Imagine what a wonderful world we could live in if we all lived in peace and harmony with each other and accepted and respected each others differences and beliefs.