TWA 800: Just Give Me Some Truth
July 17, 1996. I recall that evening well. My crew and I had spent the day flying a Business Express day trip on the Saab-340. We flew from Rochester, NY to New York's La Guardia Airport, thence up to Portland, Maine. We then backtracked from Portland to La Guardia and back to Rochester. It was a nice summer day in the skies over New York City, Long Island, and along the coastline up to Maine. At sundown, hell was unleashed along the beaches of Long Island abeam the Hamptons. TWA flight 800, a Boeing 747-100, climbing out of John F. Kennedy Airport and enroute to Paris, was destroyed by an explosion. News coverage of the disaster began when I was back in Rochester, having a meal and watching the news on CNN. My first thought was that it was a terrible event - may the dead rest in peace. My next thought was that the NTSB would find out what happened and hopefully prevent it from repeating. So I expected, but the results were disappointing. I expected better from the government.
On numerous days after the loss of TWA 800, I worked flights which passed by the recovery area. My copilot and I would look down, seeing small and large boats engaged in gathering the wreckage, remains of passengers, and remains of crew. Eventually the USS Grasp and USS Grapple appeared on the scene for lifting large pieces of the Boeing 747 from the ocean floor. We saw the reports about a possible missile destroying the airplane. We were aware of witnesses reporting a fireball and wreckage falling down to the ocean. Not once did we ever expect the fiction presented by investigators four years later. The theory of a fuel quantity sensor triggering the explosion is a fabrication. The CIA video of TWA 800 climbing after loss of the forward fuselage (instead of immediate structural failure) is a fabrication. What small lies have been told in support of the supreme lies? We will probably never know.
I don't know who is being protected by concealing truth about the destruction of TWA 800. I don't know why agencies of the federal government, particularly the FBI, do not want to confront the perpetrators of this act of mass murder. I do know that facts point to a missile strike on TWA 800. Read on while I explore them here.
Numerous eyewitnesses reported seeing a missile rise from the surface up to TWA 800, followed by a white flash and appearance of a large orange - yellow fireball. Researchers have plotted eyewitness positions and sight lines using Google Earth, and they tell a coherent story.
Paul Angelides, witness 83, reported seeing what looked like a "marine distress flare." Associated with it was a smoke trail which was curved and resembled a hook oriented toward (or from) the shoreline Then he saw a fireball, with trailing black smoke, which fell quickly into the ocean.
Mike Wire, witness 571, saw an object rapidly climbing upward from the surface, emitting a white light, resembling fireworks. It followed a path seeming to corkscrew or zig-zag. The white light disappeared, but then an orange fireball appeared and fell to the surface, trailing black smoke.
Aboard a New York Air National Guard helicopter were two pilots with a very clear view of the destruction of TWA 800. Major Fred Meyer (witness 657) and Captain Chris Bauer (witness 658) were located over Gabreski Airport, at an altitude of 200 feet. Bauer initially saw a bright white light, resembling pyrotechnics, quickly moving toward the Boeing 747. Next, there was a sequence of two explosions. Meyer reported a rapidly moving orange-red light moving toward the TWA jetliner. As the object reached TWA 800, there was a bright, white explosion - resembling an anti-aircraft munition.
Aboard US Airways flight 217, witness Dwight Brumley was watching from his window seat and saw a missile climb, then arc downwards and explode. The explosion was initially small, but suddenly blossomed into a large descending fireball.
What kind of missile could have been used? MANPADS: Man-portable Air Defense Systems. Manpads are short range missiles currently capable of hitting targets several miles from the launcher and up to about 20,000 feet in altitude. In 1996, they were less capable, but fully able to destroy TWA 800 as it "climbed through the teens" over the beaches of Long Island. There are three prime candidates:
- FIM-92 Stinger [United States]. Stingers are available on the black market, originally obtained from fighters in Afghanistan and other countries which received support in insurgencies from the USA against the Soviet Union or its allies.
- SA-7 Grail [Russia]. SA-7s are also available on the black market, and are quite capable of bringing down a jetliner.
- QW-1 Vanguard [China] Vanguards use technology reverse engineered from Stingers and SA-7s, but with improved capabilities.
- Misgah-1 [Iran] Misgah-1 missiles were designed based on technology adopted from China's QW-1, and could have reached TWA 800 with no difficulty.
Regarding warheads, a good possibility is a proximity fuse on high explosives, which would propel shrapnel into the jetliner. Another possibility is a proximity fuse on a Continuous Rod Warhead. A continuous rod warhead would cut through the aircraft, severing vital systems and increasing the chances of its destruction.
The Fireball and Falling Wreckage
Eyewitnesses overwhelmingly reported that the fireball came into existence, then burning debris fell down into the ocean. Radar data supports witness reports that the crippled aircraft immediately broke apart and fell in a parabolic trajectory.
Eastwind Airlines flight 507 was enroute from Boston, MA to the airline's base in Trenton, NJ. Many accounts credit "Stinger Bee 507" with making the initial call to ATC about the explosion. First Officer Vincent Fuschetti later testified, "At the onset of the explosion, the fireball spread horizontally then spilt into two columns of fire, which immediately began to fall slowly towards the water below. At no time did I see any vertical travel of the aircraft after the explosion occurred."
Secondary radar from as many as nine sites tracked the transponder signal from TWA 800 until the aircraft lost electrical power and suffered catastrophic damage at 20:31:12 local time. More pertinent to this discussion is primary radar data, obtained by processing raw radar reflection signals from reflective objects in the airspace occupied by TWA 800 before and after the explosive events.
Primary radar data from Islip, Kennedy, and White Plains indicate that TWA 800 suffered a catastrophic event just prior to 20:31:13, broke into pieces, and fell to the ocean. The first debris off the aircraft struck in westerly parts of the debris field. Debris separated later in the sequence fell to the east. While the debris was falling, winds carried it slightly to the south and east of a purely ballistic path. The path was also affected by the density of debris pieces; some parts tended to flutter down like chaff while other parts fell like bricks.
Returning to events at 20:31:13, radar indicates the presence of supersonic debris moving from the aircraft, in a southerly direction. The debris is moving at speeds consistent with a missile strike - well in excess of speeds expected from an explosion in the center fuel tank.
In the official report, the destruction of the center fuel tank was said to be caused by burning fuel vapors, ignited by a spark. That such an explosion could occur has been called into question by experts who doubt that enough vapor could exist in the tank, whether the ambient temperature would be high enough, and how a high energy electrical discharge could occur in the tank's quantity sensor wiring. If the tank really did explode, it would have been a subsonic, low velocity burning event. To violently blast material out of the aircraft's right side at supersonic speed, a bomb or missile would be required.
Suspicious Boat Tracks
Radar data revealed the presence of many "boat tracks" in the waters below the location where TWA 800 exploded. Many, with their eyewitnesses, were identified during the investigation. Many remained in the area and actually offered assistance in the recovery. One particular unidentified vessel was in a perfect position to launch a missile, 2.5 miles southeast of TWA 800's last transponder return. This vessel fled the area, creating the unidentified "30 knot track" cited by independent investigators.
An FBI trawling operation, funded by the NTSB, was active during late 2006 and early 2007 in areas where a missile may have been launched against TWA 800. One crewman reported finding an "ejector motor can" similar to that of a Stinger missile. He initially didn't recognize it and threw it overboard, but later recognized the component when shown photos of missile parts. The finding happened a few miles from the centerline of the "30 knot track."
Updated TWA 800 Witness
Original TWA 800 Witness
Fred Meyer's view of TWA 800.
Nitrate Residues: Potential Evidence of Explosives
As wreckage from TWA 800 was being collected and examined, a suspicious red residue was found on items from the forward cabin. Testing revealed the presence of nitrates, which indicate that that an explosive may have detonated the cabin. Bear in mind that a detonating explosive will deposit some unburned material as well as residue from fully buned material. This finding became a "hot potato" that had to be put down fast. One excuse for the residue was that it was from adhesive used during refurbishment of the passenger seats. Another was that it was a leftover from an explosive detection dog training exercise conducted earlier in the day when the aircraft was in Saint Louis.
Both official explanations have no merit. The nitrates were found on interior and exterior (fuel tank) surfaces, not limited to passenger seats. Also, they do not match adhesives used in cabin furnishings. Regarding the sniffer dog training, it was done on a different aircraft. The accident aircraft was already boarding passengers for the KSTL - KJFK flight while the dog training was being accomplished on the other 747. Have the aircraft movement / dispatch records ever been studied for this?
There is evidece of a high energy detonation involving the forward fuselage. Damage to the left wing indicates that something blasted the Boeing 747 near the left wing root AND ruptured the fuselage. Bone fragments embedded in a passenger seat, plus other physical trauma to passengers show that something much more violent than an exploding fuel tank happened. Nitrate spatter across a significant portion of the center tank indicates an energetic event happened external to the tank before the tank was shattered.
Suspicious Inflight Damage to the Left Wing
Eyewitness reports and pattens of damage to the aircraft indicate that, in addition to the left forward fuselage, TWA 800 sustained severe damage to the inboard left wing area. Damage appears to indicate a violent shock which shattered the left wing's upper surface, destroying lift and causing the aircraft to roll and turn to the left. There are reports consistent with fuel being dispersed from the wing. It formed an elongated white cloud.
Parts of the left wing upper surface were found in the westernmost debris field, indicating that shedding of left wing parts happened early during the break up of the 747. Such a violent shock outside of the plane is inconsistent with an explosion originating in the center fuel tank.
Primary radar returns from Islip, White Plains, and Kennedy do indicate a brief turn to the left before wreckage turns right and expands into many more reflective objects in free fall.
Fuel Quantity Indicating System - Not!
The NTSB report on TWA 800 is quite speculative regarding what triggered their alleged explosion within the center wing fuel tank. Their best guess is that a short circuit within bundled wires inductively coupled energy into wiring connected to fuel quantity probes within the tank. These are sensors which are immersed in the fuel and measure capacitance, and the capacitance measured in the probe varies predictably with fuel quantity. They are not connected to a high voltage or high current source. In addition, voltages high enough (1200 Volts) to spark an explosion at the sensor aren't produced by the aircraft generators. Nor is such voltage likely from shorts in nearby wires.
Investigators postulated that heat from air conditioning packs or perhaps a bleed air leak could heat the tank enough to create explosive vapors from Jet A fuel. They were unable to conclusively show that the center tank was heated dangerously by a bleed air leak or hot air from the packs. Tests were done on 747-100s and the results do not clearly indicate that a dangerous environment could have existed on TWA 800.
Fuel pumps on the 747-100 are not located in the tanks. Instead, fuel is fed from the tanks to the pumps via ducts, and from the pumps through filters and heat exchangers to make it suitable for burning in the engines. Boeing's design philosophy of keeping ignition sources out of the tanks is a sound one, proven by years of safe history on thousands of Boeing planes.
The Zoom Climb - Not!
The CIA, in its video contribution to the TWA 800 investigation, shows that it is a talented yet flawed creator of aviation fiction. The theory of TWA 800 doing a 3000 foot "zoom climb" after losing the forward fuselage is pure fabrication unsupported by basic aerodynamics. Federal investigators made a condescending assumption that moderately educated people do not understand how an airplane flies, how weight and balance affect an aircraft, or what may cause aircraft to structurally fail. The official video is an insult to all of the eyewitnesses who reported seeing the explosion and fall of TWA 800.
Addressing eyewitnesses first. The video directly contradicts the numerous sightings of a missile rising from the surface up to TWA 800. It asserts that there was no missile, and that the aircraft pitched up without the weight of its forward fuselage, then climbed about 3000 feet before diving to the surface (disintegrating on the way down). Witnesses did not report a steep climb by the burning aircraft. They assert that TWA 800 began to come apart and was engulfed in flames, then fell from the fireball in pieces. Some of the pieces were large, and experienced conflagration before striking the ocean surface. To the last person, they didn't see what the CIA fantasy video depicts. As Major Meyer said, “The aircraft I saw came out of the air like a stone.”
Such a zoom climb would have traded airspeed for altitude, when the forward cabin separated, resulting in a rapid reduction in forward speed as the stricken plane pitched up. It is a false claim because of these facts:
- Suddenly removing the weight of the forward fuselage would cause an aft shift in the center of gravity to a point aft of the "center of lift . Aerodynamic download from the horizontal stabilizer would cause a sudden and violent upward pitching of the aircraft.
- Suddenly pitching the aircraft up at the high speed it was moving would have overstressed the wings, causing structural failure. The wings would have failed and the wreckage would freefall.
- Radar data collected by the NTSB does not support the zoom climb. The wreckage maintained a high speed beyond parameters consistent with the zoom climb theory. In fact, data much more closely match a freefall to the surface.
FBI Subjugated NTSB and other Investigators
The job of the NTSB is to investigate transportation accidents and recommend ways to prevent similar accidents in the future. NTSB investigators are experienced experts who make careers of finding the combination of factors that together result in accidents. The FBI, in contrast, is assigned the task of investigating criminal acts and monitoring criminal activity within the United States. The CIA functions much like the FBI, but is responsible for adversaries outside of the United States. While TWA 800 wreckage was still burning on the ocean surface, a political decision was made to give leadership of the investigation to FBI (supported by CIA) and take it from the NTSB. This could only have been done to suppress honest investigation and steer events to a predetermined outcome!
The result was an effective restraining and muzzling of efforts to determine what really happened to TWA 800. FBI agents forbade NTSB investigators to measure, photograph, and otherwise examine much of the evidence. Early on, according to Hank Hughes, Robert Young (TWA Airlines), and James Speer (TWA Airlines), FBI was enforcing an agenda against objectively determining facts. Mr. Speer states in a documentary that he was looking at a piece of wreckage with "entry and exit holes" similar to shrapnel damage, and was forbidden by FBI agents to photograph it.
Speer tested a piece of wreckage with suspicious damage for nitratess, on a device called an Egis Machine. David Fine, inventor of the Egis, asserts that the device was quite accurate and did not give false positives. FBI agents took posession of the piece of wreckage, asserted that the Egis gave a false positive, and sent it away to an FBI laboratory - never to be seen again.
FBI treated the wreckage as a "top secret" thing, and released pieces to other investigators only after the pieces had been deemed benign and not evincing the presence of a bomb or missile strike on TWA 800. FBI agents are suspected of altering and falsifying data such as "recovery information" tags. An agent nicknamed "Little Ricky Hahn" was found early one morning hammering a piece of wreckage to alter its damage pattern.
Extraordinary Suppression of Eyewitness Reports
Almost 800 witnesses made official reports to authorites of an object climbing up to TWA 800 followed by a fireball and explosions. Some actually heard loud booming sounds several seconds after a white flash and yellow fireball erupting. When witness sightlines are plotted on maps or Google Earth, they remarkably correlate to an area offshore near the ground track of TWA 800. Following the fireball, witnesses consistently report wreckage falling to the water - NOT zoom climbing as shown in the CIA fabrication.
Investigators, particularly FBI and CIA, were hostile to reports of a missile strike on TWA 800. Numerous accounts exist of investigators telling witnesses that they "didn't see a missile" or "saw nothing." Some were even told in clear, somewhat threatening terms, to keep quiet about what they saw. When silencing witnesses was unsuccessful, they resorted to discrediting witnesses as a class to ignore.
One effort to discredit eyewitnesses involved a series of test missile lanches on the Floria coast at Eglin Air Force Base. In a complete backfiring of the effort, witnesses affirmed that these missiles resembled what they saw when TWA 800 was brought down. In fact the missiles were easily visible at distances comparable to the TWA 800 missile sightings.
Facts indicate that the official investigation into the loss of TWA 800 was criminally corrupt, inadequate, and intended to conceal truth of what happened. The investigation needs to be reopened and carried out with strong oversight and the results made public. If we are to trust the government and its agencies, then it absolutely must do a better job of dealing with disasters such as TWA 800. It must face ugly truths when they exist, and make preventive measures "reality based" instead of "based on political expediency." If terrorists or hostile regimes are ressponsible, then they (and those who give them material support) must be dealt with. If the killers were from an ally or trading partner, the same rules apply: face it and deal with it.
Portable anti-aircraft missiles are known among security professionals to be a credible threat to commercial aviation. In Novembeer 2002, an Akira Airlines 757 was narrowly missed by a pair of Russian SA-7 missiles launched by terrorists near the airport in Mombasa, Kenya. It missed because the terrorists were incompetent operators. Living and dying in a world with armed terrorists is often a matter of luck. Those killers who destroyed TWA 800 brought their A game to the slaughter.
Never forget: if you value freedom, that the truth will set you free. Show weakness to adversaries and they will be menaces until they are destroyed.