Tag Archives: TWA Flight 800

3 Reasons to Doubt the TWA Flight 800 Conspiracy Theory

It took seven years for authorities to produce the most detailed aviation accident investigation in history. So how many people would it take to manufacture a fake report to cover up a plot?

By Joe Pappalardo via Popular Mechanics

Jim Wildey of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) gives a tour of the 93-foot section of the TWA Flight 800 fuselage that sits inside an Ashburn, Virginia NTSB training facility in 2004.
Getty Images

The official investigation into the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in 1996, which killed 230, concluded that a fuel tank had ignited from within, but never determined what sparked the explosion. (Dozens of airplanes have suffered similar events, and the safety regulations governing fuel tanks changed in 2008.) But now, all these years later, a new documentary, TWA Flight 800, claims that a missile or bomb took down the plane—and the U.S. government has been covering it up.

“It was either a terrorist attack that they wanted to ignore, or an accident as a result of a military operation that went wrong,” Hank Hughes, a former National Transportation Safety Board investigator and driving force behind the film, told ABC News.

What would you have to believe to accept the idea of a 17-year-old sprawling government cover-up? We look back at the original NTSB report to see what it says, and who would have had to lie about forensic tests or doctored evidence. Here’s a refresher on what the report says, why the original, simpler explanation is still the most likely.

Blast Holes

KallstromInvestigators reconstructed and analyzed virtually the entire structure of the stricken airliner. The work revealed 196 blast holes in the airplane’s structure. So how did the investigators figure that an internal gas tank explosion caused this damage, instead of a missile or bomb?

The NTSB’s metallurgists requested that Boeing conduct the tests (and Boeing had no motive to reach the conclusion that a defect in its own equipment, rather than an act of violence, caused the blast). Its engineers created test plates and fired fragments at them at high and low velocities. An antiaircraft missile warhead detonates close to its target, spraying shrapnel at high speeds into the aircraft to destroy it. A bomb made with high-energy explosives would also hurl metal, this time from the inside out, at higher velocities than an inadvertent gas tank detonation.

These tests indicated that high-speed fragments leave particular signs behind, like deformations on the edges and melted parts of the walls of the hole. High-speed impacts leave little surface deformation. In the TWA 800 tests, all but two of the 196 holes exhibited signs of . . .

MORE . . .

Also see: TWA Flight Conspiracy Theories Advanced in New EPIX Channel Video

Looking Back at TWA Flight 800

by Steven Novella via Skepticblog

On July 17, 1996 TWA flight 800 took off from JFK airport on its way to Paris. Fifteen minutes into its flight, shortly after climbing to about 13,000 feet, the jet exploded in mid air. The nose of the jet fell off into the Atlantic while the rest continued to fly, erratically while on fire and spewing smoke, until 42 seconds later when there was a second explosion. The right wing and the rest of the fuselage separated and descended as two separate streams of burning debris until they hit the surface of the water 7 seconds later. All 230 people aboard lost their lives.

Sixteen years later there are still those who believe that TWA flight 800 was shot down by a missile. This is despite the fact that the largest and most expensive investigation in history into the crash of a commercial airliner came to a very different conclusion. I had the opportunity this past week to speak to six different eyewitnesses of this tragedy, some of whom firmly believe a missile took down the jet, while others are unsure. The incident remains a classic historical case demonstrating the fallibility of perception and eyewitness accounts.

Read More: Skepticblog » Looking Back at TWA Flight 800.

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