TWA Flight 800 Accident reconsturction site, May 20, 1997
Every year on the anniversary of the TWA Flight 800's plunge into the Atlantic off the coast of Long Island, the government has a new announcement to make concerning the disaster.
TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747-131was on its way to Paris when it crashed in the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York July 17, 1996.
On board were 230 who perished including 212 passengers.
A National Transportation Safety Board report, issued in 2000, says the “probable cause” was an explosion of the center wing fuel tank (CWT) that resulted from the ignition of flammable fuel mixed with air in the tank.
“The source of ignition energy for the explosion could not be determined with certainty”, the report says. But the most likely culprit was a short circuit outside of the CWT that allowed electricity to enter through wiring for the fuel indication system.
In other words a fatal ignition of a flammable fuel-air mixture. Could it happen again?
Almost on cue, the acting administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration, Robert Sturgell, announced a new rule requiring jets to modify their fuel tanks was made final this week.
According to Bloomberg News reporter John Hughes, "US airlines must modify their jets' fuel tanks to cut the risk of explosions such as the 1996 blast that down TWA Flight 800”.
The changes will cost the airline industry $1 billion over the next 35 years and will affect 2,730 planes.
Further down, National Transportation Secretary Mary Peters calls the rule "a memorial to the victims of the crash."
Bloomberg reports that blasts on three other planes have taken 346 lives since 1989 and that four U.S. planes ``are virtually certain'' to have fuel- tank explosions in the next 35 years unless actions are taken according to the FAA.
Investigative journalist Kristina Borjesson covered the Flight 800 crash for CBS, then ABC. She wonders why the FAA has taken so long to make corrections if there is an obvious flaw in aircraft design.
She talks to IB News about the likelihood of a Flight 800 crash happening again and reveals what is not being said about what caused the fuel tank to explode.
(Disclosure- IB News Editor, Akre, has collaborated with Borjesson on the book “Into the Buzzsaw,” (Prometheus 2002, 2004)).
These are her reflections on that tragic day 12 years ago:
THE CRASH OF TWA 800: AFTER TWELVE YEARS, STILL UNRESOLVED
“Every summer, from wherever they are, the 230 passengers who perished on Flight TWA 800 collectively tap me on the shoulder, reminding me that their troubling story remains unresolved.
"It’s been twelve years now since that evening of July 17, 1996 when their flight bound for Paris suddenly exploded in mid-air off the coast of Long Island, New York. Twelve years since I began looking into the cause of the
crash; first at CBS, then for ABC and finally on my own after a series of strange and shocking events led to those two networks killing my TWA 800 stories.
"CBS let me go after the FBI came after me to recover a piece of TWA 800 wreckage that I’d received. I was so gut-wrenched by the network’s failure to stand up to the Feds and continue pursuing the story that I decided to
quit journalism right then and there. But a few weeks later a Japanese journalist showed up at my door and nudged me back into the saddle. Then in the fall of 1998, mainstream outlets including the New York Times and
Newsweek ran stories that, whether intentionally or not, pressured ABC into killing my second effort to report on TWA 800. That’s it, I thought. I’m done.
"Not by a long shot.
"Over the years, I’ve tried to drop this story many times. But those passengers wouldn’t let me go. Early on and without my permission, they took up residence in my conscience. Out of the blue, people would call or
email, asking me to do something on the story. I’ve never been able to refuse. I’d feel like I’d broken some kind of solemn oath if I did, even though I don’t remember taking any oath. Along the way I met others who,
like me, were bound to those passengers on that plane.
"On November 18, 1997, Dr. Tom Stalcup was a graduate student working on his PhD in physics when he turned on his TV and started watching an FBI press conference. Assistant FBI director James Kallstrom was announcing the suspension of his agency¹s investigation into the crash. Kallstrom presented A CIA-produced animation showing what government investigators thought happened to TWA 800 upon exploding. Stalcup immediately realized that the scenario depicted in the animation defied laws of physics. He tried to set the record straight back then and has been holding the National Transportation Safety Board’s [NTSB] feet to the fire ever since. The NTSB is the government agency in charge of investigating civil aviation accidents.
"Recently, a group Stalcup founded called NTSB Watch released a ballistics analysis of “radar-recorded [TWA 800] wreckage items” captured by multiple radar sites. Stalcup says the analysis shows that “the explosion that
brought down TWA Flight 800 was a detonation or super-sonic explosion that occurred prior to the fuel-tank explosion that federal investigators say caused the jetliner’s demise.” The super-sonic explosion, he says, “caused
debris to eject from the area at speeds in excess of Mach 4.”
"Stalcup has asked key members of the National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] along with two explosives scientists the NTSB hired as part of their TWA 800 investigation to carefully review his analysis. So far, none have
agreed to do so.
"His report can be found at:
"My years of investigating TWA 800 pointed to federal sources lying to the American people about the incident. You can read about my adventures and misadventures with this story in the paperback version of the book, INTO THE BUZZSAW: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press. Investigating the crash inspired me to lift the veil on how shackled the press really is in this country. BUZZSAW is an anthology of personal essays by a handful of courageous reporters writing about their personal experiences with various forms of corruption and censorship.
"Among them are former CBS producers Helen Malmgren, Maurice Murad and Monika Jensen Stevenson, ex-Fox producer, Charles Reina, former Associated Press investigative reporter J. Robert Port, independent investigative reporter, Greg Palast and the now-deceased, Gary Webb.
"Tom Stalcup’s experiences investigating the TWA 800 crash could easily fit into a new edition of BUZZSAW. The FBI and NTSB have been stonewalling him for years, but he keeps calling and writing. He's filed countless Freedom of Information Act requests for documents. Over time, his persistence, integrity, and scientific background have brought him far closer to hard evidence indicating what really happened to TWA 800 than virtually any reporter I know of who has covered this story.
"Those passengers have been tapping him on the shoulder too.
"Look for his work."