Welcome! We regret to inform you that the Injury Board National News Desk has been discontinued. Feel free to browse around and enjoy our previously published articles, or visit The Injury Blog Network for the latest in personal injury news.

TWA Flight 800 12th Anniversary and Still No Cause

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, July 18, 2008 4:56 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: FAA, Aviation Safety, Wrongful Death, Aviation Accidents, Defective Products

12 years after Flight 800 had an in-flight explosion, the cause is inconclusive.

TWA Flight 800 Accident reconsturction site, May 20, 1997


Kristina Borjesson

Emmy award winning reporter, Kristina Borjesson


IMAGE SOURCE: Kristina Borjesson, Courtesy KB 


IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ NTSB Flight 800 reconstruction, May 20, 1997/ author: NTSB


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: 

    “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."

--Kristina Borjesson 


Posted by John J. Tormey III, Esq.
Friday, July 18, 2008 8:20 PM EST

The Bobby Sturgell FAA: (A) continues to subject Americans to a steady stream of aircraft near-misses and near-disasters in epic numbers since Bobby Sturgell took over as Acting FAA Administrator almost a year ago; (B) tells us that it is OK for an agency and airlines working together to enlist publicists to tell Americans that air travel was never safer whilst planes are falling apart in un-inspected disrepair, aviation inspectors are criminally threatened by FAA management, and passengers are continually put in harm’s way; (C) is a revival of the Oberstar-decried, Schiavo-decried Tombstone Agency, the notion that ‘If the plane doesn't crash, we're doing great’; the notion that a federal agency is not required to anticipate and navigate around safety problems, but only react if there is a tombstone. The talent pool is deeper than this. There is more to leadership than wearing aviator glasses. We have an ugly aviation safety crisis on our hands. Let's wash our hands of it. Let’s wash our hands of Bobby Sturgell and his failed administration. The FAA’s cozy relationship with the airlines and the agency's abject failure to regulate must end NOW. We again ask all members of the United States Congress and American citizens to Just Say No to Bobby Sturgell.
Quiet Rockland

Posted by John J. Tormey III, Esq.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008 11:03 AM EST


A copy of this message complete with accompanying photographs, is posted at:

The celebratory song by “aerononymous” entitled “Top Gun, He’s Done” is found in click-able mp3 format, at:


It’s now confirmed. According to a reliable source from a position high-up in the aviation community, one Robert Allan (“Bobby”) Sturgell recently verbally shared with at least two colleagues the following:

(1) Sturgell has ALREADY given notice that he will be leaving his FAA post as Acting Administrator, by, or in, November 2008; and

(2) Current FAA “Assistant Administrator For Regions And Center Operations” Ruth Leverenz will be “Acting” in Sturgell’s absence – (which quizzically therefore will make her the “Acting, Acting” Administrator!).

This story was scooped by Quiet Rockland, and first broke Friday, July 18, 2008. As of the date and time of this publication, virtually no other news outlets or bloggers have picked it up - but they all eventually will. (Sure – Now!).

The only media that are sure to NOT pick up the story at end of day, are the many aviation websites bought and paid-for by the airline industry, thereby inclined to further cover-up for the many failures of “Bobby” Sturgell’s awful FAA tenure and regime.

Sturgell’s shamed flight from his job, is corroborated by the 2 recent near-misses at JFK airport; FAA payment of US$100,000 bonuses to every Beavis and Butthead who is willing to say “I Was A Teen-Age Air Traffic Controller”; and most noticeably, Sturgell’s apparent recent absence at key FAA events. For example, it is reported that in a recent press conference regarding FAA-claimed safety-related changes to exploding fuel tanks, John Hickey (FAA Aircraft Certification Service, Director, AIR-1) spoke for FAA, with apparently no sign of Bobby Sturgell present. Similarly, it is reported that the July 17, 2008 NY/NJ/PHL Airspace Redesign meeting in D.C. was headed by FAA COO Hank Krakowski, and not by Bobby Sturgell.

While we used to ask, “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego” - we can now ask “Where in the world is Bobby Sturgell?”.

The answer? – probably pounding the pavement handing out his résumé and doing that at which he is best - being an aeromercantile sycophant.

Goodbye, Bobby.

And oh yeah – by the way. Who’s “Top Gun” now?


I love how a blog just went up this early morning, July 21, 2008, on the ‘charterX’ website, wherein FAA spokeswoman “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” Adams perpetuated the predictable-enough FAA lie to the media. She denied that Sturgell gave his departure notice [when in fact Sturgell DID already give notice] - and then Marcia pretended not to recognize either my name, or Quiet Rockland’s name.

That’s Big and Rich! Marcia’s the FAA’s new comedienne - just like Ruth Buzzi Leverenz. I’m going to have fun with both of them.

I have the written statements from multiple persons supporting the fact that Sturgell gave notice and identified Leverenz as his successor, physically in front of me as I type this document. The information I have came directly from the persons to whom Bobby The Sturg-Eel spoke.

Bring it on, FAA.

Posted by John J. Tormey III, Esq.
Saturday, August 02, 2008 2:37 PM EST

THE FAA TURNS 50! The Bone-Yard Of Bone-Heads, And “50 Ways To Fire Sturgell”.

A copy of this message with accompanying photographs is posted at:

“50 Ways To Fire Sturgell

‘The problem is all inside your head’, she said to me
‘The answer is easy if you take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be 50 Ways To Fire Sturgell’

She said ‘It’s really not my habit to intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning won’t be lost or misconstrued
But I’ll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude
There must be 50 Ways To Fire Sturgell
50 Ways To Fire Sturgell”

To recap recent postings on the above-cited blogs, on Friday July 18, 2008 Quiet Rockland scooped the story that FAA temporary Acting Administrator “Bobby” Sturgell told senior aviation personnel that he had already given notice of his November-or-sooner departure from his post as failed FAA Head, and that FAA’s Ruth Leverenz would be acting in his absence. Quiet Rockland’s response? That’s Not Soon Enough. We want Bobby Sturgell lawfully and forcibly removed from office now. He could possibly hurt and even kill people if left in office for 4 more months. It is in the public interest that he take his ball and go home now. Hence this blog.

Some of the items of publicist-swill spewing out of the Failed Aviation Administration (FAA) would actually be funny, but for the fact that it emanates from the habitually-death-defying turkey-vultures comprising that Tombstone Agency and the 3rd-rate publicists that seek to enable them and feed from their trough.

This latest one is simply UNBELIEVABLE! Witness the State Fair-esque pomp-and-circumstance of FAA’s new “Birthday Celebration” publicity balloon issued to the aviation press, indubitably complete with office sheet-cake marking the occasion internally, and reading in relevant part:

“The FAA Turns 50!
Monday, July 28, 2008 / FAA
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is having a 50th birthday party - and you’re invited! Starting August 1, the FAA will offer reporters an exciting range of media opportunities to highlight the agency’s extraordinary achievements since 1958 in making air travel today’s fastest and safest means of mass transportation”.

Of course, the most astounding part of FAA’s “Birthday Celebration” is the FAA’s own glorification of the wreckage and human agony FAA itself caused over the past 50 years. One must ask why would the FAA need a “boneyard” as a physical exhibit, if air travel is indeed the “safest means of mass transportation”. I kid you not - the following text is literally FAA-planted ghoul-text, in an aviation publication:

“Roam the ‘Boneyard’. The National Aircraft Accident Investigation School at the FAA’s Aeronautical Center has trained aerospace accident investigators since 1963. Report from the “boneyard”, where a wide variety of wreckage and aircraft/rotorcraft parts are available to examine. School instructors will be available for informational briefings and interviews. Additional details at:

Get up close with an airport firefighting and rescue truck. Airports around the nation and the world use sophisticated, specialized vehicles to fight aircraft fires and rescue passengers and crews. We’ll have one on display on the Independence Avenue side of FAA Headquarters at 800 Independence Ave. SW on Aug. 21.”

* * * * *
Celebrating the 50th Birthday of the FAA, or soliciting members of the press to start “Reporting From The Boneyard” for that matter, makes about as much tasteful sense as celebrating the 50th birthday of Lizzie Borden or David (Son of Sam) Berkowitz – or celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima or the Bataan Death March.

The only “5-0” that should be pertinent right now, is the veritable “Hawaii 5-0” of federal law enforcement who should be swarming in on 800 Independence Avenue in D.C. as we speak, and taking “Bobby” Sturgell out in manacles and leg irons along with his file drawers, his hard-drives, and all of his morally-defective “colleagues”.

You know, along with other smoke-and-mirror techniques, the FAA is prone to touting “compression” as an efficiency-enhancer:

“Compression” is more than relevant here, when we consider the past 50 years of the FAA.

The “Partnership Program” whereby the supposed federal regulators at FAA sold themselves like streetwalkers to private airline industry, commenced just around the same time that Bobby Sturgell commenced working for the FAA in 2003, 5 years ago. That’s 50 years worth of nauseating pandering and corruption, compressed into 5 years time.

Bobby Sturgell has only been Acting Temporary FAA Administrator since September 2007, for less than one (1) year - yet in that time he “compressed” 50 years worth of unlawful acts and malfeasance into the space of one (1) year’s job “performance” alone. The damage that Bobby Sturgell has done to our country’s aviation system will probably now take 50 years to fix.

So to the FAA I say, “I’ve got your ‘50 Year Celebration’ – RIGHT HERE!”

And my celebration of your tired and dysfunctional lawless and hypocritical agency, FAA, is to celebrate the now-manifest 50 Ways To FIRE BOBBY STURGELL.

1. Fire Bobby Sturgell for FAA’s threats made to aviation safety inspectors, now FBI-investigated.
2. Fire Bobby Sturgell for lying about and seeking to cover-up the cracked Southwest planes.
3. Fire Bobby Sturgell for lying about and seeking to cover-up the American airlines wire-bundles.
4. Fire Bobby Sturgell for perpetuating the Tombstone Agency culture, reacting only to a tombstone.
5. Fire Bobby Sturgell for “closing the book” on fuel-tank explosions when they remain a threat.
6. Fire Bobby Sturgell for countless mid-air near-misses and runway incursions.
7. Fire Bobby Sturgell for low-fuel landings and wrong-way departures.
8. Fire Bobby Sturgell for being nothing more than an aeromercantile sycophant and airline-company patsy.
9. Fire Bobby Sturgell for lying about and seeking to conceal accidents and incidents when they occur.
10. Fire Bobby Sturgell for his repeated acts of perjury.
11. Fire Bobby Sturgell for his repeated acts of contempt of Congress.
12. Fire Bobby Sturgell for failing to consider people and lives on the ground.
13. Fire Bobby Sturgell for ignoring Inspector General Scovel and Congressman James Oberstar.
14. Fire Bobby Sturgell for lying to threatened-to-be-overflown communities.
15. Fire Bobby Sturgell for lying to the ATCs, to NATCA, to the American people, and to the press.
16. Fire Bobby Sturgell for making bad hires of unethical and incompetent colleagues.
17. Fire Bobby Sturgell for being inarticulate in a federal position that actually requires the ability to speak.
18. Fire Bobby Sturgell for seeking to maliciously manipulate the media at every turn.
19. Fire Bobby Sturgell for wasting unbelievable amounts of fossil fuel and energy.
20. Fire Bobby Sturgell for overscheduling our airports and over-saturating our skies, causing numbing delays.
21. Fire Bobby Sturgell for forgetting that the AMERICAN PEOPLE are the ‘customers’, not the airlines!
22. Fire Bobby Sturgell for rejecting any Culture of Safety.
23. Fire Bobby Sturgell for pretending to know what he is doing, while not caring.
24. Fire Bobby Sturgell for his arrogance and failure to lead.
25. Fire Bobby Sturgell for lying that Redesign would create a 20% savings.
26. Fire Bobby Sturgell for only reacting when forced, and not otherwise.
27. Fire Bobby Sturgell for failing to timely implement NextGen and other critical technologies.
28. Fire Bobby Sturgell for taking orders from the wrong people.
29. Fire Bobby Sturgell for re-introducing defective planes and parts back into the stream of world commerce.
30. Fire Bobby Sturgell for collaborating with a FOIA unit to conceal information and falsify documents.
31. Fire Bobby Sturgell for wasting litigation dollars on matters that should never have been litigated.
32. Fire Bobby Sturgell for concealing flight plans.
33. Fire Bobby Sturgell for always blaming the victim and never taking personal responsibility.
34. Fire Bobby Sturgell for repeatedly screwing-up FAA Reauthorization.
35. Fire Bobby Sturgell for forgetting that he works for the people and not the other way around.
36. Fire Bobby Sturgell for the sought intimidation of bloggers and others exercising the First Amendment.
37. Fire Bobby Sturgell for ignoring Homeland Security concerns.
38. Fire Bobby Sturgell for not preventing dangerous non-Americans from “repairing” American aircraft.
39. Fire Bobby Sturgell for not fixing lax and rushed security and screening procedures at airports.
40. Fire Bobby Sturgell for harming the environment and contributing to our current energy crisis.
41. Fire Bobby Sturgell, to prevent more falling blue ice, aircraft parts, and pilot guns going off in cockpits.
42. Fire Bobby Sturgell for abusing the workforce of air traffic controllers, and not planning ahead for their retirement.
43. Fire Bobby Sturgell for getting investigated by virtually every federal law enforcement and governmental body that could do so.
44. Fire Bobby Sturgell for being the DelMarVa ideological spawn of J. Edgar Hoover, himself emanating from a Maryland biker-bar which recently posted racist, homophobic, and anti-biker epithets on its own outdoor wall.
45. Fire Bobby Sturgell for maintaining the “Partnership Program” with airlines that puts lives at risk.
46. Fire Bobby Sturgell for not preventing dangerous non-Americans from attending FAA-certified flight schools.
47. Fire Bobby Sturgell for lying to Senators Arlen Specter, Claire McCaskill, Frank Lautenberg, and Barbara Boxer.
48. Fire Bobby Sturgell for fostering the “Cozy Relationship” with airlines, thereby abdicating his and his agency’s legal duty to regulate.
49. Fire Bobby Sturgell for helping waste over US$53.5 million on a failed NY/NJ/PHL Airspace Redesign, and tons more money on other failed boondoggles.
50. Fire Bobby Sturgell for lying about the fact that he already quit his job and tapped Ruth Leverenz as his default successor.

Hey, FAA and Bobby Sturgell?


Comments for this article are closed.

About the National News Desk

Our mission is to seek the complete truth and provide a full and fair account of the events and issues that surround personal safety, accident prevention, and injury recovery.  We are committed to serving the public with honesty and integrity in these efforts.

Hurt in an accident? Contact an Injury Board member

Subscribe to Blog Updates

Enter your email address if you would like to receive email notifications when comments are made on this post.

Email address


RSS Feed

Add the National News Desk to your favorite RSS reader

Add to Google Reader Add to myYahoo Add to myMSN Add to Bloglines Add to Newsgator Add to Netvibes Add to Pageflakes