Wednesday, July 02, 2014

U.S. investigators will not reopen TWA Flight 800 crash probe

(Reuters) - The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday it will not reconsider its finding that the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 was caused by a fuel tank explosion.

Former NTSB investigator Henry Hughes has said he believes a bomb or a missile caused the Boeing Co 747 to crash into the Atlantic Ocean off New York's Long Island, killing all 230 people on board.

The NTSB concluded in 2000 that the jet broke apart and crashed because of an explosion in the center fuel tank, likely caused by faulty wiring.

"After a thorough review of all the information provided by the petitioners, the NTSB denied the petition in its entirety because the evidence and analysis presented did not show the original findings were incorrect," the agency said.

Hughes had petitioned the agency in June 2013 to reconsider its investigation, saying the initial probe was flawed.

"The witness statements, the physical evidence and other facts clearly show there was an explosion external to the aircraft, not the center fuel tank," Hughes told reporters last July.

He said the NTSB had discounted witness statements, radar data, explosive traces and holes in the fuselage that pointed to an external explosion such as a bomb or missile.

Hughes said he had raised these concerns years ago and subsequently was moved from the aviation to highway investigations before he retired.

The missile theory was one of many initially investigated by the U.S. government after a number of witnesses said they saw a streak of light move toward the plane before it crashed.

But the NTSB concluded that the witness descriptions of the streak of light were consistent with the crippled flight of the airplane after it had exploded at 13,700 feet (4,176 meters). 


NTSB Identification: DCA96MA070.

The docket is stored in the Docket Management System (DMS). Please contact Records Management Division
Accident occurred Wednesday, July 17, 1996 in EAST MORICHES, NY
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/23/2000
Aircraft: Boeing 747-131, registration: N93119
Injuries: 230 Fatal.

NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On July 17, 1996, about 2031 eastern daylight time, Trans World Airlines, Inc. (TWA) flight 800, a Boeing 747-131, N93119, crashed in the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York. TWA flight 800 was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 as a scheduled international passenger flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York, New York, to Charles DeGaulle International Airport, Paris, France. The flight departed JFK about 2019, with 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers, 14 flight attendants, and 212 passengers on board. All 230 people on board were killed, and the airplane was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The investigation revealed that the crash occurred as the result of a fuel/air explosion in the airplane's center wing fuel tank (CWT) and the subsequent in-flight breakup of the airplane. The investigation further revealed that the ignition energy for the CWT explosion most likely entered the CWT through the fuel quantity indication system wiring; neither the ignition energy release mechanism nor the location of the ignition inside the CWT could be determined from the available evidence. There was no evidence of a missile or bomb detonation. For more information please see National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Accident Report NTSB/AAR-00/03.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
An explosion of the center wing fuel tank (CWT), resulting from ignition of the flammable fuel/air mixture in the tank. The source of ignition energy for the explosion could not be determined with certainty, but, of the sources evaluated by the investigation, the most likely was a short circuit outside of the CWT that allowed excessive voltage to enter it through electrical wiring associated with the fuel quantity indication system. Contributing factors to the accident were the design and certification concept that fuel tank explosions could be prevented solely by precluding all ignition sources and the design and certification of the Boeing 747 with heat sources located beneath the CWT with no means to reduce the heat transferred into the CWT or to render the fuel vapor in the tank nonflammable.


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