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Flight 800 Reconstruction
Flight 800 Reconstruction.

Petition for the Reconsideration and Modification of the National Transportation Safety Board's Findings and Determination of the Probable Cause for the Crash of TWA Flight 800

Tom Stalcup, Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization

May 20, 2002

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the probable cause for the crash of TWA Flight 800 was an explosion within the aircraft's center wing fuel tank. Neither the ignition source nor its location within the tank "could be determined from the available evidence."[1] Some evidence that conflicted with the official probable cause for the crash was not adequately investigated or was withheld from the parties to the investigation and the public.

Key findings listed in the NTSB Final Report are erroneous and important analyses have been unavailable to or not addressed by NTSB investigators. Two official reports on the crash that may not have been reviewed by appropriate NTSB investigators or the parties to the investigation are being submitted with this petition as Attachment I & II. Because of these and other investigative lapses, the NTSB must reopen the investigation into the crash of TWA Flight 800.

NTSB Reg 845.41(a) states,

Petitions for reconsideration or modification of the Board's findings and determination of probable cause . . . will be entertained only if based on the discovery of new evidence or on a showing that the Board's findings are erroneous.

Key findings listed in the NTSB Final Report are erroneous. Physical evidence of "unknown origin" listed in a report formerly classified as "secret" by the FBI may effectively constitute new evidence, since that evidence may not have been thoroughly analyzed by the NTSB, nor made available to appropriate experts or the parties to the investigation. That report is included as Attachment I of this petition, and indicates that appropriate experts were not called in to analyze the evidence or its analyses. See Attachment I.

The existence of erroneous findings in the NTSB's final report and the effectively new evidence listed in Attachment I require that the NTSB entertain this petition for reconsideration and modification of the NTSB's findings and determination of the probable cause for the crash of TWA Flight 800.

  • The eighth finding listed in the NTSB final report on Flight 800 is invalid.

8...[The] streak of light reported by most of [the streak-of-light] witnesses was burning fuel from the accident airplane in crippled flight during some portion of the postexplosion preimpact breakup sequence...[1]

A careful review of all available witness documents has shown that most witnesses who observed the streak of light said that it ascended.[2] And a large majority of the witnesses who described the origin and/or trajectory of the rising streak of light gave accounts that were inconsistent with every stage of Flight 800's radar-recorded breakup sequence and its trail of burning fuel. Many said the streak rose straight up from the surface, and others said it impacted with the accident airplane (see item nine below).

The NTSB created simulations that showed Flight 800 climbing sharply after exploding. This alleged climb was purported to represent the rising streak of light the witnesses reported. However, that climb only occurred in simulations. The radar and debris field evidence does not support it (see item five below). The evidence indicates that Flight 800 exploded 2.6 miles above the surface and began an immediate descent to the ocean. It "was never ascending straight up."[3, 4]

  • The sixteenth finding also appears to be invalid.

16. A short circuit producing excess voltage that was transferred to the center wing tank (CWT) fuel quantity indication system wiring is the most likely source of ignition energy for the TWA flight 800 CWT explosion.[1]

No conclusive evidence for this "excess voltage transfer" was ever found during the NTSB's investigation. And the "most likely source of ignition" should be part of a crash scenario that accounts for the available evidence. However, the NTSB-proposed short circuit theory leaves a significant amount of forensic, physical, radar, and eyewitness evidence unexplained.

Physical and forensic evidence left unexplained are discussed in items 1 - 3 below. Unexplained radar evidence is displayed in item four. Item nine discusses witness evidence left unexplained. An ignition source and subsequent crash scenario that accounts for all of the evidence referenced above is the most likely source of energy that initiated the destruction of the aircraft. Such an ignition source was hypothesized by federal investigators, but was not adequately investigated by the NTSB.


  • A declassified FBI report that summarizes a Brookhaven National Laboratory analysis of suspicious debris items is included as Attachment I. Appropriate NTSB investigators and the parties to the investigation may not have viewed this report.

The Brookhaven report was classified by the FBI as "secret" and was never made part of the NTSB public docket. It contains the laboratory results of wreckage items of "unknown origin" that were sent to an external laboratory for examination. The secrecy of the Brookhaven report has undermined the NTSB's ability to conduct a thorough analysis Flight 800's physical evidence. According to senior NTSB investigator Hank Hughes, Group Chairman of the Airplane Interior Documentation Group, "there are still unanswered questions concerning evidence sent for examination."[5]

The NTSB and the parties to the investigation must be able to thoroughly examine the Brookhaven report and be given access to all of the items tested. Once analyzed by appropriate experts, valuable information regarding this evidence may be obtained.


  • A radar analysis conducted by a consultant for the FBI may not have been made available to appropriate NTSB investigators or the parties to the investigation. It is included as Attachment II.

This analysis concludes that a component of the aircraft "kicked out to the right" almost immediately after the loss of electrical power. That component evidently impacted the ocean mile further west than any wreckage listed in the official debris field database-in an area deemed virtually impossible for wreckage to have landed in the NTSB's short-circuit theory. This analysis challenges the validity of the official probable cause for the crash, which contains no explanation for a significant amount of the radar evidence.

In the official scenario, even debris item CW-504's (a component of the center fuel tank) recovery location was anomalous. CW-504 was recovered furthest west, officially-so far west that NTSB investigators believed its recovery location may have been "in conflict with" the official crash scenario.[6] But multiple radar sites recorded a component of the aircraft landing about mile further west than CW-504 (see Attachment II and item four below). NTSB investigators have not explained this radar evidence.


  • Certain NTSB groups conducted cursory and inadequate analyses of important pieces of evidence and sometimes withheld analyses from the parties and the public. Item six below describes the NTSB's decision to withhold the results of an analysis that may have determined the type and location of the explosion that caused the crash.

The sound of the explosion that caused the crash was recorded on the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder (CVR). NTSB investigators learned that such a recording was of great investigative value. Specifically, the recording could tell investigators where the explosion occurred on the aircraft and whether the explosion was high velocity (from an explosive device) or low velocity (from a fuel-air mixture). Thus, the data in Flight 800's CVR could confirm or put to rest several theories regarding the cause of the crash.

The CVR data was analyzed by sound experts at the University of Southampton, England and some conclusion was apparently reached. However, that conclusion was never shared with the parties to the investigation or the public. Instead, it has been withheld, because releasing it, according to the NTSB, "would create a safety hazard."[7] This issue is discussed in more detail in item six below.

All evidence and analyses must be made available to the appropriate NTSB investigators and the parties to the investigation. A dialogue between the NTSB leadership, FIRO, concerned NTSB investigators, and the parties should be opened immediately to address evidence that was not adequately tested or reviewed.

Only by reconsidering and modifying the final report will the NTSB be able to correct its investigative errors and explain the significant amount of evidence never discussed in that report, nor apparently made available to the parties to the investigation. Federal regulations[8] require the NTSB to entertain this petition and give the parties to the investigation the opportunity to examine any evidence pertinent to the probable cause of the crash.



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