TWA Flight 800

gerhard1

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Apr 24, 2016
Messages
890
Reaction score
924
Points
94
It's an American conspiracy theory, admittedly not on the list, but it's one that I do think is possibly true TWA 800 was brought down by a missile.

It may be discussed on here somewhere - my forum-fu is not great and I couldn't find a mention of it.
Even though it is not 'officially' an act of terror, I'd certainly be unwilling to rule it out. This is based on what I think are credible eyewitness reports of seeing what looked like a flame trail just prior to the explosion that brought the 747 down.

Arguing against terrorism is that no one has claimed responsibility for bringing the aircraft down.
 

ramonmercado

CyberPunk
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
52,025
Reaction score
27,352
Points
309
Location
Eblana
Even though it is not 'officially' an act of terror, I'd certainly be unwilling to rule it out. This is based on what I think are credible eyewitness reports of seeing what looked like a flame trail just prior to the explosion that brought the 747 down.

Arguing against terrorism is that no one has claimed responsibility for bringing the aircraft down.
There have been suggestions that it a military missile which went astray.
 

Austin Popper

Emperor of Antarctica
Joined
Aug 13, 2017
Messages
1,031
Reaction score
2,170
Points
154
Location
Colorado, where the gold is still elusive
There were reports of a witness flying his own plane, I think, who was a veteran and had both shot planes down himself with missiles and been shot down himself. He insisted he was close by and saw the plane hit by a missile. Then he vanished from the media reports. Pierre Salinger was no kook. The whole episode still stinks, in my opinion.
 

Ascalon

Ephemeral Spectre
Joined
Jul 3, 2009
Messages
398
Reaction score
749
Points
109
There were reports of a witness flying his own plane, I think, who was a veteran and had both shot planes down himself with missiles and been shot down himself. He insisted he was close by and saw the plane hit by a missile. Then he vanished from the media reports. Pierre Salinger was no kook. The whole episode still stinks, in my opinion.
Ok, this is highly unlikely. Where was TWA800 when it crashed? What plane was thus guy supposedly flying that he would have been in an Atlantic track? Surely, ATC records would reveal, far beyond the reach of any one government, would reveal all aircraft in the tech at the time?

This all grew out of a fundamental misunderstand of the early phase of the accident when the aircraft lost the forward fuselage section and pitched up to climb as a result.

This was misinterpreted as something coming up to meet the aircraft and then the aircraft falling from the sky.

Also where is the missile strike damage that is so characteristic and was incontrovertible with MH70 in Ukraine?

Sorry, don't buy it at all.
 

Cochise

Priest of the cult of the Dog with the Broken Paw
Joined
Jun 17, 2011
Messages
6,711
Reaction score
9,173
Points
284
Ok, this is highly unlikely. Where was TWA800 when it crashed? What plane was thus guy supposedly flying that he would have been in an Atlantic track? Surely, ATC records would reveal, far beyond the reach of any one government, would reveal all aircraft in the tech at the time?

This all grew out of a fundamental misunderstand of the early phase of the accident when the aircraft lost the forward fuselage section and pitched up to climb as a result.

This was misinterpreted as something coming up to meet the aircraft and then the aircraft falling from the sky.

Also where is the missile strike damage that is so characteristic and was incontrovertible with MH70 in Ukraine?

Sorry, don't buy it at all.
It was just off Long Island as I recall, not mid-Atlantic.
 

Cochise

Priest of the cult of the Dog with the Broken Paw
Joined
Jun 17, 2011
Messages
6,711
Reaction score
9,173
Points
284
Ok, this is highly unlikely. Where was TWA800 when it crashed? What plane was thus guy supposedly flying that he would have been in an Atlantic track? Surely, ATC records would reveal, far beyond the reach of any one government, would reveal all aircraft in the tech at the time?

This all grew out of a fundamental misunderstand of the early phase of the accident when the aircraft lost the forward fuselage section and pitched up to climb as a result.

This was misinterpreted as something coming up to meet the aircraft and then the aircraft falling from the sky.

Also where is the missile strike damage that is so characteristic and was incontrovertible with MH70 in Ukraine?

Sorry, don't buy it at all.
Further to this. I don't know US ATC rules, but after checking with a friend who is a pilot he says in the UK commercial and light aircraft are separated by height rather than distance and flights of light aircraft are not continuously tracked.

Long Island has many very wealthy people and a great deal of light aircraft traffic, so there is every possibility that a light aircraft pilot saw what really happened. As against that, I don't know if the witness resurfaced after the first report. Of course if he was ex-military and it was a military mistake then he may well have been told to keep quiet and would be inclined to do so.
 

Ascalon

Ephemeral Spectre
Joined
Jul 3, 2009
Messages
398
Reaction score
749
Points
109
Further to this. I don't know US ATC rules, but after checking with a friend who is a pilot he says in the UK commercial and light aircraft are separated by height rather than distance and flights of light aircraft are not continuously tracked.

Long Island has many very wealthy people and a great deal of light aircraft traffic, so there is every possibility that a light aircraft pilot saw what really happened. As against that, I don't know if the witness resurfaced after the first report. Of course if he was ex-military and it was a military mistake then he may well have been told to keep quiet and would be inclined to do so.
Fair enough, civilian traffic in the US is notoriously unregulated, by European standards.
However, the other observations are valid.

If memory services, the investigation showed that a lowering fuel level in the centre tank allowed wiring which runs through it to be exposed to fuel vapours which were in turn ignited from arcing after chaffing.

This caused an explosion which meant that almost the entire fuselage forward of the forward wing spar was separated from the rest. This caused the remaining section to pitch violently upward, after the initial explosion.

This gave the impression, when attention was drawn to it — after the initial explosion — of something going up toward the plane, rather than a damaged aircraft pitching up as a result of sudden, dramatic weight loss.

This one was highly unusual, as no other 747 is ever thought to have suffered in this manner.

But furthermore, of the wreckage that was pulled out and painstakingly reconstructed, there was no evidence whatsoever of the kind of external piercing and scorch damage that would be characteristic of a missile strike, or even a collision.

So unless, they had a spare 747 of the same type, in the same livery that they could just magic up out of somewhere, the unlikelihoods build up to the point of having to call bullshit.

The prosaic reality, in this case, is far more tragic than the conspiracy theories.
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
21,822
Reaction score
31,212
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
Further to this. I don't know US ATC rules, but after checking with a friend who is a pilot he says in the UK commercial and light aircraft are separated by height rather than distance and flights of light aircraft are not continuously tracked. ...
There is no simple altitude-versus-distance dichotomy in play. ATC involves managing a 3D airspace, so attention must be paid to positions and movements in all 3 dimensions.

US ATC operations rely in large part on assigning and tracking aircraft within altitude-delineated layers or zones. Lighter / private aircraft are typically accorded the lowermost such zones by default.

Within and across these altitude-delineated zones distance is used as a parameter for managing the traffic.

Light aircraft may not be continuously tracked in terms of either (a) direct contact / interaction with ATC or (b) transponder signals, but they are continuously track-able on radar.

The TWA 800 investigation team had the benefit of a quite rich, detailed, and comprehensive set of data from multiple radars in a highly-monitored high-traffic area. Nothing in that data indicated any unidentified rising object that would have suggested a missile.
 

Cochise

Priest of the cult of the Dog with the Broken Paw
Joined
Jun 17, 2011
Messages
6,711
Reaction score
9,173
Points
284
Fair enough, civilian traffic in the US is notoriously unregulated, by European standards.
However, the other observations are valid.

If memory services, the investigation showed that a lowering fuel level in the centre tank allowed wiring which runs through it to be exposed to fuel vapours which were in turn ignited from arcing after chaffing.

This caused an explosion which meant that almost the entire fuselage forward of the forward wing spar was separated from the rest. This caused the remaining section to pitch violently upward, after the initial explosion.

This gave the impression, when attention was drawn to it — after the initial explosion — of something going up toward the plane, rather than a damaged aircraft pitching up as a result of sudden, dramatic weight loss.

This one was highly unusual, as no other 747 is ever thought to have suffered in this manner.

But furthermore, of the wreckage that was pulled out and painstakingly reconstructed, there was no evidence whatsoever of the kind of external piercing and scorch damage that would be characteristic of a missile strike, or even a collision.

So unless, they had a spare 747 of the same type, in the same livery that they could just magic up out of somewhere, the unlikelihoods build up to the point of having to call bullshit.

The prosaic reality, in this case, is far more tragic than the conspiracy theories.
I don't nail my flag to the mast to say this is a conspiracy, but I'm hardly the only one to find it odd. But then, to me, I think 'what sort of idiot runs wires through a fuel tank'? So what do I know :)
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
21,822
Reaction score
31,212
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
... If memory services, the investigation showed that a lowering fuel level in the centre tank allowed wiring which runs through it to be exposed to fuel vapours which were in turn ignited from arcing after chaffing. ...
Your memory is accurate ...

For me, the key evidence for a center fuel tank fuel-air explosion lay in three facts:

- TWA 800's pilot verbally reported strange fuel level readings shortly before the explosion;
- The eventually recovered fuel level meter from the center fuel tank indicated a wildly inaccurate fuel load; and
- Evidence of arcing was found on the fuel monitoring system wiring that was recovered.

These factoids point to voltage oddities in the fuel monitoring system very strongly suggestive of short circuiting.
 

Cochise

Priest of the cult of the Dog with the Broken Paw
Joined
Jun 17, 2011
Messages
6,711
Reaction score
9,173
Points
284
But why have wires inside the tank? Normally you fit a fuel level float to the wall of the tank and keep all the wires and electronics outside. That's in a car, of course, there must be differences in a plane. I guess only an aviation engineer could give me an answer to that.
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
21,822
Reaction score
31,212
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
I don't nail my flag to the mast to say this is a conspiracy, but I'm hardly the only one to find it odd. But then, to me, I think 'what sort of idiot runs wires through a fuel tank'? So what do I know :)
Nobody generally runs wiring through a fuel tank. There's one unavoidable reason to run wiring to / into a fuel cavity - the fuel level sensor(s).

Ground vehicles can use simple mechanical apparatus (e.g., floats) to sense fuel levels within their relatively small tanks, and the electrical portion of the fuel level circuit can be positioned outside the fuel cavity. Such mechanical means can't be reasonably employed in aircraft fuel tanks, so some sort of electrical / electronic sensing apparatus has to be positioned within the cavity itself.
 

Analis

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Apr 12, 2006
Messages
1,624
Reaction score
356
Points
99
If memory services, the investigation showed that a lowering fuel level in the centre tank allowed wiring which runs through it to be exposed to fuel vapours which were in turn ignited from arcing after chaffing.

This caused an explosion which meant that almost the entire fuselage forward of the forward wing spar was separated from the rest. This caused the remaining section to pitch violently upward, after the initial explosion.

This gave the impression, when attention was drawn to it — after the initial explosion — of something going up toward the plane, rather than a damaged aircraft pitching up as a result of sudden, dramatic weight loss.
The theory put forward by the NTSB comes across an inextricable problem. There are reasons if vehicules do not explode in the same way than in a bad Michael Bay movie (a pleonasm) : a tank can explode only if the reamining levels of fuel are low. If the tank is full or close, it can not catch fire, as stochiometric proportions are not reached, due to lack of oxygen. There are known cases of a fuel tank catching fire on a plane due to short circuits, sometimes with dramatic consequences, but not resulting in an explosion that could shatter a plane.
It is interesting that experts were unanimous to state inthe case of the crash of the Flight Metrojet 9268 on 31 october 2015, usually considered as the result of a bombing, that an explosion in the tank was impossible. But they would easily change their claims according to the needs of a government.
Your explanation that the separation of the fuselage or of a wing accounts for missile testimonies, is not consistent with the sightings of an object ascending and coming into contact with the plane, what they reported is really removed (and it would result in a sighting of something moving away from the plane). Witnesses also reported the plane cut in two, which indicates a tremendous explosion.

As for the possibility of a replacement of some of the wreckage by some parts of an other 747, the suggestion has been made by some.

Videos of cars exploding :
https://www.vroom.be/fr/blog/video-vw-gol-explose-banc-de-puissance
https://www.facebook.com/jonatdum/videos/10203337211731696/ (fire resulting from an explosion, its expansion giving a false feeling that the explosion was huge)
http://www.gamaniak.com/video-7233-voiture-explose-pompier.html (fire causing the explosion of a tank)
(note : it's not really an explosion of a moto, but the fuel spread on the road catching fire in an explosive way, then the fire reaching the engine)
 

Ascalon

Ephemeral Spectre
Joined
Jul 3, 2009
Messages
398
Reaction score
749
Points
109
The theory put forward by the NTSB comes across an inextricable problem. There are reasons if vehicules do not explode in the same way than in a bad Michael Bay movie (a pleonasm) : a tank can explode only if the reamining levels of fuel are low. If the tank is full or close, it can not catch fire, as stochiometric proportions are not reached, due to lack of oxygen. There are known cases of a fuel tank catching fire on a plane due to short circuits, sometimes with dramatic consequences, but not resulting in an explosion that could shatter a plane.
It is interesting that experts were unanimous to state inthe case of the crash of the Flight Metrojet 9268 on 31 october 2015, usually considered as the result of a bombing, that an explosion in the tank was impossible. But they would easily change their claims according to the needs of a government.
Your explanation that the separation of the fuselage or of a wing accounts for missile testimonies, is not consistent with the sightings of an object ascending and coming into contact with the plane, what they reported is really removed (and it would result in a sighting of something moving away from the plane). Witnesses also reported the plane cut in two, which indicates a tremendous explosion.

As for the possibility of a replacement of some of the wreckage by some parts of an other 747, the suggestion has been made by some.

Videos of cars exploding :
https://www.vroom.be/fr/blog/video-vw-gol-explose-banc-de-puissance
https://www.facebook.com/jonatdum/videos/10203337211731696/ (fire resulting from an explosion, its expansion giving a false feeling that the explosion was huge)
http://www.gamaniak.com/video-7233-voiture-explose-pompier.html (fire causing the explosion of a tank)
(note : it's not really an explosion of a moto, but the fuel spread on the road catching fire in an explosive way, then the fire reaching the engine)
OK, a few issues here. Firstly, your video citations here do not really apply.

Motorsport runs on petrol, or gasoline, which is high octane, highly flammable and racing in particular tends to use stuff that is closer to avgas than normal petrol pump stuff.

Aviation, and the 747 100 in particular, tends to run on Jet A1, which is closer to kerosene than it is to petrol and is a far less volatile substance. I have seen myself, when doing basic fire safety back in my spanner monkey days in the industry, the demonstration of a lit match being chucked into a bucket of Jet A1, and nothing happened. At room temperatures or less, as in outside on your average northern european day, it is not very volatile at all.


However, when pressurised, or in vapour form, Jet A1 is a very dangerous beast and very hard to tackle in fire extinguishing terms.

The other important point to make is that the flight was just 12 minutes out from take off, so you would expect it to be fully laden, but it wasn't.

It was heading to Rome, but was including a stop off in Paris. Airlines do not carry any fuel beyond contingency (for re-route or alternates) and so the plane would not have had a full fuel load, given the stop over and its full capacity.

It is entirely possible, indeed probable, that for utterly banal, operational reasons, the centre tank was no where near full. Also, 12 minutes out, coming into the cruise phase of flight, the aircraft would be trimmed, which means that the fuel levels of various tanks would be equalised to ensure the plane could be made as efficient as possible to cruise using the least amount of fuel they could. This often means using transfer pumps to pump fuel form one place to another, that can often mean through a tank that is less than full, such as the centre tank.

The fuel pumps have a relatively heavy power draw, and so a fairly heavy amperage power flow through a chaffed line in the centre tank, which was more than likely not full, was the likely explanation given for a catastrophic explosion of dense vapour in the tank.

Now, don't get me wrong, this is a highly unusual occurance, and there were more than likely several circumstances coming together to allow it to happen, as the 747 is such a common fleet pony and so has operated under so many parameters and influences. But it is still the most likely explanation. Given the facts, not unfounded speculation, this is still the best explanation.

As regards the eyewitness testimony, again, it has to be questioned.

How many commercial, or civil pilots have ever witnessed a missile strike? Having worked with many ex-service people who have done just that, it's not always how it looks.

In the final phase, of what is supersonic flight, the missile is nearly invisible as the rocket motor has stopped and it is flying on momentum only as it homes for the strike.

Also, the nature of the plane break up means that it could not have been a heat seeker, as there was no indication of an engine strike. It is true that the centre tank would be one of the densest sections for a radar guided missile to strike, but, there would be very distinct damage patterns as a result which were not found by the investigators.

It if was optically guided, it could have struck anywhere, but again, radar, or optically guided devices tend to be fairly high yield and larger than an Aim-9 Sidewinder, such as the Aim-9 Sparrow or the Am-120 AMRAAM. Again, very hard to hide the kind of damage they do. If you are talking BVR, then something like the AIM-54 Phoenix does massive damage.

If you are talking SAM, again, usually huge yields, and depending on the type of warhead used tend to leave very characteristic traces, such as where meshes or shrapnel are used.

So again, on balance, there just isn't enough evidence of any of the alternatives to support anything other than one of the oddest losses of a 747 in the history of the entire marque.

I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next, but in this instance, it is just a very unusual, but nonetheless tragic, loss.
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
21,822
Reaction score
31,212
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
...There are reasons if vehicules do not explode in the same way than in a bad Michael Bay movie (a pleonasm) : a tank can explode only if the reamining levels of fuel are low. ...
TWA 800's center fuel tank (CWT) was essentially empty at the time of the explosion. Fueling records indicate the tank was holding only the circa 300 pounds (roughly 50 gallons) of fuel that's unusable remainder.

TWA 800 took on circa 157,000 pounds of fuel before takeoff that day. None of this 'new' fuel went into the CWT, which remained at the same 'effectively empty' level of 300 pounds recorded prior to fueling. The fueling data can be reviewed on page 43 of the NTSB report.

Flight 800's CWT was definitely in a fuel-air state.
 

Analis

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Apr 12, 2006
Messages
1,624
Reaction score
356
Points
99
TWA 800's center fuel tank (CWT) was essentially empty at the time of the explosion. Fueling records indicate the tank was holding only the circa 300 pounds (roughly 50 gallons) of fuel that's unusable remainder.
Which is my point exactely !
 

Cochise

Priest of the cult of the Dog with the Broken Paw
Joined
Jun 17, 2011
Messages
6,711
Reaction score
9,173
Points
284
TWA 800's center fuel tank (CWT) was essentially empty at the time of the explosion. Fueling records indicate the tank was holding only the circa 300 pounds (roughly 50 gallons) of fuel that's unusable remainder.

TWA 800 took on circa 157,000 pounds of fuel before takeoff that day. None of this 'new' fuel went into the CWT, which remained at the same 'effectively empty' level of 300 pounds recorded prior to fueling. The fueling data can be reviewed on page 43 of the NTSB report.

Flight 800's CWT was definitely in a fuel-air state.
Just watched a very good documentary on this. The theory is that the 747's air conditioning plant heated the centre tank to the point where the residual fuel and air in the tank became volatile, and then chafed wiring cause a spark that set it off. I'm 99% convinced - certainly the reconstruction of the plane seemed to determine that the explosion took place in or about the centre tank.
 

Analis

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Apr 12, 2006
Messages
1,624
Reaction score
356
Points
99
OK, a few issues here. Firstly, your video citations here do not really apply.

Motorsport runs on petrol, or gasoline, which is high octane, highly flammable and racing in particular tends to use stuff that is closer to avgas than normal petrol pump stuff.

Aviation, and the 747 100 in particular, tends to run on Jet A1, which is closer to kerosene than it is to petrol and is a far less volatile substance. I have seen myself, when doing basic fire safety back in my spanner monkey days in the industry, the demonstration of a lit match being chucked into a bucket of Jet A1, and nothing happened. At room temperatures or less, as in outside on your average northern european day, it is not very volatile at all.
But videos of exploding racing cars, using a fuel closer to kerosen, do not show significantly different explosions.

So again, on balance, there just isn't enough evidence of any of the alternatives to support anything other than one of the oddest losses of a 747 in the history of the entire marque.

I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next, but in this instance, it is just a very unusual, but nonetheless tragic, loss.
Having reviewed the whole case, I am left with the opinion that defintiely, what looked like a conspiracy was one (the state of the wreckage, I can't say, as some have put forward that it was hit by a missile equipped with a head for training, and it is eclipsed by all other evidence). Not only official explanationsdo not account for the testimonies (apart from the usual UFO debunker-like drivel), nor could the explosion be reproduced (the science confirming that only a small portion of an already depleted tank can explode, which comes in contradiction with the enormous strenght of the detonation that shattered the plane). But in addition, we have both an impressive amount of facts that contradict the official theory and of evidence pointing at a cover-up. Including(a non-exhaustive list)the denial of the presence of military ships in the area, the established presence of unidentified ships or aircrafts, the pressures to conceal FAA radar recordings and to force FFA staff who had detected an object to keep mute or retract, multiple pressures on a wide range of investigators to change their findings, to accept forced conclusions or to end protesting the withholding of evidence, traces of explosives for which the authorities came with two different explanations, both of them bogus (including making up a previous exercise of detection of explosives, changed later to traces accidentally left by the Navy), traces of a substance identified by some experts as a fuel for a missile etc... When we have such an amount of evidence pointing at a cover-up, then the logical theory is that it was just a cover-up.
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
21,822
Reaction score
31,212
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
The wreckage from TWA Flight 800 is to be destroyed soon.
Wreckage of TWA Flight 800 to be destroyed 25 years after crash

The National Transportation Safety Board said it will destroy the remaining wreckage of TWA Flight 800 after nearly 20 years as a training tool.

TWA Flight 800 grabbed the world’s attention when shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport in July 1996, the Paris-bound Boeing 747 exploded, killing all 230 onboard. The NTSB investigation became the longest, most complicated and expensive investigation in aviation history, lasting more than four years and costing $40 million.

Housed for nearly two decades in a warehouse at the NTSB Training Center in Ashburn, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C., the wreckage has been used to teach thousands of air crash investigators and transportation specialists from around the world.

On Monday, the NTSB said in a news release it will decommission and destroy the wreckage as the lease on the 30,000-square foot warehouse is set to expire.

"Advances in investigative techniques such as 3-D scanning and drone imagery lessen the relevance of the large-scale reconstruction in teaching modern investigative techniques," the NTSB added. ...

In an agreement between the NTSB and family members of the crash victims, the NTSB promised the wreckage would never become an exhibit or public display. ...
FULL STORY: https://abcnews.go.com/US/wreckage-twa-flight-800-destroyed-25-years-crash/story?id=76069411
 
Top