TWA 800 Revisited

TWA 800 is back with us again, thanks to a new documentary from filmmakers Kristina Borjesson and Tom Stalcup. The movie is called, well, “TWA 800,” and it revisits the theory that the Paris-bound 747 was destroyed not by an explosion of vapors in its empty center fuel tank, as was concluded after the most expensive crash investigation in U.S. history, but by a missile — three of them, in fact.

You’re liable to watch the film and come away suspicious of the official findings, which is of course the whole intent, but keep a few things in mind…

The first is that fuel tank explosions, uncommon as they are, are not unprecedented. Most occurred in the 1960s or 1970s, and they’ll be rarer still now that the FAA has mandated tougher wiring inspections and the installation of inerting systems for empty tanks, but according to Christine Negroni, whose book Deadly Departure is one of the most exhaustive explorations of the TWA crash, there have been at least 26 such explosions of one form or another, on both civilian and military aircraft. Most of these were minor in comparison to the catastrophe of flight 800, but not all of them were harmless. A tank explosion once destroyed a Thai Airways 737 parked at the gate in Bangkok, killing a flight attendant. “Efforts by safety investigators to do something about the explosive nature of empty or nearly empty fuel tanks began back in the 1960s,” says Negroni.

My personal opinion is that yes, it was an accidental fuel tank explosion. And if you read the full report and weigh both sides, I think you’ll feel the same way. Frankly the film is a little insulting to the many NTSB, FAA, and TWA employees who devoted so much time and effort to solving the flight 800 mystery.

The full report on flight 800 is long and daunting, but among the most compelling of the technical evidence is this: There had been intermittent problems affecting the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and the number four fuel-flow indicator (the 747 has four engines) just minutes before the explosion. These anomalies would seem unrelated, but it so happens the wire bundle to both components passes just above the center fuel tank, and is the same wire bundle suspected of having caused the explosion. The problems with the gauge and the CVR were consistent with the wires short-circuiting, and this short-circuit would ignite the fuel vapors moments later. Investigators found the wires crimped and cracked, and suspect they’d been damaged during repairs that had taken place in this area two weeks prior. Additionally there had been water leaks reported in and around the center section galley in the days leading up to the crash. This galley sits directly on top of the wire bundle. This is as close to a smoking gun as you’ll get.

Meanwhile, there are several witnesses who claim to have to seen what looked like a missile streaking toward the 747.  Or, that’s what they think they saw.  What they likely were looking at was the outward trajectory of the explosion — flaming pieces of the airplane moving rapidly away from the initial blast. That might sound far-fetched, but it’s very common for people to misinterpret or, to use a George W. Bush word, misremember, the relative motion and other details of fast-moving things in the air, particularly when their attention is drawn to them suddenly — missiles, meteorites, airplanes. Many of the TWA eyewitnesses who heard something and then looked up, were 50-60 seconds behind the event due to speed of sound. Moreover, as any crash expert will tell you, eyewitness accounts in general are notoriously unreliable. Read some of the eyewitness statements from of the crash of American Airlines flight 587, just to pick one. It’s unbelievable what people were absolutely convinced they saw.

And beyond the wreckage forensics and witness testimony, what about this missile theory? Missiles from where?  An accidental firing from a nearby U.S. Navy ship, is the claim (no terrorist group ever took responsibility). But to accept that, we also have to accept the idea of a complete, utterly seamless coverup that has lasted the better part of 20 years. When the Navy accidentally shot down an Iran Air jet in 1988, killing 290 people, it took approximately five minutes for the truth to come out. Granted, the downing of a U.S. jetliner would, for Americans at least, be a lot more scandalous, but isn’t the idea of such an airtight conspiracy not just a little unrealistic?  

And not for nothing, but the movie poster for “TWA 800” couldn’t even take the time to show the correct aircraft. The plane in the picture has two engines, not four, and looks to be an Airbus A300. Not even close.

 

Related stories:

Conspiracies, Crackpots, and Fatuous Flights of Fancy

TWA 800 film blames missiles; proves nothing

Documentary fails to prove conspiracy behind TWA 800 crash

Hubris has Starring Role in TWA 800 Story

Flight 800 documentary is wrong

 

Notes:

It is not unusual for a long-range jetliner to depart with an empty fuel tank — usually the center. A New York-Paris flight takes between six and seven hours. Even an older 747-100, like the one used by TWA, had a maximum range that was several hours longer.

With 230 fatalities, TWA 800 doesn’t make the global top ten when it comes to worst-ever crashes, but it remains one of the deadliest on U.S. soil, placing a somewhat distant third to the crashes of American Airlines flight 191 at Chicago in 1979, in which 273 people were killed, and American 587 in 2001.

 

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85 Responses to “TWA 800 Revisited”
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  1. Rob shef says:

    Though much has already been said about this case with divisions over many aspects of the case, has anyone considered much more evidence outside of the ‘list of options’ which already have been covered over and over, and still without a tight consensus? Has not anyone found or considered anything wrong with the NTSB’s own records which are contradictory or which do not line up with other outside sources of viable information?

  2. Charles Lindberg says:

    why would Sandy Berger be stuffing classified white house TWA 800 related documents down his pants if the NTSB, FBI, CIA report was on the up and up. Jamie Gorelick, the clinton fixer, was the author of the wall between the FBI and CIA, until she brought them together to cover up and make the phony ‘CIA Zoom Video”- all this reminds me of the “Gulf of Tonkin” scam. we all saw the Liberal Media, DNC, and Clinton Team tried to discredit Trump with all their fake news and pc bull(wikileaks & snowden opened locked doors)……thank God the people have woken up to the govt corruption. CIA Video vs Benghazi Video yeah, yeah that’s the ticket. VA Hospital System killing Vets, Post Office losing over $105 Billion since 2009……..oh yes the federal govt is the paragon of truth and virtue. TWA 800 was shot down by a missile! case closed. move along nothing to see here- until next govt coverup!

  3. Charles Lindberg says:

    JP-4 jet fuel does not ignite like gasoline……..silly gum-mint shill! would like to see Kalstrom take a public polygraph test on national “Breightbart” TV!

  4. Tank says:

    Shouldn’t you be able to answer that? What devices arced that caused the other planes? Oh, unknown reasons! Oh, and Thai airlines also has a conspiracy theory???? The Prime ministers plane!You couldn’t have picked a different example for people to look up?

  5. Chad M says:

    One of my best friends was the head investigator for this case that was on the crash retrieval team with the Air Force. He told me over ten years ago that this plane was shot down by a missile.

    • Patrick says:

      What is the “crash retrieval team with the Air Force”? So far as I know, the Air Force had nothing whatsoever to do with this accident or the investigation. The crash was investigated by TWA, the FAA, and the National Transportation Safety Board.

  6. john says:

    A handheld SAM fits in a suitcase of sorts. We gave them out by the truck load in Afghanistan in the 80’s. They show up all over the world and the Russians sold and gave them out too. The plane was at 13,000 ft, within range of a short range shoulder fired SAM. The radar tracks show evidence of a SAM. Something on the order of 200 witnesses say they saw a missile rise from the surface and strike the aircraft. I don’t think we need to invoke the US Navy, though there is a small chance it was them. But I think the possibility of a SAM or 2 or 3 arriving at a US harbor aboard a ship or shipping container is plausible. You might recall Osama bin Laden spent lots of time back in the 80’s in AFGHANISTAN where WE funded him and supplied him with.. SAM’s for Russian helicopters. You don’t think he might of been bitter with us when we stopped supplying him? I think there is a lot more evidence for a missile than their is for short in tank where they can’t supply a wire with damaged insulation, despite having recovered 159 miles of wire. Despite Boeing and TWA not accepting the NTSB report or the Aircraft Pilots Union. I think if the NTSB wants everyone to buy this report they should have done a lot better job of addressing the evidence that points in other directions. The fact that they didn’t choose to do this leads me to believe they couldn’t. Because it is very difficult to alter the truth, but you can hide it under thousands of pages of crap.

  7. john says:

    I seem to recall the TWA, Boeing and the Airline Pilots Union all failed to accept the NTSB report. When was the last time that happened? There was a large volume of evidence from a wide variety of sources, other pilots, observations on the ground, observations on the water, radar that all seemed to point in a consistent different direction than the gov’t report. The gov’t has lied in the past and because of this many no longer give them the benefit of the doubt. Also the vast majority of airline pilots don’t believe this story. If the Gov’t wants to convince the doubters they need a report the convinces all the principal players. You might argue that Boeing or TWA have a conflict of interest, but the Union?

  8. Jane Doe says:

    Anyone who knows anything about electronics will know that a 4-20mA probe can’t ignite jet fuel. What a ridiculous claim! But, the public are sheep, So…You keep on believing the official story then. I was working within the “military industrial complex” during the period that flight TWA 800 was shot down. The Navy was conducting a test of a new missile detection and intercept system. I know that because I was involved in that system’s development. I was briefed during a (classified)morning meeting at a defense contracting company in Huntsville, AL the morning after the event. Huntsville, Al is home to all things “Missile Defense”. If anything goes wrong with a missile, we are the first to hear about it. The Navy certainly got a black eye from that accident. They were supposed to be shooting at a “drone” target. Not a passenger jet. The “kid” in the fire control was too quick on the button. He didn’t wait for confirmation of target. It was human error that caused flight 800 to become the target of the system. It was shame that kept keep the real reason secret. Once they realized what could be gotten away with. Then 9/11 happened just 5 years later. The same dis-information methods were employed in that incident also. FBI agents were again on hand to tell witnesses what they saw. They sold the trade center steel to China as scrap. The FBI made that evidence disappear, the same way they made evidence disappear during the Flight 800 investigation. Scary times.

  9. Tomhartman says:

    Thousands of flights and this is the only time this has ever happened. Jets just don’t blow up unless a bomb or shoot down is involved.

    • Patrick says:

      Millions of flights, is what you mean. Tens of millions. Though in any case you’re wrong. There have been several instances of fuel vapors igniting in an aircraft fuel tank, including a tank explosion aboard at Thai Airways 737. The potential for an inflight tank explosion was well known to Boeing long before the TWA disaster.

  10. Mia says:

    I watched the documentary. A lot of witnesses said they saw what looked like a missile heading towards the plane and exploded. One witness said they saw it come from a ship. So my questions are:

    DID ANYONE CHECK TO SEE IF THERE WAS A SHIP CAPABLE OF LAUNCHING MISSILES?

    WAS THERE ANY MISSILE DEBRIS RECOVERED IN THE OCEAN?

    Why weren’t these questions addressed in the documentary?

    • Jane Doe says:

      The Navy has ships with missile systems…
      For example…
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aegis_Combat_System

      The Navy was also involved in the clean up. Since they were involved with the downing of the plane. It is not likely they would allow such physical evidence to be disclosed….111111111111111111111111

      There would have been legal issues if the Navy were directly accused in Kristina Borjesson and Tom Stalcup’s film. However, I do believe that in Kristina’s book on this subject does indeed go into more detail regarding the US Navy’s involvement during the accident and the cleanup.

  11. Phil says:

    I would not be too dismissive of the people involved with the TWA 800 Project. I watched the film just the other night and as a retired Captain (32 years with SkyWest Airlines) I find the film very creditable. As for it being disrespectful of some NTSB personnel, all I can tell you as having some dealings with the NTSB the organization the NTSB is somewhat less the what ALPA had in mind.

    The NTSB is a very political body which is unfortunate. Don’t get me wrong they have with the union’s support been able to drive some very needed transportation safety enhancements especially in the area of aviation. However I am not buying the fuel tank explosion theory, and along with the FBI’s shady treatment of all involved with the head’s of the NTSB blessings it looks fishy and smells fishy.

    Just like Hillary Clinton, there may be nothing to any of this but when you go to great lengths to obfuscate and hinder an investigation there has to be an ulterior agenda. I frankly am mystified as to why the “government” couldn’t just come out with the truth and be up front. There is certainly more here than we have been told.

  12. Brain David says:

    An upcoming film, courier-x, will be stating the plane ‘was’ shot down (versus suggesting) but more importantly ‘why’ it was shot down…a variable no-one in the media or public has thought to question.

  13. For all of those who have a problem with the NTSB and CIA in this matter, many other questions have ‘STILL’ gone unanswered and unchallenged by those agency. ‘Just accept our report’, with no questions, they say. Yet no one in Aviation has been able to ‘defend’ the NTSB and CIA proposal that a truncated 747 was able to remain balanced and continue to fly as shown in both agencies Video animations. lets steer away from calling this a conspiracy and just discuss the facts of the case. witnesses saw the plane fall immediately not zoom climb. witnesses saw lighted objects streak ‘up’ from the ocean surface. several even ‘watched’ and tracked a fast moving [missile like] object from the shore of long island and head out to sea to where they then saw the fire. the first thing to discuss is the CIA and NTSB video’s….

  14. Eirik says:

    It is interesting how eyewitness reports are always ridiculed when it doesnt fit the official story.

    I wonder what the FBI/CIA would say if the eyewitnesses told them that the plane exploded, the nose fell off, and then the plane climbed from 13800ft to about 17000ft.

    • The entire reason for Ray Lahr’s lawsuit was based on those ridiculous video’s and the proposition made that the broken plane continued to ‘fly’ and ‘gain altitude’, and that witnesses ‘thought’ they saw a missile, when they were ‘really’ seeing the broken plane ‘fly’ upwards? seems as if the CIA and NTSB avoided reading Captain Baurs report, and that of witnesses Lisa perry and paul Angelides who saw the same identical event even as they were miles apart. A navy master chief was above the event and was looking down and saw a missile come from behind his plane and pass his plane before arcing over and then ‘fire’ erupts. The CIA would completely ‘re-write’ his account and make [the missile] he saw, as being TWA 800 zoom climbing and heading north.

  15. Kevin Morgano says:

    Here is a great way for Republicans to prevent Hillary from ever becoming president; prove that we accidentally shot that plane down.

    It would make Benghazi look even less significant than it was.

  16. I watched the TWA Flight 800 Film tonight. The best thing I can say about this article is that it deserves credit for allowing comments and debate, which is more than is offered by the even less impressive editorial from Stephen Pope of “Flying” magazine — that publication usually offers the opportunity to comment on stories, but Pope’s Op-Ed does not. Debate was not welcome.

    Obviously there’s something very very fishy about this investigation and the media coverage of it. Downplaying the number of witnesses, witnesses who today say they were pressured to change their story, witnesses who saw FBI guys changing and moving information, media reports that give false information and omit other information.

    I mean: The freakin’ CIA got involved and then delivered a video debunking the missile attack that was so ridiculous as transparent it would be funny if the situation not so tragic. But once you see the CIA get involved in anything, you know what you’re being told is a lie. Neither Pope nor Mr. Smith mention the CIA. There was ZERO reason for them to be involved in this. ZERO. Once they rear their head, it’s game over. This was a coverup, because that’s what the CIA does.

    If you haven’t watched the movie, you should. And carefully note that even with hundreds of witnesses, the government can stonewall whatever story it wants. It’s a tragedy. And it’s a sin.

    Helping enable this kind of coverup leads only to worse things. And then things even worse than that. But thanks for not closing down comments, that was honorable.

  17. Bo Shizzy says:

    The question that isn’t “the idea of such an airtight conspiracy not just a little unrealistic”? misses the point of how a cover-up works IMO. Cover-ups don’t need to be airtight. They merely need to be effective enough to keep the lid on.

    Even a cursory look at some of the more well known conspiracy controversies will demonstrate this. Flight 800; JFK; 9/11; Peak Oil; Area 51 or any widely circulated UFO/Alien story; Pan Am 103; Princess Di; the NWO; Sandy Hook; Pearl Harbor; the Moon Landing; Chem Trails; Iraq; Global Warming; and Holocaust Denial etc. all have had varying degrees of belief and disbelief among them. On the conspiracy side of the coin, some seem hare brained and some seem to carry validity.

    I’m not here to argue for or against any of these issues. My only point is that as long as an official narrative exists and as long as the MSM concludes that “A” is what happened, the “B”; “C”; and “D” etc. will remain fringe conspiracy theories. That’s just how it works.

    There is ample proof that instances of evidence tampering and/or concealment; suppression of eye witness accounts; media manipulation; white washed investigations in which the proverbial fox guarding the hen house concludes that the coyote is to blame; and other means and motives for intentional cover-ups exist. One would have to be exceedingly naive to not understand this.

    In order them to to work, all that matters is that the voices that matter most are louder than those that matter the least.

  18. Stevie B says:

    So, another arises to spout lies and twist evidence to justify FBI, NTSB, and others who must cover up the real tragedy of TWA 800.

    Goodness almighty over 750 people saw the same thing…and these nuts say THEY are all nuts. People saw missiles, not parts of plane that after getting blown up, miraculously flew on by itself.

    The families of the victims deserve the truth. The American people deserve the truth.

  19. stephen says:

    I dare all the naysayers that have not watched the film to watch the film. Dont be a coward.

  20. Mark says:

    Or, to be more precise, I guess I should say ‘adequacy’ rather than ‘usefulness’.

  21. Mark says:

    You mentioned the inerting of (centre) fuel tanks, but my impression is that this process isn’t complete and that retrofitting will not be done at all for planes built before 1991. Given that, do you think wiring inspections are enough to make flying on planes with centre fuel tanks safe (especially in the summer)? Another pilot also mentioned new regulations about use of the centre fuel tank (either emptying it or carrying enough fuel in it to prevent a sufficient rise in temperature) and air conditioning (to use plug in air conditioners instead of the plane’s own system), which he said were more than sufficient. You didn’t mention these, but I was also wondering, if you had the time and inclination, what your impression of the usefulness of such regulations was.

    Thanks

  22. BWilson says:

    No faulty wiring was ever found. No FAA Airworthiness Directive (AD) was ever posted ordering the upgrade of all wiring on that model of aircraft immediately after the official finding. Why not?

    The Navy Special Warfare Group is said to have been doing top secret exercises involving live firing off the coast of Long Island the night TWA 800 went down. Exercises are conducted in US waters all the time. Google this. The Navy was testing their Cooperative Engagement Systems which allowed Aegis Cruisers to send targeting data remotely to other vessels.

    Less than a year following the accident, in March of 1997, Clinton signed an executive order making, specifically, the Navy Special Warfare Group exempt from a law allowing people “to report wrongdoing without fear of reprisal”. You can Google: “E.O. # 13039”

    Nothing has yet to properly explain the existence of supposed explosive residue on the wreckage. The “dog story” is ludicrous.

    Look – I found the documentary less than ideal. There are still many questions to ask. But the amount of officials muzzled, the amount of irregularities in the investigation, is very suspicious.

    We know today how much our government lies to us. Maybe, in the era of Wikileaks and Snowden, new information will come out which may shed more light into this ongoing mystery.

  23. Raehm says:

    I’m no expert, but the radar data, from multiple tracks, seems irrefutable. Clock speeds on the vector debris field at mock 4. How is that consistent with the internal tank explosion.

  24. jeff says:

    Has no one heard of the Blue Code of Silence ? Conspiracies are real and a daily part of life.

  25. tSempers says:

    I have researched this story with an open mind for a while now, and was starting to lean towards the missile/conspiracy theory. But I saw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v… and am back to the fuel tank ignition trigger. I do think there are explanations for all the other theories and witnesses, ALL things considered.

  26. Leisureguy says:

    Apparently Patrick Smith did not watch the movie. He writes “Frankly, the film is a little insulting to the many NTSB, FAA, and TWA employees who devoted so much time and effort to solving the flight 800 mystery.” This is an astonishing statement given that the film interviews the lead NTSB investigators who explain their specific reservations about the findings, and the film clearly shows untruthful statements in the final report as well as contradictions with physical evidence.

    Very disappointing.

  27. Evan Geller says:

    I was principal investigator on the forensic study of all recovered victims of this accident. In this study, my team reviewed all forensic pathology of every autopsy, specifically evaluating for signs of a missile blast. We were perfectly aware of the controversy at the time of the study. THERE WAS NO FORENSIC EVIDENCE OF A BLAST, as we clearly conclude in the study. The reference follows:
    Critical analysis of injuries sustained in the TWA flight 800 midair disaster.

    The Journal of trauma (. 06/2000; 48(5):987-8. DOI:10.1097/00005373-199910000-00001
    Source: PubMed

  28. GlueBall says:

    After multiple Boeing center tank explosions (KC135/B747/B737), the manufacturer had continued to install center tank pumps INSIDE the center tank where pump(s) could suffer overheat if left running when the tank is dry. (Obviously, thermal safety cut-off protection has not been 100%) Boeing would be well to do in adopting the superlative center fuel tank system of the prehistoric DC-8, where the 2 center tank boost pumps are positioned inside the adjacent main tank #3. This way, the center tank pumps always remain submerged.

  29. Pillai says:

    The least they could have done when cooking up this conspiracy theory is to get the plane in their damn poster right.

  30. Scott says:

    Having been there, at Moriches, and being involved in the recovery, I can state that the FBI, NTSB, and ATF on site were not talking about anything but a missile strike in the days after the event. No, they weren’t talking about it in the media, but around the boathouse, that is what they were speculating. Shockingly, that stopped and ‘another-cause’ had to be found a week after. I don’t know what happened, but Jet A doesn’t ignite from a mA voltage (as runs through the fuel tanks). I have also read about a mixture of JET A and JET B fuel causing an increase in vaporizing and static electricity. While also true, again not enough electricity to light it off.

  31. Carole says:

    After reading the comments I had to scroll back to the top to make sure I was still on Ask the Pilot and hadn’t inadvertently wandered over to the John Birch Society website. Whew!

    Jack Cashill and Tom Kovach seem like perfectly nice people, but they have multiple conspiracies theories going on. In addition to keeping TWA 800 alive, the last big one centers on Pres. Obama’s birth certificate and how the illegal alien in the White House is forcing Communism on unsuspecting Americans.

    But one of the newer and smaller conspiracy theories has Asiana 214 making a perfectly fine landing after deliberate sabotage of the vital fly-by-wire systems. The reason for the sabotage is so the US Government can make it look like a random incident involving Boeing’s FBW systems, which would therefore verify the NTSBs version of TWA 800 being brought down by the center fuel tank. (The USG was worried about the upcoming Flight 800 documentary, you see.) The theory may need some work, but, hey, give it time!

    I can’t make this stuff up. I wouldn’t know a fly-by-wire from a fly-by-mockingbird, but I do know a Communist agent (or the CIA, depending) isn’t under my bed cozying up to a BonBon Missile looking to bring down random US airliners while I sleep at night. (And even if I may not be able to tell them apart, I also know that an Airbus isn’t a Boeing.)

  32. na says:

    “And if you read the full report and weigh both sides, I think you’ll feel the same way.”

    I did read the full report, all 381 pages of it, and several times. I respectfully disagree with Mr. Smith. I don’t claim to know what caused the explosion and crash, but I find the NTSB report seriously deficient and lacking in credibility.

    Claims that skeptical inquiry is “insulting to the many NTSB, FAA, and TWA employees who devoted so much time and effort to solving the flight 800 mystery.” are nothing more than attempts to stifle debate. They ignore the insults to the NTSB members, professional pilots, professional engineers, and other experts who disagree with the findings and who were actively silenced and in many cases punished for their efforts.

    Neither Mr. Smith nor the NTSB report acknowledges the extraordinary interference in the investigation by law enforcement and the politicization of the inquiry from the beginning. This was the longest and most expensive NTSB investigation in history precisely because it was the most hampered and hamstrung in history.

    Dismissing 900+ eyewitness accounts by appeals to American Airlines flight 587 crash makes me wonder if Mr. Smith has read pages 101-103 of that NTSB report, as I have. A Jet Blue pilot saw the crash and reported smoke, fire, and a silver-colored object falling with “size between an engine and a tail.” Of the 387 witness reports analyzed, 56% reported fire, 23% smoke, 79% downward motion, and 64% “reported that they saw something separate or fall from the airplane at some point during their observation.” Not bad for the general public whose powers of observations Mr. Smith holds in such contempt.

    Neither the NTSB report nor Mr. Smith acknowledges the extraordinarily small window of altitude and time where the center fuel tank pressure, temperature, and partial pressure of oxygen would have resulted in an explosive mixture. This particular fuel-air explosion could not have happened on the ground, 1 minute before, or 30 seconds after when it occurred.

    Dismissing the possibility of a navy missile without acknowledging naval exercises in progress in the vicinity is simply dishonest. Appeals to the size of the required conspiracy ignores the fact that most sailors and naval aviators engaged in a military exercise are rather busy, with their attention focused on the task at hand and not free to gaze at the sky. Eyewitness accounts from naval personnel in the area are noticeably absent from the NTSB report. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    If a missile was launched by a non-state actor aka terrorist, the only conspiracy required is one to demonize and ridicule any who dare to question the officially sanctioned story. Evidence of that conspiracy is sadly all too abundant.

    • Anthony says:

      ” Jet Blue pilot saw the crash and reported smoke, fire…”

      Now here is the real story. How did a Jet Blue pilot, a pilot for a company that did not exist in 1996 when TWA flight 800 occurred, witness this? Besides DirectTV does Jet Blue employ time travelers or time traveling devices? Why won’t you answer this question? Are you stuck in a time loop too. Ahaha… cough. Obamacare.

      • Patrick says:

        Actually, he was talking about the AA 587 crash, not TWA 800.

        And I was not expressing “contempt” toward the AA 587 eyewitness reports in general. Only the more egregious of them.

    • Patrick says:

      >> If a missile was launched by a non-state actor aka terrorist, the only conspiracy required is one to demonize and ridicule any who dare to question the officially sanctioned story. Evidence of that conspiracy is sadly all too abundant. << Except the witnesses who reported "missiles" saw them coming from different directions, which is why the documentary had to claim that * three * missiles were fired. So let me get this straight... terrorists fired three missiles, all from different locations, * and * never bothered taking credit for the shoot-down?

      • na says:

        so let me get this straight:

        The officially sanctioned conspiracy theory of 9/11 has 4 separate teams comprised of a total of 19 men hijacking 4 airliners using razor blades.

        That theory is considered credible and those who question it are crazy.

        A theory that as few as 3 men in 3 locations might have used MANPADS to attack TWA 800 is considered crazy. Mentioning the fact that the US government supplied MANPADS to the mujahideen who morphed into the group blamed for the 9/11 attacks only confirms the insanity of the skeptic.

        Proposing that one group of unknown origin fired a missile, and that the multiple trajectories reported by eyewitnesses are a product of different expertise, different viewing angles, and the vagaries of eyewitness memories is also considered crazy – and ridiculed by the person who holds “egregious” (whatever that might mean) eyewitness accounts in contempt. The detailed accounts of pilots in flight who had personal experience with anti-aircraft missile behavior are ignored.

        In summary, skepticism is considered proof of insanity. Proposing any hypothesis except the officially sanctioned story makes one a conspiracy nutjob – even when the official story requires an elaborate conspiracy!

        Conspiracy theories are indeed hard to kill. They thrive in an environment where any and all attempts to question, discuss, or investigate beyond the officially proscribed boundaries are met with contempt and ridicule. Decry the theorists all you like – it is your own rude behavior that promotes them.

        • Patrick says:

          >> In summary, skepticism is considered proof of insanity. Proposing any hypothesis except the officially sanctioned story makes one a conspiracy nutjob – even when the official story requires an elaborate conspiracy!<< That's simply * not true. * This is a perfect straw man defense.

          • na says:

            I have not invoked a straw man argument. I’ll refer any open-minded readers to your statement that “the film is a little insulting to the many NTSB, FAA, and TWA employees who devoted so much time and effort to solving the flight 800 mystery” and your subsequent responses, ask them if they find any grounds for support of my contentions about stifling debate.

            I find it amazing that your response to my first comment was to invoke the “absence of evidence” fallacy! “terrorists fired three missiles, all from different locations, * and * never bothered taking credit for the shoot-down?”

            Did you look for any claims of credit? Do you know how? Did you look? Do you speak the languages, read the faxes?

            At best, what you know is that the NTSB and other government agencies reported no such claims that THEY FOUND CREDIBLE. As an earlier commenter had posted, there are in fact claims of credit for the disaster. The veracity of the claims are questionable – as will always be so when coming from self-admitted terrorists.

            Your mindset also ignores the possibility that the responsible party did not want credit. There are many reasons why that could be true.

            I don’t claim to know what brought down TWA 800. I do claim to have read scores of NTSB reports and note that this one is extraordinary both in its conduct and in the vast areas of appropriate inquiry that were excluded from the narrative. It was the first and only NTSB report to include an openly acknowledged fabrication of the CIA as evidence. It is one of an extremely small number of reports that provoked such hostile dissent among NTSB members.

            Skepticism is a virtue in scientific inquiry. Personal insults and repetitive invocation of logical fallacies are not helpful. Thanks to your efforts, I will make a point of viewing this movie. I will make up my own mind about the quality of their evidence and arguments. If the error by some ad flunky in producing the promotional poster is the largest defect in the story, it should be far more convincing than the NTSB report.

    • Stu K. says:

      “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

      Geez–you can’t even get that right. Absence of evidence IS evidence of absence. What it’s not is PROOF of absence. Your statement is a common misunderstanding of a quote by Carl Sagan. He used the phrase to show how ignorant people think without using critical thinking skills.

      Kind of ironic then that you would use the same phrase that Dr. Sagan used to laugh at ignorant people while spouting your nonsense, wouldn’t you say?

      • na says:

        Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. That is a statement of fact, a logical principle. I was not invoking the authority of the estimable Prof. Sagan. Appeal to authority is another logical fallacy.

        A careful reading of “The Black Swan” and related works by Taleb might be helpful. Absence of evidence in rare events such as TWA 800 is to be expected, and cannot be used to exclude any physically plausible hypothesis.

        • Stu K. says:

          Wow na–you are really confused about this issue. Absence of evidence is, of course, EVIDENCE (but not proof) of absence. Example: You suspect an elephant is living at your home while you’re at work. You look around when you return home but see none of the expected signs of an elephant–no smell, no broken furniture, etc. That is an absence of evidence,and it supports the hypothesis that there is no elephant living there. Is it possible that an elephant is living at your house but carefully cleans up all signs of its existence before you get home? Of course. But this is unlikely, and the absence of evidence of the existence of an elephant would still be EVIDENCE (please look up this term–it does not mean absolute proof, only indications) of its absence.

          • Mitch says:

            Stu is right here, it’s not really a logical error in this context. It’s basically saying “The absence of evidence supporting a hypothesis in itself is evidence in support of the negation of that hypothesis”, which is a valid concept based on the definition of “evidence.” However when you read “Absence of evidence is evidence of absence”, it appears logically flawed, because if evidence is absent, how could it also be present? It can because implied in the statement are two separate, polar propositions or beliefs – one that something was “present”, and one that it was “absent”.

  33. Edward says:

    The idea that the U.S. Navy would, for some reason, be live firing missiles a few miles from the Hamptons on Long Island, is simply ludicrous. Or anywhere in the midst of perhaps the most heavily trafficked commercial air route on the East Coast. Also, no Navy vessels seem to have been in the area.

    When the Vincennes opened opened fire on the Iranian airliner, the crew on the escorting destroyer was astonished. It will be recalled that the ships were in the middle of the Persian Gulf, essentially on the other side of the earth from the United States. The story took a little longer that five minutes to break, in part because the Pentagon tried a cover story that lasted about five minutes.

    Anyone who thinks this stuff can be kept secret have never been in the service. Early in 1972, we were summoned into a briefing, told the B-52s at Carswell were being taken off alert and we were to pack immediately for TDY to Guam. Also, that this was all to be considered Top Secret (or maybe only secret) and we were to discuss it with no one. A friend went home for lunch and stopped at a deli to get some sandwich fixings. The clerk at the counter says: “Hey, I hear you guys are going to Guam.”

    • JamesP says:

      Yup, cops are pretty much the same way. The only profession that gossips more is hairdressers!

      🙂

    • Benedict says:

      It would, however, be a lot easier to contain if the missile was launched from a submarine. There were reports of subs in the area,. The crash site was also close to the New London/Newport submarine bases, which were reportedly working on developing submarine launched surface to air missiles at the time. The crew might know there was a launch, but except for a few in the control room, most would not have specific knowledge of their location, what they were launching, or that it accidentally hit an aircraft.

      I’m not saying this is what happened, but it’s not difficult to imagine a plausible scenario where this incident could be contained.

    • Evoshandor says:

      Edward, you contend that it is ludicrous to think that the US Navy would behave in such a dangerous manner. Perhaps you need reminding of what is known in Italy as Strage del Cermis (Massacre at Cermis) or what we in the USA refer to as the Cavelese Cable Car Disaster. Just one and a half years after the demise of Flight 800, US Navy pilots clipped the cables supporting a cable car, sending the car and the 20 people in it plunging nearly 300 feet to their deaths. Doesn’t seem as if the Navy had much concern for innocent people, given that the pilots eventually admitted they were fooling around, and taking pictures. And yes, there was a conspiracy to cover up the whole messy affair. Read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavalese_cable_car_disaster_(1998)

  34. Scott Hawthorn says:

    I’m not taking sides on this; I’m not afraid to say, “I dunno.” But I need to pick-on Patrick’s assertion, because I think it’s prejudicial, “There are, meanwhile, several witnesses who claim to have to seen what looked like a missile streaking toward the 747. Or, that’s what they think they saw.”

    How many is “several”? I’ve read in more than one source, that the number was about 200. If that info is correct, that’s an awful lot of witnesses to be “fooled.”

  35. Michaelira says:

    I know for a FACT that TWA 800 was downed by a phaser, fired by a Borg drone standing on the grassy knoll. Santa Claus AND the Tooth Fairy independently verified this earlier this year on February 30.

  36. Jeff Latten says:

    So let’s talk logistics. Where did these alleged missiles (AM) come from?

    Are there any military installations housing missiles of similar capabilities as these AM’s? Were there any Navy units with similar capacity nearby? The military keeps very detailed records of the whereabouts of its assets, missile and all weaponry counts, etc. A missing missile, certainly three, would have come to the attention of a number of people in the records and analysis chain. Is there any evidence of this?

    Do any known terrorist or NGO groups have missiles of the sort alleged here? So where did they come from?

    I also have a hard time getting around the statement that a missile strike would have left a lot of evidence marks elsewhere on the skin or other outer surfaces of the plane. None of that was found, I believe.

    So where did the AM’s come from? Before we start screaming ‘missile coverup’ we have to see if this was logistically possible. Where did they come from?

  37. Mike V. says:

    “to use a George W. Bush word, misremember”

    I think Patrick misremembered that Bush said “misunderestimated”. 🙂

    • Patrick says:

      Hmmm. When you Google “misremember” and “George W Bush” you get all kinds of hits, but now that I think about it, I believe it was Roger Clemens who used the expression. Must be a Texas thing?

    • Simon says:

      And I could have sworn it was my all-time favorite Dan Quayle.

  38. dbCooper says:

    In my opinion one should remember the words of Carl Sagan when conspiracy claims like these arise, “an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof”. He was speaking of extraterrestrial life, but the principle applies here.

    One fails to see much proof of anything from the missile theorists.

  39. Bill M. says:

    Suggestion: read the excellent 2003 investigative book by Jack Cashill and James Sanders. The accidental fuel-tank explosion theory continues to fool the uninformed.

  40. Old Rockin' Dave says:

    To take up just one aspect of the conspiracism brought up here, the idea of a Bomarc missile being involved is a highly unlikely one.
    The Bomarc was a ground-to-air missile, operated by the Air Force, and was never launched from, or meant to be launched from, a ship. More important, the last Bomarcs were taken out of service in 1972. Twenty-five years is a long time to keep an obsolete missile around, the Bomarc especially. It’s airframe was made of mag-thor alloy, an environmentally hazardous substance because of the thorium’s natural radioactivity. It would also leave a significantly anomalous residue, one that would certainly stand out even if several half-lives had passed.

  41. Chris says:

    I’m afraid facts cannot dissuade a conspiracy theorist. For a nervous flyer it is so much more reassuring to think that an American plane flown by an American airline departing from US soil carrying mostly Americans was downed instead of suffering a catastrophic tank explosion that came out of nowhere. It’s much better to think that some foul play was at work than the alternative, which is to be flying fearing that an empty fuel tank could explode under you any moment, even on the safest of aircraft. At least that’s how I explain the fascination of conspiracy theorists with this particular case.

    So even if you prove beyond any doubt that the explosive fuel tank is an actual possibility and the most likely cause of the disaster, it will do little to make people who find a conspiracy behind everything to acknowledge you’re right.

    But it is important to put the truth out there, and thank you for discussing the subject.

  42. As an aside, Boeing was required to have systems installed that would significantly reduce the amount of time a fuel tank could be in an explosive state on new airplane designs – that would be the Boeing 787. However, airlines are way behind in complying with rules requiring fuel tank inerting systems other model airplanes and indications are that the airline trade association is trying to get the FAA to extend the deadline.

    Last year the FAA threatened to fine Boeing $13 million for delays in getting the technology to airlines.

    Read my book Deadly Departure which includes details of how fuel tank inerting was recommended by safety authorities when the B747 was on the drawing board in 1960s and you’ll agree, the more things change the more they stay the same.

    • not an anon says:

      While I agree that fuel tank inerting is a massive safety and survivability improvement in aircraft design (massive kudos to the folks at the FAA who figured out a workable system for this!), the closure of the TWA 800 investigation was premature nonetheless. However, this has nothing to do with the conspiracy theorists, but with a missed opportunity: why was the accident aircraft flying around with an electrical system in such poor condition that 115VAC power could have shorted to the FQIS wiring? The chance to prevent not only another TWA 800, but many other types of accidents and incidents is being largely squandered as a result of this.

  43. Tom Kovach says:

    Mr. Smith,

    Thank you for the e-mail about my above post. But, I would’ve preferred that the discussion carry on here.

    The name that you mentioned in the e-mail, Ramzi Yousef, is the name of the terrorist that I described above. Here is one of Jack Cashill’s reports about the Yousef connection to Bojinka and to Flight 800.
    http://www.cashill.com/terrorism/did_iraqi.htm

    As for the question of “how many troops?” were involved in the No Gun Ri cover-up, I have no idea. But, it had to be at least 200; likely more. Why? Because, there was at least one full company of Army infantry involved in the ground operation. There was a USAF fighter squadron involved in the air operation. There were the intelligence sections of both the Army battalion and the Air Force group that oversaw their units’ operations (and, in the case of the Air Force, would’ve watched the footage from the gun cameras). There were the American diplomatic officers involved in handling the complaints from South Korea (complaints that lasted for decades, thus involving turnover issues in our State Department).

    And, yes, I do know how missiles work. (Well… there are different ways for different types.) The key missile was the Bomarc-type, with its continuous-rod warhead. That was the type that cut the airliner cleanly, just forward of the center-wing fuel tank. That type was the second of the three missiles to affect Flight 800. If the fuel tank had actually been the origin of the initiating event, then why were the oxygen bottles immediately adjacent to the fuel tank not affected?
    http://www.wnd.com/2007/01/39920/

    As for the shenanigans of the Iran-Contra operation, I’m aware. I was recruited to become a “kicker” aboard the Fat Lady, but I declined the mission. Not long afterward, the C-123 was shot down over Nicaragua. The only survivor was Eugene Hassenfus, the kicker, who was the only one wearing a parachute. He spent six months in a Nicaraguan prison.

    As for the piece by Stephen Pope, part of the “evidence” that he uses to “disprove” the documentary is the phony story by James Kallstrom that the explosive residue came from a dog-training exercise in Saint Louis, several months prior to the disaster. As mentioned in my first post, I was one of the writers that debunked the “dog story”. Unfortunately, my column on that topic is no longer online, due to changes at the site that published it.

    Here is the condensed version of my research. I obtained documents from the airline, the airport police and the National Weather Service. The 747 pre-flight checklist takes almost three hours to complete. The airliner was on a rapid turn-around, with less than four hours from arrival to departure. The purported dog-training exercise did not start until 45 minutes before the airliner took off. As you know, an explosive-detection exercise is not allowed to take place with “outsiders” aboard (galley service crew, cleaning crew, etc.). So, it did not happen. Furthermore, James Sanders actually went to Saint Louis and interviewed Officer Burnett, who failed to write down the tail number of the aircraft. (He only wrote “a wide body” on his report of the exercise. There was another 747 at the next gate, and that is likely where the exercise would’ve occurred.) Finally, there was a thunderstorm in the area. No K9 handler in his right mind would introduce explosives aboard a passenger airliner during a thunderstorm, and just prior to boarding. So, the “dog story” just didn’t happen. Therefore, the PETN (explosive residue) came from somewhere else. From where? From the missile!

    • Scott Hawthorn says:

      Tom Kovach wrote:
      “The 747 pre-flight checklist takes almost three hours to complete.”

      WHAT??? You can’t be serious! Cite, please.

      • Patrick says:

        Yeah I’m not sure what he’s talking about there. I’ve never flown a 747, but I assure you the flight crew’s entire preflight prep, including the onboard checks and exterior inspections, wouldn’t take anywhere close to that long. On the planes I fly, maintenance staff also have to perform a series of checks prior to any ocean crossing, but usually these take 30-45 minutes or so.

  44. Rod says:

    A month before the documentary was aired in the US, senior “Flying” editor Stephen Pope wrote that he would be watching with a perfectly open mind, especially “after what we’ve all learned over the past month about our government and its difficulty with telling the truth”.

    Well, after he’d watched it he came back on the air with a piece entitled “Why the ‘TWA Flight 800’ Documentary Is Wrong”.
    http://www.flyingmag.com/blogs/fly-wire/why-twa-flight-800-documentary-wrong

  45. Simon says:

    Nice point with the movie poster, Patrick.

    If the movie makers can’t even bother to depict the right aircraft (and how hard would that have been?), why would they get anything else right in their “documentary”?

    Thanks for the heads-up. Definitely a movie I won’t watch.

    • Insults Are Easier says:

      I thought you were not supposed to judge a book by its cover.

      This documentary makes some very interesting points and shows how many official investigations are covered up for whatever reason.

      The real conspiracy theory is conspiracy theories are always impossible, so believe anything else.

      Insults Are Easier

  46. Radwaste says:

    I suspect that neither of you knows how an antiaircraft warhead gets a kill. You should probably look that up.
    Hint: it doesn’t go into the skin of the plane and then blow outwards.
    Really. It doesn’t.

  47. Tom Kovach says:

    If you don’t think that a large incident can remain covered up, then how do you explain that troops — from different branches of the Armed Forces, unknown to each other — kept the secret of the Korean War massacre of civilians at No Gun Ri secret for 50 years??

    • Rod says:

      How many troops? I ask because the numbers that would have been involved in a TWA800 cover-up would have been, well, very large indeed when you consider all the crew members of the various naval vessels supposedly involved, all those FBI agents busy suppressing evidence, etc. etc.

      Real conspiracies involving large numbers of people do come out with time. Think of the Iran-Contra scandal — an authentic conspiracy. Yet it was public knowledge even before Reagan slithered out of office.

      And that — among many-many other reasons — is solid grounds for doubting a 911 inside job. Too many people would have had to know about it. There would be, at the very least, deathbed confessions galore.

      Same for TWA800.

      • Benedict says:

        One of the mistakes people make is that they assume any cover-up would be malicious, unlawful or wrong. That’s not necessarily the case. During the course of the Manhattan project, the U.S. Government was very effective at “covering up” the construction of the nuclear bomb from the public, despite the thousands of people involved. And the reason for this is that those doing the “covering up” believed (rightly) that they were acting in furtherance of our national security.

        Now is it possible the U.S. Gov’t covered up TWA Flight 800 in order to protect a national security secret? Let’s say, hypothetically, the Navy was testing a submarine launched surface to air missile that relied on highly classified technology, e.g. advanced Aegis radar tracking-targeting technology. If this super secret technology tragically malfunctioned and led to the crash of TWA Flight 800, I could imagine the President choosing to cover up the cause in an ostensible effort to protect extremely sensitive national security secrets. I could also imagine there would be loyal, patriotic Americans in the FBI who would recognize the President’s authority to make that call, and would perform their jobs as faithfully and in confidence, as ordered by the Commander in Chief.

        I don’t know what happened, but it is not difficult to imagine scenarios where a cover-up could plausibly be carried out successfully and for legal (if not legitimate) reasons.

      • etmax says:

        You watch, now all of a sudden a whole lot of people will start publishing stories about death bed confessions 🙂

  48. Tom Kovach says:

    The true insult to all of the hard-working people involved in the investigation is the cover-up of the true cause.

    There are so many holes in the official story as to make it laughable, except for its very serious implications.

    By the way, the terrorist group Abu Sayef claimed responsibility for the Thai Airways explosion. And, Phillipene intelligence warned US intelligence that the on-ground explosion was a test for something called Operation Bojinka, which would use mid-air exploding airliners as weapons against the USA.

    And, while it might be “technically” true that no terrorist group claimed responsibility for the Flight 800 disaster, it is also documented that a terrorist in the super-max Federal prison in Colorado was recorded discussing the disaster as a “victory”. He said this in his native Baluchi language. (The terrorist was put under surveillance after he bragged to a fellow inmate that his group was going to blow up an American airliner in mid-air.)

    And, then, there is “the Rosetta jackscrew”.
    http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/kovach/061228

    The damage to the jackscrew proves that an overwhelming force was applied to the elevators just prior to the airliner’s disintegration. It could not have been the pressure wave from the fuel tank explosion. (Besides, as you know, jet fuel is not explosive unless it is first misted. So… what caused the fuel inside the tank to be in a misted state? Answer: the explosion of the second missile — immediately beneath the fuel tank.)

    And, then, there is James Kallstrom’s phony “dog story” — which was debunked by James Sanders, Jack Cashill and me. (I was working independently from Sanders and Cashill, and from a different angle.)

    If the official story is true, then why was there a cover-up at all?