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John S. McCain POW CIA-Defense Department Documents

 TWA Flight 800 Explosion FBI/CIA/DOD/NTSB Files

TWA Flight 800 Explosion
FBI - CIA - Department of Defense
National Transportation Safety Board Documents

8,446 pages of FBI, CIA, Department of Defense, and National Transportation Safety Board files, covering the explosion and crash of TWA Flight 800.

On July 17, 1996, at about 8:31 p.m eastern daylight time, Trans World Airlines, Inc. (TWA) flight 800, a Boeing 747-131, aircraft registration number N93119, crashed in the Atlantic Ocean about eight miles from East Moriches, New York. TWA flight 800 was traveling from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York, New York, to Charles DeGaulle International Airport, Paris, France. The flight departed JFK at about 8:19 p.m., with 2 pilots, 2 flight engineers, 14 flight attendants, and 212 passengers on board. All 230 people on board were killed, and the airplane was destroyed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan.

Witnesses saw an explosion and then debris descending to the ocean. The flightcrew did not report a problem to air traffic control before the explosion. The airplane was manufactured in November 1971. It had accumulated about 93,303 flight hours and 16,869 cycles.

The investigation into the explosion of TWA Flight 800 was the longest and most expensive accident investigation in American history. The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the crash occurred as the result of an explosion of the center wing fuel tank (CWT), resulting from ignition of the flammable fuel/air mixture in the tank. The source of ignition energy for the explosion could not be determined with certainty, but, of the sources evaluated by the investigation, the NTSB concluded that the most likely source was a short circuit outside of the CWT that allowed excessive voltage to enter it through electrical wiring associated with the fuel quantity indication system. The NTSB found that contributing factors to the explosion of TWA Flight 800 were the design and certification concept that fuel tank explosions could be prevented solely by precluding all ignition sources. The NTSB also pointed to the design of the Boeing 747, with heat sources located beneath the CWT with no means to reduce the heat transferred into the CWT or to render the fuel vapor in the tank nonflammable. Due to the recommendations made by the NTSB concerning possible causes of the explosion of TWA Flight 800, the FAA in February 2004 began the process of ordering airlines to install a fuel tank inerting system in most of their aircraft.

The NTSB concluded that there was no evidence of a missile or bomb detonation. The FBI agreed that there had been no criminal act after examining all the plane's wreckage that had been recovered and interviewing thousands of individuals.

Some people do not agree with the conclusions drawn by the NTSB. Partly influenced by the fact that the explosion took place two days before the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, where a bomb exploded ten days later, many thought that the explosion was an act of terrorism. Many witnesses reported seeing something ascend into the sky, which some find consistent with a missile. Others have come to believe that a United States Navy vessel operating in the region was responsible for damaging the plane. Other have given theories pertaining to electromagnetic interference.

The disc contains:


3,275 pages of FBI files related to the explosion of TWA Flight 800. Material includes: FBI briefs on 755 witnesses and what they reported to have seen. Memos dealing with whether or not radar data shows something intercepting TWA Flight 800. Forensic reports on the search for explosive residues. Results of fingerprinting victims for identification. Analysis of injuries of victims to try to determine if an explosive device went off in the cabin. Reports on testing of debris for characteristics or material compositions of explosives or weapons related material.


85 pages of transcripts of a CIA briefing made to the NTSB regarding the CIA's evaluation of witness statements.


TWA Flight 800 Missile Impact Analysis. This 24 page report documents the results of a study conducted between October 1996 and October 1997 of the wreckage of TWA Flight 800. The work was performed under the Department of Defense's Office of Special Technology, stationed at the Naval Air Warfare Center at China Lake. The military services routinely conduct destructive testing of aircraft by subjecting them to missile and projectile damage under conditions likely to be encountered in combat. This live-fire testing has built considerable expertise in identifying warhead damage on aircraft structure and systems. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Transportation Safety Board requested assistance from the military community in identifying possible missile impact damage on the wreckage of TWA Flight 800. Results from the examinations of the wreckage from TWA Flight 800 were documented and combined with other data to analyze the possibility that a shoulder-launched missile was responsible for the destruction of the aircraft.

U.S. Navy Salvage Report. This 136 page report covers the U.S. Navy's salvage of the victims and wreckage of TWA Flight 800. The report documents the techniques and procedures that were used. U.S. Navy divers encountered a torn and twisted aircraft with razor sharp metal edges and 300 miles of electrical cable. At the end of the salvage mission, all 230 victims and 98 percent of the plane was recovered. The report provides lessons learned during the conduct of the operation.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Final Report

"National Transportation Safety Board. 2000. In-flight Breakup Over The Atlantic Ocean, Trans World Airlines Flight 800, Boeing 747-131, N93119, Near East Moriches, New York, July 17, 1996. Aircraft Accident Report NTSB/AAR-00/03.  Washington, DC." This report issued on August 23, 2000, gives the NTSB explanation of the accident involving Trans World Airlines, Inc. flight 800. Safety issues in the report focus on fuel tank flammability, fuel tank ignition sources, design and certification standards, and the maintenance and aging of aircraft systems. Includes the cockpit voice recorder transcript.

Among the many topics covered in the report are: Wreckage Recovery; Medical and Pathological Information; Information Regarding Certain Primary Radar Targets Recorded by the Islip, New York, Radar Site; Trajectory and Main Wreckage Flightpath Studies; Electromagnetic Interference from External Sources; Meteorite Strike Information; Accident Record and History of Fuel Tank Fires/Explosions on Airplanes; Possible Ignition Sources Unrelated to the Fuel Quantity Indication System.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Documents

Among the many other pages of NTSB material are: Radar Data for Missile Visibility Tests Report; Operations Group Chairman Factual Report; Air Traffic Control Group Chairman Factual Report; Witnesses Group Chairman Factual Report; Interviews with pilots in the area; Witness Group Recorded Radar Study; Meteorology Group Chairman Factual Report; Survival Factors - Airplane Interior Documentation Group Factual Report; Structures Group Chairman Factual Report; Powerplants Group Chairman Factual Report; Systems Factual Report of Group Chairman; Flight Data Recorder Group Chairman Factual Report; Maintenance Records Group Chairman Factual Report; Cockpit Voice Recorder Factual Report of Group Chairman; Aircraft Performance - Airplane Performance Study; Security Factors Group Chairman's Factual Report; Hazardous Materials - Security Group Chairman's Factual Report; Reconstruction Group Chairman's Factual Report; Medical/Forensic Group Chairman's Factual Report; Fire and Explosion Group Chairman Factual Report; Trajectory Study.

TWA Hearing Transcript

A transcript of a public hearing that was conducted for this accident from December 8 through 12, 1997, in Baltimore, Maryland. NTSB Chairman Jim Hall presided over the hearing. Parties to the public hearing were the FAA; Boeing; TWA; IAM; ALPA; Honeywell; and the Crane Company, Hydro-Aire.


A ten page NASA summary report. During the first year of the investigation, some consideration had been applied to the possibility of man-made electromagnetic interference as a factor in the crash.

Congressional Hearings

Transcripts and copies of exhibits presented at the Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts of the Committee on the Judiciary United States Senate One Hundred Sixth Congress First Session On the Investigation of TWA Flight 800, held on MAY 10, 1999

Additional material include submissions from organizations made to the NTSB concerning their views on the crash of TWA Flight 800. Submissions from the Air Line Pilots Association, Boeing, International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, and Crane Co. HydroAire Inc. & Lear Romec.

As a finding aid for this title, all convertible text in the documents have been transcribed and embedded as text. All text capable of being converted can be searched. A search cross auto-index is also included for searching of all convertible material on the disc.


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