After my most recent trip to Washington last weekend, I have come to one sorry conclusion: The only people who believe that a fuel-tank problem destroyed TWA Flight 800 sit in America’s major media newsrooms.
They certainly don’t sit in the cockpits of America’s airliners. After some 200 radio and TV interviews and a score of live appearances, I have talked to at least 100 airline pilots. Of those, exactly one supported the government thesis.
What follows are some of the unsolicited e-mails I have recently received from pilots and my comments on the same. I have edited them only for length and for spelling. Not all of the pilots agree with James Sanders and me on every point in our book, “First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America,” but they uniformly reject the government thesis.
Each of these individuals identified themselves to me. I have chosen, however, to shield their identities lest there be repercussions.
Ex-Air Force combat pilot
I loved the book. I am an ex-Air Force combat pilot, functional check flight pilot and standardization and evaluation pilot. I flew 145 combat missions. From the first announcement of TWA 800 I believed the plane was brought down by a missile. To me the strongest evidence of the government cover-up is the lack of satellite photo releases to back up the claim that there was no missile. No part of the earth is probably more under satellite surveillance than the mid-Atlantic from New York City to Washington, D.C. If the satellite photos backed up the “no missile” theory, the photos would be everywhere.
There are other interesting questions: Why, if it was mechanical failure, was the entire 747 fleet not grounded? While there were corrective mechanical changes, anything this catastrophic would have deserved far more severe reaction. Why has Boeing never protested this conclusion? Anyway, great book.
Retired airline pilot
As a pilot for 33 years, I have flown many of the different Boeing A/C, all with a center tank, many times empty, with the pumps running, and guess what? Nothing happened. Even after the TWA incident when the FAA required checks of the wiring in all Boeing A/C, even when insulation was found missing from wires, even with empty tanks … nothing happened.
None of the pilots or maintenance persons I ever talked with believed that tank explosion was caused by faulty wiring shorting out because the pumps were on with an empty tank.
First of all, there were not 736 witnesses who saw the missile. There were 736 witness’s to the explosion, but only a small fraction, something like 80 or so, saw a streak of some sort. The majority saw no such streak.
Of those who saw the streak, some said it went straight up, a few said it went down from the aircraft, others saw more than one streak, streaks were from several directions. Wire’s missile was climbing at a 40 degree angle, etc.
Assuming this “missile” was a heat seeker such as the Stinger which we gave to bin Laden, it would have homed in on the hottest part of the target, the nearest tailpipe, not the fuselage. The aircraft was under climb thrust and putting out a lot of heat.
I don’t know what to make of the 3,000 degree climb of the wreckage. The “video” shown alongside this article shows all four engines leaving contrails. At 13,000 degree? Ridiculous.
I don’t believe the NTSB conclusions. Of 1,108 B-747s built, only one experienced this problem? Hardly. I think it was a bomb.
When the wreckage of TWA 800 was raised from the bottom and placed on a barge, I noticed the nose section was blown cleanly off. I went around and searched for the wreckage of PAA 103 at Lockerbie. The nose was blown off at the same frame!
PAA was brought down by a bomb. I think that’s what happened to TWA 800. BTW, the aircraft was the same one I flew for my ATP rating in September 1972. I knew many of the crew who perished.
Note: Of the 700-plus eyewitnesses that the FBI interviewed, some 270 (FBI’s figure) saw streaks of lights ascending or arcing over before the crash. Roughly one-third of those followed the streaks from the horizon. There were many more eyewitnesses who did not share their accounts with the FBI. We too believe it was a bomb, a flying bomb that was exploded somewhere under the plane.
Retired TWA pilot, senior Air Line Pilots Association investigator
Sometime in the late ’80s, I was on a flight between JFK and Tel Aviv (TLV). The airplane was a 747-200. During the initial climb out from JFK, a strange rattling and metal-to-metal noise began to emanate from the throttle quadrant.
We ignored the noises as a nuisance and since everything else was normal continued on our way. At about 23,000 feet airplane altitude, the FE announced that he cannot control the cabin.
[Later] the FE announces, “I have a Differential Fault” on generator number 3. … Not more than 30 seconds elapsed from the GenDiff announcement by the FE when he announces that he now has a GenDiff on generator number 4! We not only have the Virgin Mary in first class but Jesus Christ and the 12 Apostles just showed up.
That did it; we declared an emergency, made a 180 degree turn and headed back to JFK. We were just past Nantucket Island heading for Yarmouth in the Canadian Maritimes when we made the turn and dumped about 160,000 pounds of fuel (the natives of Nantucket can thank our crew for having never sighted a mosquito since that day).
… So we had two 85KVA capable generators, running at about half load, dead short against the wing spar. 170KA is equivalent to 1,700 100-watt bulbs; with four generators online, each was running at about one-half load when the first GenDiff occurred and three-quarters when the second went off. The spar also serves as the front portion of the wing fuel tanks which had much fuel and air.
So after F800, I always asked the question – if a dead short electrical arc of considerable power on a fuel tank did not cause us to blow up, how did static electricity cause the [center wing tank] to go off in F800?
All of the above can be quantified with crew names, airplane number and log book write-ups if necessary. I truly don’t know the consequence of a dead short on an airframe. All I know is that I have five crew members who witnessed it.
PS: After the shoddy investigation by the NTSB on TWA F840 in 1979, I never had much respect for the outfit.
PPS: I just finished the book – great job. Thanks on behalf of those friends I lost.
Note: This has been shortened considerably. The pilot’s point, however, is clear.
TWA pilot scheduled to fly Flight 800 on July 17
I commend you for the excellent series of articles . … I do hope the prosecutions proceed. There is nothing worse than corruption in our government.
My interest in this is that I should have been the captain of 800 that day. Management used its prerogatives and took the flight for training purposes. I lost many friends and associates on that flight. I had flown that aircraft No. 119 only several days prior to the shoot down. Justice over due. Let the trials begin!
Retired airline pilot
I am totally convinced that an outside source blew up TWA 800. In fact I went live on Fox TV on their 10 p.m. newscast that night and stated that fact. (I am their in-house spokesperson for aviation matters.) We can muster up a number of pilots with thousands of hours and years and years of experience to augment and support your theory. Please contact me if you are interested in us pursuing this any further.
Note: Yes, we are. Our best bet for genuine exposure at this time is for America’s pilots to force the issue. If some pilot or pilot’s organization is willing to take the lead, we are more than willing to help.