The National Geographic Channel premiered a new documentary on the crash of TWA 800, claiming to have finally reconstructed through computer simulation what happened that night back on July 17, 1996. TWA 800 was the plane that took off from Kennedy Airport in New York headed for Paris. About 12 minutes into the flight, at an altitude of about 13,000 feet, the plane exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Long Island, killing all 230 people aboard.
According to the National Geographic show, which was part of a series called Seconds to Disaster, the official findings by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of what happened that night are correct. Namely, that the plane exploded because of a short in the wiring in the center-wing fuel tank, which created a spark, and the spark caused the fumes from the approximately 50 gallons in the tank to explode. Then the plane tore open at the nose, which fell off, the fuselage climbed at least a couple thousand feet, and the burning fuel coming down created the false impression to eyewitnesses that a missile or plane had struck the plane in midair.
While the program gave the appearance of being objective, in the sense that it did at least discuss several alternative theories, it ultimately avoided answering the tough questions. What’s worse, it reported half-truths and left out key information.
For example, it said that 260 people witnessed something streaking toward and hitting the plane just before the explosion. But it failed to point out that 92 of those 260 had actually seen the object rise up from the surface before colliding with the ill-fated TWA jet. So the idea that the burning fuel and debris were confused with an object flying toward the plane by all these unrelated eyewitnesses is absurd. These people all provided official eyewitness reports, known as FBI 302’s.
There was nothing in the show about Hank Hughes, a senior NTSB investigator who testified at a Senate hearing about the strange activities of an FBI agent in the hangar where the pieces of the exploded plane were being put back together like some giant jigsaw puzzle. Addressing the Senate committee, Hughes said that “I saw him in the middle of the hangar with a hammer in the process of trying to flatten a piece of wreckage. In investigative work you do not alter evidence.” Hughes also charged that evidence was being removed from the hangar. He said that following a complete inventory, “Not to our surprise, we found that seats were missing and other evidence had been disturbed.”
Kristina Borjesson, an award winning producer for CBS News, lost her job when she challenged the official version of what happened. Evidence uncovered in her initial investigation led her to believe there was a missile involved, and she wanted CBS to report what she had found. When they refused, she kept pressing, until it cost her her job. She wrote about it in a book she edited called “Into the Buzzsaw.”
Maj. Fred Meyer is shown in the National Geographic show as one of the eyewitnesses. But they left out the fact that Meyer, a lawyer and Vietnam veteran Naval aviator, said that “Based on two combat tours, it is my firm belief to this day that it was military ordnance” that brought down TWA 800. He also said that the FBI never asked to speak to him, so he went to them. After sending over a low ranking agent to hear what Meyer had to say, the agent asked him no questions, and they never called him again.
And much more. Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Thomas Moorer, was convinced the plane was shot down, and said so publicly. And Captain Ray Lahr, a former United Airlines pilot, has an ongoing case. He has a lawsuit against the NTSB and the CIA based on what he calls the “impossible zoom-climb.” He wants to know how they came up with the theory that after the nose broke off of the 747, the fuselage climbed in altitude by some 3,000 feet. Lahr and other aerodynamic experts do not believe that is possible.
Several people have done excellent work and investigation on this important story. They include the late Commander Bill Donaldson; Jim Sanders and Jack Cashill, and the books and videos they have done; investigators Graeme Sephton and Tom Stalcup; and of course, Reed Irvine, founder of Accuracy in Media, who passed away last year. There is a lot of evidence on the record that TWA 800 was brought down by something crashing into it and exploding. And that there was a cover-up to conceal what really happened.
The hows and whys are the subjects of theories. But the hard evidence, both eyewitness, physical, proof of cover-up, and circumstantial, plus the lack of evidence for the spark in the tank, point to a story that needs to be re-opened.
Instead, however, the National Geographic Channel, re-told the official version of a story-a version that just doesn’t stand up under the weight of the evidence.
Roger Aronoff also wrote and produced TWA 800: The Search for the Truth