It is too bad that Congressman Jim Traficant rushed to issue his report on the causes of the crash of TWA Flight 800 without waiting to get the answers to the questions he had sent to the FBI nearly four months earlier. He had asked the FBI to provide him with the identification of some ships that were near the crash site when the accident occurred. They had been recorded on a radar tape, and one of them had behaved in a very suspicious manner.
Instead of going to the crash site to offer assistance, it fled from the scene at a high speed, 30 knots. According to at least one credible eyewitness, a missile was launched from a spot close to where that ship was located by radar at the time of the accident. Congressman Traficant had hoped that by identifying this and three other vessels, the FBI would resolve (quote) “some of the many questions that have been raised about the government’s Flight 800 investigation.”
It took nearly four months for the FBI to respond to that simple request. Lewis D. Schiliro, the Acting Assistant Director in Charge, apologized for the long delay but did not explain it. He informed the Congressman that they were unable to identify the vessel fled from the crash site, heading out to sea doing 30 knots after the explosion. The FBI said the vessel “because of its speed of between 25 and 35 knots is believed to be at least 25-30 feet in length.” That gave the impression that this was only a speedboat.
That might fool the man in the street, but it is really an insult to the Congressman’s intelligence. At 8:45 p.m., 15 minutes after the crash, that vessel was observed by radar from a tower that was 26.5 nautical miles away. Because of the curvature of the earth, a surface vessel would require a superstructure that would measure at least 104 feet from the surface of the water to the top to be detected by that radar tower at that distance. A boat that was only 30 feet long would obviously not have such a superstructure. The FBI was technically correct in saying that the vessel must have been at least 30 feet long, but it was being deceptive in implying that it could have been that short.
The superstructures of guided missile ships, including their antennae, are over 100 feet tall and their speed is over 30 knots. Their antennae reflect radar very well. The logical deduction is that the ship that ran away was one of these warships.
But the FBI claims that this ship was not a military vessel. How did they determine that? They say that all they know abut it is that can do 30 knots and is at least 25 feet long. But they also know that its superstructure is over 104 feet tall. Non-military ships that fit that description must be very rare. The FBI should tell us where each of them was when Flight 800 crashed. If none was at the crash site, the Navy has some explaining to do.