New concerns merit fresh look at TWA Flight 800
Nearly 17 years after TWA Flight 800 erupted into a fireball in the skies south of Long Island and fell into the Atlantic Ocean, killing everyone aboard, documentary filmmakers have rekindled old doubts about the official cause of the tragedy.
The plane, a Boeing 747 built in 1971, carried 230 people, including 16 Montoursville high school students and five chaperones on a trip to Paris.
Not yet released, the documentary contends that the National Transportation Safety Board's conclusion that a short-circuit in a center fuel tank was the probable cause of the explosion is incorrect. Instead, the filmmakers say, there was an external explosion - which would have to mean a missile detonation.
At the time of the catastrophe, scores of eyewitnesses on Long Island said they saw a streak of light that appeared to ascend toward the aircraft before it exploded. The NTSB later said that what they probably saw was the rear section of the plane ascending after the aircraft split in two.
There are problems on both sides.
The group contesting the findings includes professional accident investigators, some of whom worked on the case. They contend that, in addition to eyewitnesses, there is physical evidence and radar data proving an external explosion.
But a terrorist group would have claimed responsibility for such a feat because spreading fear, after all, would be the point of such an act. And, beyond findings that the nearest U.S. naval vessel was far out of range, the number of people involved in the launch of a military missile would make it impossible to cover up such an event.
Yet many experts have questioned the plausibility of animations made by the investigators, showing the rear of the aircraft climbing after the explosion.
The NTSB and lead FBI investigator James Kallstrom, now retired, emphatically have stood by the investigation. But the NTSB should take a look at any truly new evidence and determine whether it answers any questions hanging from the original investigation.