TWA Flight 800: Charles Basset and the Red Residue

Central to the thesis that TWA Flight 800 was brought down by a missile was a strange trail of red residue that stretched across the aircraft interior mostly in rows 17 through 19.

TWA pilot Stacey Terrell, like most others at Calverton, was frustrated by the obvious FBI stonewalling with regards to the results of the testing of the residue, and when it became clear that information was being withheld from the NTSB and TWA personnel at the hanger, Stacey, according to his sworn statements, obtained two samples of seat material tainted with the red residue (pictured above) for the express purpose of having them analyzed by an outside laboratory.

To accomplish this, Stacey gave the samples to investigative journalist James Sanders, who was investigating the downing of Flight 800 at the request of his wife's co-workers at TWA, who were equally frustrated and angered at the official obfuscations.

The test results, revealing a mixture of metals consistant with materials found in military missiles, was then published in the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

The FBI moved quickly to recover the remaining samples of red residue from West Coast Analytical Services and from CBS News. This means that the government retained two untested samples of the exact same material that James Sanders had had analysed. Please remember this, it will be mentioned later.

The story in the Riverside Press-Enterprise prompted the NTSB to run their own tests. But, they could not use the FBI lab, which was not only remaining secretive, but was still recovering from whistle-blower Frank Whitehurt's revelation that the FBI lab routinely lied in its reports to favor the government's point of view. In order to have the confidence of the public, the NTSB required another lab which was free from scandal, and asked for tests performed at NASA's Material Sciences Division, under the management of Dr. Charles Bassett.

But here is where the story starts to get strange. Remember that the FBI had recovered two untested pieces of the exact same material that James Sanders and West Coast Analytical Services had been working with. It would have been a simple matter to have forwarded those samples to Dr. Charles Bassett. That would have gaurenteed that he was indeed testing the same materials that James Sanders and West Coast Analytical had analysed. But those samples were never provided to Dr. Bassett's team, nor was Dr. Bassett's team allowed to gather their own samples from the reconstructed TWA 800. The NTSB simply sent samples of their own choosing to Dr. Bassett, and at no time was a chemical anlysis undertaken to prove that the samples sent by the NTSB were of the same substance as the red residue analysed by James Sanders!

The end results of this strange experiment lies in the NTSB's own documents.

On page 9 of the NTSB Fire & Explosions Factual Report appears the following statement.

Selected seat back panels in rows 17, 19, 24, and 27 were
damaged, exposing a brown to reddish brown colored material. This material was
analyzed by infrared spectroscopy. Analysis showed the material to be
consistent with a polychloroprene 3M Scotch-GripÔ 1357 High Performance contact
adhesive. The report is attached in Appendix III-Tests and Analysis.

Moving to the NTSB Fire & Explosions Factual Report Appendix III-Tests and Analysis, we find that the cited report is indeed the one prepared by Dr. Charles Bassett. There is no mention of any tests conducted on the red residue by any other lab, not even the FBI's. Dr. Bassett's work is the sole cite for the claim that the red residue is seat glue. There is, not surprisingly, nothing in this report to identify the red materials provided to Dr.BBassett by the NTSB as being the exact same material that James Sanders sent to West Coast Analytical Services. Certainly the photographs of the samples provided to Dr. Bassett by the NTSB do not look like the same material that James Sanders had analysed.

In the case of the two samples with reddish colors, it is clear that it is a different color red than the samples sent to West Coast Analytical Services.

Dr. Charles Bassett was also careful to note in his conclusions that while the seat glue on the samples given to him by the NTSB did appear to be similar to 3M Scotch-GripÔ 1357 High Performance contact adhesive, he could not prove that it actually was! In other words, Dr. Bassett could not confirm the presence of 3M Scotch-GripÔ 1357 High Performance contact adhesive on the NTSB samples at all.

But the really important fact that Dr. Bassett DID report is that the red coloring on the samples given him by the NTSB was not the seat glue itself but appeared to be a "high concentration of a dye much like an orange cobalt complex azo dye".

According to 3M, they have never, EVER, dyed their 1357 contact adhesives a red color. Photos taken of the seats from which Dr. Bassett's samples were taken show no signs of a red dye; the dye was added after the samples were removed from the aircraft by the NTSB and before the samples were given to Dr. Bassett by the NTSB.

The NTSB could have sent Dr. Bassett pieces of the exact same sample of material that James Sanders had analysed, but they didn't. The NTSB sent Dr. Bassett samples of seat glue dyed red!

The NTSB, to put it charitably, severly misrepresented the results of Dr. Bassett's tests. Dr. Bassett found a similar seat glue on the NTSB samples, but the red coloring was clearly something different.

It therefore comes as no surprise that once placed under oath during the court trial of James and Elizabeth Sanders, Dr. Charles Bassett stated, correctly, that the specific tests the NTSB had requested not only did not link the red residue found on rows 17, 18, and 19 of the wreckage with seat glue, but had not addressed the issue of the red residue at all (other than to determine that the red color on the samples appeared to be a dye). In addition, at no time in his tests did Dr. Bassett observe the samples of 3M Scotch-GripÔ 1357 High Performance contact adhesive he was using assume a reddish color.

The NTSB, however, continued to promote the story in the media that tests had proved that the red residue was seat glue. On examination of the NTSB's own documents, it's clear they did not. All Dr. Bassett's tests proved is that there might be seat glue on the seats, and that there was a red dye on the seat glue samples given to him.

The NTSB lied. The NTSB had no factual basis whatever to claim that Dr. Bassett's tests linked the red residue to the seat glue. Yet that is precisely what they claimed both in their published report and in media interviews. 


The FBI has publicly stated that their tests also link the red residue to seat glue, but a candid admission by an FBI chemist, Steve Burmeister, is that the FBI's own lab found that the red residue and the seat glue were chemically different.

To settle the matter as to whether the residue is seat glue, here are some results from independent tests.

TEST ONE RESULTS from the red residue visible on 15 seats of the reconstructed TWA 800 in Calverton Hangar. The test was performed at West Coast Analytical Services in California on behalf of James Sanders, which he printed in his book "The Downing of TWA Flight 800" and the Press-Enterprise, Riverside California, March 10, 1997 edition.

TEST TWO RESULTS for 3M 1357 adhesive from an UNSOAKED sample performed by Coffey Labs, Portland Oregon.

TEST THREE RESULTS from Atlantic Ocean water soaked - 22 days - fabric from sister ship to TWA 800. Tests were performed under the direction of student/researcher Thomas Stalcup at the urging of long time TWA 800 investigator and journalist Kay Pennington.
 ELEMENT  TEST ONE  TEST TWO  TEST THREE
 Magnesium  18%  2.5%  .007%
 Silicon  15%  .0005%  .0004%
 Calcium  12%  .0020%  .0011%
 Zinc  3.6 %  .043%  .0002%
 Iron  3.1%  .0041%  .001%
 Aluminum  2.8%  .0065%  .0018%
 Lead  2.4%  NONE  NONE
 Titanium  1.7%  .00012%  .0002%
 Antimony  .53%  NONE  NONE
 Nickel  .38%  NONE  NONE
 Manganese  .21%  NONE  NONE
 Boron  .081%  .0016%  .001%
 Copper  .053%  NONE  NONE
 Silver  .032%  NONE  NONE
 Chromium  .032%  NONE  NONE

 

Note in particular the presence of elevated levels of magnesium, silicon, etc. in the red residue which cannot be explained by the seat glue, the seat fabric itself, or the contamination from Atlantic seawater. Note especially the heavy presence of lead in the red residue which is undetectable in the seat glue, the seat fabric, or the contamination from Atlantic seawater.

In summary, three facts are obvious.

1. The red residue is not seat glue. The elemental analysis proves this.

2. The samples given to Dr. Bassett by the NTSB were not the same material analysed by James Sanders but based on Dr. Bassett's own analysis, as reported in the NTSB report on TWA 800, was seat glue tinted with a red dye.

3. The NTSB, in claiming that Dr. Charles Bassett's lab work linked the red residue analysed at West Coast Analytical Services with 3M seat glue, has lied. Dr. Bassett's report proves there is seat glue on the seats, and red dye on the seat glue.

The NTSB lied. There is no other way to put it.

So what does it mean, that the NTSB lied about the residue, and tried to rig Dr. Bassett's tests by dying samples of seat glue with a red dye? That there is a cover-up? Of course.

But looking beyond the obviousness of the NTSB's deception, that deception tells us much about what happened to TWA 800.

Had the red residue been something that actually belonged on the 747, such as tomato sauce from an inflight meal, or even the residue from some material already on the 747 that burned during the crash, the NTSB would have just said that. There would have been no need for a lie.

Therefore, the fact that the NTSB felt it was necessary to lie about the red residue proves that it was not normally part of the 747.

The red residue was not a normal part of the 747!

So where did it come from?

From the fact that the residue is mostly found along rows 17, 18, and 19 of the reconstructed aircraft, it's clear that the residue was placed there prior to the actual breakup of TWA 800. Had the residue appeared on the wreckage post-breakup, the traces would appear at random locations along the whole aircraft.

Airlines take great pains to keep the interiors of their aircraft as clean as possible. The coverings on the seats are held in place with velcro for easy removal and replacement. Had there been a red stain across three entire rows of seats on TWA 800 prior to the take-off, the seat covers would have been replaced, and records kept which the NTSB would have been able to use to explain away the residue without having to lie about it. Therefore, the red residue on rows 17, 18, and 19 appeared after the plane had left the ground.

So, even ignoring the tests by West Coast Analytical that showed the red residue to be consistant with the combustion products of a military missile, we now have these facts.

1. Three rows of seats became tainted with a strange red residue after TWA 800 left New York and before the plane actually broke apart.

2. By virtue of the NTSB's deceptions regarding the nature of the red residue, as documented in the NTSB's own report, the red residue is not a substance normally found on the 747.

Therefore, the red residue proves some other object had to come into contact with TWA 800 prior to the crash.

And the fact that the NTSB felt it was necessary to lie about it proves they know what it was!


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