The Flight Data Recorder.

Last update Tue Jul 27 17:26:16 PDT 1999


When initially released, the section of the NTSB report dealing with the flight data recorder looked like this, a file 932524 bytes in size.

Now, months later, when visiting HTTP:// the present version is 936481 bytes in size!

The official record has been changed.

original version released by the NTSB.

current version at the NTSB website.

What was changed?

Predictably, the change is found on page 42, at the very end of the data record. The data lines which indicate the existence of an overpressure wave from the outside environment, the data lines the NTSB cannot explain, have been deleted.

For those without Acrobat, here are GIF files of the relevant pages.

Click here for full sized image of the original NTSB report.(21.1K). Note the data following the 20:31:12 time mark (underlined in red).

Click here for full sized image of the newly changed NTSB report.(19.5K) Note the 20:31:12 time mark (underlined in red). In the new version, the record is terminated here, with the comment "Flight TWA 800 data ends here".

The data. What the NTSB is trying to erase.

The TWA Flight Data Recorder information upon which Bill Donaldson bases his conclusion of an external explosion just prior to the destruction of TWA 800 is in a document at the NTSB web site at HTTP://

Go to exhibit 10A. It is an Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF) file. (You will need to have the Adobe Acrobat Reader program to read the file. You can get this free from the adobe site through the NTSB site, as you will see.)

If for some reason you cannot recover the PDF file from the NTSB, you can download 10A here.

The critical data is on page 42 of that document. You will need to increase the viewing magnification to 200% to view the data. If you keep the magnification at 100%, all you will see is lines, with no numbers.

TWA Flight Data (the last two seconds)

Time        Alt     IAS     Pitch   Elev    Head    Roll    Rudder  AOA 
20:31:11    13772   298     3.6     0.1     82      0       0.72    3
20:31:12    10127   100     8.3     11.2    163     144     77.76   106

Time        EPR1    EPR2    EPR3    EPR4    Laccel  Vaccel  VHF     Stab
20:31:11    1.3     1.29    1.3     1.3     0.10    0.9     Off     3
20:31:12    1.14    2.46    2.36    2.44    0.18    -0.89   Key     4

Time    Local Time (ref CVR)
Alt     Altitude
IAS     Indicated Airspeed
Pitch   Pitch Angle (degrees)
Elev    Elevator Position Right (degrees)
Head    Mag[netic] Heading (degrees)
Roll    Roll Angle (degrees)
Rudder  Rudder Position (upper) (degrees)
AOA     Angle of Attack (degrees)
EPRn    Engine n [Pressure] (ratio)
Laccel  Long. Accel. (g)
Vaccel  Vert. Accel. (g)
VHF     Radio keyed(?)
Stab    Pitch Trim Stab Pos (degrees)

Click here for a GIF of how the data appeared in the NTSB's own report.

The Art Bell / Bill Donaldson interview.

From the Art Bell Show, Dec 23 1997.  Transcribed from Real Audio
starting about 3:32 into the show. Bell is interviewing Bill Donaldson
about information from TWA 800's flight data recorder.

D: Now lets go on to what you say is the smoking gun and its a big one. When
I got to the hearings I went as a credentialed reporter for Accuracy in Media
and to classify the thing as a public hearing is really a misnomer. There were
very few of the actual people off the street that were allowed into the place.
Anyway, I get this mountain of paper.  One of the most critical things on an
air-crash investigation, particularly in civil aviation where they have these
flight data recorders, you have a voice data recorder and a flight data
recorder.  The call them black boxes.  They're really not black. They're

B: They're separate.

D: Right.  They're separate pieces of gear.

B: One records the final voice of the cockpit crew.

D: Right.

B: The other is recording the aircraft's technical performance up until
the very last second.

D: Right.  Now the only reason you put a flight data recorder in an aircraft
is to capture - I mean it sits there and rides - most airplanes never crash -
They're sitting there in the event that it does happen.  The target - the
reason that you put that piece of gear - the expensive piece of gear in this
airplane is to be able to recover it and play it back and see exactly
what everything in that airplane was doing.

B: Of course.

D: Now.  It's almost laughable.  When I got to the data on the flight
data recorder, I didn't even catch it at first.  It was one of these retired
captains from TWA who was working with another crash investigator.  We been
looking at this together.  A guy by the name of Howard Mann picked it up.
The reason I didn't notice it was the last  line of data was literally lined
out by the NTSB.

B: Now wait a minute.  We're talking about the flight data recorder.
The last line was lined out?

D: Now what they did - you can see aircraft's performance in all kinds
of things.     It shows the altitude readout.  It show the attitude
of the airplane.  It shows about 15 or 20 items and as the aircraft goes
along every second there's a data block with a recording in all these
different categories.

B: Gotcha.

D: And in between seconds there are even partial data blocks on some of the
stuff.  So when they get to the very end of the tape - the stuff that's the
whole reason the gear is in the airplane - they literally drew a line
through the last data block and made a note on the side: end of flight 800
data.  When you look at it, it's hard to read through it at first - you
assume as I did that this was some kind of previous recording or something
and I sort of skipped over it.

B: So in other words you thought that this lined out last line was not
part of the flight 800 data at all but was part of some previously recorded
flight's data.

D: Yeah exactly and as it turns out this type of flight data recorder has
a 30 hour playback and it was only on the first 30 minutes of, you know,
so there was no data that was still on the tape.

B: So they do not erase previous flights? They record over them much as we
might record a tape over another tape.

D: Right.

B: So here's this lined out last line and kinda hard to decipher, but I
take it you managed to decipher the line.

D: Right.  And once yo realize that it is a valid data line and it is the
last second recorded of the flight, it's startling because for instance
here's what it tells you.  The aircraft was climbing out and I did a little
look at the previous 10 or 15 seconds.  It was climbing about 22 and a
half feet per second.  The airplane was.  Each one of these data iterations
going across there.  And all of a sudden the airplane went from 13799 feet
is what it should have been at that last second.

B: What was the altitude again?  13000 ...

D: 799 is what it should have registered.  Now what happened is that
it suddenly dropped.  The altimeter dropped 3672 feet and registering
down on the 10000 foot level.  I went: whew - wow - what happened?  Obviously
the airplane didn't suddenly drop almost 4000 feet.  You look at the
next column and the airspeed indication goes from 298 knots to 100 knots.
In other words it lost 198 knots instantly in one second.  That can't
happen either.  I mean the airplane didn't  hit a brick wall up there.
And you go across and there's a whole series - I won't - I just concentrate
on these two because of time for a minute.

B: All right.

D: Now you have to, if you're working for the NTSB,  it's your duty
to explain this data line.  These ar real instruments. These are not
somebody's imagination.  This is hardware in airplanes that are 
recording actual data.  The way the altimeter works is that you
have a what's called a static air port on the side of the aircraft
and the altimeter is just like a barometer.  It senses the pressure
outside the airplane, and it converts it to a reading of altitude.

B: All right - important point - so this sensor is looking out the side
of the aircraft.

D: Exactly.  Now all of a sudden you get this tremendous drop in the
reading of altitude -  what this means is that this instrument recorded a
pressure that normally would be at 10170 feet or whatever the reading was.

B: So in other words you're telling me this last data line recorded a
change in pressure from 13799 down into the 10000 range.

D: Right. Now, what that means is that you have to go to an atmospheric
table to see what the actual conversion is in real pressure - pounds
per square inch - and the figure is in the neighborhood of 1.32 pounds
per square inch.  That doesn't mean a lot to some people but it does
to me and to other people that understand about explosives because in
order to get a sudden increase in pressure like that - It sounds small
but remember that on the side of an airplane you've got 1 square foot
is 144 square inches so it adds up when you start looking at area -

B: All right Bill - important point - how do you know that this
pressure difference which was sensed and recorded that you have
found came from an external source?

D: Okay.  The reason being what I did - There's a series of equations that
you use when you compute what an explosion will do as far as delivering
pressure to a distant point and they're not all that complicated but
the bottom line is what I said is okay I'm sure folks are going to say
well the airplane blew up so the pressure came from the center wing tank.

B: Right.

D: So I said all right, I'm going to do the calculation except instead of
using the 60 pounds per square inch in the tank like the NTSB scientists
were saying was the maximum, I'm going to arbitrarily assume that it's
600 pounds per square inch in the tank.

B: Ten times more.

D: Right ten times the pressure and I'm going to compute what the overpressure
would be on that static port 70 feet up the side of the airplane near the
nose.  The answer is .43 PSI - pounds per square inch.  That's using a
figure ten times what their explosive people said was the maximum capability
of that tank.

B: So in other words there is no way on God's green earth, and above it
apparently that an explosion from the center fuel tank could have caused
this pressure reading on the external pressure sensor.

D: Right.  And see -

B: Translated.  The center tank didn't do this.

D: No. In fact the point being - it's another point of common sense.  The
only power you get on the aircraft is through the generators that are out
on the wings - on the engine.  Now that wiring routs right by the center
wing tank on the way up to the forward part of the aircraft.

B: Uh huh.  So in other words, if the center tank had blown the data
could not have been there because it would have blown that wiring
to bits.

D: Sure. Exactly correct.  So okay let's assume that we have the toughest
wire in the world and its going to last at least a second through the middle
of this explosion.  It's both the airspeed indication that dropped to 100
knots down to 100 knots from almost 300 and the altitude both work off the
pitot static system they call it in the aircraft.  Now I'm going to switch
to another sensor.

B: Now you're saying that neither one of these changes - the change in
and the change in apparent airspeed are real.

D: No.

B: These are simply anomalies produced by the external pressure.

D: Right. Every time there's an explosion in the atmosphere there's an
overpressure that goes out at the speed of sound and when it hits something
it delivers an overpressure.

B: All right. you want to talk about another sensor.

D: Okay.  The other sensor is what's called the angle of attack system.
Angle of attack is a system that measures the exact angle that the wind
is striking the nose of the aircraft.  Normally in flight and you see
in the data - the airplane climbing at that speed and so on - the angle of
attack was three degrees.  Almost directly on the nose. Just 3 degrees
below the nose was the wind was striking the aircraft.  All of a sudden
when this overpressure wave hit, it goes from 3 degrees to 106 degrees.

B: My god.

D: Okay.  So this vane on the outside of the aircraft - it looks like
a little wind vane.

B: No. I understand.

D: Okay. Now it suddenly gets blown up past the 90 degree position and
then you see that's one of the data blocks. It has two more hits after the
main last hit and it shows that the vane goes to 106 on that last full
data block.

B: So in other words the direction of the prevailing winds suddenly
utterly completely instantly changed.

D: Yeah changed to going almost perpendicular to the flight path of
the aircraft.

B: And again the information you have just presented has come from the last
line which was lined out for some unknown reason.

D: Well, they were handing it out to the media.

B: Flight data recorder.  Was it lined out in such a way as they intended
for you not to be able to read it. Was it lined out in such a way - 

D: It's legible if you looked at it closely but remember they're handing this
out to reporters and reporters would go down and say how come this last
line is so screwed up? I don't think they wanted reporters to ask the
question.  Okay, I'm led to believe that that last line is not lined out
on the Internet one.  They posted this stuff on the Internet.  It's in
plain view.  But let me finish on this angle of attack thing.  It's
important.     The reason it's important is there's two more data hits on
the angle of attack system before it shuts off and they happen a quarter
second after the main data line and then a half second after it and what
it shows is that this angle of attack thing goes up to 106 degrees; then
a quarter second later its back down to 30 degrees and a quarter second
after that it's back down to three degrees which is essentially the
normal position.  Now what that means is that this data is real.

B: It records the entire thing.

D: Right. And at least a half a second after the last full data block and
the vane did exactly what it would have done if it had encountered an
outside air explosion.

B: The only thing that can explain - the only thing - that can explain
this data is an external detonation.

D: Right and you can even see it in the engine - there's two or three
other main systems that all say the same thing.  I mean things happened
to that airplane on that last data line that can only happen they
encounter a near experience of high explosiveness.

B: Bill, how can you know for certain or even nearly certain that that
last line belongs to flight 800?

D: Because it's sequentially.  The time is there.  In other words,
everything is sequentially there.

B:   My God.  You mean they have time hacks.

D: Yeah. In other words the previous full data line was at 8:31 and 11
seconds and then the one we're talking about is at 8:31 and 12 seconds.

B: Then you've got them.

D: Oh yeah,  that's what we're on the air for here.  I mean to me and to
an expert that's used to reading this stuff you better explain that last
line.  I mean before you put this puppy to bed.

B: God. You've got them.

D: I think.

B: So what do you want to happen now Bill?  Should you be on Nightline.
Should you be on the NBC ABC evening news?

D: Well, that requires an invite, but I think what Accuracy in Media is
going to do is we'll probably put a press conference together sometime
in the near future and what we really need is more support for the
Aviation Subcommittee that's investigating this thing.

B: How can we help?

D: The simple way would be to drop a card - just a postcard - to Chairman
Jimmy Duncan.  He's a congressman from Tennessee but way to say it is
Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee House of Representatives Washington DC,
and he'll get it.  We want the truth and the whole truth about flight 800.

Ed Zehr's analysis.

Ed Zehr is not only a journalist (one of the few that have retained their integrity in this age of lies) but a highly qualifies aviation engineer, and who worked on the X-29.

The following is his analysis of the final two seconds of the FDR data.

A few observations on the last two seconds of TWA Flight Data:


A loss of 3600 ft in altitude in 1 sec is out of the question,
but bear in mind that altitude is really a pressure measurement. 
An overpressure of 1.5 psi would account for the discrepancy in
altitude. It would also be capable of doing damage to the aircraft.
(Bear in mind that the pressure is not uniformly applied, but
impinges upon the a/c as a shock wave).

     @ 10,000 ft:  p = 14.7 (.6876) =  10.1 psi

     @ 14,000 ft:  p = 14.7 (.5873) =   8.6 
                                        1.5 psi

Indicated Airspeed:

Dropping 198 knots in a second? Forget it. But IAS is also a
pressure measurement, based upon the difference between stagnation
pressure Pt, measured by a pitot tube, and static pressure Ps.   

The ratio used to determine velocity is (Pt - Ps) / Ps = Pt/Ps - 1.

This ratio can be determined from Mach number M, using the
following approximation:
          Pt/Ps = 1 + .0581 - .5536 M + 1.4198 M

 speed of sound c

@ 14,000 ft: c = 628.5 kts    M = 298/628.5 = 0.474  Pt/Ps = 1.115

@ 10,000 ft: c = 638.0 kts    M = 100/638   = 0.157  Pt/Ps = 1.006

     Ps(@14,000)/Ps(@10,000) = 1.115/1.006 = 1.108

Compare this with:                10.1/8.6 = 1.17

Not a terribly good match, but close enough to suggest that a shock
wave might have affected the static pressure measurement before the
stagnation pressure changed very much, giving a false reading of
IAS much lower than the true value. Flaky? No doubt -- but

Pitch angle:

The pitch angle goes to 8.3 deg from 3.6 deg -- that's a lot in a 
second. 4.7 deg/sec to be exact. 


The elevator moves about 11 degrees at the same time. Now a
positive excursion in pitch angle means that the nose is moving
up. Positive elevator is down elevator, that is, the surfaces move
downward, increasing the camber of the horizontal tail, thereby
increasing its lift. This tends to push the nose back down. That is
how the autopilot would react to a sudden nose up excursion. But is
it enough? I would think that the autopilot would be commanding
more than 11 degrees down elevator to counteract the kind of pitch
rate we are seeing. Is it possible that the surface has not had
adequate time to respond to the command? I've never worked on an
airplane this size, but I would think that the surface could
respond in a second. Consider the rudder, for example. I'm not sure
what the explanation is. Possibly the flight control system is not
functioning completely. 


The heading changed 81 deg in a second? I don't believe it.


144 deg of roll in a second? That is what I would call a snap roll.
It would snap your neck like a twig -- wouldn't do the airplane a
lot of good either -- if it were possible to do such a maneuver..


77 degrees of rudder? Well, positive rudder would be to the left
(from the pilot's perspective). This would yaw the plane
counterclockwise, which would be the right direction to (attempt
to) counteract that 81 degree heading change. The rudder should be
hard over. 


A 106 deg Angle of Attack is nonsense, of course, but it may have
been calculated from the vertical velocity, which is also nonsense.

Can't really say much about the other stuff. It doesn't look
particularly implausible. So why are heading and roll so haywire?
I would be inclined to circular file these numbers, but there is
just enough consistency here to suggest that the system was still
functioning -- partially, at least.

More press coverage of the FDR data

Date: Friday, 09-Jan-98 11:25 PM

Analysis of TWA FL800 
Flight Data Recorder (FDR) 

Presented at Press Conference held at the Army/Navy Club in Washington,  D.C

Cdr. William S. Donaldson - Aviation Consultant to A.I.M. January 8, 1998 

On 8 December 1997 the NTSB released thousands of pages of documents to  the
media at the beginning of the public hearing in Baltimore MD. On  page 42 of
the NTSB's factual report of TWA FL800's FDR Tabular Data ( Click for
Transcription of Last Two Seconds) is a last full data block  recorded @ 20:
31:12 which was lined out by the NTSB. It is ironic in  that it explains
exactly what happened to TWA FL800. 

Data from three independent instrument systems: 

(1) The Pitot Static System, providing input to altimeters, and airspeed 

(2) The Angle of Attack System providing input to angle of attack gauges 
and stall warning. 

(3) Inertial Navigation System that provides heading, roll and pitch 
information to compasses and attitude indicators 

all independently show a powerful explosion occurred outside the  aircraft!
Data from all four engine pressure ratio gauges, the vertical  accelerometer
, and the rudder and elevator control position indicators  provide further
proof of an external high explosive event. The fact this  vital data was
lined out and not discussed suggests a cover up! Capture  of the Last Data
Line is the Very Purpose of Placing a FDR in an  Aircraft! 

-- The altimeters take their outside pressure readings directly from  static
air ports mounted on the side of the fuselage. The 20:31:12  altimeter
reading suddenly dropped 3,667 feet. This can only happen if  an
instantaneous 1.32 pound per square inch pressure increase occurs at  the
static port. 

-- The airspeed indicator gets its reading by comparing ram air @ the  pitot
tube with static pressure @ the static ports. The 20:31:12  airspeed dropped
instantly by 198 knots. Again this is indicative of a  sudden overpressure
at the static port. 

-- The heading indicator gets its information from the inertial  navigation
platform (3 very high speed gyro's oriented in three planes.)  @ 20:31:12
the heading jumped from 82 degrees magnetic to 168 degrees  magnetic
indicating that the gyro tumbled from shock to the platform and  continued
to precess because the analog signal from the magnetic compass  on the left
wing tip ceased.  The signal stopped because either the  hardware was
destroyed or separated from the wing by warhead detonation. 
@ 20:31:12 the Roll Angle went from 0 degrees to 144 degrees and back to  0
degrees. Also @ 20:31:12 the pitch angle suddenly increased by 4.7  degrees.
This instantaneous pitch up was the product of an outside  explosion below
the nose and was simultaneously validated by the -0.89 G  force registered
on the vertical accelerometer located AFT of the center  of gravity. It
recorded negative G when the tail snapped down. 

-- The angle of attack indicator is driven by an 'angle of attack vane' 
located on the left forward fuselage near the cockpit. It measures the 
angle of wind striking the nose of the aircraft. @ 20:31:12 the angle of 
attack went from a normal 3 degrees to 106 degrees indicating a high 
pressure wave coming from the low left side of the nose had struck the 
aircraft.  Two partial data blocks recorded in approximately 1/4 sec 
intervals after the full data block @ 20:31:12 show the angle of attack 
returning to 30 degrees @ 20:31:12 1/4 and to a normal 3 degrees @  20:31:12

Note: The altimeter is a direct air pressure reading instrument. The 
difference in air pressure between 13,794 feet, what it should have read  @
20:31:12, and 10,127 feet what it did read, was 1.32 pounds per square  inch
higher than ambient pressure. Because of instrument lag and  multiple static
ports this is only the minimum possible overpressure.  The aircraft was
ascending at 22.5 ft per second. 

-- A military warhead 12" in diameter and 14" long filled with RDX, 
bursting 63 feet from below and left of the pitot static port located on 
the left side of the nose would produce a 1.32 psi overpressure. 

Note: Distance to the center of burst is critical, for example if the 
bottom fuselage was 10 feet closer then the static port would receive  2.35
PSI overpressure which is 1 1/2 tons per square yard, 15 feet  closer would
be 3.21 PSI etc. 

Note: The forward fuselage upper skin failed in compression (trying to 
wrinkle) and the lower fuselage failed in tension (trying to pull  apart).
These are opposite of normal loading and consistent with the  warhead
detonation described above. 

Note: A center wing Fuel/Air explosion can not produce a 1.3 PSI 
overpressure at the static ports of a flying 747.   Using the 60 PSI 
maximum overpressure NTSB suggested, a fuel/air, explosion would only 
produce a  0.006 PSI overpressure @ the static ports some 75 feet from  the
center wing tank. When compared to the 60 psi center wing tank,  military
warheads can produce over 1.5 million psi in the weapon at  detonation. 

Note: Explosion shock waves are limited by the speed of sound in the 
atmosphere which is roughly 1,100 feet/second. Because TWA FL800 was 
already traveling 633 feet/second (380 knots true air airspeed) through  the
air, a center wing tank explosion shock wave could only move forward  along
the fuselage at 467 feet/second requiring over 2.3 times as long  to
traverse the 75 feet to the static port. This makes the effective  radius of
a CWT explosion 177 feet instead of 75 feet or about 12 times  the volume of
space to fill with overpressure. 

Remaining Data Blocks: The remaining data @ 20:31:12 is consistent with  a
shock wave hitting the aircraft, the yoke comes back 11 degrees then 
forward, 0.89 negative g's then 1.02 positive, the rudder pedals cycled 
hard right then left and centered. This last full data block was  recorded
at least one second before the CWT explosion cut electrical  power! 

Calculation of maximum overpressure potential of center  wing tank explosion
measured at 747 pilot pilot/static ports. 

(1) Highest overpressure in tank @ 60 psi (NTSB ESTIMATE)
(2) No objects in path of blast wave
(3) 2400 ft3 tank is a 8.3 ft radius sphere (highest blast potential)
(4) Distance from blast center to static port 75.5 ft. 

Divide the distance to static port from center of blast, 75.5 ft., by  the
radius of the tank, 8.3, = 9.09. Cube the dividend = 752.6. This  determines
the ratio between the original tank volume and the volume of  the blast
sphere measured at the static port. 1:752.6. Divide the volume  multiple
into the 60 psi original pressure to determine the overpressure  at static
60 psi / 752.6 =0.079 psi                       

(5) Aircraft in Flight - 380 knots true Airspeed - 13,774 feet Altitude. 
Because FL800 was in flight the force of any blast originating from aft  of
the static ports would be radically reduced. Over pressure waves in  the
atmosphere are limited by the speed of sound, about 1,100 ft/sec.  FL800 was
already moving 633 ft./sec away from the point of explosion,  so because of
speed limits, the shock wave would only travel forward of  the fuselage at
467 ft./sec. This slowing of the relative shock wave  causes the radius of
the overpressure sphere measured to the static port  to increase

-- @ 633 ft./sec the aircraft travels 0.63 ft. per ms (1/1000 sec)
-- The shock wave would take 161.6 ms to travel forward to the static 
ports @ 0.467 ft./ms.
     75.5 ft. / 0.467 ft. per ms = 161.6 ms
-- The blast radius would then be expressed as: 161.6 ms x 0.63 ft/ms + 
75.5 ft. = 177.3ft. 

177.3 / 8.3 ft. = 21.36
(21.36)3 = 9746.5
60 psi / 9746.5 = 0.006 psi overpressure 

Calculation of overpressure potential of anti-aircraft  warhead blast 62.5
ft. from 747 static ports 

(1) 12" Diameter, 14" Long Warhead, filled with 93 lbs. RDX
(2) Overpressure within warhead @ detonation 1,500,000 psi
(3) Weapon radius = 0.6 ft. 

62.5 / 0.6 ft. = 104.16
(104.16)3= 1,130,135
1,500,000  / 1,130,135 = 1.32 psi 

Note: The overpressure actually measured by TWA Fl800's Flight Data 
Recorder on the altitude track, 1.32 psi is identical to the  overpressure
created by the generic warhead described above. Also note  it is 216 times
greater then the maximum overpressure potential of a  center wing tank
explosion on TWA FL800. 

Retired aviators speak out.


The Press-Enterprise
January 9, 1998

Pilots find evidence of TWA 800 missile

By Onell R. Soto


Refusing to believe the government's explanation for the crash of TWA
Flight 800, a group of retired aviators said Thursday they had found
evidence that a missile exploded just 60 feet from the front of the
Boeing 747.

The last line of data from Flight 800's flight data recorder,
information released during National Transportation Safety Board
hearings in Baltimore last month, includes readings that prove an
explosion took place outside the plane, said William S. Donaldson, a
retired Navy commander who investigated crashes.

"It looks to me like there was a huge explosive warhead about 60 feet
from the plane and blew the nose up and to the left," Donaldson said
during a news conference sponsored by the Associated Retired Aviation
Professionals and the conservative group Accuracy in Media.

Responding to the Donaldson theory, government officials said there was
no evidence of a missile, saying that information from the flight
recorders was being misinterpreted.

Also at the news conference were two men who witnessed the crash -- a
military helicopter pilot who was flying over Long Island at the time
and a businessman who saw the disaster while eating dinner at a yacht
club -- said a CIA video recreation of the crash doesn't reflect what
they saw.

Flight 800 was heading from New York to Paris when it exploded off Long
Island in July 1996. All 230 aboard died. 

An NTSB spokeswoman repeated Thursday that the agency has discounted a
missile theory. Federal investigators have concluded vapors in the
plane's central fuel tank were ignited by an unknown mechanical

"We have absolutely no evidence that a missile struck the aircraft or
that a fragment of a missile entered the aircraft," said spokeswoman
Shelly Hazle.

Donaldson vehemently disagreed, drawing his conclusions that a missile
shot down the plane as a terrorist act from a printout of flight data
produced by the NTSB.

The flight data recorder tracks information such as altitude, speed,
engine power, the direction in which flight controls are pointing and
how directly the wind hits the plane.

Before printing copies of the flight data for distribution in Baltimore,
an NTSB official drew a line through the last set of numbers, writing by
hand "END OF FLT 800 DATA."

An NTSB official said Thursday that the figures represent incorrect
readings from earlier flights and are junk data. Flight data recorders
use the same reel-to-reel tape several times, erasing it and writing
over repeatedly.

If the data are to believed, however, they indicate Flight 800's gauges
recorded physically impossible conditions, such as dropping 3,645 feet
and slowing to 100 knots from 298 knots in just one second.

More likely, Donaldson said, the readings record the shock wave of an
exploding missile as it ripped past sensors. 

Such a wave would increase the air pressure enough to skew the altitude
and speed measurements, he said. It would also have rocked a device, not
unlike a weather vane, which measures from which wind hits the aircraft.
That reading went from 3 degrees to 106 degrees. The last reading, less
than a second later, was again 3 degrees.

A shock wave would help explain how the plane's central fuel tank
exploded, Donaldson said. Jet fuel, basically kerosene, does not burn
easily, not even at the temperatures that the federal government says
the central fuel tank reached, he said.

Donaldson showed a video in which he repeatedly extinguishes a match in
a can of jet fuel. The fuel does burn, however, when it is suspended in
a mist, as he demonstrates by putting the fuel in a spray bottle and
spritzing it at a candle.

Donaldson theorized the shock wave from the outside explosion knocked
what little fuel remained in the plane's central fuel tank into the air.
That fuel was ignited by a fragment from the missile exploding, he said.

Unlike other missile theories surrounding Flight 800, Donaldson said he
does not believe a missile struck the plane, but that one exploded near
it. He said the government is trying to cover up evidence of the missile
because it failed in its job of protecting airliners from terrorist

Donaldson, a one-time fighter pilot, first said last year that he didn't
think it was possible for jet fuel vapors in the central fuel tank to
explode without first being sent into the air by a shock of some sort.

And he doubts that the data that led to his conclusions were left over
from an earlier flight and were therefore incorrect. "A lot of the data
recovered," he said, such as the angle of attack measurement. "It all
fits with what I described." Others speaking at the news conference
included Fred Meyer, a retired Air National Guard major who was flying a
helicopter practice mission around Long Island. 

He said FBI investigators talked to him briefly, but were not too
interested in his account of a streak of light arcing through the sky
and ending in what looked to him as a military explosion.

"I've seen ordnance explosions," said Meyer, a Vietnam veteran. "This
was military ordnance."

Another witness, Richard Goss, a carpenter and businessman, said he was
having dinner when he saw an ascending streak of light over the Atlantic
Ocean, ending in an explosion. He said he twice talked with FBI
investigators, but they didn't follow up with him.

They were joined at the news conference by Mark Hill, a retired Navy
rear admiral, and Howard Mann, a former TWA 747 pilot, who first picked
up on the cross-out line in the flight recorder data while looking over
documents he picked up during the Baltimore hearings.

Published 1/9/1998

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