TWA 800: Do We Really Need to Go There Again?

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Conspiracy theories are a little like mold: It doesn't take much to get them started and once established, they're all but impossible to eradicate. The crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in July 1996 has proven rich soil indeed for a perennial crop of nut cases, wild-eyed lunatics and foil-hat purveyors. The latest is a new documentary that will air this month on the Epix network whose producers claim that the NTSB and FBI had incontrovertible evidence that 800 was brought down not by a fuel tank explosion but by an external explosion, suggesting but not actually saying: missile.

I can only hope that this new effort summons more credibility than a previous documentary on the subject produced in 2001, the ominously named Silenced: TWA 800 and the Subversion of Justice. (See it here.) Despite rather shoddy journalism, that one pulled no punches, arguing that not one, but two missiles were fired at 800 and that investigators intentionally manipulated physical evidence to disguise the fact pattern, going so far as to flatten the recovered tank sections to match the claim of an external explosion. The documentary claimed that the Clinton administration stage managed the investigation to produce the "safest political outcome." It was less clear on why a mechanical failure was more politically acceptable than a terrorist plot, although one can understand that if a junior Navy OOD got a little jiggy with the keys to a Standard missile, you might want to keep a lid on that. Never mind that there were no naval ships with that capability in the area.

For the new documentary, the producers have lassoed some credible witnesses, including Hank Hughes, a former NTSB investigator involved in the Flight 800 probe. He says in the film's trailer that he doubts the NTSB's conclusion and explains that FBI agents were all over the investigation, including sneaking into the hangar in the wee hours where the 747 was being reassembled. This is not a new revelation; friction between the FBI and NTSB was widely reported contemporaneously until a little over a year after the crash, when the FBI declared there was no evidence of crime or terrorism and summarily and decisively left the NTSB to finish its work.

That work concluded that an explosion in the 747's center tank was the most likely cause of the accident, although the board never pinned down an ignition source. In the years since, there have been a handful of similar explosions, all on the ground. Multiple witness accounts of bright points of light and smoke trails left the missile conspiracy hanging like a persistent, foul odor. Silenced mined this vein to exhaustion and I won't be surprised if the new documentary does the same. The original documentary said the NTSB never interviewed any of the more than 600 witnesses. (It pointedly doesn't say that all of them claimed to see missile trails.)

Conspiracy theories take root in the smallest unexplained facts while ignoring or minimizing those that are well established. People inclined to believe—indeed, to seek out—conspiracies, are often immune to rational thought.

The NTSB said today it's keeping an open mind on entreaties to reopen the TWA 800 investigation. I can do the same, but just barely. Organizations can suffer from group think and reach the wrong conclusions for the right reasons. I'm skeptical that happened with 800, but, well, show me. If ever there was a case to invoke Occam's razor, TWA 800 strikes me as one. We'll have to wait to see what the latest findings reveal but I'm preparing myself to be underwhelmed.

Comments (69)

I've got no time of cranks either but I try to retain a healthy level of scepticism. It is certain that plenty of juicy conspiracies are going on all the time. How many honest mistakes with serious consequences have been covered up over the years? For that matter, how many laws have been broken on purpose and then covered up? For the doozies, generally, I'm sure that Occam's razor applies. In this case I wouldn't have given it a second thought were it not for a video I found on youtube from 1999. It's an almost 3 hour CSPAN recording of a press conference with a bunch of serious, sensible-looking aviation and military types. I've only watched an hour or so (my scepticism clearly has limits) but for anyone with more time/interest it is titled, "TWA Flight 800 Independant Investigation (1999)". Well dressed people with admirable service records can still be crazy or just wrong but they've at least given me some pause to think.

Posted by: John Hogan | July 4, 2013 1:42 AM    Report this comment

I just read Stephen Pope's take on this in the "Flying" mail. Apparently, the film claims THREE missiles were fired - and one of them from a completely different location to the others. The thing that undermines every conspiracy theory I've ever looked at is that there is just too much incompetence to successfully supress information when lots of people are involved. This is just not credible.

Posted by: BOB GILCHRIST | July 4, 2013 2:10 AM    Report this comment

The Navy's investigatory processes for incidents like an accidental missile launch are almost self destructively honest and thorough. If a standard missile had accidentally shot down TWA 800 one of the major news items in the days following the crash would have been about the ship's captain being relieved of command, the board of inquiry investigating how it happened and likely the subsequent court martial.
Plus, it is hard enough to keep sailors from talking about things which there are valid security reasons for not making public, something like either accidentally or deliberately shooting down an airliner would have been common knowledge in every place sailors socialize ashore throughout the eastern seaboard even before Pierre Salinger could have heard about it.
On a different note, he NTSB academy has suspended the presentation they do for groups about the TWA 800 investigation because of the present furor. If you get the chance sometime it is well worth arranging to hear and the reassembled forward fuselage of TWA800 which they have on display is well worth seeing.

Posted by: Michael Bevan | July 4, 2013 5:03 AM    Report this comment

Given the outcome of the prior investigation any additional effort is a clear example of why we can't control the Federal spending (debt).

Posted by: JAMES MILLER | July 4, 2013 6:47 AM    Report this comment

Paul, your TWA800 "story" is a collection of your most ignorant comments ever! What have you become, a government disinformation specialist, or what? Of course we have to go there again! The evidence of our corrupt and unrepresentative government agencies is overwhelmingly apparent everywhere we look or attempt to hold them accountable - even in the most trivial matters! This devastating incident was swept under the rug when it happened. There were contemporaneous pireps, accounts of missile sightings, reports of radar missile tracks and eyewitness accounts of at least one missile streaking towards the aircraft coincident to the explosion. This was all at the time of the explosion - no time for the conspiracy nuts to get whipped up, as you call them! Then, take a look at the passenger list and crew! If you think that shouldn't raise reasonable suspicion in a normal mind, then you are truly a government hack! We may not like the film's production people or the cast may trouble us but, when you put all that drivel aside, you are left with only one conclusion - that this disaster investigation leaves more questions than does it provide answers. Conspiracy theory? The government's so-called investigation is an incompetent, inconclusive government snow job meant to close the barn door after the horses escaped. It stank back then and it still stinks now! You owe your readership a BIG apology for publishing your seriously biased and myopic rant!

Posted by: Bob Orl | July 4, 2013 7:45 AM    Report this comment

Bravo Bob Dat!

This was a coverup from the very beginning, when President Clinton interrupted prime time television programming to inform the nation of an airline accident.

I suppose such interruptions for train accidents is next?

For anybody paying attention at the time (those not having reached the age of reason yet are to be forgiven) this was the essential political coverup, with the FBI being the lead agency and so much evidence being utterly disregarded in the final report.

Suffolk County medical examiner Dr. Wetli reports schrapnel wounds in 89 of the bodies he examined and the blame is placed on electrical shorts? Good Heavens, such nonsense.

We need to go there again if we are interested in the truth and honest aviation accident investigations.

If we are happy with deception and political games, then of course, support the status quo and keep me in the dark like a mushroom. Then we do not need to go there.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | July 4, 2013 7:58 AM    Report this comment

"Hey Folks, let's move along now....Nothing to see here"

Posted by: Richard Benson | July 4, 2013 9:03 AM    Report this comment

It is too easy to use the red stamp of "conspiracy theory" on any subject and render that subject an untouchable one!
I am not going to get into the missile or shoot down theories because I was not there. However, there were hundreds of eye witnesses, some very credible, such as military and airline pilots never contacted nor their testimony ever sought!
As one who spent thousands of hours flying on top of the center tank and the "Christmas Tree" area of a 747 Classic and survived, I cannot believe the "explosion" and "zoom up" theories.
If the center tank boost pump wirings were faulty, other aircraft and the ones I flew in and out of JFK (or other airports in temps even above 40C) should have been blown into Smithereens! Or at least discovered during subsequent Service Bulletin inspections!
FBI has great abilities investigating crime. But they have as much expertise investigating airliner crashes as I have investigating brain surgeries!

Captain Ross Aimer
(UAL Ret.)
Aero Consulting Experts,
Los Angeles

Posted by: Ross Aimer | July 4, 2013 10:23 AM    Report this comment

You guys just don't appreciate the scope and insidiousness of a plot like this. Nobody has blabbed in 17 years? Heck, that's nothing. It's been 50 years since JFK was assassinated in a plot involving the FBI, the CIA, the Mafia, the KGB, the Teamsters Union, and a cabal of bus drivers in the New Orleans Transit Workers Union--and nobody's blabbed about that one!

Posted by: Dick Baker | July 4, 2013 10:43 AM    Report this comment

If you don't let such things play out, the "nut cases, wild-eyed lunatics and foil-hat purveyors" would be denied their entertainment. After all, think of the fun they've had with the moon landing(s).

But please, don't spend a bunch of my tax money on it.

Posted by: John Wilson | July 4, 2013 11:01 AM    Report this comment

You're free and welcome to make your points, Campbell, but when you resort to ad hominem attacks and profanity, your post gets chopped.

And yours did. How many hours you have in the cockpit is irrelevant.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 4, 2013 11:18 AM    Report this comment

I echo the comments above. Many of us recall the time when the Navy was using airline flights over the Atlantic between Florida and the northeast. No accidents but enough close encounters to make a fuss and get it stopped. But no harm, no story. In 1967 I was flying my Mooney north of STL and an F4 was clearly using me as a radar target, he passed above close enough to see the rivets. No harm, no story.

But when an incident becomes a story, what better cover than blaming the "nut cases, wild-eyed lunatics and foil-hat purveyors."

Posted by: Darryl Phillips | July 4, 2013 11:35 AM    Report this comment

There have been a few instances of civil airplanes being hit by inadvertent missile fire. The best example was Siberia Airlines Flight 1812, which was accidentally shot down by an Ukrainian SA-5 (aka S-200) missile.

In that case the aircraft skin was peppered with holes and missile components were found embedded in the wreckage.

For 18 years I was a Wild Weasel and Raven Electronic Warfare Officer. We studied radars and missiles every day. We had to know the details of how they kill airplanes, so we could kill them before they killed us.

I spent a year running a live weapons range. I've operated over dozen different surface to air missile systems. Whatever killed TWA 800, it wasn't a missile.

And of course the whole notion that an inadvertent missile firing (let alone 3 of them!) could be kept a secret by the thousands of people who would know about it beyond ridiculous. Not only would an entire ship's crew, from the captain to the laundry tech would have to stay silent for decades, the FBI (who inventoried all the missiles in the darn Navy), the Navy supply system, and the entire NTSB would be in on the conspiracy. Only an idiot, or Alex Jones would believe that.

One wonders why the guy peddling this movie didn't speak up at the time?

Posted by: Jim Howard | July 4, 2013 11:50 AM    Report this comment

I saw the Long Island wedding video twice the next day on CNN. I know what I saw, and i'll never forget it.

Will you ever get to see the video? Probably not.

Posted by: Peter Kuhns | July 4, 2013 12:56 PM    Report this comment

What Jim Howard said: +1

Anyone who's served in the military knows that lots of things go on all the time that the general public is unaware of and would be astonished to learn. That said, however, it would be a minor miracle if word didn't leak out that a military missile had brought down a civilian aircraft -- not impossible but highly unlikely.

Paul, I agree with you about the abundance and proliferation of conspiracy theorists and the nuisance they represent, but it seems to me that rather than dismissing such claims out of hand, we should ask to see their hard evidence in order to judge for ourselves the validity. In the end, all the evidence has to fit the representations made about the incident. If the film presents evidence not previously considered, then perhaps another look would be warranted. On the other hand, if we're treated to another set of opinions and no new evidence, it may be just entertainment and little else. In other words, "Lemsee what ya got."

Posted by: Keith Bumsted | July 4, 2013 1:08 PM    Report this comment

The arguments are compelling to revisit the investigation. I would by far trust the pilot investigators before a bureaucratic bunch of misfits who have a possible political agenda for sweeping the facts under the table.

Posted by: thomas carey | July 4, 2013 1:21 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Bertorrelli:

Let's try this again.

You state early in your editorial that, " The crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in July 1996 has proven rich soil indeed for a perennial crop of nut cases, wild-eyed lunatics and foil-hat purveyors."

You have lost your case by showing your bias right off the bat. Bob Orl's post above sums up the case nicely (and more politely than I did which prompted you to censor my post by removing it).

Is this just your bias, or does it extend to the Avweb team as well? I'm truly disappointed by your shoddy journalism in the face of overwhelming evidence that the government's story about Flt. 800 is a fabrication.

As to your last paragraph, what's with the "Let them eat cake attitude?" You act as though your time is being wasted by having to look at this new presentation. You should welcome it and look forward to it.

My feelings about Avweb just took a big dive.

Posted by: Robert Campbell Campbell | July 4, 2013 1:46 PM    Report this comment

Keith, you may be right, but in the end, you are debating the existence of a cover-up or not. (You should see the e-mail I'm getting in the background.) That the airplane crashed is about the only undisputed fact. Some claim that the airplane was peppered with holes and there was evidence of RDX and PFTN. The NTSB disputes some of these findings and thus the conspiracy claim that they're lying and covering up something.

Above, you seen the oft-repeated claim that crash victims were riddled with shrapnel of the sort used in AA missiles. But try tracking that down to a credible reference.

It gets down to what you're willing to believe. I am not willing to believe it was an accidental downing by a military ship or aircraft, as Jim says above. A loose MANPAD of some sort is possible, I suppose. If that's true, why cover it up?

Last, I wouldn't put it beyond the government's intent to cover up such a thing, but pulling it off successfully strains credulity, given how inept the FBI can be in just routine investigations. I further don't see how the NTSB would go that way. Then again, even conspiricists are right sometimes.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 4, 2013 2:02 PM    Report this comment

A blog is just that... a blog. It serves as entertainment to some, for information to others. Paul signs his articles, hence they are HIS. It represents the opinion of its blogger. If it invokes thinking and dialog, its a worthy blog. But its still opinion. Maybe one of the problems we have in our society is that some opinions aren't as popular and that people who challenge our government (or at least don't expect by the book behavior) are brand-marked as lunatics. Even with all this, the truth may remain hidden. Hopefully we have bigger fish to fry than kicking each other in the head about TWA 800. For example: General Aviation is going to the dogs in this country. What are WE going to do about it, collectively and as a group? Hmmmm...

Posted by: Jason Baker | July 4, 2013 2:44 PM    Report this comment

I always say there are two kinds of belief. First there is the "I believe it will rain" sort of thing, meaning you have considered the evidence available and are of the opinion it will rain, but could be wrong.

When you get into these ultra-elaborate conspiracy theories though, you have moved into what I term "capital B Belief". To someone with a capital B Belief, both reason and evidence are unnecessary for support and in fact are dismissed out of hand as being irrelevant.

These people BELIEVE, end of story, case closed. Therefore it is non-productive to argue the point; reference the old saying about trying to teach a pig to sing (it is a waste of your time and it annoys the pig).

Posted by: John Wilson | July 4, 2013 2:47 PM    Report this comment

The problem with conspiracy theories is hat they can never be "put to bed." Anyone that denies the conspiracy is immediately dismissed as complicit and so part of the conspiracy. Honestly, if a blow job in the Oval Office cannot be kept secret, something like this doesn't stand a snowball's chance in July of keeping quiet.

Posted by: Kim Elmore | July 4, 2013 4:01 PM    Report this comment

Kim: I fail to see the analogy between what happened in the White
House, which was leaked (no pun intended) to the press, and the TWA 800 coverup which was backed by the full faith and whatever threats by and of the US Government.

Posted by: Robert Campbell Campbell | July 4, 2013 4:18 PM    Report this comment

Robert, I think Jason covered an important point you might embrace. Blogs are not news stories. They are merely commentary and opinion on events of the day and should be taken as such. Blogs are not journalism. They're more like the op-ed pages.

News stories are written to a different standard. I should probably place a disclaimer to this effect from time to time. But keep it in mind when reading something labeled a blog.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 4, 2013 4:23 PM    Report this comment

Paul: Since you chose this venue, I'll use it also. I agree that blogs are not news stories, however, you chose this venue to let your opinions out for all to see. Look what it got you. Look at the damage you've done to Avweb. News story or blog, you reap what you sow.

Posted by: Robert Campbell Campbell | July 4, 2013 4:53 PM    Report this comment

Paul: If you wish to send personal messages in the future, just Google "Robert Campbell"

Posted by: Robert Campbell Campbell | July 4, 2013 5:17 PM    Report this comment

Gee the tone of this thread degenerated quickly. Robert Campbell, whatever the merits of your arguments, your behaviour is disappointing. You sound angry and unreasonable. Angry people can still be correct but I know that when I hear or read comments like yours I tend to think, "if they're behaving inappropriately or unreasonably in one way, does that hint at poor reasoning in other ways?" Maybe everything you're saying is correct. You clearly care about this issue. It might be better to leave the promotion of it to people who can act with more restraint and who will therefore be more likely to influence the thinking of others.

Posted by: John Hogan | July 4, 2013 5:47 PM    Report this comment

I guess links can't be posted.

Posted by: Robert Campbell Campbell | July 4, 2013 7:05 PM    Report this comment

Robert I'm really sorry to hear that. I can barely begin to imagine what that is like. You're among friends here. Yes, even Bertorelli :-) I don't think he was trying to conflate the home-made head-ware crowd and people with legitimate concerns.

Good luck, John.

Posted by: John Hogan | July 4, 2013 7:37 PM    Report this comment

Thanks, John. I think enough has been said here. Several of my friends and I are awaiting any new news. There are too many inconsistencies in the official account.

Posted by: Robert Campbell Campbell | July 4, 2013 7:53 PM    Report this comment

//twa800 dot com/pages/radaranalysis dot htm

Posted by: Mark Robinson | July 4, 2013 8:21 PM    Report this comment

" Look at the damage you've done to Avweb. News story or blog, you reap what you sow."

Pfft. Had Paul embraced the conspiracy theories, now THAT would have been damaging.

Posted by: John Wilson | July 4, 2013 11:39 PM    Report this comment

Fortunately this isn't a Yahoo blog, where bloggers get fired for "causing damage" to the publishing entity by using politically incorrect terminology or poking the bear of truth too much. Out of this overloaded cosmos of online blogs and publishing services, one single reader hanging himself up on Paul Bertorelli's opinion will be a miniscule loss. Laughable at best. The recipe to endless happiness with blogs is the little red X in the upper right corner of your screen. Read something that brushes you against the grain: CLICK! If you get very angry, write the author an email and give him a piece of your opinion. Back to the subject: I bet even Paul gets the stink of this whole shebang, he's just sharing his take with his peers. New news would be a good thing especially for people like Mr. Campbell, with personal ties and history in the case. Maybe the rest of us are just concerned and tired about being mauled to death by the sequester, while stories older than dust cost taxpayer money, for a dumb movie, no less. I for one hate the fact that only press fixes things in this country. Without press, a person with rightful concerns about a coverup goes unheard. :o(

Posted by: Jason Baker | July 5, 2013 2:49 AM    Report this comment

You're more than welcome to post links here. However, our anti-spam software will strip out the hypertext, so just just remove http and replace with www, thus:

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 5, 2013 5:20 AM    Report this comment

I question the use of the inflammatory term "conspiracy theory."

The only conspiracy I can see is the one to coverup the cause of the event, and while that part is technically a conspiracy, it is also a natural and normal reaction of the beaucracy and agencies.

And the idea that "somebody would have blabbed" is fairly well out of touch with reality. People HAVE blabbed. Indeed, the presence of former and retired NTSB personnel in the effort to open this up again is that blabbing. They objected then to the false conclusions and they object now.

My guess is that it's the desire of professional accident investigators to restore their agency to its high level of integrity. By way of political agendas, that integrity was sullied by the first investigation.

Let's have it restored.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | July 5, 2013 7:31 AM    Report this comment

Paul certainly has proved one thing - there's no end to distrust, possibilities, and the depths of people's beliefs. QED.

Personally, while I hold a healthy amount of distrust in various gov't agencies (and, if any are reading this, it's not yours ;-), the NTSB is not one of them. They have always seems represent the utmost in professionalism and integrity in my book.

Posted by: Bill Arcudi | July 5, 2013 11:13 AM    Report this comment

I'm still waiting to hear about how this bogus invisible missle could impart enough energy to cut a B747 in half.

It couldn't have been a manpad, those don't impart nearly enough energy to cut a B747 in half, even had TWA 800 been in range of a manpad, which it wasn't.

It couldn't have been an air to air missile, those don't impart enough energy to cut a B747 in half either. For example, KAL 700 climbed over 10,000 feet after being hit by an AAM, and flew for almost 15 minutes.

The only possible missile powerful enough to cut a B747 in half would be something like an SA-5 or Patriot.

These look like a Saturn 5 launch, nothing like the little fuel burning trail seen by the eye witnesses.

In my opinion TWA 800 has joined the profitable conspiracy theory industry, along side of JFK's assassination, Roswell, and Perl Harbor.

Posted by: Jim Howard | July 5, 2013 12:08 PM    Report this comment

To the conspiracy theorist, all branches of the government are staffed with thousands of GS civil servants and career military officers willing to risk their retirement pay in order to participate in mass murder of other Americans.

These same civil servants and military personal are also hyper-efficient, able to invent things like 'nano-thermite' and invisible missiles, use them to commit mass murder, and hide all evidence for decade after decade.

What I don't understand is how the huge conspiracy implementation branch of government can be so perfectly efficient yet the public branch routinely has fiascos like this week's delay of Obamacare implementation, our President's showcase program.

Posted by: Jim Howard | July 5, 2013 12:25 PM    Report this comment

Back and to the left, back and to the left, back and to the left...

Posted by: JEFFREY SMITH | July 5, 2013 12:55 PM    Report this comment

Jim Howard

Put USAF General Benton Partin in your Google machine and check out his career. Specialized in high explosive devices in the Air Force.

Back when this was being investigated he theorized that a Continuous Rod type of warhead was involved.

Naturally, his testimony and opinion were not considered by the FBI.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | July 5, 2013 3:00 PM    Report this comment

Benton Partin. I knew I knew that name. While you're Googling around, note that he also claimed that the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was really the result of four bombs inside the building, not the truck bomb. He argued that a single bomb couldn't produce the overpressure to fracture the building's main columns, despite testing showing that it could and did.

This fed conspiracy theories that the Murrah building was an inside federally planned job, although Partin never claimed that.

He's pretty creative; the perfect guy to either dismiss or embrace, as your biases may direct you.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 5, 2013 4:22 PM    Report this comment

Richard Sinnott, so you think it's possible that a missile was custom made just to shot down TWA 800?

And even if the custom invisibile missile with a continuous rod type of warhead was used, where did the steel from the rods go?

None was found in TWA 800.

Even the salesmen for this latest movie are just claiming that there are traces of come volatile substance on some of TWA 800's seats.

A real warhead big enough to slice a B747 in half using any type of warhead would have to be huge. It's launch would have lite up the surface of the earth for a 100 mile radius easily. And of course lots of missile fragments would have been found in the wreckage.

Sorry, physics just doesn't work that way.

Posted by: Jim Howard | July 5, 2013 5:07 PM    Report this comment

There have been studies seeking an understanding of why many otherwise rational people (well, rational enough to function in society) embrace these wild theories about cover-ups involving sometimes literally tens of thousands of people, science-fiction grade mystery hardware, ultra-complex planning & execution, etc.

The answer seems to be that when faced with what to them is a highly significant event (for instance the killing of JFK), many people are strongly, sometimes nearly overwhelmingly, adverse to accepting that the event resulted from something insignificant.

JFK, a demi-god to many, could not possibly have been snuffed out by some hapless malcontent nobody. No indeed, such a significant happening simply MUST have been balanced by an equally significant conspiracy executed by a giant shadowy cabal within the government . A huge, modern airliner full of people could not possibly have been brought down by a mere spark from a minor wire defect. No, there simply HAD to be some vast conspiracy involved, because in their minds the balance of the universe demands it.

Posted by: John Wilson | July 5, 2013 5:32 PM    Report this comment

As a former AF accident investigator I can attest to the fact that eyewitness statements have to be taken with a grain of salt. I fully concur with the statements made above by Mr.Arcuny in regards to missiles. There have been numerous explosions of aircraft fuel tanks that are empty or nearly empty it would be impossible to keep the crew of US navy ship hushed up about such an event.

Posted by: Vicente Collazo-Davila | July 5, 2013 6:36 PM    Report this comment

As a former AF accident investigator I can attest to the fact that eyewitness statements have to be taken with a grain of salt. I fully concur with the statements made above by Mr.Arcuny in regards to missiles. There have been numerous explosions of aircraft fuel tanks that are empty or nearly empty it would be impossible to keep the crew of US navy ship hushed up about such an event.

Posted by: Vicente Collazo-Davila | July 5, 2013 6:37 PM    Report this comment

Not knowing of the studies that John Wilson cites I don't dispute them, but my experience over the years usually revealed a much more mundane causality for the folks who need alternate realities for sudden or dramatic events they percieve to be important. And, like so many conflicts and disagreements that have proceeded to anger and even war levels, idealogy is usually the gunpowder that is used.

I'm sure at the subconscious level some receptive souls are unconsciously moved to help balance the universe individually, but usually it's nothing more than say, being deluded into thinking having more flight hours than another person will lend that decisive authority to your viewpoint over anyone else's. :)

Posted by: David Miller | July 5, 2013 10:33 PM    Report this comment

"... like so many conflicts and disagreements that have proceeded to anger and even war levels, idealogy is usually the gunpowder that is used."

No doubt that Dave Miller is correct, ideology plays a strong role in these creations; most prominently a distrust in government and/or authority in general.

I sort of misstated the central tenant of the studies I mentioned when I referred to "balance of the universe", they actually refer more to internal psychological balance in the mind of the conspiracy believer. In other words, a believer starts from the deep belief that authorities are basically untrustworthy and they in turn are motivated to balance this beyond-question belief with the conspiracy theory.

Posted by: John Wilson | July 5, 2013 11:21 PM    Report this comment

Holy Mommy. We've arrived at Pilot PSY 101 for advanced students. Paul: Next time you consider writing a blog about something of such impotence (importance, darn mistyping!) consider using a 5 pound sledgehammer to type it on your keyboard. Just don't hit the mouse, so you can close the window when you're done.

Posted by: Jason Baker | July 6, 2013 3:08 AM    Report this comment

Jason, I'm sure you try to get in touch with your inner Saint Exupery as often as possible :-).

Posted by: John Hogan | July 6, 2013 3:27 AM    Report this comment

Haha! Yes, John. Daily. Suffering from CTAFTS lately but the medication helps.

Posted by: Jason Baker | July 6, 2013 3:42 AM    Report this comment

"Holy Mommy. We've arrived at Pilot PSY 101 for advanced students."

Yeah, obviously "thread drift" has set in with a vengeance, sorry about that. But you have to admit they do make an interesting group to study :-)

Posted by: John Wilson | July 6, 2013 7:57 AM    Report this comment

Jim Howard

No, I don't think that a missle was custom made for this event. The thought never crossed my mind until you just mentioned it. I have long thought this was a simple honest mistake, an accident, another case of friendly fire. Maybe it was intentional, but I doubt it.


It sounds like you disparage Partin as being somehow irrelevant. Did you know that he personally inspected the Murrah Building after the explosion? And found forensic evidence showing that several other bombs had been detonated inside the building?

Did you ever read the letter he wrote to Trent Lott, imploring the Senator to let the building stand so that a proper investigation could be completed? That letter was all over the internet years ago, but by now perhaps it has been 'scrubbed' as they say.

It seems to me the deliberate disposal of forensic evidence, as was done at Murrah (which you brought up), is rather the hallmark of certain other big events.

In a critical analysis of events, getting rid of the forensic evidence is actually a violation of the law. Further, it is very poor practice, as I'm sure you would agree.

By arguing for the retention of such evidence, it seems Partin was the only straight shooter involved.

I hope you will reconsider your opinion of him.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | July 6, 2013 8:26 AM    Report this comment

Richard Sinnott, unless this individual can show how any missile can slice the nose off a B747 and leave no trace of itself, then I can't take him seriously.

Posted by: Jim Howard | July 6, 2013 8:51 AM    Report this comment

I don't disparage Partin. He is certainly qualified to offer informed opinions. However, in the case of 800, he merely suggested an investigatory approach, as I recall. He did not claim causality, merely a correlation. Others expanded on his observations and connected the dots. Same with Murrah, where his overpressure calculations were shown to be wrong by empirical test.

For the continuous rod to be credible, someone would have had to build it and given that it's 50s technology, there's no evidence that any of the world powers now or then used that kind of warhead.

The larger issue is this: the NTSB and FBI probably did a poor job of tieing off the loose ends in this investigation and the FBI's typical ham-handed relationship with other agencies tainted the public perception, thus giving rise to cover-up claims.

In my view, if the cause actually was a missile or an onboard bomb--slim chance--the reason it was missed was due to evidence weighting, not an active cover-up for which no credible reason has surfaced and for which the likelihood of sustained secrecy is nil.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 6, 2013 9:15 AM    Report this comment

Here's the link to an mp3 of the newscast live at the scene:

There's much much more at the link in the previous post.

BTW, why were no ATF agents at work that day? Not one.

Posted by: Robert Campbell Campbell | July 6, 2013 11:14 AM    Report this comment

Sorry for the thread creep in my last. Now back to our regular topic.

Here's a good collection of theories about TWA 800:


Posted by: Robert Campbell Campbell | July 6, 2013 11:23 AM    Report this comment

Cambell, a newscast as a reliable source for facts? If your serious, watch the newscasts going on right now re: the 777 at SFO.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 6, 2013 3:56 PM    Report this comment

Edd, get my name right. This newscast was right after the blast. Before the spin doctors arrived with the "real" story.`

Posted by: Robert Campbell Campbell | July 6, 2013 7:53 PM    Report this comment

Following up on Paul's comments, here is the "conclusion" to the great General Partin's report--the primary "expert" for a lot of the tin-hat nuts. Quite a source you folks are using. Real credible source you've got here. Professional conspiracy freak you've got here, folks.


"The Murrah Federal Building was not destroyed by one sole truck bomb. The major factor in its destruction appears to have been detonation of explosives carefully placed at four critical junctures on supporting columns within the building."

Posted by: ROBERT M SHERIDAN | July 6, 2013 9:59 PM    Report this comment

Robert Campbell, sorry about the misspelling, thumbs are not made to work with iPhone keys.

Anyway, I think you’ve confirmed my point. Early reports are rife with misinformation. When the spin-doctors (I assume you mean NTSB, FAA, et al.) begin releasing some factual information, the newspeople will consider it dull, incomplete and fuzzy.

Today I’ve heard speculation on the newscasts that:

--an eyewitness in the terminal said there was a large plane on the runway the 777 was trying to avoid;

--the pilots were exhausted because of the 14+ hour flight from Korea and were not capable of a proper landing;

--the approach was too fast and the pilots had to pull the nose up quickly, but were too slow in their reaction and landed hard enough to collapse the landing gear;

--the flight path was too steep because of clouds on the approach;

--and, from a SoCal newscaster pilot with 7 years GA experience, he is on his way to SFO to “find out what happened” and he will be reporting his findings from the crash site.

Such is life...

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 6, 2013 11:46 PM    Report this comment


I think Partin's status as retired during these events gives him much more credibility. He was not involved in a chain of command, and not forced to toe the official line. And to question the government imposed line of reasoning is a sign of independent thought.

From the moment the POTUS interrupted normal TV programming that night, the political overtones of the event were established. The idea that it was a coverup was reinforced every day that passed, in so many ways, especially the naming of the politically charged FBI as lead agency.

Edd Weninger

You seem to criticize R. Campbell for his reliance upon newscasts, which in the most general sense is a valid criticism, yet it appears that you yourself rely upon the truthiness and ethical standards of the Clinton administration in its findings. That worthy administration was headed up by the same guy that brought us "that depends upon what the meaning of 'is' is."

TWA800 and the Murrah Building investigations absolutely reeked of political coverup, when they happened, and still today.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | July 7, 2013 7:47 AM    Report this comment

I think Paul is somewhere hidden in the AVweb headquarters, curled up in the fetal position, crying like a baby while being yelled at for all the tremendous damage he has caused for AVweb. Imagine parts of the building hanging down with hot wires hanging from the ceilings, causing occasional flashes. Lots of smoke, too... Angry co-workers are probably kicking him (overtime authorized for this particular purpose only). Campbell is investigating a name-change to something that isn't as easy to mistype. Baker is typing all this while the world celebrates that Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg wasn't killed during Saturdays SFO Crash. That was an inside job CIA missile (maybe a Russian Submarine?) or the NSA raising the ground to hit the airplane. I think it was the founding fathers turning in their graves, causing geoid undulation of high significance. We'll find out, soon.

Posted by: Jason Baker | July 7, 2013 8:18 AM    Report this comment

Actually, I'm trying to figure out if blogs should have the equivalent of reverse polarity protection. But wait until you see what I've got cooked up for later this week.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | July 7, 2013 9:29 AM    Report this comment

Gee guys, this is getting to be better than PPRuNe (

Posted by: Robert Campbell Campbell | July 7, 2013 9:46 AM    Report this comment

Not a single one of PPRuNe's members that joined my discussion forum ever wrote a single beep, let alone any offensive beep. Must be a peaceful bunch. I think we're doing well, here. You guys have squeezed the stuffing out of TWA 800 to the point that any further bad blood coming from it is created from thin air. Obama is sending the cavalry and NSA is busy copying and pasting. Paul: Reverse Polarity Protection is available for installation in your blogs software. You might have to move some stones out of the way and shovel a ton of dust away, but its there. Just don't attempt to install it while your job and life is in danger. I am planning an interview with you later this week, check your email often. ;-)

Posted by: Jason Baker | July 7, 2013 12:16 PM    Report this comment

Paul hasn't done a bit of damage to avweb. Most people, unlike many of you freaks value journalism instead of tin-hat conspiracies.

Posted by: ROBERT M SHERIDAN | July 7, 2013 6:05 PM    Report this comment

If thinking along the lines of a conspiracy theory, would it not have been a better idea to bury the wreckage in a missile silo somewhere (ala Challenger accident)rather than making it available for examination at the NTSB academy in Ashbrun, VA? I've been through the wreckage three times now, one as part of the NTSB's accident investigation course. And just to get it on the table, I'm not an NTSB or federal employee.

Posted by: Shannon Forrest | July 8, 2013 11:35 AM    Report this comment

I visited the wreckage of Sully's airplane at the museum at Charlotte, and it was way cool.

Good to see everybody still has a sense of humor, and even better to see the fine young woman D. Hersman of NTSB restoring some much needed respect and pride for the agency out in SFO.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | July 8, 2013 2:57 PM    Report this comment

Well, if there were a conspiracy, one would think the issue of the source of ignition of the center tank would have been made certain, rather than the NTSB saying, in the final report, they could NOT be certain.

After all, it would have been easy to present some charred wiring and whatever, to void any other scenarios.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 8, 2013 4:51 PM    Report this comment

Well, if there were a conspiracy, one would think the issue of the source of ignition of the center tank would have been made certain, rather than the NTSB saying, in the final report, they could NOT be certain.

After all, it would have been easy to present some charred wiring and whatever, to void any other scenarios.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | July 8, 2013 4:51 PM    Report this comment

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