TWA 800 back in the news

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 7.59.19 PMI have been asked about a new movie is coming out about TWA 800, the flight that crashed off the coast of Long Island on July 17, 1996. Conspiracy theorists have long speculated that the aircraft was downed by a surface-to-air missile, instead of the NTSB explanation that it was an accident. Click here to read the CNN article.

I normally don’t address conspiracy theories but this one’s been around awhile and in just the one week since the chatter about the movie started, I’ve talked to people in industry who said “didn’t they just determine that that one flight [TWA 800] was downed by a missile?”

No. No government agency has determined that anything other than a accident brought down TWA 800. Let’s set the record straight.

Hundreds claim to have seen a streak going towards the aircraft, however eyewitness testimony, particularly when witnessing a traumatic or unusual event, is highly suspect. I’ve watched several aircraft crash, and in two fatal cases there were tons of other witnesses – everyone told a slightly different story about what they saw. Speaking of eyewitness testimony, there were two airline pilots that did see the explosion from the air, one of them a former military pilot, and neither one saw a streak racing towards TWA 800 before the blast.

I’ll watch the film of course. I’ve also seen all the 9/11 conspiracy theories and their evidence and I will watch this movie with the same perspective, watching for an apples to apples comparison. The last 9/11 conspiracy movie I saw was trying to compare the rather limited destruction of the Pentagon with the complete destruction of the World Trade Centers.

However, the movie’s producers failed to take into account the obvious difference between the structures. The Pentagon is a reinforced structure with safety glass and built with steel, metals and cement, leaving it with a high density ratio. The World Trade Centers were essentially made of glass and air. The film also engaged an environmental engineer to analyze the destruction at the Pentagon. Hmm, interesting. Couldn’t find a structural engineer who may have some experience in that field? They also wondered why there wasn’t the distinctive outline of an airplane in the side of the Pentagon – maybe because the hijacker ground skipped the plane before hitting the building, which was determined by the scarring on the ground next to the crash site, that ripped off the engines and began the destruction of the plane had something to do with it. If you’re going to try to sell a conspiracy theory, you’ve got to address all the evidence, not just parts of it that fit the story.

Bestselling author Nelson DeMille wrote about TWA 800 in his outstanding book, Nightfall. It is an amazing thriller and covers many of the conspiracy theories – I won’t go into the details here, but he does a nice job of addressing the outstanding questions, and there are several. You should read it if for no other reason than to get introduced to the John Corey character and DeMille’s writing – you’ll get hooked! But I digress.

I do know that the government doesn’t always tell the American people the complete story and in many cases I’m okay with that. I used to work intel when I was a Coast Guard Officer so I understand the importance of information that needs to remain confidential. Case in point: a few years ago a missile was spotted off the California coast. While every pilot and astronaut I knew was swearing up and down it was a missile, the news was showing a “security expert,” with zero flying hours, swearing it was a jet contrail. No one seemed to care that tons of pilots and trained observers, including aeronautical engineers and actual rocket scientists, said it was something else, the media declared it a contrail and life moved on. Okay. Probably some government experiment and they don’t want to go into detail. Whatever. Got it. Moving on.

I remember how the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-117 Stealth Fighter and the B-2 Stealth Bombers were often thought to be UFO’s and anyone hanging out near Area 51 in its heyday thought for sure that something otherworldly was going on. Nope. Just the government trying to keep new technologies a secret and those secrets paid dividends 10-fold.

Now, believing that the government keeps secrets from the American people for our own protection (or whatever reason) and believing in conspiracy theories are on two opposite ends of a spectrum. I will always remain open to new evidence on any situation provided that the evidence is clear and compelling and it is an apples to apples comparison, sans the leaps of logic many theories must take.



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