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TWA FLIGHT 800 MISSILE OR FUEL TANK?

Ralph Franklin Posted by Ralph Franklin in Blogs January 20th, 2014

 In aviation history the single biggest accident investigation is TWA Flight 800. More than a decade and a half later, the crash is still shrouded in controversy. What caused the plane to explode after takeoff? Why haven’t the 230 victims’ death certificates been finalized, the third-deadliest aviation accident to occur in U.S. territory still remains open after all these years.

 
Thursday, July 18th 1996 floating wreckage of
TWA Flight 800
A new documentary reopened the case on TWA Flight 800
and aired on EPIX July 17, 2013, the 17th anniversary of the death flight.
 
It was Wednesday, July 17th, 1996 at 8:30 p.m. EST when TWA Flight 800 took off from JFK International Airport, bound for Paris France. The summer sun had just set and 12 minutes into the flight, the plane exploded carrying all 230 passengers and crew to their death. 
 
Was it a fuel tank explosion as the National Transportation Board (NTSB) claim that caused the crash, or a missile or missiles as over 200-eyewitness claim?
 
The new documentary digs into the controversy surrounding the 1996 tragedy and NTSB’s investigation and the findings. The script was written and directed by Kristina Borjesson, a former award-winning producer for CBS News.
 
The doc features six former members of the official crash investigation team who break their silence to refute the NTSB claim and reveal how the investigation was systematically undermined.
 
Insiders from the original investigation join forces to put together the missing pieces of the puzzle – and ask why the NTSB and FBI covered up of what really happened.
 
The first reports said it was a terrorist attack, a missile or missiles that brought down the plane. Three days later the story changed to, “mechanical failure” and thus began the contraversary over the cause of the ill-fated flight.
 
Unfortunately, this is where the review stops and my story begins. I remove my publisher’s hat and tell you that after viewing the film I discovered that producer Kristina Borjesson had used footage in her film that I had shot in 1998. Let me explain.
 
A portion of the wrecked fuselage arrive at hanger where
the plane will be reassembled as pieces are found.
In the mid 90s I was the program chairman/cameraman for the Granada Forum
, a Southern California media organization that investigated numerous events/mishaps/tragedies that were making national headlines and where there were opposing views.
 
Early 1998 I received a call from a Commander William S. Donaldson, (now deceased) retired Naval air crash investigator, with a list of credentials too numerous to mention here. Donaldson was disputing the NTSB findings of a fuel tank explosion. He stated the first reports of missiles were accurate and not faulty wiring as the NTSB claimed.
 
There were over 200 eyewitnesses to the missile theory and I spoke with a couple. Donaldson’s claim had merit, he along with Major Fritz Meyers, a former Vietnam search and rescue helicopter pilot, and eyewitness to the tragedy, were booked.
 
On the morning of Thursday, March 12, 1998, we held a press conference at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel where the media questioned Donaldson and Meyers. That night the couple shared the platform and presented their case to the Forum.
 
TWA Flight 800 being put back together as best possible
Donaldson spoke first on the physical damage to the structure of the Boeing 707. He used photos of the reassembled aircraft, showing where the missile would have exploded and the effect on the wing fuel tanks. He demonstrating the properties of jet fuel (basically kerosene) what it could and could not do by producing a short video.
Note: Unlike gasoline jet fuel is not explosive.
 
Major Meyers followed. He related his combat experience in Vietnam, and began his story. On that fateful evening he and his co-pilot had just taken off on a routine night refueling mission for the Air Guard. It was dusk and they were just off Long Island. Meyers had momentarily removed his night vision goggles when he saw a trail of light heading skyward, make a right angle turn, the light disappeared, several seconds pass and then an explosion followed by a fireball. Meyers said, “I know a missile when I see it, I’ve seen too many.” Not knowing what happened, several minutes later they were hovering over the fiery debris looking for survivors, but there were none. His story of the tragedy was gripping.
 
Their program lasted one and half-hours. We had two SVHF cameras recording that night and I was behind one.
 
Now Fast forward 10 years, about 2008 out of the blue, I received a call from Meyers, “Do you remember me…do you still have a tape copy of our talk at the Forum and can I get it?” I did and it was mailed.
 
Apparently Fritz turned over the footage to the producers and portions of it are now in the new documentary, TWA Flight 800.
 

TWA FLIGHT 800 can be seen on EXPN

 

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