Exploding hypothesis: Part 1
© Jack Cashill
As we have noted in previous articles, various agencies of government – including elements of the FBI, the Justice Department, the CIA and the NTSB – conspired, knowingly or otherwise, to suppress conspicuous evidence of a missile strike on TWA Flight 800.
This included the distortion or denial of eyewitness testimony, the falsification of witness statements, the apparent deletion of the final four seconds from the flight data recorder (FDR), the withholding of test results on the cockpit voice recorder, the suppression and possible deletion of radar data, the obvious manipulation of missile residue tests, and the removal or alteration of damaged parts (see collected columns listed at the bottom).
With so much evidence removed from play, the evidence that remained made little impact on an indifferent public. At the final NTSB hearing in August of 2000, for instance, Dr. Bernard Loeb acknowledged the explosive traces of PETN and RDX found inside the plane and out, but dismissed them casually: "We don't know how they got there but we do know it is not because of a bomb." Loeb's cagey avoidance of the word "missile" notwithstanding, NTSB insiders must have felt reasonably comfortable for some time in the knowledge that the physical evidence of a missile strike had been safely eliminated from public view.
Still, these efforts at concealment were contrived only to prove what did not happen to the plane. That was not enough. Those in control of the investigation needed to prove what did happen. At the very least, they needed to create the illusion of a science-based mechanical explanation for the crash to feed the all too mild curiosity of a much-too-easily-satisfied media.
From the beginning, the NTSB had been searching to find even one scientist from a reputable lab or university anywhere in the world who would confirm through testing that a specific mechanical event could conceivably have brought TWA Flight 800 down. They were not having much luck. No one within the scientific community seemed willing to squander his or her reputation on so transparently false a hypothesis.
To be sure, with millions of future federal research dollars at stake, scientists would reject the "mechanical" thesis tactfully. But in the final analysis, they all said the same thing: No level of scientific analysis, no series of tests, could confirm even the remote possibility that a catastrophic mechanical failure destroyed the ill fated plane in mid-air.
Early on, The NTSB tried to establish a very basic point – if a spark managed to enter the center wing tank (CWT) and ignite the fumes, the resulting flames would spread from compartment to compartment and create an "overpressure" capable of blowing the airplane to bits. In its own words, The NTSB "needed to investigate the phenomena associated with flame propagation in multicompartment, interconnected, and vented tanks representative of the accident airplane's CWT."
After two-years of exhaustive testing, here is what the investigating scientists concluded:
The ignition of Jet A fuel in one bay of the ¼-scale model resulted in transmission of the flame through the bay passageways and vent stringers and ignition in neighboring bays, illustrating the behavior of multicompartment flame propagation. Flamefront quenching was also observed to be a characteristic of flame propagation.
"Flamefront quenching" means that this fuel would actually extinguish the flames, almost like water. Jet A fuel does not ignite readily like, say, gasoline. The tests told the NTSB that even if a spark could be identified, it could not cause the violent explosion that ripped apart the airplane.
The NTSB did not give up. It contracted with two more research laboratories – Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and Christian Michelson Research (CMR) – "to develop computer code models of the combustion process that occurs in a 747 CWT."
Although their words were again ever so polite, the known phenomenon of flamefront quenching made it impossible for any honorable scientist to develop a scenario supporting the NTSB's. Knowing who was paying the bills, SNL and CMR went through the motions, but in the end these scientists likewise failed to find any reasonable way to justify an imaginary scenario. These experts concluded:
In all the computer solutions, conditions were calculated that indicated that quenching could have occurred in some of the vents and passageways of the full-scale CWT geometry. … Incorporating the effects of quenching in the calculations appeared to significantly affect the differential pressure histories that developed across the internal CWT structural members.
The NTSB grudgingly admitted to losing this battle, but given its easy access to the taxpayer's wallet, the agency was not about to abandon the war. By this stage it couldn't afford to. The NTSB needed some answer to steer the public away from the obvious missile theory. It would have to win by attrition, to wear the public and the media down.
So the NTSB contracted with Combustion Dynamics Ltd. (CDL) "to evaluate the consistency between the computer calculations of the full-scale CWT combustion model and other information and evidence obtained during the investigation."
By this time the NTSB had descended to hoping "that by conducting this evaluation ... it would be possible to narrow the number of probable ignition location(s) within the CWT." This hope was in vain. The NTSB had to concede defeat yet again:
Therefore, the rules-based analysis did not provide a definitive determination regarding the probability that any given location within the CWT was the ignition location.
But the scientists at CDL did discreetly extend the hope that if the NTSB were to expend a few million additional taxpayer dollars, the agency might walk away with at least some token of support from within the scientific community:
However, the rules-based analysis did reveal that the pressure differentials produced by an internal fuel/air explosion were consistent with the overall level of damage observed in the CWT.
With hope still alive, the NTSB headed for Bruntingthorpe, England, to blow up a 747 CWT and to pray that CDL's "rules-based analysis" would prove to be something more than a polite gesture by scientists dependent on future government contracts.
But by the time the dust had settled from the Bruntingthorpe explosion, the NTSB was forced to abandon rules-based analysis:
The Board observed that the test parameters used resulted in a significantly more dynamic and destructive explosion within the test plane's CWT than was indicated by the accident airplane's wreckage. (The catastrophic nature of the damage to the test plane indicated that if such an event occurred in flight, it would likely result in the airplane instantaneously separating into four major components: left wing, right wing, forward fuselage, and aft fuselage.)
The "rules-based" analysis had literally been blown away. With all of its investigative hypotheses reduced to rubble, the NTSB chose to reconstruct the results in a way more to its liking:
Finally, analysis of the results of computer modeling of combustion in a full-scale CWT under conditions simulating those of TWA flight 800 indicated that a localized ignition of the flammable vapor could have generated pressure levels that, based upon failure analysis, would cause the damages observed in the wreckage of the accident airplane's CWT.
No outside scientific agency or person had made such a statement. In fact, all contracted testing and analysis ran counter to what the NTSB was now saying. But it no longer mattered. By this point the NTSB had shifted from scientific fact to sheer propaganda. Only its own controlled personnel could be coerced into conclusions that defied all scientific testing and analysis:
Accordingly, the Safety Board concludes that a fuel/air explosion in the CWT of TWA flight 800 would have been capable of generating sufficient internal pressure to break apart the tank.
This is fiction. Jet A's lack of flammability, according to the exhaustive analysis conducted under contract for the NTSB, created a high probability that the liquid would have extinguished any flames ignited by any known internal ignition source. Nor could defendants find a hypothetical spark of sufficient strength to ignite Jet A.
To be sure, if an explosion in the CWT had occurred, it would have blown the CWT apart. In fact, an explosion had blown it apart. This, no one denied. But no scientific foundation existed to hypothesize how such an explosion could occur by purely mechanical means.
In its analysis, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers flatly rejected the hypothesis that an explosion occurred spontaneously. Said the IAMAW, "A high pressure event breached the fuselage and the fuselage unzipped due to the event. The explosion was a result of this event."
What the IAMAW is saying is that the initiating explosion occurred outside the plane, penetrated the fuselage, and caused the CWT to explode.
But the NTSB was no more interested in hearing the truth from the IAMAW than it was from the scientific community. So it ignored the IAMAW report and the scientific data and generally bypassed the inconvenient step of first demonstrating that the explosion could occur from within.
In that scientific testing had eliminated all hypothetical NTSB mechanical scenarios, the NTSB ceased scientific inquiry that would only cause further embarrassment and marginalize the mechanical conclusion it was charged with reaching.
From this point forward the board would descend from modern science to old-fashioned alchemy and sum it all up in a fable worthy of Harry Potter.
Next: Jack Cashill and James Sanders pick up with "Exploding hypotheses: Part 2."
Jack Cashill and James Sanders' First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America is now available. First Strike explains how a determined corps of ordinary citizens worked to reveal the compromise and corruption that tainted the federal investigation. With an impressive array of facts, Jack Cashill and James Sanders show the relationship between events in July 1996 and September 2001 and proclaim how and why the American government has attempted to cover up the truth.