Journey's end for TWA 800

 - October 3, 2007, 9:49 AM

The journey of TWA Flight 800, which began from New York JFK International Airport on the hot evening of July 17, 1996, finally ended this spring, not at its intended Paris destination but just north of Dulles International Airport with the re-reconstruction of most of the front half of the Boeing 747 in the NTSB’s new training academy, where it will be used as a teaching tool for air crash investigators. The aircraft blew up and plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island shortly after takeoff, killing all 230 people on board. Despite water depths of 110 to 130 feet, the investigation team recovered about 98 percent of the 747 and reconstructed a 93-foot-long section of the airplane’s fuselage in a hangar in Calverton, N.Y. The NTSB said the three-dimensional reconstruction of the center portion of the fuselage provided the agency’s sequencing group with important and useful information about damage patterns and failure sequences. Eventually it was “shrink-wrapped” and transported to the NTSB Academy shortly after that facility was completed. Still-active conspiracy theories about surface-to-air missiles notwithstanding, the NTSB determined that the probable cause was an explosion of the center wing fuel tank, resulting from ignition of the flammable fuel/air mixture in the tank.