The National Transportation Safety Board is decommissioning its TWA Flight 800 reconstruction as it prepares to potentially exit its current training center in Ashburn, Virginia. The NTSB moved its training programs from its headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C., in 2003 and has since provided educational programs in Ashburn to thousands of students and professionals. But its lease at the Virginia facility is set to expire in 2023.
Reconstruction of TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747, is a centerpiece of the Ashburn center, housed in a 30,000-sq-ft hangar alongside training tools. The NTSB has used the reconstruction for its accident investigation courses, but the Safety Board said, “Investigative techniques such as 3-D scanning and drone imagery lessen the relevance of the large-scale reconstruction in teaching modern investigative techniques.”
TWA Flight 800 crashed on July 17, 1996, shortly after the quadjet took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport. A four-year NTSB investigation followed, culminating in the determination that an explosion in the center wing fuel tank was the probable cause.
“The investigation of the crash of TWA Flight 800 is a seminal moment in aviation safety history,” said NTSB managing director Sharon Bryson. “From that investigation, we issued safety recommendations that fundamentally changed the way aircraft are designed. The investigation also led to a memorandum of understanding between the FBI and the NTSB regarding investigations of accidents resulting from intentional acts, as well as evidence collection and preservation.” In addition, the investigation further played an integral role in the development of the NTSB’s Transportation Disaster Assistance division, she added.
While the NTSB will cease using the reconstruction on July 7, the agency plans to spend the next several months thoroughly documenting it, using 3-D scanning for historical archiving. The board stressed the reconstruction was never meant as an exhibit or public display, noting this was an agreement it had made with the families of the victims of the flight. The TWA Flight 800 wreckage will be dismantled and destroyed.
As for the other programs at the center, the NTSB said it is exploring options to continue its training. The NTSB said it trained an annual average of 2,622 students between calendar years 2015 and 2019.