The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced on Monday that it would permanently decommission the reconstruction of a Trans World Airlines Boeing 747-100 which exploded and broke into pieces above the Atlantic nearly 25 years ago. The reconstruction was made of pieces salvaged from the crash scene and painstakingly put back together in a giant hangar.
The reconstruction was a vital tool used by air crash investigators to determine what caused TWA flight 800 to crash just 12-minutes after takeoff from New York JFK airport on July 17, 1996. All 230 people onboard the doomed airliner were killed in the accident – the third deadliest aviation accident in U.S. history.
An exhaustive four-year investigation concluded that the probable cause of the accident was an explosion in the center wing fuel tank. The 425-page final report pointed the finger of blame at an electrical failure that ignited the flammable fuel/air mixture in the fuel tank.
Ever since, the reconstruction has been housed in a 30,000 square foot hangar at the NTSB’s training centre in Ashburn, Virginia and has been used to help train air crash investigators for over 20-years.
The agency’s lease on the building, however, is now due to expire and advances in 3D imaging and drone imagery lessen the need for large scale reconstructions like TWA flight 800.
The families of those killed in the accident allowed the NTSB to move the reconstruction to its training center on the understanding that it would never be put on public display. With the reconstruction no longer needed for training purposes, the NTSB will now have it dismantled and destroyed.
The agency said it would thoroughly document the reconstruction using 3D imaging technology before it is destroyed.
The investigation of the crash of TWA Flight 800 is a seminal moment in aviation safety history,” commented the NTSB’s 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,” she continued.
“Our Transportation Disaster Assistance division and I have connected with representatives of TWA Flight 800 family groups to help ensure families of those who perished on TWA Flight 800 learned of our decision directly from the NTSB before our public announcement,” Bryson said.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.