TWA Flight 800:
The FBI / NTSB Perspective -

Top FBI officials said they have no evidence that the Trans World Airlines 747 was destroyed last July 17 by a bomb or a missile. They agreed with the long-held position of the NTSB officials that an aircraft failure appeared the most likely cause of the crash and the deaths of the 230 persons on board.

"The evidence as we've developed it to date, and particularly the evidence which we have not found, would lead the inquiry toward the conclusion that this was a catastrophic aircraft failure." FBI Director Louis Freeh said.

The FBI chief added that, "I don't think there's any evidence" that Flight 800 was downed by a missile, particularly a U.S. missile in a friendly-fire incident that has been covered up by government officials... "I think the type of conspiracy that would be involved would require so many people--that it could not be a conspiracy."

The FBI official in charge of the criminal probe, Associate Director James Kallstrom, said an airplane failure is the most likely the cause of the crash, "because quite frankly, we've looked at every piece of this airplane."

Agents on April 29, 1997, cleared the U.S. Navy, which supervised the Flight 800 salvage operations, to halt trawling for debris by commercial scallop boats around the crash site in the Atlantic about 10 miles off the southeastern shore of Long Island, N.Y. The five-month, $5.5-million search by the trawlers helped investigators complete the collection of more than 95% of the disintegrated 747.

FBI and NTSB officials said their investigators have examined nearly every break in the torn and fractured skin and structure of the aircraft. They have lined up nearly every hole in that metal, these officials said, looking for a path along which an external object penetrated the aircraft.

They also have examined the bodies of Flight 800's passengers and crew members, especially those who would have been in the center section of the aircraft, where some involved in the investigation believe the breakup of the aircraft began.

Those efforts found no indication that a missile warhead hit Flight 800, these officials said. They also found no signs of bomb damage on the aircraft's skin, structure or fuel tanks. "If this was the result of a hostile act," one NTSB official said, "it was done in a way as to leave no evidence behind."

FBI officials have gone beyond those efforts, detonating missile warheads near transport aircraft fuselage sections to identify the signature damage of their fragmentation material. They have studied, for instance, how steel cube warhead fragments would penetrate a transport-category aircraft and how much of the fragments' material would be left behind as residue on the aircraft aluminum. The resulting damage and metal transfer did not correspond with the damage to Flight 800's debris, these officials said.

NTSB investigators have concluded, several Safety Board officials said, that FAA and other radar data shows nothing colliding with Flight 800 before that aircraft began to break up at 13, 500 ft., subsequently plunging into the ocean.