The government's much promoted and entirely unfounded fantasy that a fuel tank explosion recently took yet another broadside from the hard evidence when it was revealed that portions of the recovered nose gear showed damage consistent with a high energy impact and totally inconsistent with the theory of a center fuel tank explosion as initiating event. (It has recently been demonstrated that the very first component of the fuel tank to depart the 747 was part of a non-fuel filled access way for service technicians to use, which again argues against a fuel tank explosion).
The above photo was run by the New York Times to illustrate where the damage occurred. Needless to say, the landing gear for a modern jet aircraft is, with the exception of certain engine components, the strongest single member of an aircraft. It takes a considerable impact to inflict damage to landing gear, which are a combination of steel and titanium on the 747.
Originally the proximity of this wreckage to a section of main landing gear caused some confusion, but upon inspection and comparison to the New York Times graphic, it turns out that the above wreckage is indeed the recovered nose gear, although the portion showing the evidence of damage is sadly out of frame in this photograph.
Courtesy of Tom Shoemaker, here is a more detailed drawing of the nose gear.
Click here for full sized image.(63K)
Here is David Hendrix story about the damaged nose gear, which was also reported by CNN.
The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, CA Sunday, Sept. 7, 1997 TWA crash probe turns to damaged nose gear doors Investigators face another mystery in the disaster that claimed 230 lives more than a year ago, officials and news reports say. By David E. Hendrix The Press-Enterprise The investigation into the TWA Flight 800 disaster has led to the destroyed Boeing 747's front landing gear, where structural damage to the doors "baffles" officials and calls into question a leading crash theory, officials and news reports said Saturday. The nose gear's doors were blown inward and investigators now wonder whether the cause of the damage happened before the plane's center fuel tank exploded, CNN reported, citing unnamed federal crash officials. The nose gear is below the flight deck and well forward of the plane's center section. The three leading theories being investigated as possible causes of the July 1996 crash include whether a missile might have exploded outside the jumbo jet and sent a fragment through the fuselage, initiating a catastrophic mid-air breakup. Explosives experts say the energy of a detonation near the plane could cause devastation as severe as a blast within an aircraft, although the damage pattern would be different. The crash off New York's Long Island killed all 230 people aboard the Paris-bound jetliner. A bomb or an unknown spark that ignited fuel vapors in the center wing tank are the other official suspects in the cause of the crash, although officials say a bomb has almost been discounted and the spark or some other mechanical malfunction the most likely. Damage to the nose gear doors, and the fact that they were among the plane's earliest structural casualties, keeps open the question of whether the center fuel tank explosion in the jumbo jet was the primary or secondary event in the crash, CNN said federal investigators disclosed. National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Shelly Hazle acknowledged Saturday that investigators had turned to the doors in recent weeks at the request of investigative "party members": companies with expertise or interest, such as Boeing or TWA, in the investigation. Hazle declined to comment about the NTSB's investigation and said the study of the wheel doors should be downplayed. "In every investigation, things come up all the time that we have to look at and are not readily explainable." She said investigators would review how the evidence might fit into crash scenarios. Boeing and TWA representatives declined to comment about the investigation, their part in it, or CNN's reports. Boeing spokeswoman Debbie Nomaguchi, however, confirmed that a door and hatch identified by serial number in a confidential debris field report was from the nose gear. Investigators have said that the TWA 800 parts which landed closest to the plane's take-off offered the best clues to what happened because they would indicate the earliest damage. Recovery teams used satellites to record to the inch where items were found on the ocean floor. Pieces of the center fuel tank's forward wall were recovered a few hundred feet closer to take-off than the nose gear doors, but the bulk of the fuel tank was found more than a mile farther into the debris field. CNN said the investigators indicated the damage to the doors had only recently been discovered and aroused interest. A debris field report shows the doors were logged in during August 1996.
Recovery of the nose gear doors.
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