The NTSB Chairman's Briefing/Status Report: November 15th, 1996.

This document was leaked to both James Sanders and the Washington Post. The Washington Post, already famous for spiking the Sally Denton & Roger Morris story,"The Crimes Of Mena", chose not to run a story on the facts contained within the briefing report, claiming they could not confirm the report.

The report was, in fact, confirmed by Mark Sauter, a former Special Forces officer, a graduate of Harvard and the Columbia School of Journalism, who started with KIRO TV here in Seattle and is now with "Inside Edition".

Mark was able to do what the Washington Post claimed they could not do by simply showing up at a congressional hearing where NTSB Chairman James Hall was talking about air bags. James Hall refused to meet with Mark Sauter and his camera crew and sent out NTSB Public Relations spokesman Peter Goelz who acknowledged, on camera, that the following report was indeed a genuine NTSB document. Only one specific item was in error, a matter of some photographs which the report said were not returned by the FBI to the NTSB, but which were in the process of being returned at the time the report was being written. The NTSB has not challenged anything else contained within.

Individual sentences of interest are italicized. There is a note marking the comment about the unreturned photos. Otherwise, the document is unchanged from the original.

What is clear is that the NTSB, the legal authority in the investigation of civilian air crashes, was being denied information by the FBI, and that data critical to the investigation was sent first to the White House before the NTSB got it.

TWA 800

Chairman's Briefing/Status Report

November 15, 1996

The chairman opened the meeting by thanking all the personnel involved with the investigation of TWA 800. He stated that this investigation is the largest investigation ever taken on by the Safety Board and will dictate how investigations will be run for many years in the future.

The Chairman indicated that with the new Congress about to start there are many new people in office and feelings may be changing about the way they look at the TWA 800 investigation. Hearings may take place concerning the investigations as soon as February 1997 and the Safety Board should be in a position in which as little criticism as possible can be levied against it. Therefore we should be continuing on in every aspect of the investigation with the constant goal of finding out the cause of the accident. The Chairman emphasized that all involved must continue to work effectively, efficiently, and to communicate clearly. We should anticipate the need to defend every decision that we make.

Investigators were asked to provide projections of future investigative work items, completion dates, and completion of factual reports. They were asked to project their work based on the assumption that there was no FBI involvement and work would proceed according to our NTSB established procedures.

Forensic Pathology / Medical Examiners Group -- Burt Simon

Field note preparation now in progress to include mapping of medical information for graphical presentation and analysis. Dr. Shanahan will be at the Calverton facility until November 18th, 1996 analyzing and comparing medical and cabin data. Although Burt Simon agreed to complete his factual report by 1/15/97, an addendum may be required if more human remains are recovered by the continued trawling operations. Burt will include toxicology findings in his factual report.

Cabin Furnishings Documentation -- Hank Hughes

Completion of the data base, quality control, and analysis is about 80% complete. Construction of the cabin interior will continue as new parts arrive from the trawler operations. Integration of digital photographs with the data base is about 70% complete. Completion of the center fuel tank foam-core model is 60% complete.

Hank Hughes agreed to finish his factual by 1/1/97. Depending on new wreckage recovered by the trawling operations, he has about 2 to 3 weeks on scene work left to accomplish.

Search and Rescue -- Matt McCormick

The initial search and rescue will be documented and a report produced by a person to be assigned by the chief of the Survival Factors Division. A time line will be developed concerning notification, response, vessels, aircraft, etc. Copies of reports will be obtained from all the agencies involved.

Since the data are already available from Coast Guard and Navy documents, a completion date of 1/1/97 should not be a problem.

Data Base Management -- David Mayer/Debbie Bruce

The group will continue to manage and refine the charting/plotting documentation with Oceaneering and the part tagging project especially since the trawling operation started. Oceaneering should have the data base complete about 2 weeks after the trawling operations have been completed. The Safety Board should maintain a CAD capability after Oceaneering is released from the Navy contract (contract support is underway).

The means to scan field notes, factual reports, and other documentation for party distribution and docket preparation are underway. The Director of Research and Engineering directed that the scanning in of documents will take place in Washington. The Systems Group Field notes have been completed and brought to Washington and will be scanned in by the end of next week, 11/22/96. They will be followed by the Medical Examiner's and the Cabin Documentation notes and should proceed on schedule with other groups' activities.

The computer modelling project, CATIA, was discussed. The Chairman indicated that we should collect proposals to at least model the center fuel tank. Debbie Bruce will define the project and collect bid estimates for it. It was pointed out that this software is primarily used as a demonstration aid rather than as an analytical tool.

ATC -- Al Lebo

The field factual was completed and distributed approximately 10 days after the accident. Al reported no safety issues for ATC. TWA 800 was a "life guard" flight (requiring priority ATC handling) due to the medical tissue it was carrying. Al noted that there was a 40 second gap between the last recorded radar hit and the time the explosion was mentioned on any ATC tapes. He has reviewed the full FAA ATC package with requested transcripts. We can authorize the FAA to release the ATC tapes to the media.

The Chairman requested that we obtain all the ATC air/ground tapes 15 minutes prior to the accident that referenced anything to do with TWA flight 800 and that Al should personally audition all these tapes. Every word on those tapes must be agreed on by the group as a whole.

Al Lebo agreed to get the DEA to confirm a statement in his field notes that indicates that the FBI followed up on this item. he has delayed the completion his factual report till 1/31/97

Radar Data -- Charlie Pereira

The Chairman indicated that Charlie may also want to listen in on the ATC tapes. Ron Schleede indicated that the FBI and the DIA have indicated to him that there is a possibility that Geo- Synchronous satellite sensors may have picked up either radio transmissions or infra-red emissions related to this accident. Charlie will request to the DOD in writing any radar data that might pertain to this investigation. The Chairman requested that Charlie Pereira personally review all radar data concerning TWA flight 800 and that all tapes will be maintained here at the Safety Board's headquarters. Charlie will submit his report by 12/31/96.

Ron Schleede will write a letter for Bernie Loeb's signature to Ron Morgan for a full explanation of the FAA handling of ATC and radar tapes concerning TWA flight 800. The letter will reference the technician who did the analysis resulting in conflicting radar tracks that indicated a missile. It will also inquire why that information was reported to the White House and sent to the FAA Technical Center before the Safety Board was given access to the data.

Witness Group -- Norm Wiemeyer

Due to the initial information that this investigation would at any moment turn into a criminal investigation, Norm only had access to witness statements and was not able to take notes or prepare summaries of the interviews. Redacted statements prepared by FBI agents for ground personnel involved with the dispatch of TWA 800 have recently been provided for our team; however, a review indicated that the proper accident investigation questions had not been asked.

At our request, the FBI handed over 5 volumes of witness interviews (302 forms) to the Witness Interview group. A review of these statements is currently going on and a schedule is being set up to re-interview many of these people. The Chairman directed that if there is any resistance from the FBI we are to get it in writing. Input will be provided to other groups which may result in further interviews. A court reporter will be hired to speed up the recording process. Pam McKenzie will coordinate the hiring.

Norm indicated that the witness group field notes would not be ready until 2/15/97.

Operations/Witnesses -- Norm Wiemeyer

Norm has found no safety issues in the operations area. He needs to fill in areas concerning fueling, dispatch release, weather, weight and balance, and aircraft cockpit procedures. His group will reconvene to review the CVR transcript for procedures followed. Norm emphasized his work also included witness interviewing. Norm will incorporate some of the information as necessary from the witness interviews. This will most likely delay his operations factual until 1/15/97.

Powerplant -- Jim Hookey

The powerplants group chairman was not present at the meeting but Al Dickinson reported tat the engine examinations have been completed with no safety issues apparent. Jim had agreed to complete his factual report by 1/1/97. The delay involves other multiple investigative asks that include travel.

Jim had not been able to obtain the photographs taken by his group during the engine examinations and given to the FBI for processing. [NOTE: The photos were in the process of being returned] He agreed to return to the hanger to obtain the necessary photographs for his factual report. Al Dickinson has obtained all the photographs which are available to Jim whenever he can return to look at new engine parts recovered.

Although Jim does not see any need to retain the engines or accessories for NTSB purposes, a survey of the party coordinators and other group chairmen revealed that nobody was in favor of releasing any parts until a cause for the accident has been determined. The Chairman agreed that no parts should be released at this time.

Airport Security -- Larry Roman

Larry did not attend the meeting, however, Matt McCormick indicated that his field notes are complete. Group members do not have copies of notes because of sensitive information in them. A meeting will take place with Dan Cambell, Tom Lasseigne, and GC representatives from the FAA and the FBI in order to resolve what can be released to the public without compromising security. Larry's factual report will be completed by 12/1/96.

Airport Security Factors: Explosives Detection Canine Program-- Tom Lasseigne

Tom prepared the draft report on 9/24/96 regarding the explosive spill on June 10,1996 at the St. Louis-Lambert Airport. He interviewed police and FAA airport, canine program, and explosive division personnel. He has identified gaps in the explosive handling program which may be indicative of system wide deficiencies. Tom anticipates the preparation of a factual report for the public docket by 12/10/96.

Maintenance Records -- Debra Eckrote

The maintenance log from the airplane was not recovered and recent sheets may not have been pulled. The practice is not a violation cause the PMI accept the practice. Further investigation may result in a recommendation in this area.

Debbie and the other team members discussed several open questions that need review in the records, including items pertaining to possible previous fuel leaks, fueling problems with the accident airplane, and maintenance history on the fuel probes. Debbie also discussed her observations during meetings at Boeing at which fuel/air explosion modeling took place. Debbie might have to travel to Kansas City at some point to verify some information in the records. She will be reviewing new statements from the witness group as necessary. She agreed to complete her factual report by 1/1/97.

The Director of RE indicated that he would check with Bob Macintosh concerning any data that Air Claims would have concerning this aircraft.

Metallurgy -- Frank Zakar/Jim Wildev/Mike Marx/Joe Epperson

The Materials Laboratory has been supporting the structures, systems, and fire and explosions groups in the hanger and has prepared reports of examinations as they are completed. Some positive findings included through cracks found in some titanium bleed air ducts that my have resulted in hot air leaking around them. Many of the ducts, however, could not be identified due to a lack of part numbers on the pieces being examined. RE-30 will assist Deepak in re-examining parts that Boeing has raised questions about. Additional items are in the lab and reports will be completed shortly on those examinations.

No evidence as found of fatigue in fuselage structure for pieces associated with the "red zone". A discussion was also held regarding some areas of fatigue cracking found in the forward spar, and possibly on the aft spar, areas of the CWT. Fragment evidence found in the CWT was indicative of an explosive event, not necessarily a missile or a bomb but rather associated with the CWT explosion.

It was agreed that a group of metallurgists would return to Calverton and work with the structures group to go over the probable failure sequence and reexamine the center wing tank fractures. This group would be reconvening right after Thanksgiving vacation. The chairman indicted that he wants us to find outside experts to review our facts and conclusions. Mike Marx will coordinate obtaining these experts for the metallurgical effort.

Lab personnel should not have difficulty completing any reports of examinations requested by other groups by 1/1/97.

Three-Dimensional Reconstruction Project -- Larry Jackson

Larry has prepared the contract for a Three-Dimensional Reconstruction Project and is ready to proceed with the project. At the request of AD the contract was revised to require written approval prior to initiating each task. Although the Chairman has given his go-ahead, Dan Cambell agreed to review the contract before it is approved. It will also be approved by the Managing Director. The project is scheduled to be initiated by 11/22/96.

All NTSB staff agreed that the project was not necessary for our investigative work. They agreed it would be a good illustration; however, it would not enable us to find the cause. The existing mockup of the CWT and center fuselage is considered sufficient to understand the accident.

At the request of the Chairman, AD will assign someone who understands government surplus property to look into wreckage storage property closer to Washington and less expensive. Paul Voorhees stated he would handle this project. This would involve moving all the wreckage but may result in a cost saving in the long run.

Trawling Project -- Charlie Pereria

The project was started on 11/3/96 with 2 ships in area 1 (green area). The recovery has ben very successful and although the area has been reduced in size, one ship is continuing to find parts. The other ship has been assigned to a triangular area between the green and red areas. Two additional ships arrived on 11/11/96 and have been trawling areas 2 and 3 (the red area with the yellow area inside of it).

The trawling project continues to find pieces of wreckage in all areas and the Chairman indicated that it should continue until the contract money has been expended (approximately 18 days from 11/14/96). The Chairman requested that a map be produced to indicate what areas have been trawled and what areas will be trawled. Charlie stated that Oceaneering keeps that data and updates it daily and he would make sure it would be supplied to the Chairman.

Aircraft Performance -- Charlie Periera

Review of the FDR data has not indicated any anomalies. Boeing has compared the data from the accident flight with other comparable flights and found no significant deviations from normal flights. John Clark is comfortable with all of this Boeing data. Charlie indicated that his factual report will be completed by 1/15/97.

CVR -- Jim Cash

Report completed by 12/31/96.

Spectrum Analysis -- Jim Cash

Report completed by 12/31/96.

FDR -- Dennis Grossi

Report completed by 12/15/96.

Trajectory Study -- Dennis Crider

The completed work consists of documenting fuselage skin and center fuel tank parts found in the red area up to 10/15/96, A/C pack pieces and the forward keel beam, and selected cabin interior parts. The report needs to incorporate wreckage diagram changes as part positions are finalized and add new wreckage items as they come in.

The Chairman requested that the report also include weather data and sea conditions and their effect on the location of pieces found. Dennis agreed to include this information in his report and to complete his factual report by 1/30/97.

Structures -- Deepak Joshi

Currently approximately 15% of the center wing tank, 12% of the fuselage (skin), 15% of the left wing, and 8% of the right wing is missing.

Deepak indicated that the new wreckage being brought in as a result of the trawling operation his slowed down his documentation efforts. A discussion ensued concerning obtaining additional help. The Chairman stated that he would be glad to call the top men in each of the organizations but Depak indicated hat he did not think that was necessary at this time. The result was that Deepak does no want any new people because it would take too long to train them. He indicated that when he returns from his trip to observe other reconstruction projects he will coordinate with all the other parties and come up with a work plan to optimize the use of experienced people in each of the parties. He will attempt to get the FAA members on his group to work on weekends.

He agreed to complete his factual report by 2/15/97.

Fire and Explosion -- Merritt Birky

Merritt indicated that to date, his group has seen no evidence of erosion or pitting in any of the wreckage. He also indicated that they have not discovered any static or fuel transfer problems with the center wing tank. Merritt will be hiring a fuel explosive expert from Cal Tech as a consultant as a continuing effort to bring new ideas to the investigation.

His group has extensive future work off scene pertaining to explosion testing and modeling of explosions. A discussion about purchasing old 747s followed but it was concluded that it was too early to start the process since it had been looked into back in August and it was found that most owners wanted commitments within a few weeks.

Merritt agreed to complete his on scene work and factual report by 1/1/97.

Systems -- Bob Swaim Bob stated that he brought his systems field notes with him for scanning. He indicated that he has narrowed down his systems examinations to 5 fuel energy sources. He stated that Honeywell is conducting a FMEA on the entire fuel system. He indicated that he would appreciate any comments on his recommendation letter as soon as possible. He also indicated concern about the upcoming Boeing temperature profile test scheduled for 12/16/96. He will be contacting Boeing to obtain thermocouple data that will be generated and recorded during testing prior to the 16th.

Bob agreed to complete his on scene work and factual report by 1/1/97.


The Chairman discussed the hiring of an editor to document everything that has taken place since the start of the investigation. Further coordination will be needed to insure that takes place.

NTSB staff will be done with the on scene (hanger) documentation by 2/15/97. They will have their factual reports completed by that time, with some exceptions that do not require visits to the hanger. Therefore, it would be conceivable that we would not require access to the wreckage after that time if the reconstruction project does not proceed.

If the "second set of eyes" concept is pursued, it should be done after the NTSB group chairmen complete their work. It is projected that that work would take about month. Therefore, the "second set of eyes" effort would be completed by 3/15/97.

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