There are numerous indications that the "black boxes", or flight recorders, may have been recovered from the wreckage of TWA 800 earlier than has been reported.
This aspect of the investigation is preliminary, but already some strong indicators are beginning to surface.
The official story is that the locating pingers on the black boxes BOTH failed, which made it difficult to locate them until several days after the actual crash. Local boaters had reported hearing the pingers the first night.
The crucial data was discovered in the Sound Spectrum Group's report included in the recent NTSB report. It stated that when the CVR pinger was returned to the manufacturer, it was found to be in perfect working order.
FACTUAL REPORT OF INVESTIGATION COCKPIT VOICE RECORDER by James R. Cash Electronics Engineer NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD Office of Research and Engineering Washington, D.C. October 20, 1997 [...] C. SUMMARY A Fairchild model A-100 cockpit voice recorder (CVR) s/n UNK was brought to the audio laboratory of the National Transportation Safety Board. A transcript was prepared of the entire 31 1/2 minute good quality recording. (attached) D. DETAILS OF INVESTIGATION [...] damage noted to either the exterior or the interior of the unit. The Dukane underwater locator beacon that was installed on the CVR was slightly dented and scratched but operated normally when tested in the lab. [...]
When Dukane got the CVR and it's pinger back to the lab and switched it on , it was found to be operational!
The following are cited under "fair use" for the purpose of educating the public.
An electronic charting system shows the search area off the coast of Long Island.
(Newsday / John Cornell)
In the early stages of combing the ocean floor for wreckage of TWA Flight 800, one thing is becoming clear: the machines rule.
Navy divers had been sitting in the Coast Guard command center, kept away from the crash site until a boat trip there yesterday afternoon.
Even then, they didn't get in the water, and probably won't for several more days, federal officials said.
The key players instead have been an underwater sonar that looks like a sled; a self-propelled robot bearing video cameras, and a tube-shaped device that has been listening for a pinging from the ocean bottom.
They're all part of what federal authorities say is a plan designed first to find the plane's crucial two ``black boxes'' - and only then bring the wreckage and more than 100 additional bodies up from the ocean floor. The Navy began the second stage yesterday, abandoning the pinging device in favor of the underwater sonar.
Some private salvagers are skeptical of the process.
``They should be down there diving,'' said Capt. Stephen Bielenda, who owns the Wahoo, a diving boat operating out of Captree State Park that has done salvage operations. ``All we heard about is the black box, the black box, but the most important thing they should be doing is finding those bodies to show the families some respect.''
Bielenda disagreed with the assessment of ocean conditions by federal officials, some of whom said bad weather had barred getting divers in the water. ``They said it was too rough out there, but my boat had 27 divers in the water on Saturday,'' he said.
Even with the weather improved, officials now say it makes no sense to send divers down until the machines have pinpointed key pieces of wreckage.
``We'll send them down when we want to send them down, but we want to make sure it's justified,'' Robert Francis, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, told reporters Saturday night.
Navy Capt. Chip McCord, chief of the Navy's diving operations on site, added yesterday: ``In this first phase of recovering the black boxes and mapping the debris field, the preferred method would be not to use the Navy divers. It's quicker and better the other way.''
That other way, until yesterday, had focused on finding the black boxes with the Navy's Pinger Locator System, a tube-shaped device, attached to a boat, that has a sensitive underwater microphone to scan the water for ``pinging'' sounds emitted by the black boxes.
Yesterday afternoon, as the search for the black boxes continued unsuccessfully, officials gave up on the pinger. McCord said signals from the black boxes have not been heard because the devices are broken, destroyed or covered with sand or other material.
Instead, the search switched to what had been planned as its second phase: the side-scan sonar. A sled-like device that's towed on a cable behind a ship, the sonar scans the ocean bottom and emits sound signals that make a map as seen from the ocean floor.
The result is a silhouette clear enough to distinguish plane wreckage - and map the entire field of debris so authorities can figure out where to focus their resources. The map could also reveal the plane's tail section, where the boxes were installed, officials said.
``It's important to remember that the more we know about what is underwater by using the equipment we have, the more that can be done when we put divers in the water,'' Navy Lt. Commander Gordon Hume said.
After the mapping - which is expected to take several days - divers will likely enter the water to start bringing up bodies and debris. They will attach cables and help guide large pieces of wreckage, which are pulled up by cranes aboard boats. They also will search out and bring up smaller pieces of debris such as personal effects.
But even then, the human divers, who can only stay underwater for 13 minutes at a depth of 120 feet, might be rendered unnecessary by a machine - this time a robot armed with video cameras and an ``arm'' that can pick up objects.
If the black box is found, officials said, the robot will be sent down to retrieve it because it can stay down longer and cover more ground. Divers would follow only if needed.
Note that in the above story, even prior to the "discovery" of the black boxes under the keel of USS Grasp, experienced civilian diving captains question the Navy's apparent lack of enthusiasm to look for the black boxes. Was their location already known.
Note where Navy Capt. Chip McCord speculates that both of the pingers are broken or covered with debris.
We now know that the pinger on the CVR was in good working order and had battery power sufficient for 30 days.
Chip McCord's alternate explanation, that the entire vertical stabilizer was covered with enough dirt to smother the sound, ignores the fact that sand and dirt when mixed with water is a good conductor of sound, a fact upon which rests most of the technology of oil exploration.
The claim that the pingers were too covered in sand to be heard is improbable at best. According to Dukane, which manufactures the pinger used on the CVR, the pinger's frequency and power is deliberately chose to allow it to be heard even when covered with the type of debris one will encounter in the ocean, and we know from the NTSB's own report that claims of mechanical fault are baseless.
Officially, the boxes were still lost as of Friday, July 19th,l 1996.
NTSB says TWA black box still not located NEW YORK (Reuter) - Investigators still do not know the location of the so-called black boxes aboard doomed TWA Flight 800, which crashed Wednesday into the waters off Long Island, New York, killing all 230 people aboard. "We don't know where they are," National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman Robert Francis told CNN in an interview on Friday. Francis said he hoped investigators would be able to locate and recover the two flight recorders Saturday. The black boxes may be able to shed light on what caused the TWA Boeing 747 to explode and plunge into the Atlantic Ocean. REUTER
Congressman says he believes one TWA box recovered. NEW YORK (Reuter) - A U.S. Congressman said Thursday he believed that one of the "black box" recorders from TWA flight 800, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island Wednesday night, had been recovered. "I heard they got one box at least...," Representative Michael Forbes (R-NY) told reporters near the crash site. He was responding to a question about whether the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board had recovered either of the two recorders which officials hope will provide clues to what happened on board the Boeing 747-100 airliner. NTSB officials at a command center reached by telephone said they had no information that could confirm the Congressman's statement. The crash apparently killed all 228 people on board.
Note that Congressman Forbes doesn't specify who has the box in question.
Note in the official denial that followed that only the NTSB is reported not to have the black box. No mention is made at all of whether the Navy, which had total control of the crash site (even to the point of kicking out the divers from the NYPD) had the black box.
NTSB says black box not yet found WASHINGTON (Reuter) - The National Transportation Safety Board Thursday denied a report that one of the "black box" recorders from TWA flight 800 had been found. "As of this moment it is not true. Our investigators do not know that it has been, and I think they would know," NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said at 2:15 p.m. EDT. Earlier, a Republican member of Congress, Rep. Michael Forbes of New York, told reporters near the crash site that he believed one of the black box recorders from the flight had been found. Officials hope to find the two recorders to provide clues to what happened on board the airliner before it went down near Long Island Wednesday night. The crash apparently killed all 228 people on board. Lopatkiewicz said the NTSB, the lead federal investigatory agency for the crash, would hold a news conference later Thursday at its command center near the crash site.
Especially interesting is Lopatkiewicz's assurances that the NTSB, even then being blind sided by the FBI, would know whether or not a box had been found.
At present, we have boaters that reported active pingers that quit the first night, and at least one of them in known not to have suffered any mechanical problems, per the NTSB's own report.
We have the Navy (already caught lying about the presence of submarines in the area) concocting a story about the pinger being silenced by sand that the manufacturer insists the unit is designed to overcome.
We have a United States Congressman who claims to have been told that one box was recovered earlier than the official announcements.
And, we have a 30 minute tape loop inside the CVR that somehow produced a 31 1/2 minute transcript.
Stay tuned for more developments.
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