Four times during the weekend of January 6/7th, 2007, David Mattingly, a CNN correspondent, aired a 2-hour documentary on the crash of TWA 800. Unfortunately, Mr. Mattingly has no concept of technical understanding and, as such, he completely misled his audience by suggesting that commercial airliners are dangerous to fly as their fuel tanks may explode at any time. On this website, you can read considerable details about what happened to TWA 800 and I can also recommend that you visit the TWA800.com website. The following are the main problems with Mr. Mattingly's technical presentation:
1. It was concluded by the NTSB that TWA 800 was brought down by an explosion in the central fuel tank. This is complete nonsense as jet fuel, which is very heavy, does not readily ignite. This was clearly demonstrated many years ago by Commander William Donaldson and I recommend that you visit the following URL for a detailed explanation.
2. A research group built a quarter-sized central fuel tank and attempted to model what had happened to the fuel tank when TWA 800 disintegrated at 14,000 ft. A small amount of jet fuel was placed in the fuel tank and heated to the temperature that was believe to have been present in the aircraft's fuel tank. An actual sparking device was used in an attempt to explode the fuel. After many tries, it was found to be impossible to light the fuel and so the researchers entered a mixture of propane and air which, of course, ignited easily and blew out the side of the model tank. This was shown over and over on CNN at the time of the test but the reporters never pointed out that the test was rigged. Mr. Mattingly, who spent a whole year investigating TWA 800, clearly made no attempt to expose this false information.
3. According to Mr. Mattingly's explanation of what had happened, it was suggested that the front third of the plane had broken away from a point where the wing roots joined the fuselage. Had he read the investigation report, he would have discovered that the nose, known as Section 41, came off first, dragging a portion of Section 42 with it. The truth of the matter is the nose of the plane broke away from Section 42 and landed in the sea some 4-1/2 miles closer to the departure point.
4. Mr. Mattingly suggested that faulty wiring had caused a spark to occur in the fuel tank. He made two errors in this analysis. Firstly, there are no wires going into the fuel tank. The only wire close to the fuel tank is that which operates the fuel pumps, which are mounted on the outside of the central fuel tank. He then mentions that, in the wiring bundle, there is a wire servicing the lights in the passenger cabin which has a voltage of 350 volts. I believe it is safe to say that the lights are powered by 12 volts, but maybe 24 !!
5. Mr. Mattingly suggested that the 3,800 aircraft currently operating in the U.S. should all be fitted with nitrogen purge tanks, as was recommended 10 years ago by the NTSB. This has not been done because Boeing, the airlines, the pilots, all know that fuel tanks are designed in such a way that they are completely safe. It was suggested that navy planes have a nitrogen purge system but, of course, this is more to do with the fact that combat aircraft can be shot at ! Boeing has suggested that its aircraft will be fitted with a nitrogen purge system in the 2008 models. One has to wonder why !
6. One has to wonder why Mr. Mattingly did not contact a chemical engineer familiar with "fuel explosive limits" to determine whether or not heavy jet fuel can readily explode. Why didn't Mr. Mattingly interview a Boeing 747 pilot and ask him a number of questions about what were the problems with the early models of the Boeing 747s?
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