Former NTSB Board Member Goglia recently published a review of our documentary for Forbes magazine. TWA Flight 800 documentary Science Advisor Dr. Tom Stalcup responds below.
Goglia: “No Evidence in Aircraft Fuselage Wreckage of Explosion Next to Aircraft”
FACT CHECK: This is inaccurate. China Lake expert Richard Bott wrote the “TWA Flight 800 Missile Impact Analysis” report for the NTSB and determined that an inward penetrating hole on the left side of the aircraft was consistent with a missile diving down from above and to the left of the aircraft. Bott, who’s analysis focused on small shoulder-launched missiles said that this scenario was hard to imagine. However, for larger proximity fused missiles, this attack scenario can and does occur. Furthermore, witnesses reported seeing just such a scenario.
Goglia: “Eyewitness Accounts Not Supported by Radar”
FACT CHECK: This is inaccurate. Many eyewitnesses reported a south-bound missile-like object, heading out to Flight 800. Witnesses said that the object exploded at the aircraft. This asymmetric south-bound explosion was recorded clearly by two nearby FAA radar facilities: one at MacArthur Islip Airport and the other in White Plains, NY. A missile exploding a distance above the left wing is consistent with the radar evidence, the hole described above in Bott’s report, and the observations of many eyewitnesses including Major Fred Meyer, a former helicopter rescue pilot in Vietnam who was flying a mission for the NY Air National Guard in a Black Hawk helicopter nearby at the time. Major Meyer and his crew were first to arrive at the crash site for search and rescue. Both Major Meyer and his co-pilot Captain Chris Baur believe a missile caused the crash.
Goglia: “Trace Amounts of Chemical Residue Common on Everyday Objects”
FACT CHECK: This is inaccurate. PETN and RDX are explosives used in missile warheads. They are never found in every day objects unless those objects come into contact with these explosives. Residue from these explosives were found all over the aircraft.
Goglia: “The aircraft fuel tank and surrounding floor and ceiling debris show metal pieces bowed consistent with extreme pressure from inside the fuel tank.”
FACT CHECK: This is not true for the left wall of the tank. Evidence of metal curling into the center wing tank from the left indicates that the pressure entered the tank through the wall between the left wing fuel tank and the center wing fuel tank. Once that pressure entered from the left, then the entire center tank would over pressurize causing outward bowing of the other walls. This is another important piece of evidence that supports the missile scenario described above: a detonation above the left wing.
Goglia: “During the entire four years of the NTSB investigation of TWA 800, no one – including Hank Hughes ( petitioner and former NTSB investigator) – ever came to me and claimed that evidence was being tampered with or covered up.”
FACT CHECK: Hank testified under oath before the US Senate about this in 1999 prior to the NTSB final hearing on TWA 800. He also complained directly to Investigator In Charge Al Dickinson and others prior to testifying before the Senate. Why would he go to Goglia when Goglia was not assigned to TWA 800? Under oath before the Senate, Hank testified that the FBI mishandled and tampered with evidence. Hank described to the Senators an incident where one FBI agent was banging on a piece of wreckage with a hammer attempting to flatten it.
Goglia: “Since there was no testimony provided to indicate any improper motives, it is spurious to conclude that a few allegedly changed colors on a few debris field tags indicate a cover-up or a conspiracy.”
FACT CHECK: There was no testimony because the NTSB Board did not allow this testimony at either of the two hearings on the crash, even though repeated requests to address this significant problem were made by many investigators. A formal request was also made by TWA’s legal team, and it was ignored. This evidence tampering was finally discussed in a meeting with Hank, other crash investigators who shared Hank’s concerns, the offending party, and the NTSB General Counsel. Even after this meeting, Hank’s concerns were never addressed and the unauthorized changes to the debris field database remain today.
Goglia: “The possibility of a missile or bomb taking down the aircraft was thoroughly examined.”
FACT CHECK: Not quite. In the NTSB final report, they mention looking into one type of missile: the smaller type designed to explode on impact with a target. The hot gases and particles ejected very close to aluminum from these missiles leave unique signatures such as “pock marks,” which proximity fused missiles that explode a significant distance away from their targets do not create. Since no “pock marks” were found, the NTSB ruled out impact by a shoulder-launched missile. However, no where in the final report does the NTSB mention comparing any evidence with damage signatures of proximity fused missiles, which are capable of exploding above and a distance away from the aircraft.
Goglia: “In the end, the totality of the evidence – the metal damage around the center fuel tank, the sequencing of the airplane break up, the radar data, the voice and flight recorders, the multiple tests of various theories – all led the Board to conclude unanimously that the probable cause of the TWA accident was an explosion of the center fuel tank.”
FACT CHECK: The board members settled on what they admit is an inconclusive probable cause because the conclusive evidence of an external detonation was not considered. As an example, 97 percent of the 100+ explosive detections were never considered. Board members were also not provided with any analysis comparing the documented inward penetrations in the fuselage to damage from proximity fused missiles, with which such holes are fully consistent. Likewise, spike tooth fractures (created by high energy events such as warhead detonations) found throughout the aircraft were not compared to proximity fused missile damage. In fact, the word proximity fused missile does not appear in the NTSB final report.
No analysis of the detonation that caused the crash, as recorded by two nearby FAA radar sites, was every mentioned or discussed at either NTSB public hearing.
Neither Goglia nor any board member heard a single eyewitness testify, out of 670 identified. Instead, they were misled by some of their own investigators–one being the investigator responsible for altering the debris field recovery location information–regarding what the witnesses actually saw. On a June 24th, 2013 NPR interview, Goglia rhetorically asked why interview all the witnesses if they all saw the same thing. Host Tom Ashbrook answered, “because 230 peopled died.”