The Flight 800 Probe
July 17, 1996 - Paris-bound TWA Flight 800 explodes at 8:31
p.m. just after taking off from Kennedy Airport, and plunges into the Atlantic
Ocean south of Moriches Inlet, killing 230 people. Almost immediately, the FBI
and the National Transportation Safety Board arrive to conduct probes into
possible causes, such as catastrophic mechanical failure, an attack or sabotage.
September 1996 - Navy divers recover pieces of the center fuel tank, an
early suspect in the crash.
October 1996 - A Manhattan attorney representing relatives of two victims
of the crash files a $100-million suit - the first in the case - claiming that
mechanical failure blew the plane from the sky.
December 1996 - With the FBI still involved in the probe, the NTSB issues a
set of recommendations aimed at preventing fuel tank explosions, including the
use of nitrogen inerting systems in fuel tanks.
April 1997 - The FAA asks for public comment on the NTSB fuel tank
August 1997 - The Suffolk County medical examiner's office identifies
remains of the last two victims of the crash, a task once thought impossible.
October 1997 - FAA holds national conference on fuel tank flammability,
announces industry effort to inspect fuel systems of 2,000 jet aircraft.
November 1997 - FBI officially pulls out of investigation, ending the
criminal investigation of the crash of TWA Flight 800, ruling out foul play and
labeling the case "inactive."
December 1997 - In a painstaking and sometimes chilling recounting of TWA
Flight 800's disintegration and dive into the ocean, the NTSB holds a
long-awaited public hearing into the disaster.
May 1998 - The FAA finds evidence of damaged wires in fuel tanks of Boeing
737s, issues orders for inspections and fixes within a week.
July 1998 - An industry-dominated task force studying fuel tank
flammability tells the FAA that all solutions are too expensive.
October 1998 - The FAA orders airlines to retrofit hundreds of Boeing 747s
to ensure that electrical wiring problems don't cause another fuel tank
explosion like the one that brought down TWA Flight 800.
November 1998 - The FAA orders changes to wiring of fuel-measuring systems
in Boeing 747s.
January 1999 - The FAA proposes required changes to wiring of
fuel-measuring systems in Boeing 737s.
March 1999 - The FAA orders inspections and electrical tests of the fuel
measuring systems inside the tanks of Boeing 747s.
July 1999 - On the third anniversary of the crash of TWA Flight 800, more
than 100 family members and friends of the 230 crash victims remember their
loves ones and dedicate ground for a permanent memorial at Smith Point Park.
October 1999 - The FAA announces that it will require design changes in
aircraft built in the future to minimize buildup of flammable vapors in the
June 2000 - The FAA certifies a new surge suppressor that can be mounted on
a fuel tank to keep wiring faults from causing an explosion.
August 2000 - The NTSB closes the book on a four-year investigation into
the crash of Flight 800 with a final report concluding that the fuel tank
explosion was likely caused by damaged wiring.
May 2001 - The FAA issues a book-length set of regulations requiring Boeing
and other aircraft manufacturers to prove that their fuel tank systems are
safe and that there is no way for a spark to enter the tank.
Yesterday - Federal officials announce they will order airlines to install
systems to reduce flammable vapors in the fuel tanks of 3,800 American jet
liners. The FAA says it will formally propose the new rule later this year.