TWA Flight 800 Crash cause theory

I am absolutely convinced that the ignition source for the exploding fuel tank (undisputed) on TWA flight 800 was a small meteor. To my thinking, a white hot particle no bigger than the tip of your finger, trailing a streak of light (as seen by several eye-witnessess) could have easily penetrated both the aircraft skin and fuel tank and ignited the fuel vapors in a low-order explosion (undisputed). I am puzzled by the official lack of any consideration of this theory, since it seems the only one that “fits” all of the available evidence of which I have heard. The odds of an aircraft being hit by a meteor would probably be calculated as astronomically small, but given that hundreds, if not thousands of meteors reach the surface of the earth every day as meteorites, those odds are still finite. If the eye-witnessess saw more than one streak, the perfectly inocent explanation is that the airplane had the ALMOST incredible bad luck of encountering a small meteor shower, only one of which struck the aircraft. Anybody wanna shoot me down?

“Beer: It’s not just for breakfast anymore.”

If the meteor ignited the fuel the plane would have exploded (more or less), correct? If that was the case, how would you account for the plane dropping thousands of feet in mere seconds only to climb again before disappearing from radar. If it had been an explosion, don’t you think it would have just dropped like a rock?

You’re thinking of EgyptAir 990, Wiggum. TWA 800 was the one that crashed just off Long Island, NY. As for the meteor theory: I suppose it’s bound to happen sooner-or-later, but I also remember hearing that people saw what looked like a missle heading for the plane. This, of course, inspired all kinds of conspiracy theories, which IIRC fell into two camps:

  1. Terrorists
  2. The U.S. Navy, via some kind of accidental launching.

Dunno what to think myself. I’ve always been suspicious about the FAA’s ability to piece together a plane from 10 million pieces, especially when the crash is over water or in a swamp (was that the ValueJet crash?). Not that the FAA is dishonest, but that perhaps their investigative prowess has been somewhat hyperbolized over the years.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

To clarify my last post: Do I think the missle theories are likely? No. If there were any large pieces of the fuel tanks left, it should be fairly easy to tell if the explosion was internal or external.

You can call that theory “The Magic Meteor Theory”

But seriously, didn’t eyewitnesses see a projectile going from the ground up? And wouldn’t a meteor be coming down from the sky?

What they may have seen was a flaming piece of debris coming down from the plane, not up toward it. A streak of light in a night sky can be easily misinterpreted.

Flora is correct when she observes, “A streak of light in a night sky can be easily misinterpreted.” However, I believe a piece of flaming wreckage would have an almost verticle downward trajectory and would move comparatively slowly to that of a meteor. Of the 10 or so meteors I can remember seeing, all have moved VERY rapidly at fairly shallow angles with respect to the horizon. I have not read any of the eye-witness accounts, but unless they ALL say the streaks tracked from below the plane upward, the errant missle theory is unlikely. Streaks “heading for the plane” without being characterized more precisely could still, depending on the observer’s vantage point, be easily explained by a meteor track, which was my main point. Does anyone know of a documented instance of a meteor striking an aircraft with less catastrophic results? I Know there have been instances of a woman being struck in the hip by one as she slept on her sofa (1950’s?) and within the past several years I remember a report of one which penetrated the trunk of another woman’s car. Had it been a few inches away and penetrated the gasolene tank, the results would have been predictable.

IIRC, the streak of light in TWA 800 was thought to be the back of the plane shooting upwards. The theory that I heard was that an explosion ripped the front 1/3 or so off of the plane, then the rest of the plane, with engines still at full throttle but with no means to control it, shot upwards another several thousand feet. At the same time, the front end of the plane was falling to the ocean, presumably on fire. Either section could easily account for light streaking through the sky.

Another theory I heard was that the fuel vapour in the tanks ignited suddenly because:

  1. the plane sat on the tarmac at JFK for hours on a 90 degree day, making the fuel hotter and the vapour more volatile.
  2. The sloshing back and forth of the fuel caused static to build up in the tank (Huh?)
    3.Something sparked, and the fuel exploded.

So my questions are as follows:

  1. So what if the plane sat on the tarmac for so long? So did dozens of other planes. Planes sitting around at the airport in hot summer weather is not exactly a rare phenomenon.
  2. Does sloshing of liquid cause static to build up? I don’t know if this is possible but it sounds a touch weird to me.
  3. I thought that I read somewhere that it is the vapour, not the fuel that explodes. The supposed reaction that caused the plane to blow up would use something like a 90% vapour, 10% fuel mix. (Again, sorry for the vague info. I saw this on a “Dateline” or “20/20” type of show a few years ago.) Would you start a transatlantic flight with your tanks 10% full?

Anybody have any real info on this? Do any of these make sense to dopers with more aviation knowledge?

OK, showing my ignorance on this–they never ruled out sabotage (ie, bomb), did they?

I guess it would pay to read the post more clearly, huh? Sorry Red Dawg.