Memories of Flame: The crash of TWA flight 800

Fires burn on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean following the crash of TWA flight 800. (Newsday)
N93119, the aircraft involved in the accident. (Alain Durand)
The route of TWA flight 800. (Google + own work)
The location and layout of the center wing fuel tank. (NTSB)
This CGI animation of the moment the explosion ripped the nose of the plane appeared in Mayday season 17 episode 4: “Explosive Proof.”
This animation of the remainder of flight 800’s breakup sequence appeared in an episode of Why Planes Crash, produced by The Weather Channel.
This was one of the first photos taken by rescuers in the immediate aftermath of the crash. (Newsday)
This image of the burning wreckage was taken from a Coast Guard video clip approximately 50 minutes after the accident.
Part of the cockpit of TWA flight 800 is recovered from the ocean. (Photographer uncertain)
A large section of the 747’s fuselage is raised from the sea, under the close eye of the FBI. (Photographer uncertain)
The reassembled fuselage inside its hangar on Long Island. (USA Today)
A closer view of the forward part of the reassembled fuselage shows the clear change in damage between the green and red zones. (ABC News)
Coast guard personnel oversee the recovery of one of flight 800’s engines. (Photographer uncertain)
All the clutter that showed up near the plane on primary radar. (NTSB)
The delineation of the Red, Yellow, and Green Zones. (NTSB)
The general locations of the three color-coded zones, relative to the flight path and Long Island. (NTSB)
How spanwise beam #3 failed. (NTSB)
This diagram shows the continuation of the failure sequence through the front spar and into the fuselage skin. (NTSB)
The front page of the New York Times two days after the crash included open speculation by officials about the cause. (The New York Times)
The reconstructed fuselage of TWA 800 was surrounded by other pieces of debris used in the investigation. (John Cornell Jr.)
The fuselage was placed on a wheeled gantry which could be rolled out of the hangar for special displays. (Matt Campbell)
A piece of wreckage floats on the ocean after the crash. (John Levy)
In this close-up of the right wing root area, soot stains can clearly be seen on the fuselage in the upper left. (News 12 Long Island)
The wreckage of Pan Am flight 214, December 8 1963. (The Baltimore Sun)
The aftermath of the explosion on board Philippine Airlines flight 143. (Jose Duran)
Try looking for soot stain patterns yourself this time! (Reuters)
This photo, more so than almost any other, helps illustrate the true scale of the reconstructed fuselage. (USA Today)
The prominent piece of peeled metal in this photo is sometimes cited as evidence that the hole behind it was created by a bomb. However, such peeling can and usually does occur during the course of any in-flight breakup. (ABC News)
A police officer observes the recovery of part of the 747’s tail. (Stan Honda)
Pieces of debris float on the Atlantic Ocean the day after the crash. (Newsday)
Various items of debris lie on the deck of a ship during the recovery process. (Adam Nadel)
Other pieces of wreckage were placed on this barge. (Henny Abrams)
A gash in the side of the reconstructed fuselage reveals one of the stages of the breakup sequence. (Jim Wildey)
Light debris floats on the water after the crash. (Bob Strong)
Visitors observe the fuselage in its hangar. After more than two decades on display as a teaching aid for new investigators, the wreckage was destroyed in 2021. The NTSB cited changes in investigative techniques which reduced the usefulness of keeping the wreckage. (Paul Richards)
The New York Daily News ran a series of headlines promoting theories of sabotage. (New York Daily News)
The locations of witnesses. More than 95% of them were located more than 10 miles from the airplane at the time it exploded. (NTSB)
Groups supporting the missile theory frequently took out ads in newspapers to promote their cause. (The Washington Times)
Another sensationalized page from the New York Daily News.
The Epix documentary in support of the missile theory claimed to be original, but was really rather derivative.
Yet another New York Daily News headline. They hammered the sabotage theory hard for weeks after the accident.
Media reports love to book former NTSB investigator Hank Hughes, who has a litany of complaints about the investigation, without booking appearances by any of the countless other investigators who have no complaints whatsoever. (CNN)
The NTSB’s final report was finally issued in August 2000, more than four years after the crash.
Thai Airways flight 114 burns following an explosion at the gate in March 2001. (Avstop)
The aftermath of the explosion aboard Thai Airways flight 114. (NTSB)
Flags fly over a memorial to the victims of TWA flight 800. (Suffolk Times)



Analyzer of plane crashes and author of upcoming book (eventually™). Contact me via @Admiral_Cloudberg on Reddit or by email at

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