For most of the last two decades the recovered wreckage of TWA Flight 800 has been sitting in a hangar at NTSB’s Training Center in Ashburn, Virginia, used as a training resource. On Monday the NTSB said that it would dismantle and destroy the wreckage as part of a broader move from the site. That’s after the wreckage is 3D scanned and archived.
TWA Flight 800 left John F. Kennedy International Airport on July 17, 1996, exploding and going down minutes after take off. All 230 aboard died, and after four years of investigation, the NTSB determined that the likely cause was an electrical failure in a wing fuel tank, which caused it to explode.
Since then, the wreckage has been in Virginia, though only for the purposes of training.
From the NTSB’s press release Monday:
When the NTSB moved the reconstruction to the Training Center, it did so with the stipulation that it would be used solely as a training resource and never as an exhibit or public display. To honor this agreement made with the families of the victims of TWA Flight 800, the NTSB will work closely with a federal government contractor to dismantle the reconstruction and destroy the wreckage.
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The NTSB said it now uses 3D and drone imagery, which “lessen the relevance of the large-scale reconstruction in teaching modern investigative techniques.” The NTSB also said that Flight 800 changed the course of history.
“The investigation of the crash of TWA Flight 800 is a seminal moment in aviation safety history,” said NTSB Managing Director Sharon Bryson. “From that investigation we issued safety recommendations that fundamentally changed the way aircraft are designed. The investigation also led to a memorandum of understanding between the FBI and the NTSB regarding investigations of accidents resulting from intentional acts as well as evidence collection and preservation. That investigation also led to the equally important development of our Transportation Disaster Assistance division and the legislation in place today governing carrier responsibilities for family assistance in the wake of a transportation disaster,” said Bryson.
The NTSB said that it will stop use of the wreckage on July 7 and spend several months documenting it before its final removal, which probably won’t end years and years of skepticism over the stated cause.