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17 July 1998: Link to NTSB-Hall/Scarry exchange and postscript and news report

10 June 1998


Date:      Thu, 7 May 1998 12:57:15 -0400
From:      "George O'Brien" <OBRIEN@TYCOOP.COM>
Subject:   More on Scarry and Plane Crash
To:        PHIL-LIT@postal.tamu.edu

This article from the 5/6/98 Harvard Crimson concerns Elaine Scarry's
NYRB piece discussed on Phil-Lit several weeks ago concerning her
theories about the crash of TWA Flight 800.  As I recall, Denis Dutton
found Scarry's analysis  particularly stimulating.

George O'Brien
New Haven, CT
obrien@tycoop.com
*********************************************

                Prof. Spins Alternate TWA 800 Theory

                Published May 06, 1998

                By CHRISTOPHER M. KIRCHHOFF

                Nearly two years ago TWA Flight 800 exploded and fell
                from the sky off of the coast of Long Island, N.Y.
                Investigators have since pointed to faulty wiring in the
                plane's fuel tank but have yet to find conclusive
                evidence of what caused the crash.

                However, in an article in the April 8 issue of The New
                York Book Review, Elaine Scarry, Cabot professor of
                aesthetics and the general theory of value, alleges that
                the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
                overlooked a potential cause: electromagnetic interference
                (EMI) from nearby military activity.

                In her article, the English professor details the danger EMI
                pose to aircraft and how EMI from nearby military aircraft
                and warships might have caused the guidance and
                electrical systems of Flight 800 to malfunction. This, she
                says, may have led to the catastrophic explosion that killed
                all 229 aboard.

                The 19,000-word article addresses several perplexing
                coincidences, unanswered questions and intriguing leads.

                "Each piece that came forward gave me more of an
                obligation to make it audible," Scarry said.

                Her article has been distributed to NTSB staff and has
                garnered significant media attention, primarily overseas.


                In a letter to Scarry dated April 21st, NTSB Chair Jim
                Hall called the article "quite interesting," and said that
                presently "the [NTSB] investigative team is working with
                private concentrators and the military to determine the
                effects of EMI and [High Intensity Radiation Fields] on
                Boeing 747s."

                Rear Admiral Eugene J. Carrol Jr., a former carrier group
                commander and now deputy director of the Center for
                Defense Information, a private consulting firm, takes a
                stronger stance. He urges a full reopening of the
                investigation.

                "I think NTSB and the FBI really should evaluate
                Professor Scarry's hypothesis," said Carrol, whom Scarry
                quoted in her article. "NTSB needs to review the
                investigation to see to what extent the data they have
                gathered suggests any other cause of the fuel tank
                explosion."


                Invisible Interference

                EMI describes an effect that occurs when energy waves
                collide. Most commonly seen as the fuzzy lines that appear
                on a television when a hair dryer is turned on or the static
                heard on AM radio stations during a lightening storm, EMI
                is caused by the interaction of electric and magnetic fields.

                Small electrical devices can similarly distort a plane's
                navigational instruments. To prevent just such electrical
                interference, the FAA requires all passengers to "turn off
                all computers, headsets, radios and telephones" during
                takeoff and landing. Although the energy radiated by these
                devices is small, it can travel outward to antennas mounted
                on the skin of the plane, causing serious interference in the
                aircraft's navigational instruments and guidance systems.

                The danger of EMI is so great that it has become an
                offensive military weapon. "Jamming," or the use of EMI
                to disable enemy radar and communications systems, is an
                integral part of modern warfare. Planes, ships and
                ground-based transceivers equipped with jamming
                electronics can throw millions, or in some cases, billions of
                watts of energy at enemy targets.

                High intensity EMI can also cause sparks in the same way
                metal leads to sparks in a microwave. If a spark is close
                to the fuel tank, as FAA reports show, the fuel tank can
                ignite.

                "Physical arcing and overheating can be produced with
                intense jamming," says Carrol. "You have an arc [in
                military planes], but it's not in the middle of a bunch
                of jet fuel."

                Military Cover-up?

                In her recent article, Scarry notes that EMI has caused
                military aircraft crashes in the past. Between 1982 and
                1988, six Black Hawk helicopters crashed as a result of
                EMI, killing 22. During a 1986 mission near Libya, EMI
                also caused the crash of an F111 bomber and disabled
                five others.

                "If military planes can be downed by EMI, why can't
                civilian planes be downed by EMI?" Scarry asks in the
                article. In trying to answer that question, however, Scarry
                ran into a wall of highly classified military documents.

                Two military reports, a 1988 Air Force Study and the
                other a $35 million three-year Pentagon investigation, have
                studied the effects of EMI on aircraft. Yet, findings remain
                classified, with access denied to both the public and
                NTSB investigators of TWA Flight 800.

                In fact, the only government report on EMI available to
                the public is a 1994 NASA study detailing the dangers of
                a special kind of EMI called High Intensity Radiated
                Fields (HIRF).

                "HIRF may often [have] inadvertent effects on civilian
                aircraft," the NASA report says. Compiled by researcher
                Martin Shooman, report findings indicate that EMIs occur
                at "an intermediate and not insignificant level."

                Scarry questions the secrecy of military activity on the
                evening of the Flight 800 crash. If there is no danger, she
                says, why have reports been classified and why has the
                military refused to divulge any information on the location
                and activity of military planes, helicopters and ships "in the
                vicinity"?

                The Pentagon was unavailable for comment yesterday.

                In her article, Scarry cites evidence of military activity the
                night of Flight 800's crash. Planes take the route Flight
                800 was flying, referred to as the "Betty route," when
                military exercises force the closing of air space located
                over Long Island in areas adjacent to TWA 800's flight
                path.

                Scarry says she does not know the "level or intensity" of
                military exercises underway at the time of the crash
                because the Pentagon refuses to publicly divulge such
                information. In the article, she explores the possibility that
                the 10 or so military aircraft the Pentagon admits were "in
                the vicinity" at the time of the crash could have effected
                Flight 800.

                Most intriguing, she says, was the presence of a Navy P3
                Orion, an airplane full of electronic counter measures, that
                crossed 6,300 feet above Flight 800, intersecting its
                latitude and longitude "the moment the catastrophe
                began."

                "If a sudden pulse or electromagnetic spike can short out
                a wire or...by disrupting electronic circuits, simply cut off
                the fuel supply or make the flight controls on a plane go
                dead," Scarry says, "isn't it relevant to determine the
                electromagnetic features of the air through which the plane
                aspired to fly that night?"

                Evidence From the Black Box

                A Boeing 747-100 like Flight 800 has over 150 miles of
                electrical wiring, Scarry says, and many systems can be
                disabled or act erratically in the presence of EMI.
                According to Scarry, EMI can cause a pilot flying such a
                craft to lose control of steering mechanisms as the aircraft
                control surfaces (rudders, ailerons and flaps) become
                unresponsive to cockpit "fly by wire" controls.

                In her article, Scarry cites evidence that Flight 800 may
                have exhibited symptoms of EMI interference prior to its
                demise.


                "Registered [in the voice recording of the crew] there may
                be two problems identified as the classic signature of EMI:
                sudden interruptions in fuel flow and false instruction to the
                control surfaces on the wing flaps or rudder," Scarry says.

                One minute and 52 seconds before the voice recorder
                stopped, the captain of Flight 800 said, "Look at that
                crazy fuel flow indicator." Fifteen seconds later he
                commented that the control surfaces were not responding
                as they should. Then, 60 seconds before the catastrophic
                event caused the voice recorder to stop, the captain had
                to reissue a throttle up command to the first officer
                because the airplane responded so slowly.

                Scarry infers that these events point to an "electromagnetic
                event at second zero...powerful enough to knock out the
                plane's transponder, cockpit communication system, and
                black box simultaneously."

                "The door has opened," Scarry said. "People need to
                understand what transmissions were there and include that
                in the array of many factors that are looked at in an
                accident."

                The NTSB has been "looking at external and internal EMI
                from the beginning" said Shelly Hall, an NTSB
                spokesperson. NTSB is trying to "pinpoint the source of
                ignition," she said, "the fuel quantity indicating system has
                wires running from the cockpit to the fuel tank." Whether
                military EMI was the cause is still under investigation.
                article "quite interesting," and said that presently "the
                [NTSB] investigative team is working with private
                concentrators and the military to determine the effects of
                EMI and [High Intensity Radiation Fields] on Boeing
                747s."

                Rear Admiral Eugene J. Carrol Jr., a former carrier group
                commander and now deputy director of the Center for
                Defense Information, a private consulting firm, takes a
                stronger stance. He urges a full reopening of the
                investigation.

                "I think NTSB and the FBI really should evaluate
                Professor Scarry's hypothesis," said Carrol, whom Scarry
                quoted in her article. "NTSB needs to review the
                investigation to see to what extent the data they have
                gathered suggests any other cause of the fuel tank
                explosion."