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Flight 800 Black Boxes


6) Denial of public access to results of testing and analysis of abnormal sound data contained near the end of the Cockpit Voice Recorder record.

FACT: Flight 800's Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) recorded a loud sound just before it stopped functioning, which NTSB investigators attributed to the sound of the explosion that caused the crash. Because four different cockpit microphones recorded the explosion[26], a unique sound-signature could be investigated.

FACT: The NTSB "Sound Spectrum Group" was formed and studied publications from previous aircraft explosions. The group learned that Flight 800's CVR recording may contain enough information "to determine the type and point of origin of a rapid, destructive pressure event within an aircraft...[and] to differentiate between an underpressure (decompression) or an overpressure (explosion), as well as determine whether the explosion was a detonation (high explosive) or a deflagration (low order, e.g. fuel-air) event."[27]

FACT: "The NTSB and interested parties invested a significant amount of resources in supporting the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) sound spectrum activity."[27] High and low order explosions were detonated inside a derelict 747 in Bruntingthorpe, England to gain necessary baseline data. Experts from the University of Southampton, England with experience in determining the type and origin of explosions aboard aircraft from sound data, analyzed the Flight 800 CVR data. But when the experts completed their work, the NTSB leadership refused to release the results.

FACT: The parties to the investigation have "never been briefed regarding the analysis of the data completed by the University of Southampton, nor has the [Sound Spectrum] group met to finalize any type of report of its activities in relation to the investigation of TWA 800."[27]

ASSESSMENT: The CVR data from Flight 800 may contain all the information necessary to conclusively determine the type and origin of the explosion that caused the jetliner to crash-the two most important findings of the investigation that have eluded all other NTSB investigative groups. The NTSB withheld the very analysis that may contain this information. The investigative group charged with making conclusions based upon that analysis has not reviewed or even met with the NTSB to discuss it.

ASSESSMENT: The NTSB is urged to immediately release the Southampton analysis (or at least all non-sensitive information from that analysis) to the parties to the investigation and the public, in accordance with Title 49 of the US code.


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