sitemap Commentary on the Donaldson File

Commentary on the Donaldson File

I think "No Comment" is a splendid expression. I am using
it again and again.  I got it from Sumner Welles.

Winston S. Churchill


1. Richard Hirsch 10/25/97

I was particularly interested in the reponse to Commander Donaldson by James Hall. Mr. Hall's letter shows a flagrant disregard for giving all the technical facts relating to the NTSB's tests on a 747 earlier this summer.

The following is an excerpt from the Hall letter:

The Safety Board has recently completed a series of flight tests to determine the temperature and conditions in a Boeing 747 fuel tank during normal operations. The airplane's center fuel tank was instrumented with more than 150 sensors, and at various points in the flight, fuel/air samples were taken from the tank for laboratory analysis. These flight tests have shown that temperatures of the vapors in the ullage of the nearly empty fuel tank can be well above the explosive limit. Therefore, a source of energy in the tank could ignite the vapors causing an explosion. The Board's investigation continues to examine potential source of ignition.

Mr Hall says, "These flight tests have shown that temperatures of the vapors in the ullage of the nearly empty fuel tank can be well above the explosive limit."

Here is a prime example of the "half truth".

It's true that the temperature of atmosphere of a fuel tank has to be somewhere around the flash point of the fuel in question in order for a flame to be able to propagate.

Here's the "other half" of the truth.

It's also true that the fuel vapor/air mixture has to be between the lower and upper explosive limits for the fuel being used in that fuel tank in order for a flame to be able to propagate. In other words both conditions have to exist before we start searching for a mystery spark. Mr Hall is trying to make it sound like ONLY the CWT temperature is the criteria.

Mr. Hall needs to reveal the results of those tests (which were taxpayer funded and not part of the FBI investigation nor part of the crime scene). We only need to see a simple graph showing the temperature of the CWT fuel vapor/air mixture as a function of time, and the fuel vapor /air mixture ratios at those times. It's not more complicated than that.

I ran some tests on the rate of evaporation of Jet A and published the results in my newsletter "Citizen Investigator" ( Jet A will evaporate .0085 inch per hour at a temperature of 110 degrees F. If the fuel in the CWT reached that temperature (the NTSB says it did) and stayed at that temperature for two hours then I can tell you that the fuel vapor/air mixture was at or above the upper explosive limit for Jet A fuel.

That means that even if there was a mystery spark the CWT was too rich to explode.

The information on the evaporation rate of Jet A is the yard stick by which we can check the NTSB's findings should they chose to publish them.

One other thing I noticed was the use of "fuel mist" and "fuel vapor" as though they were the same thing. Fuel mist is usually formed by forcing fuel through a small oriface under pressure. Fuel mist would be more like a fog. Fuel vapor is made up of individual fuel molecules. Fuel vapor readily mixes with air. Fuel vapor behaves more like a gas. If you put Jet A in a closed container at 110 degrees F and remove all the air, the fuel will begin evaporating and fill the container with fuel vapor. The maximum amount of fuel vapor that the container will hold will be reached when there are as many fuel molecules returning to the liquid fuel as are leaving it. That's the saturated state and if you measure the pressure in the container you will find the VAPOR PRESSURE for that fuel at that temperature (110 degrees F). The vapor pressure for Jet A is .1 pounds per square inch at 110 degrees F.

In an open container like a CWT, the fuel evaporates but never reaches it's vapor pressure because the tank is open to the outside atmosphere. The fuel vapors don't just lie on the bottom of the tank, they mix with the air in the tank and are dispersed throughout the tank.

You must remember that the molecules that make up the gas mixture we call air are very energetic. They are moving around us all the time at very high speed. Hydrogen gas molecules have a velocity of 6000 ft/sec. They don't move very far because they bump into another gas molecule in under a millioth of an inch. That's how the Jet A fuel vapor molecules are dispersed through the air mixture. All of the gas molecules are playing a miniature high speed game of bumper cars.

I agree with Commander Donaldson's assessment of the management of the NTSB. I have stated before that if the NTSB management are conducting a sham investigation to misinform the American people about the cause of the Flight 800 disaster then they should be charged and tried for the willful misuse of public funds just as any other corrupt bureaucrat.


2. Tom Stalcup 11/28/97

Commander Donaldson was interviewed on the Art Bell show on November 24, 1997  

Cdr. Donaldson: "I knew we were in trouble, we as a country, ... when the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, .. Jim Hall ... put an article in the Wall Street Journal...that set the predicate for what they're doing now....The title of the article was 'It wasn't a missile,' ...

There has never been...a spontaneous fuel explosion in any tank. That adds up *conservatively* to 150,000 years of flight time, and now here we have...the chairman of the NTSB up front saying well we solved the problem, we just had a spontaneous explosion in the tank. ...

OK, to me, that got my attention...I knew it was probably absolute I ordered the fuels manual,...studied it and found out...the fuel in the airplane is called Jet A-1. That fuel is extrememly safe. You can light two.. big long matches.. and slowly immerse the lit matches into the surface of that fuel and it'll go out...and...heat the fuel to 126 degrees and it'll still go out. In other could hold a barbeque in the fuel tank and dump your hot coals into that fuel and they'd go out.

The tank did explode, there's a way that can happen,...Any time the tank is subjected to a severe amount of energy,...a mid air collision (for instance).

Bell: "..What did bring down flight 800?"

Donaldson: "The highest probability by far is a missile engagement with an external warhead detonation well outside the hull. Their (investigators) saying 'we didn't find [deep metal pitting from a high velocity gas], so therefore a missile or a bomb didn't happen here.'

For instance, some of the larger missiles...are designed to go off as far as 40-60 feet or more away from the hull, and if that happens, what you'll get is penetration of the hull with extremely high velocity metal fragments. And two investigators who are inside this thing [informed Donaldson that] there's a six inch hole...that enters...just after the L2 door..., went through and exited above the R2 door... If you look at the photographs, you can see that there's a high velocity penetration coming from the inside going through the structual member right above that door. Now that's critical of the first major structures that came off the aircraft was the R2 door, actually a big piece which contains the door.

.... I have the internal documents, generated by the NTSB that shows precisely where every piece of metal went into the water. ...[a piece of the left forward cargo compartment] was blown from the left of the aircraft over two thousand feet to the right of the aircraft tract,..way, way out there!...and that's why I've described this more like a train wreck..than a center wing tank explosion. You can't get a piece of the left side of the fuselage..displaced 2,000 ft. to the right with a center wing tank explosion. That debris field is a perfect finger print for a massive explosion in the sky.

....The nose section that you see...tumbling off, falling down, looking like its intact: that's a total fabrication. That nose section was blown to kindom come. It came down not in on big piece...It came down in groups of five sections of multiple pieces. One of those groups of pieces landed,... 2000 ft. to the right of the aircraft tract."

For those of you who didn't get a chance to hear Art Bell's interview of witnesses Major Fred Meyer and Richard Goss, here are a few highlights:

Meyers explained he was on a routine training flight in his H60 Black Hawk helicopter at ~200ft scanning the horizon for an incoming plane when he saw in "broad daylight...a streak of light ...similar in speed and trajectory as a shooting star."

Bell asked Meyers: "The CIA/FBI have suggested that...people like fact...saw fuel trailing from flight 800 that appeared to be a streak of light."

Meyer responded: "Well that's pure fabrication...What's going on in the FBI, I don't know." Meyer spoke to several other eyewitnesses who saw "a roman candle or a rocket going up from the horizon, and there's no doubt in their minds that it was going up and not coming down."

Donaldson interjected: "A whole lot of people that don't know each other at all point to exactly the same place in the sky and it was well inland of the track of the aircraft."

Bell interviewed witness Richard Goss:

Goss: "I saw a flare coming up...toward the barrier beach was definitely going up, definitely going up!" "As it reached its peak, it took a sharp veer moved horizontal at that point.

Bell asked Goss about the FBI's conclusion that he was actually seeing "fuel trailing from the explosion of flight 800 and it was not going up, but coming down, and it was an optical illusion."

Goss replied: "One hell of an optical illusion...I can't see that's possible at all."

Bell asked of his reaction after seeing the CIA video:

Gosss replied: "Best described, I looked down at the ground and shook my was a joke."

Bell: "That isn't what happened?"

Goss: "No."


3.  November 25, 1997      For full text see:  

Cdr. William S. Donaldson, USN/RET is circulating on the [1] airwaves, on the [2] 'net, and on the 'net [3] newsgroups. He is reported [2] to be heading up an independent investigation into the downing of  TWA FL800.  According to one website [2] Cdr. Donaldson writes to Mr. James E. Hall, Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) saying your "... agency has been conducting a campaign in the media to misinform the public and willfully assign the least probable cause to this mishap." and that "...NTSB's participation in the June 4, 1997, ABC Primetime Live depiction of the air disaster was a perfect example of the fraud you are perpetrating on the American public."

According to Donaldson's Profile [2] he participated in the aircraft investigation of an accidental air to air missile shootdown of a Navy A4 in 1977 and defended a Navy pilot as JAG investigator for Commander in Chief Atlantic. During an interview (on air) with Art Bell Cdr. Donaldson talks about his findings that the most probable cause for the explosion was a missile attack by foreign agents.  Donaldson cites over 25 years experience in the aviation field, hundreds of hours of researching the known facts, inside sources from the investigation, and in person or phone interviews with many of the eyewitnesses.

During his interview with Art Bell Cdr. Donaldson said he got involved in his own investigation as a "matter of honor" when during April, 1977 Jim Hall, head of the NTSB produced an article titled 'It Wasn't A Missile'.  Mr. Hall disclosed the theory that a spontaneous center fuel tank explosion was the cause of the downing of TWA FL800.  All that is left to determine is the origin of the spark or other ignition source.  With over 30 years of experience, since joining the Navy as an aviation cadet in 1962, Donaldson has not heard of nor does the record hold a single accident of spontaneous combustion with our aircraft using Jet A-1 fuel under standard operating conditions, therefore he says that this assertion is "absolute B.S.".

The smoke and mirrors comes, he says, from telling congress that there were 3 or 4 other incidents of this sort in aviation history.  Those so-called incidents involved aircraft using Jet B / JP-4 fuel which was a highly unstable fuel unlike the Jet A-1 fuel that has been used over the past 30 years without incident.  Cdr. Donaldson believes this least probable cause of the explosion put forward by he NTSB to be "absolute nonsense".  He went to New York and pulled a sample of fuel under similar conditions as that of FL800 and found the ambient temperature only 1 degree lower than that of the fuel inside the tank.  Donaldson reads from an operating manual based on testing that allows no more than 10 - 20 degrees rise in tank temperature from ac compressors. The following issues are put forward by Cdr. Donaldson.

•Jet A-1 fuel could not spontaneously explode under the conditions present during the flight.

•747's don't fly almost straight up for 3000 - 4000 feet after having the front section blown off.

•Over 30 highly credible witnesses described a missile flight and detonation.

As reported on the Donaldson website [2] Cdr. Donaldson has been contacting James Hall (NTSB) by letter since the summer with questions and comments and sending copies of these letters to cc: Mr. John Cahill, President & CEO, TRANS World Airlines, Inc.- Mr. Phillip Condit, President & CEO, The Boeing Company - Mr. David Westin, President, American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. - Mr. Michael Bromwich, Inspector General, Office of Inspector General - Mr. Louis Freeh, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigations - Mr. Barry Valentine, Acting administrator, FAA - Senator Slade Gorton, Chairman, Subcommittee on Aviation and  Rep. John J. Duncan, Chairman, Subcommittee on Aviation. 

In a recent submission Donaldson alledgedly wrote that he has asked for and received funding to further his investigation, although it is not clear who is providing the money.

KC-COMMENTARY - As the FBI has officially withdrawn from the investigation stating they found no criminal intent the NTSB can no longer withhold information from the public citing protocol.  Now citizens can learn the results of taxpayer funded tests and this may be the downfall of the spontaneous combustion theory propounded by the NTSB.  Perhaps that is why James Kallstrom is pushing what he calls an animation created for the FBI by the CIA that gives a graphic description of the explosion and attempts to conform to what credible witnesses (244 by his account) saw. 

Many witnesses and others call this animation a "cartoon", a Madison Avenue sham rather than a scientific depiction of the probable visual events.   Mr. Kallstrom is the first to admit that the animation is not a scientific depiction, which raises the question of why have it produced at all.  From Madison Avenue to mainstream politics it is a known and accepted axiom that the packaging is more important than the product in producing sales.  The big question remains: why are the NTSB and the FBI appearing to want to sell us on the theory of catastrophic mechanical failure instead of conducting themselves like representatives of the people doing their job, with the able assistance of outside sources, witnesses and other citizens who are knowledgeable?  Why has the so-called 'Whistle Blowers' protections been lifted by our President from those who are part of this official investigation?

It looked as though the mystery of TWA FL800 would remain just that.   The FBI has withdrawn from the investigation, the NTSB has come forward with a theory and given recommendations to the FAA about remedies to the center tank safety issue, Pierre Salinger has ended his investigation without much fanfare, his co-author Ian Goddard has been "trashed" in the media (in no small part because of his own self-recriminations) and he along with Salinger both have been allegedly miss-characterized as doubting their own theory of "friendly fire", James Sanders has written his book and therefore fades away from public view, and the witnesses seem to have no forum to share with us their amazing stories of a reddish-orange projectile ascending the twilight sky, abruptly turning left, and seconds later erupting into a hot white flash precipitating a huge fireball that is now known to have signaled the end of TWA FL800 and all its passengers and crew.

Starting Dec 8, 1997 the NTSB will hold a public hearing into the matter of TWA FL800.  You shall judge for yourself about this gathering.  My meaning of "public hearing" is the traditional one where all having information shall gather and be heard in view of the public.  Will this gathering be a public hearing of the what the government is saying and nothing more?  I certainly hope not.

Now comes Cdr. William S. Donaldson to "rake over the coals" once again.  He is reported to have funding and that means -if it is true, that he may very well be able to get to the bottom of this mystery.  The facts are out there, the information is obtainable.  All we really want is answers.  My generation has waited too long and trusted too much in the proclamations and results of "political" style investigations.  Just give us the facts without the hype.   Give us informed knowledge without the sales pitch and the patriotic appeals to just trust us and we will go away happy that we know what happened and that we can, as a nation, deal with the consequences of such a tragic loss.

[1] The Art Bell Show, Nov 24, 1997


[3] alt.aviation-disasters


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