Eyewitness Meyer Speaks to the Granada Forum
"When you fly a helicopter at 120 knots over
North Vietnam in the iron triangle - in the
most heavily defended airspace in the history of warfare - you see a lot of missiles - you see
a lot of flak - and I did - I saw a bunch of it - I know what it looks like. My purpose in being
here tonight is to tell you that what I saw explode in the sky on July 17, 1996 was military
ordnance...We're here is to say it's no accident - somebody shot this aircraft down"
Major Fred Meyer
March 12, 1998
Note from Mike Hull: This is a partial transcript from a video of the Donaldson/Meyer presentation. The video is available from Dennis Whipple, 2315 Marine Avenue, Gardena, CA 90249. The presentation by Major Meyer followed a presentation by Cdr. Donaldson who gave a lecture on material presented in the Donaldson File elsewhere in this website.
Let me start just to say this ....that what you have seen here is a very well structured, well engineered, well reasoned, scientific reason ... many scientific reasons why what the Federal government has told you just cannot be true. It doesn't stand the test of logic. That's Cdr. Donaldson's presentation. My presentation is a little different. All I am going to tell you is what I saw and what I did and if you are going to believe me you have to have some confidence in me as an individual - you have to know who I am before you believe what I say. So let me tell you just a little bit about myself.
Born and raised on Long Island - went to the University of Michigan - commissioned in 1962 as a naval officer - served first on a destroyer out of Mayport (sp?) Florida, went to the navy flight training program - became a naval aviator in August of 64, was sent to HC1, a combat SAR squadron based in San Diego, California. From there I went to South East Asia where I spent four years, two of them in combat in Vietnam. My job was to rescue downed American pilots from North Vietnam. I was stationed primarily on the fantail of a destroyer and usually positioned roughly 40 miles south east of Haiphong harbor. I would preposition - move close to the coast as Alpha strikes were going in, in 1967, and if someone's aircraft were hit - there's special radio frequencies which are used - normally a wingman or sometimes the pilot himself would alert the SAR people and we would bend the helicopter over and would start trucking in.
Now, when you fly a helicopter at 120 knots over North Vietnam in the 'iron triangle' - in the most heavily defended airspace in the history of warfare - you see a lot of missiles - you see a lot of flak - and I did - I saw a bunch of it - I know what it looks like. My purpose in being here tonight is to tell you that what I saw explode in the sky on July 17, 1996 was military ordnance.
Now, we will talk first about .... I should tell you all the truth though - just in case you are inclined to believe me - I have to also tell you that I am a lawyer (audience laughter). I have to make full disclosure. There is one slide that I pulled out of your (Cdr. Donaldson's) presentation - it was a map of Long Island (Click for map). Now I am going to talk to you about: a streak in the sky; three explosions - two of which were ordnance; a little bit about aircraft ballistics; a personal conversation I had with Mr. Robert Francis and an executive of the NTSB who was in charge of the NTSB investigation; and my trips to the hangar at Calverton and the way I got in there.
At the time of the accident - I also was until last March a member of the NY Air National Guard, 106th Aerospace Rescue group. I've been a SAR pilot in Vietnam and in 1969 I resigned my commission - came home to New York - went to Law school and in 1976 moved to Southampton, Long Island - the fabulous Hamptons - where I established a small law practice. In 1980 the Unit at West Hampton airforce base - just 15 minutes down the road - was converted from a fighter outfit to a Search & Rescue outfit. They recruited pilots from all the services into the NY Air National Guard, which is a subsidiary of the US airforce and I was recruited to fly once again as a "weekend warrior" as a SAR pilot. I'm a navy master jumper - I'm a naval aviator - designated naval aviator - and I am a United States airforce command pilot. I hold the highest ratings the airforce awards. So those are my credentials as a pilot - as a rescue person.
That night I was flying - I was not scheduled to fly - ironically I was supposed to be at that fundraiser where they took the picture of what may be a missile. I was going to go to Vince Canusio's (sp?) fundraiser - he was campaigning to be our town supervisor. Instead I got a call from the base that said "so and so can't show up for his flight - can you fill in we have got to get Chris Baur a night air-refueling or he turns into a 'pumpkin' - he passed the maximum time between events and he'll be unqualified". So I agreed. I went down to the unit - had a standard brief, weather, the mission for the night and went out - cranked up the aircraft. Now, it's the military - even though we are only weekend warriors - they tell you to take off at eight o'clock at night, you take off at eight o'clock at night. The mission we are going to perform is a night air refueling on night vision goggles - we shut off all the lights - we fly in total darkness and we climb up and we fly a pattern - we fly along the beach. A C130 Hercules tanker aircraft flies over us - drops its flaps - slows down - streams hoses - we look up with our night vision goggles - we see it in the air - we join under its wing and then we practice plugging into the fuel nozzles and taking fuel in mid-air because if we were doing a deep penetration into enemy territory we would probably be tanked in total darkness - at night - very close to the enemy lines - just before we penetrate to make the pickup.
When one is "on the hose" with no lights - on goggles - the tips of the rotor blades if you are in perfect position are 22 feet from the tip of the horizontal stabilizer on the C130. So if you make an error of 22 feet and one inch - you're dead. This is the type of maneuver that you want to fly frequently so as to maintain a great deal of proficiency. So we were doing that - we were scheduled to do that - but of course to do that it has to be dark. You don't fly a night vision goggle mission in daylight because that's cheating. But we take off at eight o'clock and on July 17 sunset doesn't occur until about 8:40 pm - sometime about then. So what are we going to do for the first 40 minutes of the flight? Well, let's go up and practice a few instrument approaches to Runway 24, the airport at Suffolk and check off our proficiency on those practice instrument approaches - you know to repunch our clock - aviators know what I'm talking about - you have to have 3 precision and 3 non-precision approaches every 90 days. So we go out, we fly them and we log them and we meet all the statutory requirements.
I had just flown an approach and my co-pilot was now flying this approach we're coming down the electronic glidepath to the approach end - the threshold of the runway - I called to him that we were 100 feet above the altitude at which we must make a decision to either land or go around - I said "100 above" - He said "Rog" - and just at that moment the tower said "Cessna blank blank blank you're cleared for a right downwind to Runway 24". Well that's the runway to which we are landing. So I wanted to immediately see where that aircraft was that the tower had just cleared to land on the same runway to which I am making my approach. I leaned forward in my seat - put my head as close to the windscreen as I could and began scanning in front of the aircraft - in front of the helicopter - looking for a Cessna. And at that moment I saw a streak of light in the sky. Now at that moment - the reason I left this up here (Click for map) was to show you that I was probably right there (points to his position on diagram - witness #1). Here's TWA 800 up here at 13,000 feet - cruising along - and from where I am right there they are about 10 miles away at 13,000 feet. Twenty four hours later, actually 20 hours later, I estimated in response to a reporter's question that they were at 10 miles and approximately 10, 000 feet - that's pretty good for "seaman's eye".
So let's switch to the next slide... This is a drawing that I made. (Note from M.Hull - Meyer showed his original hand-drawn diagram but unfortunately I do not have access to it at this time. The original drawing can be viewed on the video). I did this drawing for Dave Hendrix - well over a year ago - he is a reporter for the Riverside, California Press Enterprise - I'll tell you about that later - As I looked out of the front of the aircraft scanning for the Cessna, I saw a streak of light - right there (points to diagram) - moving very rapidly from my left-center farther to my left. It was red-orange in color - it resembled the path of a shooting star that you would see at night. You just go out on a clear night - put your head back and if you're patient enough you are going to see meteors coming through the atmosphere - shooting stars. They move very rapidly - they leave a trail of light. That's exactly what it looked like except it was red-orange in color and I saw it in broad daylight and one does not see shooting stars in broad daylight. There was a break - where it stopped - and then for an instant I saw nothing - and then suddenly right there I saw an explosion - high velocity explosion - military ordnance! - looked like flak in the sky - and I've seen a lot of flak - ours and theirs. It was military ordnance! A second and a half to two seconds later - farther to the left but down - I saw a flash once again - high velocity explosion - brilliant white light - like the old fashioned flashbulbs that we used to get one picture out of it and then it was gone - brilliant white light. A second and a half to two seconds after that - farther to the left but even lower - I saw, but I'm not certain, either one or two nearly concentric detonations - da da (sic) - and from those detonations emanated this huge, slowly forming, low velocity explosion fireball. See this circle out here (indicating to diagram) - that's the size of the fireball. As we were flying over about my 2 o'clock position - the north west - the sun - the lower limb of the sun was just on the horizon. And if at that time I had held my hand out in front of me, I believe that the sun would have appeared to me at that point to have been about 4 fingers in diameter. If I turned to my 10 o'clock position to this fireball which was formed - it was 16 fingers in diameter. It was four times the size of the setting sun at that time. Of course it was much closer but it was huge - it filled the sky.
At that moment my co-pilot was the first to speak and he said - he's an experienced officer - coast guard helicopter pilot - former army helicopter pilot - now flies with the US Customs Office and is a weekend warrior with the Air Guard as I was - he said: "Is that pyro?". I said "No pyro I've ever seen, let's go take a look". I had never seen the aircraft - let me make that point. Also, let me make the point that when you fly a helicopter and you want to hear anytime past 25 years of age, you wear earplugs stuffed in your ears and you put the helmet sound suppressors over the top of them to protect your hearing. We hear nothing in that aircraft but the intercom and the radios. So I never heard any explosion or any noises associated with what I saw in the sky - totally silent.
We called the tower at that point and said that we see a fireball off the beach and we are going south to investigate - clear us out of the control zone - we accelerated from 90 knots - which is about 105 mph up to about 160 - 165 mph - we're flying a Black Hawk helicopter - they're fast! We began heading out on a heading roughly 180 at max speed directly toward the point on the ocean where we could guess that the fireball was going to impact the ocean. When it impacted I was very surprised because this hugh thing was burning and when it landed in the ocean I expected it to be quenched. It was not. It impacted the ocean - threw a wave out - the ocean was very calm - threw ripples out and continued to burn. This was a lake of fire, probably 3 acres in size, burning with flames 50 feet high. I know it was 50 feet because I hovered the helicopter along side - looked over the top - read the radar altimeter and it read 50 feet. We immediately knew we had some kind of a disaster, but we hadn't seen an aircraft - none of us had seen an aircraft. As we approached the fireball impacted the ocean just about as we were approaching the barrier island - the barrier beach that runs along the south shore of Long Island. It was about where my feet are on the rudder pedals and I estimate that about an eight of a mile in front of the helicopter. As we proceeded out over the ocean toward the fireball I could see more debris falling from the sky. I told my helicopter pilot to flare it and slow down so that we would allow the debris to fall in front of us - we wouldn't fly under it and get it meshed in our rotor system. At that moment I remember a picture - and the picture troubled me - and later I will talk to you about it.
We went on - we approached the windward edge of the burning lake of fire - we couldn't move downwind and go around because there was so much smoke that it would have probably suffocated our engines and it might have suffocated us so we couldn't go downwind. We worked around the upwind hemisphere of the lake of fire and the first thing we saw were four bodies. So we knew we had a catastrophe which involved human beings. But all the debris we looked on was in such tiny pieces that we couldn't identify anything and say it was an airplane. We looked for several minutes and we checked the bodies - I don't like to talk about the conditions of the bodies but three of them were decapitated and one of them was not. We checked him very carefully and there were no signs of life - we proceeded on. A few minutes later - perhaps 2 - 3 minutes into our search - we finally saw a section of that white plastic window liner that you see on airliners - about maybe four feet long - that had two of those window holes that you see on airliners that the shades slide up and down - that was the first piece large enough that we could identify and say ok we have got an aircraft here - either an upscale business jet or it's a commuter. There are Grumman Gulfstream 3s flying into East Hampton or the neighboring town all the time. ...... So we knew we had some kind of a commuter or business jet and we radioed that to the C130 that was airborne - they too were doing other proficiency maneuevers waiting for the light to fade so that we could do the night vision goggle ....They were down the beach approximately 15 miles - they saw the fireball - they saw nothing prior to the fireball - they turned when they saw the fireball and came at 1,000 feet to investigate - we were of course down between 50 and 100 feet. I called to them - told them not to overfly the site because of the debris - they made a great circle around the area and there was communication going on between us and the 130.
The first thing we did was we marked the position of this lake of fire. We have a very sophisticated navigation system in this helicopter. This helicopter cost $12 million per copy and it's got everything and we thank you - we thank the taxpayer (laughter). It has an INS, a GPS and a doppler system that are computer integrated so that if one fails the other will take over. ..... It enables us to give you a position in Lat and Long within 1/100 of a minute of arc ..... At 40 degrees north Latitude, that's in the neighborhood of 86 feet - that's how close we can get our position - within 86 feet.. We gave the position of the main debris field, the main impact area where the lake of fire was located, to the C130 radio operator who wrote it down. Later on as we continued to search for bodies and find them and debris we noted - Chris had seen the tail section of the aircraft fall out of the smoke plume before the fireball struck the surface of the ocean and there was about a half a mile, I think, maybe a little more, between the major impact area and the area where the tail section had fallen. We flew over that area - we marked it - we gave the Latitude and Longitude to the radio operator in the C130. We had seen the leading edge of an airfoil that we thought was a wing of an aircraft ... we then found an area where we found a cluster of 35 bodies and we examined each of them - the doctrine of the rescue is that we perform a triage - if we look at someone and we don't see a sign of life and we know there are a lot more in the water, we move on and we don't commit anybody to the water unless we know we have somebody alive. So when we found these 35 people clustered together and we used techniques such as coming down low and shaking the bodies with the rotor wash from the helicopter to see if they show any signs of life. They did not. We reported this to the tower and we were almost at that point relaxing thinking we had a commuter here - we got 39 bodies - and it doesn't look like there are any survivors. At that moment the tower came back and said to us "Jolly 11 (Note from Mike Hull: See comment #1 below - Meyer was flying Jolly 14) ATC reports they have lost track of a TWA 747". Well as it turns out the airfoil surface that we thought was a wing turned out to be either the rudder or one of the horizontal stabilizers......
We realized that now there were another 200 people, perhaps even more, out there somewhere and we had to find them. So we reenergized ourselves and began a very disciplined search called a creeping line search looking for more survivors. We spent that night searching and found many, many more bodies - no survivors. Later on that night as we were turning and going back in because we were out of fuel - we flew until 11:45 - we were returning back to land at Suffolk airport and I could see on my left Moriches inlet and on my right Shinnecock inlet .... and coming out through those two inlets in the middle of the night were the lights of several hundred private boats. People who had heard of the accident and were coming out to help. Now obviously I'm very proud to be from Long Island.
Now I just wanted to show you this because the NTSB says the fuel tank exploded and that's what brought the aircraft down. The fuel tank explosion is the third event in the series. It could not have initiated anything. The first thing was a high velocity explosion of military ordnance - the second thing was another high velocity explosion of some brilliant white light - I don't know what it was. The third thing - three to five seconds later - was the fuel tank explosion and the Commander (Donaldson) has explained that the only way you get that fuel to - not even explode - but to burn rapidly is to shake it up as though you had atomized it as you would in a diesel engine. And that's basically what happened. That fuel was shaken by, I believe, the warheads of two missiles and the break up of the aircraft caused by the damage from those missiles and that's what shook that fuel so that ultimately something ignited it. The other thing - notice the path - it goes down! This is my aviator's drawing of the compass in my aircraft. I was on a heading of 236 degrees magnetic. Why do I know that - we were flying an instrument approach - the instrument approach is an electronic signal - 236 degrees down to the approach of the runway. I know exactly what my heading was - I know what my altitude was within 100 feet and I know what my airspeed was. So I am able to reconstruct very substantially exactly where I was and what I saw and communicate that.
The Press Conference
Now I went out to give aid as I told you and found no survivors and went back to my unit and went home that night. The next day at 4:00 pm we gave a press conference and some reporters came to base and we sat in an auditorium on the base and I came down from my office to participate in this press conference in which the crew of the C130 and the rest or my crew and two para rescue men who had seen a light in the sky were all called in to tell what we saw to the news media. When I went into that press conference the public affairs officer from my unit gave me three criteria - he said "Do not speculate" - "Do not give your opinion" - and "Do not discuss the condition of the bodies. So those were the conditions under which we held that press conference. I described my streak of light and everything to the people there. I walked out of that room about an hour and fifteen minutes later and a fellow was watching a television in a room across the hall from the briefing room and he said: "Hey, I just saw you on television - Peter Jennings says you said it was a missile". Well all hell broke loose because I had apparently violated the parameters of the press conference. The AJ of the NY State Air Guard was on the phone with me and wanted to know why I did that. I told him: "General the entire press conference was videotaped - look at the videotape - I never said it was a missile". Well the media had picked it up as a missile and therefore I was given the task to then go back to the media and tell them "I didn't say it was a missile". So I went back - at that time the next day - two days later - the Friday after the accident - I went back to the coast guard station at East Moriches where I gave in excess of 40 interviews to news media crews in which I told them that I did not say it was a missile. They, of course, reported 'Pilot on the scene says it was not a missile' (Laughter). There came a period in here where we decided - and it was a mutual decision - it was not an order - that we were just going to stop talking to the media because no matter what we told them they screwed it up. We stopped talking to the media (applause). We also decided that we were witnesses to an accident - that there were pros in the NTSB who were going to come in and do a first rate job. And we waited for a year for those pros to do a first rate job and we don't believe they did which is why we are here.
I want to tell you about some other things that occurred after that. One thing I told you about the fact that I had seen this scene of debris falling. For the next week I got very little sleep because that scene, for whatever reason, kept playing over and over in my mind like a loop of videotape. I kept seeing this debris falling and it took a week to work out - I eventually realized that what I was looking at was shards and pieces of the skin of the aircraft and other debris tumbling in the air - falling - some of it burning - some of it not - and through this debris which was tumbling and falling at approximately 50 mph there were things coming down at terminal velocity - coming down at probably 160 - 180 mph. This kept going through my head and I realized that my sub conscious was probably saying to me "Something's wrong with this picture". Because if all of these things emanated from the same source at the same time - objects falling at 160 mph would not be passing through my field of vision in the last 1,000 feet above the water at the same time as things tumbling at 50 mph. The faster moving objects must have taken a circuitous route to get there - they had to go somewhere else and then come down and catch up with the tumbling debris. And as the dream became clearer and clearer I realized that the high speed objects that I saw plummeting to the surface of the ocean were people strapped in their seats. And that's what I saw and I thought that was extremely important.
Interviews with the FBI
Now let me talk to you about my interviews with the FBI. On the Friday when I went over to the coast guard station - now remember we gave a press conference Thursday afternoon at 4:00 pm ...some time the next day about noon or so I went over to the coast guard station at East Moriches which had become the center of activity for body recovery. There were thousands of news people media there with their camera crews. My job was to tell them that I didn't say it was a missile. At that time I walked over to the FBI hangar and I knocked on the door ... and told them who I was and told them where I had been the night of the crash and asked them if they wanted a statement from me. They all kind of looked at each other as if to say what do we do now and finally some guy that was probably the junior man there said "Well, you and him go in the back room and take his statement". So I was ushered into the back room with two young FBI agents, one of whom took out a 2 1/2 inch by 4 inch spiral note pad from the back pocket of his dungarees and a little ballpoint pen and said "OK, What did you see?". I spoke for 4 minutes and told him, if you can believe this, approximately what I have just told you in the last 20. And he asked me no questions and I left. A week later when this dream became clearer I went to the public affairs officer's home in Moriches which is close to the coast guard station and after telling my dream to him and telling him what I thought it meant, we called the FBI and we pleaded with them, because they didn't want to come. Eventually they agreed to send an agent and they sent two agents to his house and the reason we did it that way was that it was impossible without special credentials to get through the security lines around the coast guard station and get in to see the FBI. The first time I had come in by helicopter .... So the two agents came out - came to his house - I told them my story - approximately 1/2 hour - they wrote it down - they asked no questions - they said "Thank you very much" and they left. Those are the only 2 interviews I have ever had with the FBI.
The FBI was present at 2 other interviews 17 days after the accident more or less. I gave a briefing to the senior officers at the Air National Guard unit. An FBI agent was present in that interview - asked me no questions and at that point I drew this diagram (Click) on a great big board and explained to all the officers what I had seen. Within a day or so it was put on the internet and that would be some time in late July 1996. I had one more interview in which an FBI agent was present. It was on January 12, 1997 which was an Air Guard weekend drill and on Sunday afternoon I was told that the NTSB was there and they wanted to talk to me. I was ushered into a room where there were five people, I believe, one of whom was an FBI agent. Now those are the 4 occasions that I have even been in the presence of an FBI agent while I discussed anything I saw this night and that was the total interest that the FBI took in what I had to say.
Coincidentally the fellow who was heading the NTSB inquiry group had come to the Air Guard about 6 months after the crash - Norm Wiedermeier (sp?) - Norm was a squadron mate of mine from HC7 - he's got war stories to tell too - going in on a rescue he got shot down and had to evade into Laos. I walked into that room and I said: "Norm, hey, how are you?" and we talked and I told him my story - I told him what I had seen. As we walked out we separated from the other people and I said "It's good to see you" and he said "Well, I had a hell of a time getting to see you. It took me 6 months to get FBI permission to talk to you."
Conversation with Robert Francis
Let me take you back to September of 1996 - I was very distracted by this and I wasn't really doing a lot in my office to make money because my mind was elsewhere and so I kept going down to the unit and coincidentally we had - the coast guard took over the body recovery and the navy took over the debris recovery - and the air guard unit became tasked to provide administrative support to the FBI people. That means we flew them all over the place - from the hangar at Calverton over to the coast guard station to the airport at East Hampton - we were just flying them here there and everywhere. During that time I had an opportunity to fly over with a friend of mine over to the hangar at Calverton where we landed in the grass. This friend of mine is an employee in the FAA and he is also a weekend warrior with the air guard unit. He took me into the hangar and he introduced me to Bob Francis who was the person in the NTSB in charge of the investigation for the NTSB. He had known Bob when Bob had worked in the FAA - so they are old buddies and he introduced me. "This is Fritz Meyer. He is the pilot who was flying the night the plane went down". So we started talking and we got separated from the people - Admiral Christiansen - that had flown over to the hangar and I was talking with just 4 people together. There was my friend, Bob Francis, a young lady from the NTSB - I can't remember her name - and myself. As we walked along Bob Francis turned and looked away from me and sort of .. collected himself... and he turned back to me and he said: "You know, we're getting away from that missile theory". I laughed in his face and he was crestfallen - he was distraught - and after that when I just laughed right at him we began to have a frank discussion. As we walked along we walked up to a nose wheel casting and it was all ripped and shredded - the tire was completely shredded (Note from Mike Hull: See comment #1 below) - and it was lying on a table or a frame of some kind in the hangar and we had had a more or less candid discussion about the crash and as we walked up he showed me this thing - and it had striations across it - great deep cuts through the alloy of the wheel casting. And he said: "You know my people tell me that this is sign of a high velocity explosion". Those were his words. I made a mistake - I told this to a reporter about three months later and he picked up the phone and called Bob Francis and Bob Francis denied he had ever met me - had seen my face on television but he had never met me in person.
Flying Debris out of Calverton
On another occasion while I was just in my green bag doing my thing - flying the helicopter - I was given the task to fly over to the hangar from the Suffolk airbase.. and they had something that they wanted to be flown back to the base to be picked up by the C130 and flown down to Washington. And it was the leading edge - see they didn't know who I was - I'm just a guy in a green bag flying the helicopter - So they said we have this leading edge of an airfoil and I didn't know what it was. Bill (Donaldson) has told me since and you have seen a picture of where it went on the aircraft - and there was a polished aluminum surface and then there was a very clearly delineated place where the white paint began and it went back - and of course the back edge of what we were looking at was jagged - the interior was painted with the green aluminum primer - it was a piece of the airplane obviously. Now along that leading edge there were very large puncture holes - spaced almost evenly along the whole thing and they were about 3/4 of an inch to one inch in diameter. They had dimpled the leading edge. Now this is critical - the strength of this aircraft is something that we can't over emphasize. Here you have an aluminum alloy, which is turned tightly into an 8 or 9 inch radius. It has great strength. Something had driven through that with such force that it dimpled it inward. Not just once but regularly about four or five holes which appeared to be almost in line. They said: "Can you carry it?" and we said yes. We loaded it into a box and we put it in the helicopter and we flew it over to Suffolk base where the 130 took it down to Washington. And I would really like to know where that was - where it went - we think we know where it went - we're not certain. But I was the guy who flew that part out of there when it got tested with the Egis 3000. So I've been all around this thing but just kinda like a fly on the wall (laughter). (Note from Mike Hull: The April 14, 1998 edition of The Village Voice has an interesting article on this event and matters related to removal of key pieces of wreckage by the FBI. http://www.villagevoice.com/ink/news/16davey.shtml)
Reconciliation with Eyewitness Goss's
At any rate that's really all I am here to tell you. I saw a streak of light cross the sky and initially I wasn't certain that it was a missile and I'll tell you why. In my experience in Vietnam when you saw a missile in flight it had an erratic flight path. The guidance system was always correcting. Another strange thing - I saw something moving from my left-center to my left. I talked to a number of people whom I know in the community who said yea we saw the missile go up from the water - we saw it go up from the horizon and turn West. Well I was looking to the South West and that meant that they saw something which would have gone from my left across going from my left to my right. And what I saw went from my left to my farther left in a right to left direction. And the two stories didn't jive - they conflicted - and I said well look I know these people - I know they are telling me the truth - we'll just preserve what we know and when we know the whole truth the pieces will fall together. And I think they are. Because about 7 to 8 months later I met this guy, Richard Goss. Now Richard Goss had been sitting on the deck - on the front porch of a yacht club .. farther to the west of me and he had been looking out on a heading of 159 magnetic and he had seen this (points to a diagram depicting what Goss had seen). 170 magnetic - 159 true. OK. He had seen this and when he described it to me and we talked about it and we drew it - I realized what had happened. A missile is in an erratic flight path because it is always correcting except if it is in an overshoot correct. That is, if the target is at the extreme limit of the acquisition capabilities of the missile then the missile says to itself "Whoops, the target's over there - I got to make a hard turn to catch that target". So the control surfaces on the missile go full throw and they hit stops and they stay there. And as long as they stay there and they don't chatter and they don't flutter, that missile carves a smooth arc in the sky .... When I saw Richard Goss's depiction of what he had seen I knew why I hadn't seen an erratic flight path - why the arc was smooth and I knew that what I had seen was a missile. I picked it up - you see on the top here where it curves - I picked it up just about where it starts to turn. And what you are looking at with him is the turn is not that tight but what he looked at was at an aspect that was actually heading to the South away from him so that from his point of view the turn appears tight whereas from my point of view farther to the East it was a smoother curve.
So much of this will depend on what the FBI did not do and that is putting every eyewitness's position on a map and getting the aspect so that all these little peculiarities of geometry become clear. And I think they have a reason for not doing that and that is that they - as we - know what the answer is. This was not an accident. This aircraft was shot down. (Question was asked from audience). Why does there have to be a purpose? Suppose you had a navy ship out there doing an exercise and they inadvertently fired a missile that locked on. You can say that that's an accident. I'm sorry - I guess my legal training doesn't allow me to think that. If you're conducting a missile shoot under the main traffic control routes into NY City - you have exhibited in my mind depraved indifference to human life. That's not an accident - under any statute - any codes anywhere - that's murder. Now, if it was a foreign force - that's murder.....Now there's a reluctance here - naval officer (points to Donaldson) gave his life to the navy - naval officer (points to himself) commissioned in the navy - we know the people we served with in the navy - something inside us says "It can't be". These are good people - these are honorable people - they wouldn't be still - but then again we know there are people in the NTSB who have more to say than is being said. We don't know who it is - the only reason we're here is to say it's no accident - somebody shot this aircraft down - we want to know who - we want to know the truth. And we're not going to find it by ourselves - you people have to pick up those pencils and paper and write those representatives and tell them you want to know too. That's all I have. (Sustained applause).
Some Comments in Response to Questions from
1. I think it may well have been a terrorist act and the reason they didn't claim it they shot down the wrong airplane. If this was a radical muslim extremist group they may have been after El Al 3828 which was scheduled to take off at the exact time that TWA 800 actually took off. Now, if you are trying to kill 300 Jews in an El Al 747 - the same color except for the difference of a red stripe for a blue stripe and you have somebody watching the end of the runway that tells you that exactly the takeoff time advertised for the El Al flight a 747 lifts off the end of the runway then maybe when you shoot down the wrong airplane you feel a little stupid. (Note from Mike Hull - The comment about the El Al flight has been questioned - see note below from Captain Bill Patrick. Meyer's source was newspaper reports).
2. They were holes that dimpled the leading edge and right where the aluminum alloy is turning it had enough force to dimple that and puncture it.
3. After my picture appeared on television I received a phone call one night from an anonymous person - person just got on the phone and said: "You don't know who I am but I work for Sikorsky". And he said I knew a friend of yours and he mentioned the name of a friend who had died in a crash up at Sikorsky in an H 53. And then he mentioned a conversation that I had had with this deceased person where the two of us were standing at a small bar, called "The Matchbox", having a beer after we had just finished a flight so I knew that this person did in fact know my friend. He said there is a tape - and I don't think it is a tape - I think it is a digital disk - there is a tape of the Sikorsky radar which shows two targets approaching TWA 800 before the impact - one a high speed supersonic and one subsonic. Now the Sikorsky radar is not up in Bridgehampton - the Sikorsky radar is in Riverhead - it's actually just 5 miles north of the Suffolk County airport which I was flying to. What happens is that it is a remote site and it is a remote site run by the US Navy Virginia Capes authority and they lease the digital information to Sikorsky so that when helicopters are out there being tested, Sikorsky has the most sophisticated data radar that the Navy has watching their helicopters. When I went down to talk to my congressman in Washington, an assistant of his showed me a list of all the data that the FBI said they were holding - all the documentation. I looked for this particular tape on it because the gentleman on the telephone had told me that the FBI had come in the next morning and confiscated it - he used that word. The tape was not on that list and so in an interview in Washington I told Congressman Traficant .... that I didn't see this radar tape on the list that the FBI had given to Congressman Forbes. After my interview with him, Congressman Duncan sent a letter to the FBI specifically asking for this tape by name - just nailed it down and said: "Do you have this?". Even though it wasn't on the inventory that they presented to the Congress, they then admitted that they did have it in their possession - said it didn't show anything unusual - but refused to release it to anybody.
Comments on the Meyer Presentation
1: Richard Hirsch 04/08/98
I have just finished a lengthy conversation with Major Meyer. .. I explained some of the concerns we here at the list have with Major Meyer's eye witness account of the Flight 800 disaster. He patiently listened to our concerns and in my opinion was interested in what we think about the investigation. .... I asked Major Meyer why the transponder code differences of Jolly 11, Jolly 12, and Jolly 14. ... Major Meyer replied that Jolly 11 is the correct transponder code. He does not know why the radar monitor shows Jolly 14. He told me the chopper he was in that night had tail number 8826111. That's where the 11 comes from, the last two digit from the tail number. His chopper always uses that transponder code. He also told me that there are 6 choppers in the 106th ANG unit at Gabreski. His was the only one in the air that night.
I asked Major Meyer to check back and see if there is any record of the transponder code being used by another chopper that night. He said he will do that and let me know if he finds any records to support that theory. (Note from Mike Hull: In later correspondence to Hirsch Meyer wrote: "My face is red . After so many inquires, I had the base flgt records keeper check the flight records for 17 July 1996 @00:00 Z . I was flying Jolly 14 !!! Sorry.!!! er....maybe it's because they're all green and look very much alike?")
He said that his unit, the 106th, was not involved in any special operations that night other than normal training. He also said there were quite a few Navy ships off Long Island that night.
Major Meyer told me that the sky was perfectly clear that evening from his vantage point at Gabreski Airport. He did not see Flight 800. Flight 800 was too far away and he was looking towards the setting sun. Major Meyer stated that his position was near the approach end of runway 24, which would be the northern end of the run way, when he saw the streak. After being attracted to the area in the sky by the streak he saw first an ordnance explosion (just like the ones he saw in Viet Nam), right after that he saw a second brighter explosion. The first two explosions were at the highest altitude thought to be the same as Flight 800's altitude. After several seconds Major Meyer saw a third gigantic explosion which was several times the diameter of the sun. I asked Major Meyer if it looked like a fuel cloud explosion. He said that it could have been. That explosion was at a lower altitude.
I also asked Major Meyer about his statement made at the Granada Forum about the condition of the nose gear wheel and tire. I told him about the NTSB exhibit and the tire condition report. I explained to Major Meyer that all the tires on a 747 are the same size. Major Meyer said that he didn't know all the tires on a 747 were the same size and that it was possible that he was looking at a main gear tire. ....
I found Major Meyer to be very straight forward with his answers. He was not evasive in the least. If I was a juror in court and Major Meyer was a witness, I would say that I found his testimony very believable.
2: Fred Mann 04/09/98
Re: A Conversation with Major Meyer - My father, Howard Mann, spoke with Meyer at length on the phone many months ago and found him to be very credible. Through contacts at Washington National Airport, my father knew about the 5-6 foot piece of leading edge being sent to D.C. prior to his telecon with Meyer. During their conversation, Meyer confirmed that this piece of wreckage was flown to Washington, and when asked, he stated that he had been the one to fly it from the Coast Guard Station to Calverton. Also, he said the same thing then about being the "fly on the wall".
At the AIM press conference in Washington, we had breakfast with Meyer and Goss. Meyer was very strong and straight forward in his statements. When I asked him about the time to get out to the crash site, he said "6 to 8 minutes". In the same answer he talked about having Chris Bauer slow down to avoid hitting falling debris. From my father's previous telecon I knew that some of the falling objects were decapitated passengers. I did not intend to get into that there at the breakfast table and cut Meyer off so he wouldn't have to talk about that part. He had already answered my time question anyway. Before I could stop him, it was obvious, from his demeanour and maybe the start of a tear in the eye, that he had seen what he said he had and that it upset him.
I, for one, believe him and would be very disappointed if proven wrong. I think he performed under conditions that very few people have experienced, and being human, may be mistaken about some points. There may still be some restrictions on what he can say. I don't know.
3: Captain Bill Patrick
Date: 7/8/98 10:46:31 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: 72153.752@COMPUSERVE.COM (Captain Bill Patrick)
Sender: FLIGHT-800@HOME.EASE.LSOFT.COM (Flight 800 discussion list)
.... I just read a transcript of an interview of Cdr. Donaldson and Maj. Meyer by Mike Jarmus (I believe of a radio show) on 5/24/98. A caller asked about a story he heard about an El Al flight that was supposed to have taken off when TWA800 did and thus became an unwitting target. Maj. Meyer responded that an El Al flight was "scheduled for departure at the exact time" as 800. He also noted that TWA800 was a flight with medical/biological material that gave it priority handling. He is quoted "El Al yielded to 800 and twa 800 took off". I can not speak with regards to El Al's flight schedule that night but I can say with certainty that there was no El Al aircraft anywhere near 800 that night. I was flying as first officer an TWA 900 to Lisbon that night and 800 came out of the TWA ramp and went to the head of a rather long line. (They were actually carrying corneas for transplant that gave them priority) We (TWA900) were to have been next to go but 800 took our place. We then followed the general route of 800 and heard they radio conversations as 800 fell but could see nothing due to haze at our altitude (19,000'). There was no El Al flight that I recall that night either on the ground or in the air. It has been noted and perhaps bears repeating that TWA 800 had been operated for years as a flight to Tel Aviv with a stop in Paris. The continuation to Israel had been discontinued about a year and a half or so before July '96. (Note from Mike Hull: As TWA 800 was on it's take off roll the tower controller broadcast - "El Al 557 Heavy, position and hold two two right)