sitemap Text of Third Letter to NTSB from Donaldson

Text of Third Letter to National Transportation Safety Board

"The ride of the headless horseman may have worked in old New York's Sleepy Hollow -
But rest assured, a headless B747 won't fly"

CDR. William S. Donaldson, USN/RET - Avenue, MD 20609
November 14, 1997

Mr. James E. Hall

Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board

490 L'Enfant Plaza East, SW

Washington, DC 20594

Dear Mr. Hall:

I have received your second letter dated 29 October 1997. I am again appreciative of a response, but assume either you legal staff stripped it of any meaningful information or you have no intent to discuss factual data.

Mr. Hall it has now been over 15 months since FL800 went down. How long does it take to find an alchemist willing to demonize jet fuel?  Where are your numbers?

Phrases like, "The aggressive certainty of some of your statements appears not to be justified." may mean something to a Tennessee lawyer, but it's nonsense to me. All I've done is what your advisers should have done day one, that is; quote the pre-existing professional data, THE Aviation Fuels Handbook!

Because of your agency's successful permutation of facts essential to this investigation, it's pernicious effect on the media, the incredible crash scenario you have tabled apparently designed to subvert eyewitness testimony, and your stonewalling of simple congressional questions, I have sought and received funding to conduct an independent investigation.

Three weeks ago on Long Island, eyewitness statements were taken, GPS fixes were established in hand with visual bearing lines taken of the points where eyewitnesses first observed a missile in flight. Because these people were along eleven nautical miles of shore accurate triangulation of a launch position has been possible. This position cross correlates with and is the product of multiple groups of persons who have never met each other. It also correlates with testimony from people who heard missile launch noises, through speed of sound concentric circle analysis.

Mr. Hall be advised I am aware of the FL800 mechanical failure crash scenario your people conveyed to Mr. Marcone who represented the House Aviation sub-committee in the meeting several weeks ago. This scenario, as told to me, espoused:

(1) A spontaneous center wing tank explosion that didn't happen;

(2) A high power climb of over 3,000 feet by the noseless aircraft that didn't happen;

(3) 45 seconds of flying by the noseless aircraft that didn't happen; and

(4) a five mile long debris field that didn't happen.

The ride of the headless horseman may have worked in old New York's Sleepy Hollow, but rest assured, a headless B747 won't fly. I don't know how your people got this theory past the GAG reflex of Aeronautical engineers, maybe by forcing them to assume engines at full power might impart enough gryrosopic stability? However, although one possible engine failure mode (loss of N2) could set 70% thrust on one or more engines it doubtful this happened because

(a) When the nose left the aircraft all controls: linkages, hydraulic and electrical lines and cables failed in tension.

(b) The first engine(#2) hit the ocean surface only 1.5 NM down range from the explosion point, a 57° nose down angle from 13,700 ft. and

(c) The engines were not turning high RPM at impact!

The Scenario

Mr. Hall, here is a far more likely scenario that best fits the facts as I now understand them:

--Two missiles were fired at TWA FL800 from a vessel laying in wait 3nm off shore.

(Note from Mike Hull 5/26/98.  This position of the firing point was estimated in November 1997 before witnesses to the second missile launch were located and triangulation of the witness bearing lines was completed. Please see the July 17, 1998 Report to the Subcommittee on Aviation which can be located on the homepage of this web site.)

--The missiles were fired with both an elevation and azimuth spread bracketing the target.

--Missile #1 initially fired almost vertically tracked outbound about 180° and over took FL800 from the north and west and was seen to maneuver hard left immediately prior to its warhead detonation.

--Missile #2 fired at a lower climb angle and longer lead more to the south east, corrected and engaged TWA FL800 from the east.

--Missile #1 at warhead detonation was heading 150°m in a 20° climb, 70 to 100 feet from the forward left fuselage below and ahead of the left wingtip. See Figures 1-2.

(Click for Figure 1)  (Click for Figure 2)

--The warhead's lateral blast immediately sheared a piece of left wing (debris field part A019) that landed 8836 ft. short of main left wing debris and a much bigger piece of left wing LW05 (lower wing skin outbound) and LW06 (upper wing skin outboard) that landed 5828 feet short!

--At detonation hundreds of pounds of forward missile body, everything located ahead of the warhead section, already moving over 2000 feet per second were propelled to extremely high velocity. Fragments from this mass penetrating the, forward left cargo compartment, left wing root, left side center wing tank, main landing gear wheel wells and left cabin side. These fragments struck the aircraft about 1/100 of a second after detonation, the powerful sonic over pressure wave striking 5/100's of a second later.

--A six inch diameter piece impacted a few feet AFT of L2 door left side passed through the cabin exiting a few feet above R2 door right side (Click for Figure 3) cutting a main longditudial frame above the door. A similar fragment passing through AFT of R2 assisted by cabin pressure and the slipstream caused the door and frame to break away almost immediately.

--Missile fragments both misted the center wing tank residual fuel and ignited a fuel/air burn in the tank that exploded with the arrival of the warhead shock wave.

--When the shock wave hit the left side of the fuselage, passengers not already hit by collateral fragmentation of aircraft parts from the missile impacts were showered with aircraft rivets. The one individual whose seat arm rest was shattered and pieces projected as fragments into his chest is proof by itself of extremely high velocity events that can't be explained by a kerosene/air explosion well away from his seat!

--The warhead blast compromised engine #2 (left side) which eventually impacted the ocean first 1.5nm down range in 16 or more large pieces ahead of the other three engines.

--The combination of warhead overpressure, structural failure due to fragment penetrations, and the secondary explosion in the CWT caused the nose to leave the aircraft.

--The final ballistic vector of the separated nose (left of aircraft course) was imparted by hard left yaw induced by warhead over pressure effects on vertical stabilizer, left wing, engine pods 1 and 2 as well as left fuselage side.

--The loss of the forward fuselage gross tonnage immediately shifted the aircraft center of gravity radically AFT toward the center of lift causing instantaneous dynamic instability.

--Within fractions of a second, the rotational force of the tail snapping down (it had been balancing the weight of the nose over the center of lift) and the wing snapping up coupled with the large frontal parasite drag induced by the gaping hole forward imparted additional rotational moment, which then coupled with an overwhelming deceleration force when the flat plate area of the wing bottom went perpendicular to the relative wind (600 feet per second).

--The result was immediately fatal to passengers causing universal cranial/cervical spine ligament separation (whiplash from high G force, forcing heads forward and down - see medical examiners report). The aircraft pieces began to fall immediately.

--This force also probably broke the tail/rear fuselage section free, and broke open remaining wing tanks.

--Missile #2 probably engaged the center fuselage/wing, right side clipping the 30 ft. outer section of right wing.

--The flaming wreckage fell into a debris field 1.5nm radius west to east and 1nm radius north to south.  A local boat captain measured the floating field with his marine radar @2130 hours on 17 July 1996 as 1.9nm west to east. Your own debris field document, dated Nov./Dec. 1996 shows the field at 3.1nm long (West to East) and 2nm wide (North and South) compiled during months of exposure to storm and daily East and West tidal currents of almost 2 knots!

The Weapon

The anti-aircraft missile that most closely fits eyewitness descriptions of flight characteristics, and launch noises as well as the warhead lethality demonstrated in this incident is the Iranian AIM 54A Phoenix.   Sold to the Shah of Iran prior to 1979, it is 13 feet long, weights 985lbs with a long burning solid fuel motor and a 135-lb.expanding rod warhead. Updated models are today still in operational use by the US Navy's F14 Tomcat for long range fleet defense. In the 70's it was considered for adoption as a point of defense missile for surface ships. It is almost a self contained unit, it carries it's own onboard terminal guidance radar! The AIM 54 is one of the most lethal anti-aircraft weapons ever developed, specifically designed to cut soviet Bear bombers in half.

With hardware from an Iranian F14 (missile rail etc.) it would be easily adapted for surface launch and concealment aboard any ocean going boat or ship. Once airborne, Phoenix's flight trajectory appears rock solid unlike most small missiles. Because of this and its weight the navy code name for Phoenix is Buffalo. It would steer to the center of maximum radar return (the center wing tank on a 747) and detonate 40 ft. from which ever part of the target airframe it first encounters (in this case left wing tip, #1 engine or #2 engine). If fired within visual range of the target on a bearing within its terminal guidance radar's search limits the probability of kill would be very high against large non-maneuvering aircraft. This weapon used in the manner described above would be deadly against any subsonic airliner at all altitudes, anywhere, anytime.

If released by Iranian authorities for use by covert military operatives or fundamentalist/proxy groups, it would constitute an extreme threat to world air commerce. Because Iran, a Rogue state, has this weapon and because their proxies have deliberately killed US Service personnel in bombing attacks in the recent past, and have previously targeted US aircarriers and destroyed US property, it is imperative the TWA FL800 incident not be closed until every anomaly is fully understood and explained to the satisfaction of all aviation professionals.

Anomalies of Mechanical Failure

Here is an abbreviated list of some of the anomalies in your scenario. A complete and more detailed list will be forthcoming in my affidavit to the aviation oversight committees in Congress.

1. Nine of the first ten pieces of debris from your list of over 3700 items (debris field documents) that fell west to east came from inside the cabin. Why?   A missile warhead defeated cabin integrity instantly.

2. Item #5 of 3700 was a piece of CWT spar CW504. Why?  High energy missile fragments damage to left side center wing box caused structural failure and induced secondary fuel explosion.

3. Item #22 of 3700 was metal tubing from the left hand front sparWhy?  Warhead engagement on the left side. Same as above.

4. Item #41 of 3700 was, left hand forward cargo bay structure, it fell 3680 ft short of the nose section. Why?  Warhead engagement on left side.

5. Item #42 of 3700 was R2 door and hardware it also fell 3680 ft short of the nose section. Why?  Missile forebody fragment passing through cabin cut main frame and forced it through the skin above the door between RF4 and RF5. High energy impact of frame from inside is obvious in photographs.

6. Item #43 of 3700 was, seats 4+5 from row 19 that fell 3400ft short of nose section. Why? Missile fragment left side entered at wing root shattered front spar at station 115 into 10 pieces then it or another fragment penetrated diagonally through cabin floor under cutting row 19 seats and exited AFT of R2 door between RF1 and RF35.

7. Item #71 of 3700 was piece of wing section which fell 8836 ft short of left wing. Why?  Warhead blast was closest to left wing tip.

8. Item #276 of 3700 was out board upper and lower skin left wing tip. Fell 5828 ft short of left wing. Why? Warhead detonation forward and below left wing tip stripped the skin.

9. Item #298 of 3700 was right nose gear door fell 1400 ft short of nose gear well. Why?  Gear doors forced into the well failed from overpressure from warhead #1 or #2.

10. Thirty feet of right wing tip found without soot marks in wing tank vent channels common to remainder of wing. Why?  Wing tip came off prior to explosion/fire soot contamination from center wing tank. Fracture started at wing trailing edge from high energy hit/burn mark from warhead #1 or #2.

11. High-experienced military pilots airborne saw Fl800 engaged from both east and west by two high speed objects and agree they saw two ordinance explosions followed by a petroleum fire ball and debris fall. Why?  Extremely credible eyewitness of missile attacks, command pilot a seasoned combat veteran, holds the distinguished flying cross.

12. First sightings of both missiles by pilots above correlates with numerous bearing lines taken from witnesses ashore and afloat. Why?  All were eyewitnesses to missile attack.

13. Closest eyewitness ashore watched missile #1 climb vertically from the surface, seem to level off, going outbound 170°-180°m with bright white/pink exhaust plume, tracking out bound from shore suddenly veer hard left for one second then explode, saw second explosion three seconds later further east then debris fall, fire and black and white smoke this was followed by another flash when debris hit the surface. Why?   Extremely credible eyewitness to missile attack.

14. Eyewitness statement and bearing lines from above coincide exactly with actual missile #1 intercept angle of TWA FL800. Missile #1 detonated on a heading 150°m in a slight climb. (It turned left from 170 to 150 immediately prior to intercept) missile heading calculated from cabin fragment through holes.

15. Eyewitness that heard missile launch noises before seeing a missile were within the speed of sound range ring from the launch point while the missile was still in flight. (37 to 40 seconds)

16. At 2030 17 July 1996 it took sound exactly 44 seconds (1131 feet/second) to go from TWA FL800's explosion point to the closest shore and 62 seconds to one eyewitness who heard the launches then observed missile in flight!

17. It takes heavy crash debris only 30 seconds to fall from 13,700 ft!

18. No conventionally designed aircraft in the world will fly minus the fuselage forward of the wing!

19. The CWT fuel tank could not have spontaneously exploded without a warhead engagement because the Jet A-1 fuel was at least 30° F below minimum flammability levels and there is no source of spark in a 747 CWT!

20. Jet airliners built by the American aerospace industry have logged at least 150 thousand years of flight time. Not once has there ever been a spontaneous fuel tank explosion in any fuel tank while airborne.

The Twenty Dollar Fuel Temperature Test

While in New York, I also had an airline draw a Jet A fuel sample from a B747 center wing tank. The aircraft was tuning around for return to Europe at JFK Airport, as was FL800. It took all of two minutes for the crew chief to get the sample from the low point drain of the tank whilepassengers were boarding. Placing the sample in my thermos, an immediate temperature reading was taken and photographed. The airliner had been on the ground for 55 minutes with all three air-conditioning packs operating. The fuel temperature was almost one full degree Fahrenheit warmer then the 68°F ambient temperature! What a threat to flight safety!

I am now of the belief that the B747 Pilot's Handbook may actually overstate the ability of the extended operation of air conditioner packs to raise center wing tank temperatures "10° to 20° F." It would appear ambient temperatures has by far the most important role as I'm sure you already know from your big dollar tests.

As far as your implication that it isn't your mission to detect criminal acts, let me point out your agency has the aircraft experts, not the FBI, and it is your agency that has the aviation professionals gagged at TWA and Boeing under threat of termination of their corporations participation in the investigation if they make public statements.

I would request one more time that you contemplate the depth of the abyss before you lead the NTSB and everyone else over the edge with an official finding of mechanical failure.


W.S. Donaldson

cc. Mr. Louis J. Freeh, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Mr. Barry Valentine, Acting administrator, Federal Aviation Administration

Senator Slade Gorton, Chairman, Subcommittee on Aviation

Representative John J. Duncan, Jr., Chairman, Subcommittee on Aviation

Go to Report on Donaldson Presentation to the Accuracy in Media Conference

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