LOCATION: 40° N 39' / 72° W 38' (Moriches Inlet near East Moriches, NY) - TIME: 20:31:05 (EDT)
Date July 17, 1996
near East Moriches, New York
Fatalities 230 (all)
Aircraft type Boeing 747-100
Operator Trans World Airlines
Flight origin John F. Kennedy Int'l Airport
New York City, United States
Stopover Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport
Destination Leonardo da Vinci Int'l Airport
Coordinates: : 40° N 39' / 72° W 38'
All times in this article are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).
The accident airplane, registration N93119, was manufactured by Boeing in July 1971, and purchased new by TWA. The aircraft had completed 16,869 flights with 93,303 hours of operation. On the day of the accident the airplane departed Athens, Greece, as TWA Flight 881, and arrived at the gate at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) about 16:38. The aircraft was refueled, and there was a crew change; the new flight crew consisted of Captain Ralph G. Kevorkian, Captain/Check Airman Steven E. Snyder and Flight Engineer/Check Airman Richard G. Campbell (all with more than 30 years employment at TWA), and Flight Engineer Trainee Oliver Krick, who was starting the sixth leg of his initial operating experience training.
Because of technical problems with the thrust reverser sensors during the landing of TWA 881 at JFK, prior to flight 800 the ground-maintenance crew locked-out the thrust reverser for engine #3 (treated as a minimum equipment list item). In addition, severed cables for the engine #3 thrust reverser were replaced. During refueling of the aircraft, the volumetric shutoff (VSO) control was believed to have been triggered before the tanks were full. To continue the pressure fueling, a TWA mechanic overrode the automatic VSO by pulling the volumetric fuse and an overflow circuit breaker. Maintenance records indicate that the airplane had numerous VSO-related maintenance writeups in the weeks before the accident.
TWA 800 was scheduled to depart JFK for Paris around 19:00, but the flight was delayed until 20:02 by a disabled piece of ground equipment and a passenger/baggage mismatch. After the owner of the baggage in question was confirmed to be on board, the flight crew prepared for departure and the aircraft pushed back from gate 27 at the TWA Flight Center.
Flight path of TWA 800. The colored rectangles are areas from which wreckage was recovered.
TWA 800 then received a series of heading changes and generally increasing altitude assignments as it climbed to its intended cruising altitude. Weather in the area was light winds with scattered clouds, and there were dusk lighting conditions.
Thirty-eight seconds later, the captain of an Eastwind Airlines Boeing 737 reported to Boston ARTCC that he "just saw an explosion out here," adding, "we just saw an explosion up ahead of us here...about 16,000 feet [4,900m] or something like that, it just went down into the water."
Subsequently, many air traffic control facilities in the New York/Long Island area received reports of an explosion from other pilots operating in the area. Many witnesses in the vicinity of the crash stated that they saw or heard explosions, accompanied by a large fireball or fireballs over the ocean, and observed debris, some of which was burning, falling into the water.
Although individuals in various civilian, military and police vessels reached the crash site and searched for survivors within minutes of the initial water impact, no survivors were found, making TWA 800 the second deadliest aircraft accident in the United States at that time.
At 2029:15, the CVR recorded the captain stating, “Look at that crazy fuel flow indicator there on number four see that?
At 2030:15, Boston ARTCC advised, TWA 800 climb and maintain [15,000 feet msl]. The CVR recorded the captain stating, climb thrust,” and the captain/check airman acknowledging the ATC clearance at 2030:18. At 2030:25, the captain repeated, “climb thrust, and at 2030:35, the flight engineer responded, "powers set".
The CVR recording of the next 30 seconds from the cockpit area microphone (CAM)8 includes the following sounds:
 - sound similar to a mechanical movement in the cockpit (at 20:30:42),  - an unintelligible word (at 20:31:03), and  - sounds similar to recording tape damage noise (at 20:31:05).
At 2031:12, the CVR recording ended.
A sound spectrum study of the information recorded by the CVR revealed that twice within the last second of the CVR recording (about 0.73 and 0.68 seconds before the recording stopped), the captain’s channel recorded harmonic tones at the 400 Hertz10 (Hz) frequency, but it did not record other electrical system background noise that it had recorded previously throughout the recording. These other electrical system background noises were recorded on the other CVR channels without interruption.
The CVR then recorded a “very loud sound” for a fraction of a second (0.117 second) on all channels immediately before the recording ended. The accident airplane’s last recorded radar12 transponder return occurred at 2031:12, and a review of the FDR data indicated that the FDR lost power at 2031:12.
According to the Boston ARTCC transcript, at 2031:50, the captain of an Eastwind Airlines Boeing 737 (Stinger Bee flight 507) reported that he “just saw an explosion outhere.” About 10 seconds later, the captain of Stinger Bee flight 507 further advised, “we just saw an explosion up ahead of us here…about 16,000 feet or something like that, it just went down into the water.”
Subsequently, many ATC facilities in the New York/Long Island area received reports of an explosion from other pilots operating in the area.
Many witnesses in the vicinity of the accident at the time that it occurred stated that they saw and/or heard explosions, accompanied by a large fireball over the ocean, and observed debris, some of which was burning, falling to the water.
According to witness documents, about one-third of these witnesses reported that they observed a streak of light, resembling a flare, moving upward in the sky to the point where a large fireball appeared. Several witnesses reported seeing this fireball split into two fireballs as it descended toward the water.
Examination of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and Flight Data Recorder data showed a normal takeoff and climb,
with the aircraft in normal flight before both abruptly stopped at 20:31:12. A noise recorded on the last few tenths of a second of the CVR was similar to the last noises recorded from other airplanes that had experienced in-flight breakups. This, together with the distribution of wreckage and witness reports, all indicated a sudden catastrophic in-flight breakup of TWA 800.
Trans World Airlines Flight 800 (TWA 800), a Boeing 747-100, exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York, on July 17, 1996, at about 20:31 EDT, 12 minutes after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport, killing all 230 people on board. TWA 800 was the second-deadliest U.S. aviation accident after American Airlines Flight 191 until American Airlines Flight 587 crashed on November 12, 2001. It remains the third-deadliest aviation accident to occur in U.S. territory. TWA 800 was a scheduled international passenger flight from New York to Rome, with a stopover in Paris.