NTSB’s TWA Flight 800 Reconstruction to be Decommissioned

WASHINGTON (Feb. 22, 2021) — The National Transportation Safety Board has announced  its decision to decommission the TWA Flight 800 reconstruction as the agency prepares for the expiration of the lease for its Ashburn, Virginia, Training Center.

The reconstruction, housed in the 30,000 square foot hangar along with other training tools at the NTSB’s Training Center, has been used in the NTSB’s accident investigation training courses for nearly 20 years. However, advances in investigative techniques such as 3-D scanning and drone imagery, lessen the relevance of the large-scale reconstruction in teaching modern investigative techniques.

TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747, bound for Paris, France with 230 people aboard, crashed July 17, 1996, minutes after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport. After an exhaustive, four-year-long investigation, the NTSB determined the probable cause of the crash was an explosion in the center wing fuel tank. Evidence indicated the explosion was the result of an electrical failure that ignited the flammable fuel/air mixture in the tank.

“The investigation of the crash of TWA Flight 800 is a seminal moment in aviation safety history,” said NTSB Managing Director Sharon Bryson. “From that investigation we issued safety recommendations that fundamentally changed the way aircraft are designed. The investigation also led to a memorandum of understanding between the FBI and the NTSB regarding investigations of accidents resulting from intentional acts as well as evidence collection and preservation. That investigation also led to the equally important development of our Transportation Disaster Assistance division and the legislation in place today governing carrier responsibilities for family assistance in the wake of a transportation disaster,” said Bryson.

The NTSB plans to stop use of the reconstruction July 7, 2021.

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