TWA 800

Trans World Airlines Flight 800(TWA800) was a Boeing 747-100 that exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York, on July 17, 1996, at about 8:31 pm EDT. All 230 people on board died in the crash; it is the third-deadliest aviation accident in U.S. history.

There was initial speculation that a terrorist attack was the cause of the crash. Consequently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and New York Police Department Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) initiated a parallel criminal investigation. Sixteen months later, the JTTF announced that no evidence of a criminal act had been found and closed its active investigation.

Problems with the aircraft’s wiring were found, including evidence of arcing in the fuel quantity indication system (FQIS) wiring that enters the tank. Though the FQIS itself was designed to prevent danger by minimizing voltages and currents, the innermost tube of Flight 800’s FQIS compensator showed damage similar to that of the compensator tube identified as the ignition source for the surge tank fire that destroyed a 747 near Madrid in 1976. This was not considered proof of a source of ignition. Evidence of arcing was found in a wire bundle that included FQIS wiring connecting to the center wing tank. Arcing signs were also seen on two wires sharing a cable raceway with FQIS wiring.

The NTSB concluded that the most likely source of sufficient voltage to cause ignition was a short from damaged wiring, or within electrical components of the FQIS. As not all components and wiring were recovered, pinpointing the source of the necessary voltage was not possible. The  military grounded all aircraft effected until the suspected wiring was replaced. Commercial airlines were given permission to phase-in the wiring changes required since there was no threat to safety!



  • Which supports and barriers were in play?

  • What were the dynamics?

  • Who, or what, won the Tug-of-War?

  • Discuss the outcome with your friends and family.

  • Use Post #4 as a reference for the dynamics, and the relationships, between the supports and barriers.