On November 18, 1997 the FBI announced the end of the criminal investigation into the crash of Flight 800, noting that "no evidence has been found that would indicate that a criminal act was the cause of the tragedy." The announcement came as no surprise, because for months the agency had been issuing pronouncements favoring the mechanical malfunction theory over all other possible causes of the crash.
Many in attendance were surprised, however, by the introduction of a CIA-engineered video purporting to show the final seconds of the flight (above left). It was claimed that after the front section of the plane fell off, the remainder of the plane pitched upward at such a steep angle that eyewitnesses confused the flaming wreckage with a missile (between points “A” and “B”, above right). Many were quite skeptical, because up until that point virtually all accounts of the crash had shown the decapitated plane descending from 13,700 feet to 8,000 feet, where it exploded into the fireball that was observed by many on shore.
Some in the aviation industry were incredulous that such a scenario had even been proposed. The idea that a blown-up, crippled, decapitated, disintegrating 500,000 pound 747 behemoth had suddenly pitched upward and flown almost straight up into the sky like a rocketship seemed patently ridiculous. The purpose of such a scenario, however, was to serve as a pretext for negating all of the accounts of eyewitnesses who said they saw a missile ascending toward the plane. Aviation experts understood that even if the plane pitched upward after the front fell off, it would immediately become aerodynamically unstable, stall, and plummet to the earth.
Moreover, the FBI claimed that the plane slowed dramatically after separation of the forward fuselage. According to Jim Kallstrom, lead investigator for the FBI, "The negative G-force was extreme, remember the front of the airplane fell off, and you have 400 mile an hour winds…most of the bodies had broken necks and broken ankles which talks to the rapid deceleration of the airplane." The autopsy data show that the plane slowed so quickly and so dramatically that most of the passengers’ necks and ankles were broken, yet it is alleged that the disintegrating aircraft somehow managed to zoom three quarters of a mile up into the sky and confuse eyewitnesses into thinking they were watching an ascending missile.
It should be noted that this assertion was not based on any actual altitude data – the plane’s altitude transponder was destroyed in the initial blast. No witness claimed that they saw the front of the plane fall off and the back fly up into the sky. In fact, a commercial airline pilot who was flying 2,000 feet above, and directly at Flight 800, stated that the plane did not rise because he would have been alarmed by it crossing in front of his flight path.
Even if the rise shown in the NTSB diagram above were to be true, it’s hard to imagine that a witness ten miles away would confuse the indicated trajectory with a "streak of light ascending vertically," or a "streak of light that originated at the surface or the horizon." At a distance of ten miles a rise of 4,000 feet is barely noticeable because it subtends such a small angle of the visual field.
Copyright Patrick Harris 2016. All rights reserved.
PIERRE VS THE NEW YORK TIMES