Case Study Analysis TWA Flight 800


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 Case Study Analysis TWA Flight 800

Cause(s) of Accident

It is believed that the TWA Flight 800 crash was due to an explosion of the center wing tank.  The ignition of flammable fuel in the center wing tank was the cause of the explosion. The mixture of fuel in the tank and is believed to have been the precursor of accident. The investigating body the national transportation safety board asserted that the explosion emanated from a short-circuiting event that instigated excessive voltage in the CWT. Before the plane exploded, there was already a signal of the high voltage in the plane’s quantity indication system. After the investigations, the board asserted that the center wing tank was holding more about 50 gallons of fuel at the time (Vosswinkel, Mccormack, Brathwaite, & Geller, 1999).

Notably, the airplane system uses high voltage wires while the fuel gauges use low voltage wires. When these voltage wires come into contact, they usually lead to an explosion. Within the context of TWA Flight 800, it is only the volatility of the fuel tank contents that had been reduced and not the intensity of the voltage in the ignition sources.

Physical evidence also indicates that the explosion emanated from an overpressure in the center wing tank. As a result, the tank’s explosion led to the explosion of several other parts since they also caught fire (Bolshakov et al., 2015).  Since the plane landed on water, the fuel spillage resulted to further fire explosions.

Structural and Mechanical Factors

According to NTSB AAR0003 (2000), the possible factors in regards to structural and the mechanical aspects that could have contributed to the accident could be described as failure and decompression. However, after thorough investigations into the crash, it was ascertained that TWA Flight 800 (PLG1) did not have any structure like corrosion, fatigue or mechanical problems that could have instigated the crash.

It was also speculated that the door in the forward cargo might have caused an in-flight separation, but afterward, the investigating board found out that all the doors before the crash occurred were secured and safe according to the directives of the federal aviation administration (Bott, 1997).

Therefore, the accident was not initiated by any preexisting mechanical or structural failure. All the inbuilt structures were intact and guaranteed the safety of the plane by the time of the accident.

Contributing Factors

The possible factors that could have contributed to the TWA Flight 800 crash were related to certification and design concepts as outlined by the FAA. The investigators argued that the explosion in the plane’s tank can be avoided by separating all the ignition wires.

Moreover, this concept also stipulates that the ignition heat sources under the CWT should be made nonflammable to ensure that in case of excessive heating or in case of a short circuit, the tanks do not explode or result to any fire instances.

Investigation Board Findings

The board found that:

  • TWA Flight 800 was equipped and certified in accordance with the stipulations of the regulating body FAA.
  • All the flight crew had the right certifications and qualifications as underscored by the FAA. There was No evidence that implicated any medical issues that could trigger underperformance of the crew members.
  • The explosion and the CWT of the TWA Flight 800 did no emanate from a planted bomb or any other explosive device.
  • TWA Flight 800 did not have any preexisting structural or mechanical failures that could trigger the explosion responsible for the accident.
  • The vapor emanating from TWA Flight 800’s CWT was highly flammable by the time the crash took place.
  • It was also evident that CWT had a very high pressure that was capable of generating high internal pressure that could break the tank apart.
  • When the accident occurred there were light winds. However, there were no severe weather conditions that could have disrupted the flight.
  • The explosion of the CWT initiated the internal breakup of the plane.
  • Electromagnetic waves emanating from the radio frequencies did not produce adequate energy that would ignite the center fuel tank.
  • The wiring system evident in TWA Flight 800 was not different from a plane of this age. The plane was therefore maintained in compliance with existing practices according to the FAA


After the national transportation safety board carried out thorough investigations, the Federal aviation administration was recommended:

  • To examine all the structural and designs used by booing as well as plane manufacturers in a bid to ascertain and prevent all the potential explosion hazards emanating from fuel tank components or the  ignition sources.
  • To develop a new and better wiring system for all the aircraft designs to ensure that the wires in the low voltage sources are placed at different joints from the high voltage in the other fuel sources.
  • To instruct all the manufacturers to initiate important steps that would eliminate silver sulfide from the fuel tanks since it is the main precursor for fire hazards.
  • The board also required FAA to improve the level of training among the personnel. This would ensure that the maintenance team can detect wiring problems and rectify them immediately especially in aging aircrafts.
  • To incorporate the use of modern technology such as the arc fault to break circuits using an automated wire test equipment. That would ensure any short circuits are detected immediately before culminating in explosions.
  • The regulating body FAA was expected to brief the national transport and safety board on the efforts that had been put in place in response to the recommendations given within a period of three months.


After the NTSB initiated the recommendations, FAA has since adopted and implemented most of these recommendations.  Within one year after the recommendations had been issued, FAA had issued more than 40 orders instructing the manufacturers on the design, operational and maintenance changes that needed to be given priority.

FAA has since been committed to ensuring the safety and security of the passengers as well as the crew. It is upon this backdrop that FAA has continued to work with the NTSB, the investigating body, to provide high-quality services and planes. FAA has also initiated strict rules and stipulations to all the plane manufacturers especially the incorporation of technology in all the planes. Through this high technology, the plane is able to detect any problems that may lead to hazards and as such the maintenance personnel can immediately make the necessary repairs. Since the TWA Flight 800 crash, only a few similar cases have been witnessed. This is clear indication that FAA is investing all its resources and efforts to ensure that planes are of high quality and that they guarantee the security and safety of the passengers.













Bolshakov, V., Kondrashov, S., Merkulova, Y., Dyachkova, T., Yurkov, G., & Ilyichyov, F. (2015). Research of nanomodified carbon composites before and after hydrothermal aging. «Aviation Materials and Technologies», (2), 61-66. doi:10.18577/2071-9140-2015-0-2-61-66

Bott, R. (1997). TWA Flight 800 Missile Impact Analysis. doi:10.21236/ada427917

Vosswinkel, J. A., Mccormack, J. E., Brathwaite, C. E., & Geller, E. R. (1999). Critical Analysis of Injuries Sustained in the TWA Flight 800 Midair Disaster. The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, 47(4), 617. doi:10.1097/00005373-199910000-00001

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