An analysis of two fuel-measuring devices from TWA Flight 800 shows no sign of an electrical problem that would have caused the plane’s center fuel tank to explode, a federal spokeswoman said Wednesday.
“Tests on the two fuel probes were unremarkable,” said Shelly Hazle of the National Transportation Safety Board. There was no indication of a short circuit in the rods, she added.
NTSB investigators had been studying the 6-foot-long rods for more than a week to learn whether they might have sparked the July 17 midair explosion, killing all 230 people aboard.
The metal on one of the rods had been peeled back in a fashion known as “petaling,” which heightened the interest of investigators after divers lifted the rods from the ocean floor two weeks ago.
An examination of the petaling showed the damage was consistent with a fuel-air explosion of the kind that happened in the center fuel tank, Hazle said.
But an NTSB source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the finding did not boost theories that the plane might have been brought down by a bomb or missile.
Meanwhile, the NTSB played down the significance of a published report attracting attention to the absence of an updated flame arrestor system, a fire-safety device on jumbo jets.
It wasn’t required on the TWA plane when it was built in 1971, and Boeing spokeswoman Debbie Nomaguchi said the flame arrestor system would not have helped prevent a center fuel tank explosion.
USA Today had reported that a flame arrestor system would have blocked the spread of any fire ignition source outside the plane from traveling to the fuel tanks.
Investigators found soot in a vent line, suggesting fire ran through the tubing that connects the plane’s center fuel tank and a reserve tank in the right wing, the paper reported.