Test Flights Could Solve Crash Mystery

TUESDAY, JULY 15, 1997

A jumbo jet wired with sensors on its fuel tanks took off from Kennedy International Airport on Monday in the first of a series of flights that could help unlock the mystery of what destroyed TWA Flight 800 a year ago this week.

Each of the flights is designed to re-create one or more of the many variables that investigators suspect led to the July 17, 1996, explosion, which is believed to have originated in the near-empty center fuel tank.

For example, one flight will take off after the plane has sat for an hour with its air conditioning on full-blast. The air conditioners in a 747 are located beneath the center fuel tank, and investigators believe they may have heated fuel vapors inside the tank, increasing the vapors’ volatility.

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