Investigators Say TWA 800 Crash Not An Accident

It’s been almost 17 years since Paris-bound TWA Flight 800 exploded and crashed into waters off Long Island, New York, killing 230 people on board. A parallel investigation by the CIA and FBI deemed the root of the accident was a fuel tank explosion, but now, six former investigators have stepped forward claiming there was a cover up.

Yahoo! is reporting that an upcoming documentary on the accident claims to have proof that a missile caused the flight to crash. One investigator maintains that information provided by more than 750 witnesses was never shared with the FBI, while another says he was “physically removed” by CIA agents from a room when tests from the right wing of the plane came back positive for explosives.

According to the news outlet, the former investigators filed a petition with the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday that called for the case to be reopened, but none of them are speculating on who would have fired the missile or on any reasons for the alleged cover up. We’ll leave it up for readers to draw their own conclusions after watching the film, which premieres on EPIX on July 17, the anniversary of the disaster.

Texting While Flying Cause Of Fatal Crash

It’s likely cockpits will come under increased scrutiny after it’s been confirmed texting is to blame for a fatal crash in Missouri – a first in commercial aviation history.

A report by Bloomberg explains the pilot of an emergency medial helicopter flying over Missouri was sending and receiving text messages just before a 2011 accident. According to preliminary reports by the National Transportation Safety Board, the helicopter crashed in a field after running out of fuel.

The crash killed the pilot, a flight nurse, a paramedic and a patient who was being flown from one hospital to another. The pilot had sent and received 20 texts in flight, and another 13 were logged on his phone in the 71 minutes prior to the flight. The pilot, who also told a coworker he hadn’t slept well the night before the flight, failed to refuel the helicopter before taking off.

Although the crash is different from when a motorist takes his or her eyes off the road and causes an accident, which is commonly seen on the road, it’s still a classic example of dividing attention in a way that compromises safety.

The Colorado-based helicopter company, Air Methods, operates more than 300 air-medical bases in 48 states. According to reports, Air Methods has long prohibited the use of electronic devices by pilots, but has implemented a “zero tolerance policy” since the accident.

This use of electronic devices in the cockpit occasionally makes headlines, including a few years ago when a plane overshot the runway because the crew was on their personal laptops. But on the other hand, text messages have also been used to save lives, such as when an aircraft controller landed a small airplane that had lost electricity by texting the pilot. Pilots are allowed to use electronic devices – including laptops and iPads – when the plane is cruising.

[via Skift]

[Photo credit: Flickr user Melina Manfrinatti]

Stricken Cruise Ship Passengers Make Most Of Bad Situation

Life on board stricken cruise ship Carnival Triumph is far from the travel brochure promise of sandy beaches and warm Caribbean nights. As the ship is being towed to shore after an engine room fire knocked out the ship’s propulsion, passengers have had quite a different experience than what they bargained for. Still, experienced travelers know that not everything goes as planned and making the best of a bad situation often depends on how we choose to react when bad things happen along the way.

“I do want to commend our guests on board the Carnival Triumph … for doing a great job dealing with a difficult situation. I happen to believe that is the nature of the Carnival guests who happen to be very optimistic people (who) enjoy life,” said Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill at a press conference held Tuesday night at Carnival’s Miami headquarters.

Operating with limited services (although the bars are open and drinks are free), 102,000-ton Carnival Triumph is expected to arrive in Mobile, Alabama, on Thursday. Once there, the ship’s passengers will be disembarked quickly, given hot food and a night in one of 1,500 hotel rooms being held by the cruise line. That will no doubt be a welcome change to cold sandwiches and showers along with hot, unventilated cabins.

While reports from passengers on board via Twitter and Facebook vary from describing the situation as a “cruise from hell” to a more positive “we’ll sure remember this one,” odds are everyone will be happy when the sailing is over.”Generally speaking, the mood on board is good under the circumstances and most guests are making the most of it,” Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen told Travel Pulse.

On Friday, 20 charter flights will take passengers back to Houston where arrangements have been made to get them back home. Those on the ship right now will receive a full refund of what they paid for the cruise along with any non-refundable travel services and a complimentary cruise in the future.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board have launched an investigation into the incident.

Here is that press conference from Carnival’s Miami headquarters last night.

[Photo Credit- U.S. Coast Guard]

Captain Of Wrecked Cruise Ship Cries Foul, Says He’s Innocent

When we last visited Captain Francesco Schettino, he was being accused of several crimes as a result of the Costa Concordia grounding. He still is. But now, the Italian master of the ill-fated cruise ship says he’s innocent and that the truth will be told – in his new book.

“Soon I will reveal the shocking truth,” Schettino told Italian newspaper Il Giornale as reported by the Telegraph. “And then all those people who denigrated me will have to apologize, not to me but to the families of the victims and to the public, which was conned with false information.”

By all accounts, Costa Concordia was sailing too close to shore on January 13, 2012, when the ship grounded off the coast of Italy. However it happened, the event took the lives of 32 passengers and crew in the process.Now, Schettino, who has been accused of abandoning his ship, manslaughter and causing the shipwreck, says he is innocent and did all he could do to help. Sticking to his story that he tripped and fell into a lifeboat, the fallen 52-year-old captain is resolute in his contention.

“I will no longer accept being massacred with slanderous lies,” Schettino told Il Giornale. “I’m writing a book and I will reveal what people don’t want to come to light.”

No details are available on the book or when it will be out.

Meanwhile, salvage operations continue at the site of the grounding of Costa Concordia, now aided by the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Il Fatto Quotidiano]

Pilots forced to talk about work in the cockpit

Big Brother may not be watching, but he’ll be listening. A new recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board would involve the use of “black box” recordings to monitor the conversations that occur among pilots in the cockpit. This comes on the heels of several high-profile incidents in which pilots were distracted. According to a report by USA Today, this would be the first time that workplace monitoring would penetrate the cockpit. Of course, pilots’ unions oppose the measure, calling it intrusive (isn’t that the point?).

Until now, the black boxes have only been used after accidents. This new step, if executed properly, could make the recordings useful in preventing them – well, that’s the plan, at least.

Needless to say, the timing couldn’t be better for the NTSB, given the Northwest Airlines flight that overshot its destination by a hundred miles and the Colgan crash near Buffalo last year. In both case, pilot conversations were cited as among the reasons for the problems that occurred.

So far, this is only a recommendation from the NTSB to the FAA (the former has no regulatory authority). The NTSB’s Robert Sumwalt claims, “This is not a case of Big Brother spying on pilots.” Well, it really does seem like one, but it isn’t a hard measure to defend in this climate. It might be easier to see the pilots’ point of view if their objections weren’t centered on pilot privacy. Workplace privacy is a thing of the past for everyone.

Mike Michaelis, chairman of safety at the Aillied Pilots Assocation, the union over at American Airlines, told USA Today, “It’s the wrong way to go safety-wise.” What I don’t understand is how that can be true.