The NTSB Responds
to Gordon Wadle's Theory
Washington, D.C. 20594
Office of the Chairman
AUG 17, 2000
Dear Mr. Wadle:
Thank you for your recent letter concerning
the refueling of commercial aircraft and the potential for terrorist
activities. You describe your investigation of refueling practices
and state that a lack of security exists during the refueling process
and the hiring of fueling company employees.
The National Transportation Safety
Board is mandated by an act of Congress to investigate transportation
accidents, determine the probable cause(s) thereof, and make recommendations
to prevent future accidents. Please be assured that the Safety Board
investigates the maintenance practices of airlines as a part of
all of its accident investigations.Although the Board promotes aviation
safety, it is not responsible for investigating criminal matters.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) is the Government agency responsible for investigating domestic
and international terrorism. Therefore, you may wish to contact
the FBI Field Office in your area regarding your concerns: Federal
Bureau of Investigation Room 905 E.M. Dirksen Federal Office Building
219 South Dearborn Street Chicago, Illinois 60604-1702 I hope that
you are able to resolve your concerns satisfactorily. Thank you
for your interest in aviation safety.
a Fuel Bomb Bring Down TWA 800?
by Melissa Lovin
When a major airline suffers a tragic
disaster of the magnitude of TWA flight 800 many theories are tried
and tested. Most of these are very complex in nature dealing with
mechanical malfunctions, pilot error or possibly even terrorist
attacks. In the beginning, one of the main possible scenarios investigated
due to static electricity. The case of flight 800 was no exception.
Before the first newscast had aired speculation regarding the downed
aircraft were already turning to speculation of a missile attack
along with a dozen or so "more likely" possibilities.
Recently, official findings by the NTSB have concluded that the
crash was a result of an explosion in the center fuel tank, thought
attributable largely to frayed wiring. While this is one valid explanation
of the disaster, it is not necessarily the only explanation.
In the past few weeks new evidence
has been reported to the ESD Journal by Gordon Wadle, an educated
American with a military background, that, quite frankly, is too
substantial not to be given equal time. Mr. Wadle's theory involves
the fuel tanks, specifically the refueling process that took place
in France where it is a real possibility that a small explosive
device was inserted into the center tank. The most probable type
of device used would have been a white phosphorous hand grenade
which was used repeatedly during the Vietnam War in applications
such as this with great success.
According to Mr. Wadle these grenades
are only 2 1/4 inches across and would fit in the fueling nozzle
of any aircraft the size of a 747. The possible technique used to
trigger the bomb is ingenious in it's simplicity. Using ordinary
electrical tape the handle would be taped down on the grenade. With
the number of wraps around the handle, you could be fairly precise
with the timing process. Once inserted into a fuel environment the
adhesive is slowly dissolved and the tape will come off. When this
happens the bomb will explode. Inside a closed fuel compartment
filled mostly with fumes and containing a small amount of jet fuel,
an explosion of even a small magnitude would rip the aircraft apart
just as we saw TWA 800 do over the waters off of Long Island, New
York in 1996.
As far as the location of the explosion,
Mr. Wadle feels the probability that it was planned to occur somewhere
in the Atlantic is safe to say, but the actual location was probably
not targeted as the coast of New York which could be easily explained
by the amount of insulation. Other small, non-technical explosive
devices could be inserted into the fuel line. Something as simple
as a plastic bag filled with phosphorous could have been used.
But the real question here is who would
have had the ability to insert an explosive device into the fuel
line? The answer to that is very simple--the refueling team. Mr.
Wadle researched the possibilities with the ground personnel involved
in refueling at most major airports. Primarily, he found that this
process was contracted out to various big-name fuel corporations.
This includes the fuel crews at JFK Airport.
Additionally Mr. Wadle found that the
employee turn over ratio to be very high as you might expect with
the low pay and working conditions. Stunningly, most of these fuel
company employees are required to go through any type of security
when going to work; nor are they required to undergo any kind of
background check when applying for employment. While living in California,
Mr. Wadle conducted his own little experiment on how simple it would
be to get a job with one of the fueling companies on an airplane
refueling crew. The results were stunning. Not only was there no
background check, but an interview was granted in a matter of days.
He was offered a job with the company within a week's time. He,
of course, did not accept the position, but the fact that the process
was so quick and simple shows how easy this scenario could be a
Gordon Wadle, an avid war historian,
watched closely as the navy recovered parts of the downed aircraft
and "listened very intently" to what the NTSB and FBI
were saying about the crash. When he heard about the state of the
center fuel tank, the scene was all too familiar to him from his
Air Force days. Mr. Wadle, a well-educated 45 year old, spent five
years in the Air Force and an additional three years in the Air
Guard. In the Air Guard he was heavily involved in disaster preparedness
and chemical response. He has reported his theory to such agencies
and individuals as the FBI (3 times), the NTSB (3 times), Boeing
(twice), his U.S. Senator (twice) with no response. They seem to
be content with the findings of the NTSB.
There is an endless supply of groups
who are capable of this act, due in part to the simplicity of it.
The disaster occurred on July 17, 1996, two days before the summer
Olympic games began in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Wadle says that "When
the 747 was destroyed we had many enemies out there with terrorist
connections." The possible reasons behind this abound.
"We always look for the high-tech
answer to these terrible things. The reality of the situation is
that most terrorists are not well-funded and, just like the Viet
Cong, have to rely on their ingenuity. [In cases such as this] the
simple answer is usually the best," explains Mr. Wadle.
Are we too quick to dismiss these simple
theories, or are we willing to blindly accept the findings of the
NTSB who has everything to gain from keeping possibilities such
as this under their hat? For the sake of the families of the 230
people tragically killed in the crash of TWA flight 800, we must
constantly seek our own answers just as Gordon Wadle has.