The remains of the Trans World Airlines Boeing 747-100 that crashed off Long Island on 17 July 1996 will be transported to a site near Washington's Dulles International Airport to serve as a unique teaching tool for the future US National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Academy.


About 28m (92ft) of the centre fuselage of TWA Flight 800 was salvaged and pieced back together by NTSB investigators searching for clues to the fatal accident. After an exhaustive year-long investigation, the NTSB determined that the 747 was destroyed by a centre fuel tank explosion most likely triggered by an electrical short circuit.

Although it is considered the centrepiece for the accident investigation training academy, the wreckage "won't be put on public display", acting director Julie Beal says. She prefers to call the reconstructed hulk of TWA Flight 800 "an extraordinary training tool" for students who are members of the transportation safety community.

Scheduled to open in the summer of 2003 on a satellite campus of George Washington University, the $17 million 72,000-ft² (6,480 m²) two-level facility will include administrative offices, four classrooms, an auditorium, laboratory space, an open yard, and an adjoining building large enough to shelter the remnants of the Paris-bound TWA Flight 800.

Construction of the Safety Board's first major training facility met converging needs. The Safety Board required a permanent home for the now government-owned 747 fuselage section, currently stored in a hangar in Calverton. The NTSB needed space to teach in-depth state-of-the-art investigative techniques to domestic and foreign accident investigators.

The Academy's primary purpose, says Beal, is to "keep NTSB accident investigators at the absolute top of their game". But the facility is also geared towards consolidating on-going NTSB training functions, including the international aviation safety programme, which supports foreign accident probes while offering research and engineering assistance and safety training. It will also provide more in-depth instruction than the Safety Board's basic accident investigation course.

It was determined that much could be gained by affiliating with George Washington University, which has an Aviation Institute offering an aviation safety and security management certificate programme.

To be initially run by NTSB staffers, retired investigators, guest lecturers and specialised researchers will be added as needed. The core curriculum will include basic accident investigation techniques and specialised courses. Both certificate and graduate degree programmes could follow as part of the affiliation.

Enrolment at the Academy is limited, and priority will go to the training of NTSB accident investigators from the public and private sectors, both domestic and foreign. Beal says that given the limited staffing, training will start with aviation accident investigations, but this facility will be a multi-modal academy.

During groundbreaking of the NTSB Academy in January, former Safety Board chairman Jim Hall said the reconstruction of the TWA Flight 800 wreckage "serves as a continual reminder of the human suffering we seek to avoid...The TWA 800 reconstruction will serve as an educational tool to train investigators about the complexities of modern accident investigations, and its presence will serve to re-motivate them to perform the mission entrusted to them."

Source: Flight International