Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

LOCATING THE cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders was the priority following the 17 July crash of a Trans World Airlines (TWA) Boeing 747-100 into the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island, New York.

All 210 passengers and 18 crew on board TWA Flight 800 were killed when the aircraft exploded 20min after take-off from New York Kennedy bound for Paris Charles de Gaulle. The flight was scheduled to continue to Rome.

Wreckage fell in waters 100-120ft (30-35m) deep, some 15km (8nm) off the coast of eastern Long Island and 110km from New York.

The aircraft had taken off from Kennedy at 20.19, about 1h late, and disappeared from radar screens at 20.48, as it passed through 13,000ft (4,000m). A US Coast Guard vessel in the area reported receiving a Mayday call around the time of the explosion, but it is not known whether the call came from the TWA 747.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is being assisted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Anti-Terrorism Task Force, fuelling speculation that Flight 800 was brought down by a bomb. Both the NTSB and FBI stressed on 18 July that no evidence of a bomb had been found.

The NTSB also said that it had found no evidence to support speculation that the 747 had been struck by another aircraft or had brought down by a surface-to-air missile.

Witnesses generally agree that there had been a fire or smaller explosion - described as a flare - before the main explosion, after which the aircraft appeared to break into two main pieces, which fell burning and disintegrating into the sea. Wreckage recovered on the day following the crash included a 30ft-long section of wing.

The aircraft is being reconstructed at a former Grumman hangar on Long Island.

The 747 had arrived at New York from Athens and was on the ground for 3h before the flight to Paris. Security checks were said to have been conducted at Hellenikon and Kennedy airports.

Source: Flight International