Deadly Departure: Why the Experts Failed to Prevent the TWA Flight 800 Disaster and How It Could Happen Again

Christine Negroni, Author HarperCollins Publishers $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-019477-2
What caused the tragedy of TWA fligiht 800, which exploded over Long Island Sound in 1996? Negroni, who covered the story for CNN, has a credible theory for what went wrong and how it could have been prevented. She also analyzes the misunderstandings, snafus and buck-passing that hindered the inquiry into the cause of the explosion. Flight 800 left New York with its side fuel tanks full and its center tank not quite empty. Negroni contends that the center tank blew up, ignited by a faulty electrical system. She combines interviews with experts, aviation history and relevant principles of engineering to buttress her theory. According to Negroni, nitrogen-based ""fuel tank inerting"" systems have prevented similar fires on other aircraft and, modified correctly, could have saved Flight 800. But Negroni's work is hardly a technical textbook. The gruesomely fascinating tale is enlivened with capsule bios of doomed passengers and crew, scientists, National Transportation Safety Board personnel and many others. Negroni likes to pretend to read dead people's minds (""It occurred to him often how much he'd been blessed,"" she writes of one TWA pilot) and ""reconstructs"" plenty of conversations. Fortunately, she maintains typographic distinctions between the quotes she reports and those she makes up. Briefer, racier and far more readable than Pat Milton's In the Blink of an Eye (which focused on the FBI investigators), this study is aimed not only at disaster buffs, but at readers curious about aviation, engineering, forensics, journalism, politics and the hot spots where all these interests collide. 31 b&w photos and diagrams. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 260 pages - 978-0-06-093265-7
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-06-232297-5
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