TWA Flight 800
The Impossible Zoom Climb

Radar Tape

March 21, 2004

Our scheduling conference is still scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on April 5, 2004, in Courtroom 14 before Judge A Howard Matz. The Court issued an "Order Setting Rule 26(f) Scheduling Conference." In accordance with that order, my lawyer John Clarke and I had a telephone conference on March 12, 2004, with Jan L. Luymes, Assistant United Sates Attorney representing the NTSB and the CIA, and Jay Brown, Perkins Coie, LLP, representing Boeing. The result of that conference will be incorporated into a "Joint Rule 26(f) Report". When the report is finalized in about a week, we will issue another update which will incorporate the report.

I have been taking a closer look at my copy of the FAA radar tape given to me by my close friend, Captain Richard Russell (he passed out a few copies before the FAA swooped in and confiscated a copy of the original). There is a lot of good information on the tape, but one of the things I learned is that after TWA800 exploded and the transponder failed, the radar went into the CST (Coast) mode. The computed radar position shown on the scope was no longer the same as the primary 'skin paint' return.

For those unfamiliar with radar terminology, as the radar antenna rotates it is sending out millions of pulses. If a pulse is reflected back, it appears as a blip on the scope called the primary return. In order for controllers to identify the return, aircraft carry transponders. When the transponder is hit by a radar, it sends out a coded signal with the identification and altitude of the aircraft. This secondary return is decoded and appears on the scope as an identification tag attached to the primary return.

When the radar fails to receive a transponder return, the radar automatically goes into the CST mode while the radar searches for the next transponder return. Meanwhile, the computer generates a probable position for the target and puts CST in the identification tag. Usually the radar finds the transponder again and everything goes back to normal. If not, the New York Tracon radars were programmed for nine CST sweeps before the radar stopped searching and dropped the target. In the CST mode, the radar's computer uses the last received transponder speed and heading to artificially project the target forward one step on each sweep, so what is shown on the radar screen is most likely in the wrong position. The radar may still be receiving the correct position of the primary return, but the primary return is not shown. One might ask why the CST tag doesn't automatically attach to the primary target return instead of attaching to a computer-generated position. It may be because the controllers want to be sure the tag is not attached to the wrong target. If there were two primary targets in close proximity, the CST tag might attach to the wrong primary target.

The CST position shown on the last sweep of TWA800 was in error by more than two nautical miles beyond the place where TWA800 hit the water. In fact, we can't even be sure that TWA800 still existed at the time of the last CST sweeps. Consequently, we can't use the position and time of the CST sweeps to help determine the position and time of impact. Fortunately, the primary returns were recorded separately, and their coordinates were obtained by means of a FOIA request. They were used by Bob Donaldson and Tom Stalcup in their separate analyses which include the following arguments against the zoom-climb.

Everyone is familiar with a childhood swing. If you are on a swing, and if you drop five feet from the top of the arc to the bottom of the arc, how fast are you moving horizontally at the bottom of the arc? It is a simple calculation. The horizontal velocity is the same as the vertical velocity that you would have had if you dropped straight down five feet? Using Newton's equations for gravitational motion, the vertical velocity would be about 18 feet per second. The supporting rope of the swing just changes the direction of that motion. The rope does not add to or subtract from the tangential velocity because the rope is always perpendicular to the tangential velocity. Assuming no friction, you will lose that same velocity as you climb back up to the original height on the opposite half of the swing.

That same principle applies to the hypothetical zoom-climb of TWA800, only in this case, TWA800 is starting at the bottom of the swing and the rope is replaced by the lift of the wing which is perpendicular to the forward velocity. If TWA800 had climbed 3200 feet, as claimed by the CIA, then the horizontal velocity would have decreased by the 3200 foot drop velocity of about 454 feet per second or 269 knots. The horizontal velocity at the time of the explosion, as recorded by radar, was about 380 knots. In other words, TWA800's forward speed as measured by radar would have decreased to 111 knots during the hypothetical zoom-climb. That just didn't happen. In fact, the radar detected a slight increase of speed during the period TWA800 was supposed to be in a zoom-climb. Quite simply, that means there was no zoom climb.

Another other part that doesn't fit is the time. It takes longer to climb 3200 feet and then fall to the ocean than it does to simply fall to the ocean. The actual time from explosion to impact fits a ballistic free fall. It does not fit a zoom-climb.

When the aviation community laughed at the CIA cartoon, the NTSB reduced its verbal description of the zoom-climb to 1500 feet for its presentation at the public hearing three weeks later. But the NTSB had already provided the 3200 foot zoom-climb information used by the CIA, and the NTSB still used the 3200 foot zoom-climb in its own video animation presented at the public hearing. (The 3200 feet was not labeled in the NTSB video animation, but it could be scaled from the 13,800 foot starting altitude.)

The last part that doesn't fit is where TWA800 landed in the debris field. Actually, TWA800 disintegrated during the first fuel explosion and the debris fell downward out of the fireball as described by Major Meyer, Captain Bauer, Dwight Brumley, Mike Wire and many others who saw the missile approach TWA800 prior to the explosion. Furthermore, the nose was attached and the electrical system was working at the time of the explosion because Captain Dave McClaine and First Officer Vince Fuschetti were watching the landing lights of TWA800 directly ahead of them when it exploded. But suppose for a moment that the wing held together and the only disruption to the flight was the departure of the nose. When the nose departed, the center-of-gravity moved well behind the center-of-lift. The aircraft would pitch up and stall and try to fall tail first. Any forward speed lost in a zoom-climb before the stall could not be regained because the wing remained stalled until impact. A forward speed reduced to 111 knots by a 3200 foot zoom-climb would be further reduced by air friction until impact. That point of impact would have been well short of the actual point of impact.

For a brilliant and complete analysis, please refer to the Affidavits of Robert Donaldson and Dr. Tom Stalcup at my website,

Please note that we have made no reference to the flight characteristics of a Boeing 747-100. The aerodynamics and the physics that we have discussed apply just as well to a paper glider as they do to a B747. The claim of the NTSB that secret Boeing data somehow allows its zoom-climb to circumvent the laws of physics is a smokescreen. Boeing was the first to acknowledge this in a statement issued immediately after the CIA cartoon was shown saying that Boeing had no knowledge of the data used to produce the CIA animation.

Boeing has intervened in my lawsuit against the NTSB and the CIA. But please note that Boeing has not supported the zoom-climb scenario. Although Boeing may have provided some proprietary information to the NTSB and the CIA, Boeing is not saying that any of its proprietary data or information was used to produce the CIA and NTSB zoom-climb scenario. In fact, Boeing stated just the contrary. Boeing engineers and aerodynamicists are some of the sharpest in the world, and Boeing has not endorsed the zoom-climb scenario.

Boeing is only declaring its right to protect proprietary information, a right that I respect and support. Boeing has already voluntarily and publicly released all of the information necessary to refute the zoom-climb. In addition, two former Boeing engineers, Brett Hoffstadt and Jay Himmelman, have supported my opposition to the zoom-climb scenario.

The struggle for the truth goes on.