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TWA tape ends with loud noise, investigator says

flight recorder

July 26, 1996
Web posted at: 6:10 p.m. EDT

SMITHTOWN, New York (CNN) -- The cockpit voice recorder aboard TWA Flight 800 ended with a loud, abrupt noise, an investigator said Friday.

Robert Francis, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, told a news conference that analyses of both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder showed no unusual events before the tapes ended suddenly.

"It ends with a loud, abrupt noise on all four channels," Francis told reporters. The flight data recorders recovered from the wreckage Wednesday night were being analyzed by the NTSB at its laboratory in Washington.


"I haven't heard it ... certainly an exploding engine would make a loud noise," Francis said.

The abrupt ending and loud noise on the voice recorder showed that whatever happened on board the New York to Paris flight came without warning, experts said.

The July 17 explosion and crash killed all 230 people on board. Investigators are considering mechanical failure, a bomb or a missile as possible causes for the Boeing 747 disaster.

Recovery teams searching the Atlantic off Long Island have found two of four engines from TWA Flight 800, National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Robert Francis said Friday.

"We've located two engines. Engines, when you are looking at an aircraft accident, are extremely important," he said.

Francis said they were found in the main debris field and that the vessels capable of lifting the 7,000- to 9,000-pound engines to the surface would be sent to the area. He said he did not know what condition the engines were in.

Experts said whether the engines are found close together or scattered can be an indication of what caused the plane to crash. Investigators will try to determine if the engines suffered a power failure or if there was an explosion in the engines which could have caused the crash.


Francis describes what the search is like for divers

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Earlier Friday, Francis said investigators still don't know what caused the crash, despite initial analysis of tapes from the plane's cockpit voice and flight data recorders.

Asked if investigators were now ready to say the Paris-bound Boeing 747 was brought down by a bomb, Francis told CNN, "Not any of the investigators I've been talking to."

At a briefing Thursday, Francis said a brief "fraction-of-a- second" sound was recorded just before the tape stopped in the cockpit voice recorder but water damage to the flight data recorder means it will be tougher to get information from that box.

"All four CVR channels recorded a brief fraction-of-a-second sound just prior to the end of the tape," Francis said. "The recording indicated a routine pre-flight, takeoff and departure from JFK International. About 11-and-one-half minutes after takeoff, the recording ended abruptly."

On Friday, Francis said a number of reasons other than an explosion could have interrupted the communication.

"A wire being cut for some reason, a loss of power," Francis said. "There are obviously a number of ways you can lose a connection between a source and something driven by electricity."


He said investigators would continue to analyze the sound and would begin running comparisons between the tapes from the two voice and data recorders in an attempt to learn more about the cause of the crash.

Both the recorders, known as "black boxes" even though they're orange, were located late Wednesday night beneath the USS Grasp, the primary Navy search ship. Divers recovered them early Thursday.

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