NTSB: TWA crash probe unfinished
NTSB investigators suspect an electrical fault ignited
fuel and air vapors in the plane's center tank
Hearing ends but 'work will continue'
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BALTIMORE (CNN) -- The chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board concluded a week-long hearing into the TWA Flight 800 crash on Friday by promising "we are by no means finished."
"Our work will continue and we will spare no effort to determine exactly what happened to TWA 800," Chairman James Hall said.
FAA: Elimination of fuel tank explosions possible
Earlier, a Federal Aviation Administration official testified that creating an explosion-proof fuel tank for commercial airliners is a realistic goal. "We haven't ruled out elimination ... total and absolute elimination" of fuel-tank explosions, said Thomas McSweeny, the FAA's director of aircraft certification.
McSweeney said a jet fuel used by the Navy could significantly increase the safety of commercial aircraft if it were produced in sufficient quantities.
The fuel, known as JP-5, has a 40 degree Fahrenheit higher flash point and was already approved for the jet engines on civilian aircraft, McSweeny said. NTSB investigators suspect an electrical fault ignited the fuel and air vapors in the TWA plane's center tank.
Read selected portions of the NTSB report, or download the entire document from CNN Interactive's special report
"Our analysis shows that ... you could make a 20-fold increase in safety in the center fuel tank on the 747 (with JP-5). That's worth going after," McSweeny said.
The FAA has written to the American Petroleum Institute asking for its advice on ways to boost production of JP-5 at U.S. refineries and around the world, McSweeny said.
He called the search for ways to make the center fuel tank safer a top priority of the agency.
"There is no doubt we are going to do something," McSweeney told the hearing.
McSweeny said it was a myth that the FAA had not been considering many solutions for improving the safety of the tank for some time, including reducing the temperature inside the tank.
All 230 people aboard Flight 800 were killed when the Boeing 747's center fuel tank exploded July 17, 1996, just minutes after it left Kennedy International Airport for Paris. The investigation is now focused on finding the source of the ignition.
"Our folks began within a few weeks after the accident looking at all possible causes which then led us to all possible solutions," McSweeny said.
NTSB crash report due next year
The hearing was intended to gather information. The NTSB isn't expected to release a probable cause until late next year; the FBI has concluded the crash was not the result of a criminal act.
Hall said he is confident the FAA will move forward swiftly to follow up on safety measures that have been discussed.
He also said Congress is considering ways to make FAA information available to the public "in a responsible way" -- including the age of aircraft, one of the topics of the hearing.
The FAA also is pledged to "go back to the drawing board" to examine wiring that might have ignited aircraft fuel in the TWA flight, Hall said.
Correspondents Christine Negroni and Gary Tuchman contributed to this report.