CNN and the disappearing zoom climb


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TWA Flight 800





© Jack Cashill
August 24, 2006 -

Although I could not bring myself to watch the CNN piece on the tenth anniversary of TWA Flight 800, I heard enough about it to request the transcript.

One detail in particular intrigued me, the treatment of the notorious zoom climb, CIA’s now notorious animation, the one that depicts the transformation of a nose-less jumbo jet into a soaring rocket. This animation instantly discredited all eyewitness testimony and ended any real investigation into the plane’s destruction.

Allow me to embarrass one other mainstream news source in discussing this story, Newsweek. In the Newsweek piece, dated December 1, 1997, British reporter Mark Hosenball uses a series of nine full color “CIA PHOTOS” to make the CIA case. The photos show TWA Flight 800’s flaming passenger cabin climbing more than 3,000 feet to 17,000 feet, “creating the streak many witnesses mistake for a missile.” Hosenball acknowledges that the unlikely CIA involvement “has already intensified talk of a government cover-up,” but such talk, he suggests, belongs to the shadowy realm of “the Internet” and “talk radio.” The respectable media would not be so easily distracted. Indeed, had Hosenball been on the CIA payroll he could not have done more to legitimize the agency’s crude rewrite of history.

At the time, one can understand how Hosenball would have been misled. The video does seem authoritative, and not much information about the flight had been released publicly. Today, however, there is no excuse, especially after the CNN piece last month.

Here is what the CNN voice over relates as a nose-less aircraft now flies not straight up but straight ahead and, if anything, trending downward:

CNN created this animation of what the NTSB describes as the last moments of TWA 800. Only 12 minutes after take off, the center fuel tank blast rips away the bottom of the plane. The cockpit and nose section plunge into the sea. For another half minute or so, the decapitated plane flies on. Then, it loses momentum and begins its deadly drop toward the ocean below.

The zoom climb has fully disappeared. Retired United Airlines Captain Ray Lahr has spent the last five years of his life battling the CIA and the NTSB to secure the calculations used to determine the nose-less plane’s vertical climb. And after five years of being stonewalled, he learns from CNN that there was no zoom climb in the first place. Why did he even bother?

“All those people who thought they saw a flare or rocket or a missile,” CNN tells us, “not so, says the NTSB. Missiles leave pockmarks on metal.” CNN doesn’t tell us that the NTSB never got to look at the 116 suspicious pieces of the aircraft that the FBI acknowledged sending to its Washington labs, never to be seen again.

And what did the 270 people who told the FBI that they saw an object streak towards the plane actually see? “Investigators believe the red lights seen by eyewitnesses could have been an intense fire immediately after the fuel tank erupted,” CNN continues, now beginning to embarrass itself with sheer disinformation.

Contrast this folderol with the eyewitness account of just one of the eyewitnesses, Witness #73, an air travel professional. In her interview, on July 30, 1996, she told an FBI agent that she was standing on the beach when she noticed a 747 “level off.”The flight pattern caught this experienced observer’s attention because she thought the altitude too low for the plane to be doing this. She was correct in this detail. The plane was holding to allow a US Air flight to pass comfortably overhead.

With her eye still on TWA 800, Witness 73 watched in awe as a “red streak” with a “light gray smoke trail” moved up towards the airline at a forty-five-degree angle. Then, the “red streak went past the right side and above the aircraft before arcking [sic] back down toward the aircrafts [sic] right wing.”

She saw “the front of the aircraft separate from the back” and watched in mounting horror as the burning pieces of the debris fell from the aircraft. She provided a drawing that showed the scenario in some detail, including the “upside down Nike swoosh” which ended at the plane’s right wing. She told this to the FBI before the public knew that the front end of the plane had broken off. CNN would have us believe that what she really saw was “an intense fire immediately after the fuel tank erupted.” And its executives wonder why FOX is kicking its butt.

I know for some readers this is old hat. But for anyone who cares about justice, if you could please call CNN or Newsweek and just ask them for an explanation that does not insult your intelligence, the nation will be most grateful.





Special Note:

Jack Cashill and James Sanders' First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America is now available. First Strike explains how a determined corps of ordinary citizens worked to reveal the compromise and corruption that tainted the federal investigation. With an impressive array of facts, Jack Cashill and James Sanders show the relationship between events in July 1996 and September 2001 and proclaim how and why the American government has attempted to cover up the truth.

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