Fox TV Picks up WND AA 612 Story


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TWA Flight 800





By Jack Cashill

© 2005

Fox TV’s Rick Leventhal actually broke two news stories on his Saturday night “Breaking News” show on Fox-TV. The first and most obvious one was the fate of American Airlines 612, whose pilots reported seeing a rocket on Saturday, November

The second, and unexpected one, was the very real possibility that TWA Flight 800 had been downed by missile-fire off the coast of Long island. Leventhal, who covered the crash for WNBC-TV in New York in July 1996, discussed the TWA 800 missile sightings with guest Ray Lahr, a retired United Airlines captain, as though they were common knowledge. Unknown to Leventhal, this may well have been the first time an open conversation on this subject has been held on national TV since the week of the event.

The Fox producers contacted Lahr after reading Friday’s story in on American Airlines Flight 612. That story generated considerable response, much of it from knowledgeable insiders, including several air traffic controllers. Their insights helped Lahr refine his understanding of events.

As Lahr explained to Leventhal, the one thing that is known for sure is that the crew of AA 612 reported seeing a rocket. Leventhal, in fact, aired the conversation between the pilots and Air Traffic Control.


ATC:      Flare or a rocket?

AA 612:   It looked more like a rocket.

ATC:      American 612, how far away was it from your position?

AA 612:  It was about half way between us and the coastline when we first called that last center guy.


The above was transcribed from an archived broadcast on Live Aviation Radio ( ).  Lahr has not located the recording of the previous call to "that last center guy".

Lahr is not certain, however, as to what coastline the pilot was referring to.  He outlines two scenarios, here presented in more detail than time permitted on the FOX show.

The first scenario, as Lahr explains, is that the plane was at about 6,000 feet when a rocket shot past the cockpit.  Early news reports imply as much.

Working from an archived segment of Airport Monitor (, Lahr discovered that AA 612 was about 9 miles offshore of Redondo Beach and King Harbor as it climbed through 6,000 feet.  King Harbor is home to hundreds of boats, and any one of them could have provided a launch platform.

As AA 612 climbed through 6,200 feet at time 12:51:56, however, a strange phenomenon appears on the monitor. This second target has the same identifier--AA 612--but it reports a much lower altitude of 1400 feet. This second, mystery target subsequently climbs to within about 200 feet of the real AA 612. These two targets with the same identifier but with different altitudes track along next to each other for about 12 radar sweeps.  Then the mystery target disappears, and AA 612 continues.  A rocket would not have tracked along parallel with AA 612 for 12 sweeps.


PASSUR is the acronym for Passive Secondary Surveillance Radar.  That means the PASSUR display uses the secondary transponder returns relayed from ATC radars.  ATC radars determine the position of targets, but not the altitude of targets.  The altitude information comes from the transponder returns. All of the targets shown on the PASSUR display were theoretically derived from operating transponders.  Rockets do not have transponders, so the secondary target could not have been a rocket. 


One thing Lahr did learn from the TWA 800 accident investigation is that ATC radars have a “coast mode” that uses a radar computer to generate a probable target when a tracked target temporarily disappears.  The probable position is based on the previous heading and airspeed.  This can be repeated about 10 times before the probable target is dropped from the screen.   Lahr is uncertain as whether a rocket could have triggered this unusual phenomenon, or if it was just a coincidence that this mystery target appeared about the time the rocket was reported.

The second potential scenario is that AA 612 was at 13,000 feet when the rocket was sighted.  Some reports state that the FBI met the crew when they landed in Chicago and questioned them about what they saw.  Supposedly, the pilots saw the rocket rise through a cloud deck about a mile below them.  When AA 612 was climbing through 13,000 feet, it was about seven miles south of the Palos Verdes coastline, and the Huntington Beach coastline was about 20 miles ahead.   At this point, the position of AA 612 was over the channel where all of the ships enter and leave the San Pedro and Long Beach harbors. At this point, any ship could have served as a launch platform.

In either scenario, the pilots reported seeing the rocket a few miles from the nearest shore, and the rocket rose to six or seven thousand feet.   As Lahr notes, “That is not the description of a toy rocket as was implied by the FBI.” 

In the age of participatory journalism, Lahr explains, the FBI would be better served if it shared the time and content of call by AA 612 to "that last center guy.”

Los Angeles is an obvious terrorist target.  In the millennium plot of 1999, an alert border guard intercepted an agent trying to bring explosives across the border from Canada.  They were intended for LAX.  Recently, charges were brought against two Los Angeles area men of Chinese origin accused of conspiring to import shoulder-fired missiles. 

Lahr, who has an ongoing suit against the NTSB and the CIA in regards to TWA Flight 800, describes himself and his associates as being “still in the research stage” on AA 612.  “We need more information before we can make a determination,” says Lahr. “We feel that the FBI should be more candid with the public. Withholding information and issuing statements to pacify the public only increases the risk.”

In Boston meanwhile, on December 7 th, University of Massachusetts engineer Graeme Sephton and his attorney, Dan Stotter, pursued their case against the FBI before a three judge panel in the city’s much too splendid United States Appeals Court. Sephton is seeking to learn what happened to the foreign objects extracted from the TWA Flight 800 victims’ bodies and what those objects reveal about the plane’s destruction. Sephton took this case to court only after the FBI stonewalled Sephton on his Freedom of Information Act requests for years.

“We expect that ruling in perhaps 60 days,” says Sephton, “but there are no certainties in the legal system.”



Posted: Dec 2005

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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