Why a Reconstruction of TWA Flight 800, Plane That Crashed in 1996, Is Now Being Dismantled

The cause of the crash 25 years ago was a mystery until it was painstakingly reconstructed. The wreckage went on to serve as a teaching tool for investigators, but now it's being dismantled for good.

A Boeing 747 plane that mysteriously crashed shortly after takeoff 25 years ago and was put back together to determine its cause is being destroyed.

On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 took off from John F. Kennedy airport in New York for Paris, only to fall from the sky minutes later and crash into Long Island Sound. At first, the cause of the crash was a mystery, with theories ranging from a bomb or missile strike, catastrophic engine failure and even being hit by a meteor. 

After a painstaking reconstruction of the Boeing 747, investigators determined that a fuel tank had exploded due to an electrical spark.

For years, the reconstruction has been used as a teaching tool for air crash investigators around the world. But now, the wreckage, which is located in a hangar outside Washington, D.C., is being dismantled for good.

The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that the plane has served its purpose and it will be officially decommissioned. It will be taken apart and the pieces will be destroyed as a mark of respect to the 230 passengers and crew who lost their lives in the disaster.

The plane will be scanned so it can be used for virtual training, according to NTSB managing director Sharon Bryson. 

“The reconstruction is really a testament to the thoroughness of the investigation,” said Joe Lychner, whose wife and young daughters died in the crash. “The way I feel about it is, if your family dies in a car accident, you don’t keep the car around as a memorial to your family. It served its purpose and it should be destroyed.

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