TWA Flight 800 reconstruction in Ashburn to be decommissioned

For almost two decades, the wreckage of TWA Flight 800 has been in a large hangar in Ashburn, Virginia, serving as a training tool for thousands of transportation investigators. But in July, the reconstruction will be decommissioned.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it plans to stop using it on July 7, as the agency prepares for its lease to end at the 30,000-square-foot training center in Loudoun County.

Along with other tools, it has been used in the NTSB’s accident investigation training courses.

“However, advances in investigative techniques such as 3D scanning and drone imagery, lessen the relevance of the large-scale reconstruction in teaching modern investigative techniques,” an NTSB news release said.

TWA Flight 800 was a Boeing 747 bound for Paris with 230 people aboard. It crashed on July 17, 1996, minutes after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport.

A four-year investigation found that the probable cause of the crash was an explosion in the center wing fuel tank.

“From that investigation we issued safety recommendations that fundamentally changed the way aircraft are designed. The investigation also led to a memorandum of understanding between the FBI and the NTSB regarding investigations of accidents resulting from intentional acts as well as evidence collection and preservation,” NTSB Managing Director Sharon Bryson said in a statement.

The NTSB agreed to the wreckage only being used as a training resource and never as an exhibit or public display when it moved it to the training center.

NTSB said it will document the reconstruction using 3D techniques, and the data will be archived for historical purposes.

The agency said it will work closely with a federal government contractor to dismantle the reconstruction and destroy the wreckage as well.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She has a master’s degree in interactive journalism from American University and a master’s degree in English Literature from The George Washington University.

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