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Target Drone May Have Downed Jet

  • A misdialed fax number has investigators wondering exactly what is being covered up from last summer's New York flight disaster.
By Mike Blair

An apparent foul-up in the transmission of a facsimile message intended for the FBI's temporary field office at Calverton, Long Island, suggests a missile target drone may have been responsible for the downing on July 17, 1996 of TWA Flight 800, shortly after its take-off from La Guardia Airport in New York City.

FBI Special Agent Joseph Valiquette, spokesman at the bureau's New York City field office, said the FBI would have no comment on the facsimile message, which, instead of going to its Calverton office, due to a mix-up in dialing, went to long Island resident Dede Muma.

According to a report late last month in the Southampton Press, published on Long Island, the message from Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical of San diego, California, was received on Muma's fax machine May 17, shortly after Newsday, a daily newspaper also published on long Island, reported that the FBI planned to end its investigation in early August.

The FBI claimed it had collected no evidence of a missile or other foul play being responsible for the air tragedy.

The FBI spokesman, Valiquette, refused to comment on the bureau being in possession of missile parts found at the scene of the crash off the Long Island coast, as the misdirected fax message seems to suggest. The misdirected fax material received by Miss Muma included a diagram of a missile, along with a breakdown of the tail section and a parts list.

The authoritative Jane's Information Services in Alexandria, Virginia has identified the diagram as a Teledyne Ryan BOM-34 Firebee I, which is a surface- launched recoverable aerial drone, a type of cruise missile.

The target drones are used in "warning areas" as close as the Moriches Inlet on Long Island. The Navy practices shooting down the drones in the "warning areas."

Teledyne Ryan says the origin of the orange metal parts 'wasn't from our Firebee."

A retired Air Force missile expert told The SPOTLIGHT the FBI should be able to determine what are missile parts by examining residue that would appear on the tail section caused by heat from the missile's fuel system.

Previously, as reported by The SPOTLIGHT, independent investigator Jim Sanders obtained pieces of fabric from seats of the Flight 800 jumbo jet, which were smeared with what appeared to be explosive material from a missile.


The FBI denied that the stains were from a missile, although there have been persistent reports that a missile passed through the center section of the fuselage of the jet, which is where the seat fabric originated.

Some investigators believe the missile either was without a warhead, which would include the target drone type, or that the warhead failed to detonate as it struck the plane.

There has been considerable speculation that due to the plane being in the vicinity of a major military exercise that it was destroyed by so-called "friendly fire."

Despite Newsday's report that the investigation of the crash is winding down, FBI spokesman Valiquette told The SPOTLIGHT that FBI Assistant Director James Kellstrom, who heads the New York office and the investigation of the crash, says the probe will not be completed for another 60 to 90 days, which would make it sometime in the fall.

Valiquette said any "deadline" for a report on the investigation is being avoided. "There won't be any report for the next few weeks," he added. "That much is certain."

He said that there were "a number of avenues" that the FBI is continuing to explore.