TWA 800

Date:         09 Apr 97 03:09:27 
From:         Ken Madden <kgm0001@jove.acs.unt.edu>
Organization: University of North Texas
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Regarding TWA Flight 800:

Some fuel overflow out the vent is normal when the tanks are full, even
if the only cause is fuel expansion due to heating (while sitting on the
ground). On its B-727s (at least) TWA ordered a device called "Surge
Tank Protection" (STP) which uses a light detector in the surge tank to
instantaneously flood the surge tank with an inerting substance should a
static discharge (read lightning) enter the tank through the vents in
the wingtips.  In order for kerosene (Jet A) to ignite, the fuel must be
heated substantially.  Although the center tank of TWA 800 may have been
warm on the ground at JFK, it would have cooled substantially in the
climb to 13,000 feet due to the pressure decrease inside the tank. In
order for me to believe that static electricity or an arcing fuel pump
caused the explosion, the aircraft would have to have been fueled with
the more volatile Jet B (or JP-4).  While not unheard of, this would
constitute a non-standard operation, would be done only if Jet A were
unavailable, and would need specific approval by management.


Ken Madden
http://people.unt.edu/~kgm0001/