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County may still get to house TWA flight 800 wreckage

July 22, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

TWA Flight 800 is being moved to a temporary home, but Washington County still has a chance to house the wreckage permanently.

The National Transportation Safety Board plans to move the wreckage of the jet to another hangar in Calverton on Long Island, N.Y., according to spokeswoman Lauren Peduzzi.

The NTSB is considering using the partially rebuilt Boeing 747 as a model with which to train accident investigators. County officials also would like the training center to be near Hagerstown Regional Airport, but the NTSB has not sought bids for the project.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., said in April he expected the federal agency to formally solicit bids by mid-May.

The board wants to move the wreckage, including a reconstructed 94-foot section, from New York to the Washington, D.C., area but a location has not been chosen, Peduzzi said.

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"They hope to choose a location close to this area," she said.

The NTSB is paying rent of about $4.5 million per year to store the wreckage in a 300,000-square-foot hangar, Peduzzi said.

In late August or early September, the agency will move the plane to a 40,000-square-foot hangar less than a mile away. The rent will be about $500,000 per year.

"The new hangar's a temporary solution," Peduzzi said. "They don't see it as a permanent home."

NTSB Chairman Jim Hall complained earlier this month that Trans World Airlines has refused to share the cost of recovering and storing Flight 800's wreckage.

According to the Associated Press, a TWA spokesman said the federal agency's rules prevent it from helping financially. The spokesman said TWA would consider taking ownership of the plane again.

The issue of property rights does not affect the government's bid process or plans for the plane's storage, Peduzzi said.

TWA Flight 800 was en route to Paris from New York when it exploded near Long Island on July 17, 1996. The U.S. Coast Guard and Navy recovered the wreckage in the plane in which all 230 aboard died.

The cause remains undetermined, but investigators believe fuel and air in an empty tank at the plane's center exploded. It was the largest aircraft reconstruction in history, according to the NTSB.

Washington County bought a 19-acre property off Interstate 81 earlier this year where a training center could be built.

The county will be invited to bid on the project, said Thomas Riford, marketing director for Hagerstown-Washington Economic Development Commission. "We're going to be so less expensive than anywhere else they can put it," he said.

Airport Manager Carolyn Motz is looking forward to the bid. "As far as I know, there's no change. When I spoke to them last week, they said things are the same as they were," she said. "We're just going to be patient."

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