On July 17, 1996, an airplane carrying 212 passengers and 18 crew members departed from JFK International Airport towards its destination of Paris, France. Around 8:30 PM, approximately 13 minutes after takeoff, TWA flight 800 exploded over the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 230 passengers on board. The plane was at 13,000 ft. altitude, when air traffic controllers instructed the pilot to climb higher, to 15,000 ft. Within a minute of issuing this instruction, the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder suddenly stopped transmissions. Although many possible explanations exist for the unexpected demise of Flight 800, there is not enough evidence to give a definite theory as to why the crash occurred. Following an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), it was concluded that the most likely explanation for the incident was an internal explosion of the center wing fuel tank.
Many eyewitnesses reported a missile striking the plane, followed by flying debris emanating from a ball of flames over the Atlantic Ocean. Other theories included a structural failure of the plane during its ascent to 15,000 ft. Some believe that there was a bomb inside the plane. Another theory that emerged (although unsupported by evidence) was that the TWA, Flight 800 was struck by a particle beam weapon or a missile by the US military base nearby.
Despite reports, the NTSB reportedly found no evidence of missiles or explosives at the crash site. Approximately, 95 percent of the plane wreckage was recovered and no chemical residue (usually associated with bombs or missiles) was found. Investigators from the NTSB have speculated that the explosion in the center wing fuel tank (CTW) was the most likely cause of the incident. The fuel could have easily been ignited from a short circuit wire connected to a fuel gauge sensor in the tank, causing the fuel to ignite. However, investigators did not find any preexisting problems with the plane.
Since the accident the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has worked diligently to develop new ways of minimizing the chances of a fuel tank explosion. For example, beginning in 2008, all newly built planes were required to install a system that infuses fuel tanks with nitrogen gas in order to minimize accidental explosions.