The story of TWA Flight 800—its short flight and really bad final minute—including an account of the people who went
down inside and the subsequent investigation, all smartly delivered by Negroni, who covered the event for CNN.
The probable scenario that Negroni paints of the last moments after the massive center fuel tank exploded in the giant 747
is truly horrific: a great gaping hole blasted out of the bottom of the fuselage; those passengers not sucked or blown out of the
plane peppered by high-velocity debris; the plane tearing in half, bursting into a fireball, and falling more than 13,000 feet to hit
the water at 400 mph. All 230 aboard died; 19 passengers, found with water in their lungs, are known to have survived until the
final impact. Conspiracy theories went into immediate circulation—a terrorist bomb or missile was widely blamed—but Negroni
makes plain that the only conspiracy was that of the authorities’ inaction. "The practice of flying with fuel tanks in an explosive
state was deemed acceptable risk for thirty-three years," she writes. Flammable fuel tanks have caused 14 plane crashes over the
years, yet it was not until recently that the FAA ordered an investigation into their status (meanwhile, they are still in use).
Although none of the confusion and snafus generated by the myriad state and federal agencies involved in the investigation or
the theft of evidence by airline personnel (keenly reconstructed here by Negroni) will come as a surprise, the well-documented
turning of two blind eyes—one the industry’s, the other the government’s—on a long-recognized problem with the fuel system
is as shocking as it is vile.
Only readers with an active death wish will be sanguine about climbing aboard a 747 after reading Negroni’s frightful
account, and only the most immoral will shrug off the aviation industry’s reckless disregard of the fuel tanks’ long-standing,