The investigation into TWA 841 was very much like a botched criminal investigation. The chief investigator never saw the damaged airplane, nor did he ever visit the field where the parts from TWA 841 were found. Is that important? Looking at the big picture probably not, but they could have spent a little more effort in and around the area where the parts were recovered.
For example, they didn’t talk to any witnesses on the ground. They never followed up after they found the initial parts. Jim McIntyre and a few volunteers did go back several months later to see if anything had turned up. They found a farmer who had a part of a spoiler panel.
I just got back from a visit to Auburn where the parts were found. I talked to Randall Deshano who heard the plane that night. He said the plane was so loud that he was surprised to not see a crashed jetliner in his back yard. The parts from TWA 841 were found a half mile from his house. One of the unanswered questions about TWA 841 is how low did they get before they recovered. The official report is around 4,900 feet. Hoot claims that it was much, much lower. What does the FDR show? It shows about 4,900 feet. But there are some data points missing. Had the plane recovered at 5,000 feet is it possible that Randall would have been so alarmed by the sound that he went to his window expecting to see a crashed airliner?
I also talked to Randall’s brother, Vern. Vern is the one who found a large section of the #7 slat. In the video below you can listen to both Vern and Randall tell their stories.
One last thing. While I was up there Randall handed me a part he found in the same field where the other aircraft parts were located. He’s hung onto it for the past thirty-four years. I have the part now and am currently researching to see if it’s from the plane. Just think of what other surprises might have been uncovered had the original investigators been a little more diligent.
The part that Randall Deshano held onto has been identified as coming from TWA 841. The part, shown in the slideshow below, has been identified as a part of the anti icing ducting for the leading edge. It’s probably not an important piece of evidence, but it is thirty-four year old evidence. Could there be more parts out there in someone’s barn?