There was no internet back in 1979. No Facebook. No Twitter. There was Boeing, the NTSB, and journalists both in print and TV. Still, the rumors about the TWA 841 crew managed to spread in aviation circles. It started with articles that included quotes from lead NTSB investigator Leslie Dean Kampshore where he hinted at crew involvement. From there rumors spread in airline crew rooms, concourse discussions, and cockpit conversations. The crew of TWA 841 did something that almost cost the lives of everyone on board and then tried to cover it up by erasing the CVR.
I recently came across a video that proclaims to tell the story of TWA 841. The creator of the video tells a shortened version of the NTSB findings. He praises the NTSB for their meticulous work in piecing together the evidence pointing to crew involvement. In the process, he gets a number of important facts wrong. But that’s not why I’m writing this post. What I wanted to point out are the hundreds of negative comments directed at Hoot, Scott, and Gary.
“Without a doubt, Captain Scumbag is trying to hide something. The fact that he’s done it before means he played funny buggers with the plane’s systems in the past,” said one person. “Wow. Any pilot who routinely erases the CVR after flights due to privacy concerns is a paranoid nut,” was another comment.
While some praised Hoot for recovering the plane, most fell into the same trap that the NTSB investigators fell into. They saw the erased CVR as evidence of crew involvement and could not consider any other possibilities, even a CVR malfunction.
Unfortunately, I can’t repost the video here, but you can view the video and read the hundreds of comments by visiting Youtube and the original post (the video is ad-supported, so you’ll have to wait for the ads to play before you can view the video).
IIRC the CVR also erases when you set the parking brake.
Not quite accurate. If that were the case, then there would be no need for an erase button. The CVR functionality was never tested, despite what the NTSB says. Additionally, damage to the wiring that is connected to the CVR was severely damaged when the gear over-extended.