California Institute of Technology

Explosion Dynamics Laboratory

Explosion Research at Caltech and TWA Flight 800

Background | Facts | Documents | 1/4-Scale Experiments | Misconceptions |


The results of the Caltech research and research by other organizations that participated in the NTSB investigation are available on the CD-Rom that is part of the public docket (Accident DCA-96-Ma-070, NTSB Docket SA-516) for this accident - available online. Over 18 reports specifically related to the topic of Jet A and the CWT tank explosion were written in order to document the testing and research. Some of these reports are listed below and can be downloaded directly in PDF format. Where appropriate, we have labeled these with the Exhibit numbers used in the NTSB docket for the TWA 800 crash.

Exhibit 20D J. E. Shepherd, J. C. Krok, and J. J. Lee (1997) Jet A Explosion Experiments: Laboratory Testing. GALCIT Report FM97-5. 74 pp. Preliminary tests on combustion to measure peak pressure, vapor pressure of Jet A, explanation of mass loading effects.

Exhibit 20E J. E. Shepherd, J. C. Krok, J .J. Lee, and M. M. Birky, (1997) Jet A Explosions - Field Test Plan 1/4-Scale Experiments, GALCIT Report FM97-17. Dec 6, 1997. 65 pp. Rationale for 1/4-scale experiments, scaling methodology, full-scale and 1/4-scale engineering drawings.

Exhibit 20F J. E. Shepherd (1997) Explosion of Aviation Kerosene (Jet A) vapors. Overhead transparencies from a presentation to Transport Fuel Flammability Conference held in Washington DC, October 7, 1997. 22 pp. This talk used preliminary data from the investigation. Instead of refering to this talk, please see Exhibits 20D, 20L, 20S, and 20T for complete reports and final data presentation.

Exhibit 20G J. C. Sagebiel. (1997) Sampling and Analysis of Vapors from the Center Wing Tank of a Test Boeing 747-100 Aircraft. Desert Research Insitute, University of Nevada, Reno, NV. November, 1997. 125 pp. Sampling system and laboratory analysis of air sampled from center wing tank in flight test carried out in July 1997.

Exhibit 20H J. E. Woodrow and J. N. Seiber (1997) The Laboratory Characterization of Jet Fuel Vapor Under Simulated Flight Conditions. Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, University of Nevada, Reno, NV. November, 1997. 57 pp. Analysis of Jet A liquid and vapor using gas chromatography.

Exhibit 20L J. J. Lee and J. E. Shepherd (1999) Spark Energy Measurements in Jet A. Part II GALCIT Report FM 99-7. Published Dec 3, 1999. 78 pp. Energy measurement circuit and ignition energy tests for Jet A using ARCO fuel and varying temperature, altitude, flash point and mass loading. Discussion of uncertainty and statistical analyses.

Exhibit 20O J. E. Shepherd, J. C. Krok, J. J. Lee, L. L. Brown, R. T. Lynch, T. M. Samaras, and M. M. Birky (1998, July). Results of 1/4-scale experiments, vapor simulant and liquid Jet A tests. Explosion Dynamics Laboratory Report FM98-6, California Institute of Technology. 600 pp. Describes the 1/4-scale facility and gives the results from the first 30 tests with simulant fuel, including raw test data.

Exhibit 20P 1/4-Scale Testing. Part II: Simulant repeatability, Jet A Vapor and Quenching. J. E. Shepherd, J. Lee, C. Krok, M. Kaneshige, J. Kolly, M. Birky, L. L. Brown, R.T. Lynch, and T. M. Samaras. ARA Final Report L. L. Brown, R.T. Lynch, and T. M. Samaras (1999) TWA FLIGHT 800 1/4-Scale Fuel Tank Explosions Phase II. Fall 1998 & Spring 1999 Test Series Final Report. ARA Report, Projects 4810 and 5057. July 22, 1999. Details of modifications to 1/4-scale apparatus and raw test data from replica and Jet A testing.

Exhibit 20Q J. C. Sagebiel. (2000) Analysis of Vapor Samples Collected from the Center Wing Tank of a Boeing 747-100 Aircraft during Ground Tests. Desert Research Insitute, University of Nevada, Reno, NV. February, 2000. 32 pp. Collection and analysis of air and fuel vapors sampled from a center wing tank in ground tests at Marana, AZ in 1999.

Exhibit 20R J. E. Woodrow (2000) The Laboratory Characterization of ARCO Jet Fuel Vapor and Liquid, Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557-0187 81 pp. Analysis of the ARCO fuel composition.

Exhibit 20S C. D. Nuyt, J. E. Shepherd, and J. J. Lee (2000). Flash point and Chemical Composition of Aviation Kerosene (Jet A). Explosion Dynamics Laboratory Report FM99-4, California Institute of Technology. 40 pp. Analysis of the fuel composition and estimation of flash point.

Exhibit 20T J. E. Shepherd, J. C. Krok, and J. J. Lee (1999) Spark Energy Measurements in Jet A. GALCIT Report FM 97-9. Published May 3, 1999. 84 pp. Ignition energy tests for propane, hexane and Jet A-air mixtures using stored energy method.

1998 Sandia Report M. R. Baer and R. J. Gross (1998) A Combustion Model For The TWA 800 Center-Wing Fuel Tank Explosion. Printed September, 1998. Sandia National Laboratories Report SAND98-2043. 49 pp. This report summarizes the modeling approach used at Sandia National Laboratories. Modeling calculations are compared with a variety of experimental 1/4-scale tests conducted in rigid confinement and simulant fuel.

2000 Sandia Report M. R. Baer and R. J. Gross (2000) Extended Modeling Studies of the TWA 800 Center-Wing Fuel Tank Explosion. Printed March 2000. Sandia National Laboratories Report SAND2000-0445. 44 pp. This report summarizes the modeling studies for the second phase of the 1/4-scale tests. Repeatability testing with simulant fuel and testing with Jet A are modeled. The issue of quenching is addressed.

1999 Galcit Report R. Akbar, P. Svitek, C. Nuyt, J. E. Shepherd (1999)Infrared Imaging and Temperature Measurement under Boeing 747 Center Wing Tank. Galcit Report FM99-3. Data from ground testing carried out at Marana, AZ in May 1998 using a 747 with air packs operating and various levels of fuel in center wing tank. Images from IR camera and temperatures on selected components under the tank.

Exhibit 23F (1997) Flight Test Results: TWA 800 Emulation Flight Exhibit 23G (1997) Flight Test Results: Flight with Fuel added to center wing tank. NTSB Flight Test Group Chairman. Results of test flights carried out in July 1997 to determine temperatures and fuel concentrations in the center wing tank of a 747-100. See Exhibits 23A to 23E for details of instrumentation and test protocols.

1998 Galcit Letter Report R. Akbar, J. E. Shepherd (1998) A Simple Analysis of Fuel Addition to the CWT of a 747. Galcit Letter Report to NTSB. September 21, 1998. Analyzes effect of fuel addition on fuel temperature using the flight test data of Exhibit 23 and a lumped parameter heat transfer analysis.

August 2000 Explosion Team Summary M. Birky, J. Kolly, J. E. Shepherd, P. A. Thibault, M. R. Baer, K. Van Wingerden, J. E. Woodrow, J. C. Sagebiel (2000) Summary and Conclusions of Explosion Research Team. Joint letter statement of August 1, 2000. This document summarizes the activities, findings, uncertainties and limitations of the research carried out by the team from 1996 to 2000.

Rule-Based Analysis Evaluation of Explosion Scenarios. Development of a Rule Based Analysis Method and Application to 1/4-scale and Full-Scale Simulations. Combustion Dynamics Ltd Report CDL-1010, 3 September 2000. Presents methodology used to compare observed damage with damage predicted from simulations and simple failure threholds. The appendices are the portion of Exhibit 18 given below.

Exhibit 18 (Appendices for CDL-1010) Observable early event damages and results of failure pressure estimates. Tables summarizing Boeing, NTSB, CDL characterization of observed damage to CWT structure and results of failure analysis to predict differential pressure thresholds for significant damage to tank structure.

Copyright © 1993-2016 by California Institute of Technology, Joseph E. Shepherd