Virginia Campus houses Flight 800

The wreckage of Trans World Airlines Flight 800 will be the centerpiece of the National Transportation Safety Board’s new investigation training academy that is schedule to open at GW’s Virginia Campus in 2003.

The academy is part of a joint effort of the safety board and the University, located in Ashburn, Va.

GW will build facilities to accommodate the wreckage and add academic space, said Irwin Price, dean of the Virginia Campus.

The main building of the training academy facilities, which will be about the size of a football field, will have two principal parts – a section for classrooms and meeting space and a warehouse to house laboratory space and storage for the wreckage, Price said.

The NTSB has been under pressure to expand its operation, Irwin said. They needed more training and research.

The NTSB is an independent agency assigned by Congress to investigate all aviation accidents in the United States and significant accidents in other modes of transportation and issue safety recommendations to reduce the risk of future accidents.

It will be a research tool to allow us to start becoming even broader in our scholarship in crash analysis and engineering prophylactic work, GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said.

The facility will train international and domestic accident investigators with reconstructed wreckage, including parts of the TWA Boeing 747, whose fuel tank exploded in mid-air in July 1996 over Long Island Sound killing 230 people.

During the investigation of the accident, the FBI originally suspected terrorism as the cause, but federal investigators determined faulty wiring caused the jet’s fuel tank to explode.

Price said the TWA wreckage will be a valuable part for the new academy.

It’s not for the public, he said. It’ll be used for training and research.

University officials said the TWA wreckage will be transported from its hangar in Long Island after the Virginia Campus facilities are constructed.

Price said GW produced some basic designs when the University expressed interest in hosting the NTSB academy two years ago. A six-month planning process will begin after Thanksgiving and construction will be completed about a year and a half later, Price said.

The building is expected to be open in 2003, Irwin said.

The project will be funded by the federal government, but GW hopes to expand the project into its own scope of operations in the future, with money from benefactors and other fundraising efforts, Trachtenberg said.

The dream is even bigger than what has been contemplated so far, he said.

The NTSB will enter into a 20-year lease for the equipment, training and classroom space at the Virginia Campus. Price said the cost of the operation has not been determined yet, and the training program and the new building will run on separate budgets.

The actual amount will be a function of what we want for the building, he said.

The facility will neighbor the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Crash Analysis Center, a federally funded research agency that crash-tests vehicles and is also located on the Virginia Campus.

Irwin said the Virginia Campus, an international technology and management institution that enrolls 3,000 students, offers programs to study car safety, sea transportation and aviation studies. The performance of the University’s students and GW’s academic reputation impressed the NTSB, Irwin said.

The University knows how to do education training, Price said.

GW’s connection with aviation studies began in 1997 when the Virginia Campus hosted the International Conference on Aviation Safety and Security in the 21st Century, which was sponsored by the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security. The campus also sponsored the Global Summit on International Aviation Infrastructure in 1999.

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