A mystery blip on the official radar tape of the sky just before TWA Flight 800 exploded belongs to an unarmed Navy plane passing 7,000 feet above the jetliner, the FBI's chief investigator said Thursday.
Former ABC newsman Pierre Salinger and other friendly fire theorists claim to have obtained authentic radar tapes showing a missile racing toward the flight moments before it blew up.
But James Kallstrom, in his first public explanation of the blip, said the official tape shows an unarmed Navy P-3 Orion flying at 20,000 feet, with the knowledge of air traffic controllers but without a working transponder, an instrument that allows controllers to monitor and identify an aircraft.
"When your transponder is not on, it shows on the radar screen as a solid line. And if you look at that, I guess if you're a school kid, you could say that looks like a missile or a cigar or a pencil," he told business executives at a luncheon.
Kallstrom said the line makes it appear to the untrained eye as if the planes nearly intersected although they were more than 7,000 feet apart when the P-3 crossed in front of the Boeing 747 before the jetliner exploded off Long Island last July 17. All 230 people aboard the Paris-bound flight were killed.