Repeating TWA Flight 800

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NEW YORK: A 747 wired with a battery of sensors took off from New York's Kennedy airport this morning on an unusual mission, to try to simulate the conditions that caused TWA Flight 800 to explode last summer. According to National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall, a series of 10 such test flights will focus on a number of possibilities, ranging from mechanical failure to the remote possibility a meteor sparked the explosion. Hall told CNN Sunday: "A couple of those will try to replicate as closely as possible TWA 800. We'll be trying to look at the temperatures in that tank as they go to the altitude that the explosion occurred at." Investigators believe hot weather and heavily worked engines may have been critical factors in the TWA disaster, which was similar to the sudden explosion of a Boeing 737 in the Philippines in 1990. In both situations, the jets were operating in hot weather and had been running for extended periods of time, Hall said. To help prevent such explosions, Hall said the NTSB has recommended that jets be refueled with cool fuel and have their fuel tanks calibrated to warn of dangerous temperature increases. But the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to act, arguing that further studies are needed before such requirements can be put in place.