Already Taking Off, the Unlikely Story of TWA 800 Debris Washing Up on a NJ Beach

December 21, 2023 / 1 Comment

A New Jersey beach walker who discovered what appears to be airliner wreckage by the water’s edge may not actually break the internet, but a TikTok video of his find and subsequent encounters with local police are poised to get a good conspiracy theory debate going around the holiday dinner table. And I wouldn’t say that if people weren’t already linking the find to TWA Flight 800 and Malaysia 370.


Stay tuned for updates.

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Matthew Jacob, an actor and producer according to his IMDB link came across the 4 connected seats on December 19th, not far from where the waves were pounding the sand. “I think I just found plane seats washed up on the Jersey Shore,”  he wrote on the video.

Commenters immediately chimed in with theories including many who said the 4-abreast seats could have come from TWA Flight 800. The Boeing 747 headed to Paris from JFK Airport exploded shortly after takeoff in 1996 and fell into the Atlantic.  Two hundred and 30 people were killed.  Nearly all of the jumbo jet was recovered in the massive investigation that followed but some seats, particularly those over the center wing tank where the blast originated, were not.

Still others – demonstrating a certain lack of familiarity with world geography – suggested the debris belonged to the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that disappeared while flying over the South China Sea in March 2014 with 239 on board.

The next videos Jacob posted took a more mysterious tone.  He called the local police. They showed up and apparently with his help loading it into a pickup truck, hauled the seats away. “Things got real interesting,” was the caption on that, his most recent TikToc installment. At this point, some commenters weighed in with the obligatory suggestion that the local cops were CIA.

I like a mystery as much as the next gal. So, joining the more than one million people who have viewed Jacob’s posts, I did my own investigation, reviewing the TWA Flight 800 reconstruction photos, seat placement and asking two seasoned airline mechanics what they thought after viewing the TikToc posts. To the question, are the seats from an airliner, their replies were an unequivocal, “nope”. Here’s why.

Let’s start with the spring-like seat supports on the beach debris which look like the underside of a camp cot or grandpa’s easy chair.

Joe Caso, who worked for 34-years as an aircraft mechanic and inspector at TWA, dismissed them as not something on the bottom of ” 747 seats or any other aviation seats that I know of.” Keep in mind  – and I’m sure you remember the flight attendant telling you this every.single.flight – that below your seat is a compartment where life vests are stowed as you can see in the photo below of a four-seat row of an in-service airliner with one cushion removed for your viewing, if not sitting, ease.

Now try and imagine in the unlikely case of a water landing, the potential for interference with the life vest stowage box sitting below a series of bendable metal coils like those in Jacob’s video. You may conclude, as I did, that Caso is correct. Spring seat supports are not used for airliner seats.

The other big tell was the fact that though there were four seats, there were only two floor attachments. On an airliner, each seat is engineered and certified to withstand 16 gs of force. The seat attachments carry the load. Four seats, four seat-to-floor attachments.

Now to the armrests, Jacob’s beach find accommodates four butts but has only two arms. Forget regulators, can you imagine the passenger armrest wars that would result?

TWA 800? Couldn’t be. The debris Jacob discovered has quite obviously not been in the ocean for 28 years.

Malaysia 370? Look at a map. For the wreckage to get from the South Indian Ocean to New Jersey it would have to transit the Cape of Good Hope. Good Grief.

So what did Matthew Jacob find? Gary Santos, an aircraft mechanic, aviation historian and author of A Grand Pause also believes the evidence rules out seats from any – even semi-modern airliner. He suggests they’re motor coach seats. I’m voting for theater seats.

We can all agree that Jacob’s odd find merits the attention it is getting. Even better, there’s certain to be an answer soon.

Do you have an idea? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Categories: Flying Lessons

One response to “Already Taking Off, the Unlikely Story of TWA 800 Debris Washing Up on a NJ Beach”

  1. Brendan says:

    Wouldn’t they be most likely to be seats from a boat?

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