Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Analysts: Twa's Outlook Secure

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Analysts: Twa's Outlook Secure

Article excerpt

As investigators looked for clues Thursday in the charred pieces of Trans World Airlines Flight 800, TWA employees looked for answers.

The explosion of the Boeing 747 off the New York coast killed more than 200 people, including 35 of TWA's own.

The blast sent shock waves through the St. Louis-based airline, which had gone two decades without a crash and was slowly recovering from years of financial trouble.

"It's unfortunate that an incident like this would happen just as they're getting their house in order," said Aaron Taylor of Avitas Inc., a consulting company in Reston, Va.

TWA President Jeffrey H. Erickson said the airline's 24,500 employees shared the grief of the families who lost loved ones in the crash.

"We, too, lost colleagues and friends," he said. "This is a personal tragedy for all of us."

Although government officials cautioned against speculation, several pilots and engineers said a bomb most likely caused the jumbo jet to blow apart Wednesday night as it climbed away from Kennedy Airport.

"The probability that this is a natural occurrence is extremely remote," said Paul Czysz, a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at Parks College of St. Louis University. "It's like saying a meteor hit it."

The circumstances of the crash, coupled with the type of aircraft involved, are certain to draw comparisons to the bombing of a Pan Am 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

Pan Am, which already had critical financial problems, never recovered from the bad publicity.

But TWA is not Pan Am, and its survival is not in doubt, said Michael Boyd, president of Aviation Systems Research Corp., a consulting company in Golden, Colo. "I don't think this portends any grave financial consequences." s

Even so, the crash of Flight 800 could not have come at a worse time for TWA.

The three-month stretch from the Fourth of July to Labor Day has always been TWA's peak season for passenger loads and profits.

The deadly explosion of the Paris-bound Boeing 747 on Wednesday will surely cost the airline some of its lucrative trans-Atlantic business.

International operations historically have produced more than half of TWA's earnings.

A Leadership Void

Just hours before the flight went down, the airline had announced a $28.5 million profit for this year's second quarter - its best showing since early 1989 and a sign of even better things to come.

The crash caught TWA with a leadership void.

Erickson was a continent away, lobbying British officials for the right to serve London's Heathrow Airport. With him was Mark Abels, vice president for corporate communications.

They headed for New York aboard a chartered jet after learning of the crash, arriving Thursday morning.

Two executives who could have helped manage the crisis were unavailable, having resigned a month earlier after clashing with Erickson. …

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