January 4, 1956
The Kansas City Times from Kansas City, Missouri · Page 38
Capt. Gilbert A. Sather (Center), Army Bomb Disposal Expert, Holds the Mystery Device (Circled) Which was Found Yesterday Aboard a T. W. A. Plane. With Him in the Group Photographed at Wheeling, W. Va., Are William Moore (L eft ), Assistant Airport Manager photo). at Wheeling, and Sergt. J. L. McQueen, Also an Army Ordnance Man—(Wire- PITTSBURGH) —The Civil Aeronautics authority asked the FBI today to help determine whether an "incendiary device" found aboard a Trans World Airlines passenger plane last night was meant to sabotage the aircraft. Louis Reinbold, supervisor of the CAA air carrier district office here, said federal explosives experts still were running tests on the small cylindrical object taken from the plane when it landed at Ohio County airport at Wheeling, West Virginia, last night with thirty-two passengers. If the object is found to be an explosive, we will assume an attempt at sabotage and formally request the FBI to take over the investigation," Reinhold said. Reinbold said the FBI already was working with the CAA at "our request." He said officials were witnessing the disassembly of the object now and "we will act as soon as we receive the report." The object, about the length of a cigarette and about the diameter of a nickel, was described as "some sort of incendiary device" by Capt. Gilbert A. Sather. of the 145th army ordnance detachment here. Sather ran preliminary tests on the cartridge-like device and said it contained “an inflammable powder, had a percussion cap on one end and a blowout plug on the other." The device was about two and one-half inches long and had a metallic sheath. Sather said "the powder burned with a brilliant flame." He turned it over to explosives experts at the Federal Bureau of Mines laboratory at near-by Bruceton, Pa., for further tests. He said he was not at liberty to say whether it was a "commercial or homemade" device but admitted "maybe" it could have been homemade. Reinbold said the object could possibly be a shotgun starter shell, used by the military to start engines. He said it also might be an airplane seat ejector shell, used to propel a pilot from a disabled plane. Sather said the device could have been ignited by a sharp blow. According to Reinbold, the plane was searched at Wheeling airport by the crew, airport manager and the control tower crew for similar objects, but none was found after looking in all places accessible to passengers. Sather said the object contained magnesium a powerful incendiary element and a yellowish powder he was not able to identify immediately. "The mechanism had no timing apparatus to detonate," Sather said. "The only way for it to ignite would have been for someone to strike the percussion cap." The pilot, Capt. L. Ryan, had noticed the object shortly after the craft took off from Columbus, Ohio. He said it was lying in the aisle of the cargo section, between the cockpit and the passengers seats. He described it as two and one-half inches long and three quarters of an inch in diameter. Ryan told John Leeper. Wheeling T. W. A. station manager, the object was "not part of the aircraft." Ryan said he believed the object might have dropped off a piece of cargo and dropped into the aisle. He said he was so sure that it was not a bomb that he slipped it into his pocket, where it remained until the scheduled stop at Wheeling.