How Twa Faced The Nightmare

Bad luck at several stages hampered the airline's response

It was 2 a.m. London time when Jeffrey H. Erickson, the gruff, low-key engineer who heads Trans World Airlines Inc., got the call every airline executive dreads. Joseph Vilmain, TWA's international vice-president, woke Erickson at a hotel in London, where the CEO had traveled on business. His horrible news: TWA Flight 800 from New York to Paris had crashed off the coast of Long Island. "I can't describe what it was like," says Erickson, who found himself shaking after he hung up.

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