What Actually Happened to John F. Kennedy, Jr.?

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John Hankey
is a long-time investigator who has focused much of his attention
on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. He produced
a documentary setting force his views on that event. Hankey has
also turned his attention to the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. in
a plane crash off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
on Friday, July 16, 1999. Hankey has produced a 104-minute DVD documentary
entitled The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Jr. Much
as I liked the earlier documentary, I liked this one even better.
According to the widely accepted explanation, Kennedy was a reckless
pilot whose died because of his own carelessness. But Hankey shows
that Kennedy was actually a careful pilot who was most likely the
victim of foul play. Persons who are interested in the death of
John Kennedy, Jr should watch Hankey's documentary, the basic outline
of which I shall summarize here.

Hankey takes
as his point of departure two overlooked pieces of evidence in the
official report that the National Transportation Safety Board published
one year after the crash. First, the radar data describing the path
of Kennedy's plane showed that just as Kennedy was making his final
approach to the Martha's Vineyard Airport, his plane, in the absence
of any explosion or engine malfunction, suddenly plunged headfirst
into the ocean, falling 2500 feet in 45 seconds. Secondly, the fuel
selector valve on Kennedy's plane was found to have been turned
to the off position.

The bizarreness
of Kennedy's sudden dive into the ocean is obvious, but the equally
bizarre fact that the fuel selector valve had been turned off requires
an explanation that the official NTSB report did not provide. The
fuel selector valve has two functions, one a pilot uses frequently
and the other infrequently. The first and frequently used function
is to tell the engine from which fuel tank to draw its fuel. Kennedy's
airplane contained two 51-gallon fuel tanks, one in the right wing
and the other in the left wing. Inasmuch as fuel is heavy, if the
engine uses fuel from only one of the two wings, that wing becomes
much lighter than the other wing and the airplane as a whole becomes
lopsided. To avoid this unsafe weight distribution, a pilot sees
to it that as his engine burns fuel, each tank still has approximately
the same amount of fuel as the other tank. He does this by moving
the switch on the fuel selector valve back and forth between the
right tank and the left tank during the course of a flight.

The second
and much less frequently used function of the fuel selector valve
is to cut off all fuel to the engine from both tanks. It is obvious
that a pilot would not ordinarily want to do this in the course
of a flight, as it would shut down the engine, but he might have
to do it if the engine caught fire. By turning the fuel selector
valve to the off position and cutting off the flow of inflammable
fuel to the engine, a pilot could see to it that the fire burned
itself out. A fuel selector valve is constructed in such a way as
to prevent a pilot's turning it off by mistake. Whoever turned the
fuel selector valve off on Kennedy's plane knew what he was doing
and did so deliberately.

The fact that
Kennedy's airplane inexplicably dove straight into the ocean together
with the fact that somebody turned off the fuel selector valve suggests
that someone aboard Kennedy's plane committed suicide. Whoever he
was, he probably first grabbed the controls and forced the airplane
into a headfirst dive at 200 mph. He next turned the fuel selector
valve off, not to force any engine fire to burn itself out, as indeed
there was no fire, but to make it impossible for anyone else on
board to correct the situation. With all fuel cut off, the engine
stopped working. Without a working engine, no one could redirect
the aircraft in time to prevent a crash.

This scenario
may seem fantastic until we realize that only about 100 days later
and only about 50 miles away from the site of Kennedy's crash, this
is precisely what happened aboard Egypt Air Flight 990.
On October 31, 1999, not long after takeoff from JFK Airport in
New York City, Gamil al-Batouti, a member of the Egyptian Air flight
crew with no apparent reason to commit suicide, suddenly forced
the Egyptian Air Boeing 757 jet into a headfirst dive and then turned
off the fuel selector valve. The plane crashed helplessly into the
ocean, taking over 200 passengers, including many Egyptian military
officers, to their deaths.

But skeptics
might say that we cannot compare the crash of Kennedy's plane with
the crash of Flight 990 because there was no one on board Kennedy's
plane who would conceivably do what Gamil al-Batouti did on Egyptian
Air Flight 990. Certainly neither John Kennedy, his wife, nor
his wife's sister would commit such a senseless act, and they were
the only ones on Kennedy's plane. Or were they?

Strong evidence
suggests that there was a fourth passenger, a flight instructor,
on Kennedy's plane. Now there were no eyewitnesses to the boarding
of Kennedy's airplane, so there is no one who could tell us for
certain how many persons he saw boarding it. But we have eyewitnesses
who saw Kennedy, his wife, and his sister-in-law waiting for about
45 minutes in the airport lounge before takeoff. Given that
time was passing, visibility was declining, and darkness was falling,
what were they waiting for? Hankey believes that they were waiting
for a flight instructor. But what if the flight instructor failed
to show up? Would Kennedy have had no choice but to take off without
a flight instructor? Not at all. Kennedy could easily have gotten
another flight instructor on short notice. We also have eyewitnesses
on the Coast Guard rescue team who state that when they arrived
at the crashed airplane, they found one of the seats to be missing.
Perhaps the rescuers had to remove a body that was still strapped
to its seat.

Kennedy's
own comments to friends before his flight also suggest that a flight
instructor likely boarded the airplane. For example, on the day
of his fatal crash, Kennedy had lunch with Richard Blow, Kennedy's
co-editor at George Magazine. Noticing that Kennedy was nursing
a broken foot and was still on crutches, Blow expressed concern
about the wisdom of Kennedy's flying. Kennedy told Blow not to worry
because he was taking a flight instructor. Similarly, Kennedy had
told a Canadian acquaintance that he would continue to fly with
a flight instructor until his broken foot healed. Immediately after
the crash, Carol Ratowell, a friend of the Kennedy Family, told
Channel 5, the ABC affiliate in Boston, that Kennedy was flying
with an instructor.

Indeed, the
NTSB could not find any evidence that Kennedy had ever flown his
two-month-old Piper Saratoga airplane without a flight instructor.
The reason for his always taking a flight instructor is not difficult
to find. His new airplane contained many advanced safety and other
features that he had not had on his previous airplane. He would
have benefitted from having a flight instructor to familiarize him
with the new bells and whistles.

And if that
were not enough, there were at least three additional reasons for
Kennedy to hire a flight instructor. First, Kennedy was not flying
by himself, but was also taking his wife and sister-in-law along
with him. Would not these two women have felt safer with a flight
instructor, especially since Kennedy was still on crutches? Secondly,
Kennedy was trying to add an instrument rating to his private pilot's
single-engine land license. He had already passed both the written
examination and the performance evaluation, but he still needed
to log more hours with a flight instructor to fulfill his
requirements for his instrument rating. Thirdly, Kennedy must have
known that difficult weather conditions could arise between New
Jersey and Martha's Vineyard that would require a flight instructor.
His license permitted him to fly according to visual flight rules,
but what if he had to use instruments? In that event, it would have
been illegal for Kennedy to fly without a flight instructor.
Kennedy had flown the same route from Caldwell, New Jersey to Martha's
Vineyard, Massachusetts 8 times that summer. Kennedy took a flight
instructor on all 8 of those flights, and for good reason, because
on 5 of them, visibility was too poor to fly without instruments.
As it turned out, visibility was so good on July 16 that Kennedy
did not need a flight instructor, but he could not known that in
advance. It would have made sense to bring one just in case.

Now a skeptic
might say that all the logical reasoning suggesting Kennedy had
a flight instructor is vain because investigators recovered no bodies
other than those of Kennedy, his wife, and his sister-in-law. Therefore,
Kennedy must not have had a flight instructor because no one recovered
any flight instructor's body. Or did they?

Between the
time that Kennedy's plane went missing and the time that the Coast
Guard arrived at the wreckage, over 15 hours passed, time for all
sorts of things to happen. Curiously, the circumstances of the case
were such that the Federal Aviation Administration should have ordered
a search within minutes after Kennedy failed to land at Martha's
Vineyard. According to Coast Guard Petty Officer Todd Burgun, Kennedy
contacted the Martha's Vineyard control tower at 9:39 p.m.
on Friday night, shortly before what was to be his landing. If Burgun
is right, the control tower would undoubtedly have picked up Kennedy's
transponder signal and responded by assigning Kennedy's airplane
a transponder code. That code would automatically have been entered
into FAA computers so that the FAA could track Kennedy's plane for
the remainder of its flight. If Kennedy's plane had either dropped
below 100 feet or failed to land within 5 minutes, an alarm would
automatically have sounded at the FAA, which would then have ordered
a search. Inasmuch as Kennedy's plane crashed into the ocean and
never landed at all, the FAA had two reasons to order a search,
and to focus that search on the approaches to Martha's Vineyard.
Instead it did nothing.

According
to the official explanation, the FAA did nothing because it did
not know that Kennedy's plane had crashed because Kennedy had not
contacted the FAA at the Martha's Vineyard control tower. The official
explanation thus implies that Burgun was in error when he said that
Kennedy had contacted the control tower. But Burgun's statement
that Kennedy had contacted the tower at 9:39 p.m., made to Channel 5 News
on live television, had a ring of truth to it because it dovetailed
so well with proven FAA data. The latter showed that Kennedy had
still not contacted the Martha's Vineyard tower by 9:38 p.m.
and that his airplane plunged into the ocean at 9:40 p.m. Therefore,
if Kennedy had contacted the control tower at all, he must have
done so at exactly 9:39 p.m. Unless Burgun was an incredibly
lucky guesser, he must have gotten his information from the FAA
itself. We can therefore assume that the information Burgun passed
on to Channel 5 News was correct.

Despite the
failure of the FAA to order a search after Kennedy's plane failed
to land, members of the Kennedy Family kept pressing the FAA for
action throughout the night, all to no avail. Around 9:30 p.m.
on Friday, just before Kennedy's plane was to land, several of Lauren
Bessette's friends had gathered at the Martha's Vineyard Airport
to greet the airplane. When the plane failed to land, they notified
Adam Budd, an airport employee and licensed pilot, who in turn telephoned
both the FAA in Bridgeport, Connecticut and the Martha's Vineyard
Airport control tower. But the FAA did nothing. At 11 p.m.,
Senator Ted Kennedy, John Kennedy's uncle, telephoned the FAA to
report the missing plane. But even though he was a United States
Senator, he had no luck either. Around 2 a.m. on Saturday morning,
the aforementioned Carol Ratowell gave up on the FAA and called
the Coast Guard. Now the FAA, facing grave embarrassment, had
to do something, so it called the Air Force, which in turn ordered
the Coast Guard to search for Kennedy's plane but at the same time
ordered the Coast Guard to do only what the Air Force told it to
do. Specifically, the Air Force told the Coast Guard to search an
area that was far away from the approaches to Martha's Vineyard.
Needless to say, the Coast Guard, which did not know the precise
location of the crash, came up with nothing. Around 7 a.m.
on Saturday morning, a desperate Senator Kennedy telephoned John
Podesta, President Clinton's Chief of Staff, and explained his frustration.
Podesta then telephoned Clinton immediately. Clinton responded by
telling Podesta to call the Air Force and demand that it begin a
search within 15 minutes. The Air Force responded by telling the
Coast Guard to take 2 boats and 2 helicopters on a wild goose
chase across 20,000 square miles of ocean. Once again, the Coast
Guard, which still did not know the precise location of the crash,
came up with nothing.

The Air Force
defended its failure to help the Coast Guard narrow down its search
with precise information by claiming that it did not have that information,
but Hankey provides ample evidence that the Air Force did have it.
We have already seen that Kennedy had contacted the Martha's Vineyard
control tower, and that the FAA must have known that Kennedy's airplane
had gone down in the approaches to Martha's Vineyard. But other
sources of information available to the FAA also located the crash
site. Indeed, anyone watching Hankey's documentary can see the site
pinpointed on the same Channel 5 television picture that viewers
in the Boston area saw on that Friday night. The captioning on the
Channel 5 screen makes it clear that it was the crash-activated
emergency locator transmitter aboard Kennedy's plane that had pinpointed
the wreckage. But even if the emergency locator transmitter had
not done so on Friday night, the FAA radar analysis did so when
it was completed at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning. Despite all
the tools now at its disposal, the Air Force still refused
to order a focused search on Saturday morning. Instead it kept the
Coast Guard spread out over a vast expanse for another 5.5 hours.
In the end, of course, the Coast Guard did get to the crash site,
but not with any help from the FAA or the Air Force. Around 1 p.m.
on Saturday afternoon, a piece of luggage from the crashed airplane
washed up on the beach, and it was this that enabled the Coast Guard
to pinpoint the site and to get to the wreckage.

Hankey believes
that there was a conspiracy behind both Kennedy's death and the
15-hour delay. After successfully getting Kennedy's plane to crash,
the conspirators persuaded confederates at high levels of both the
Air Force and the FAA to delay the Coast Guard search so that the
conspirators could get to the scene first and remove any incriminating
evidence. Indeed, there is evidence that someone arrived
well before the Coast Guard. Around noon on Saturday, Lieutenant
Colonel Richard Stanley of the Civil Air Patrol said that he had
seen helicopters that he assumed belonged to the Coast Guard near
the crash site at around 7 a.m. that morning. But since the Coast
Guard did not arrive until 1 p.m. that afternoon, the Coast Guard
was not what Stanley saw. Then what did he see? Probably persons
sent to do three things: first, remove the body of the flight instructor,
who Hankey suspects was a Manchurian Candidate hypnotized into crashing
Kennedy's plane. This would explain why the Coast Guard did not
recover the body of the flight instructor. Secondly, remove Kennedy's
flight log, which would have listed all persons on board the airplane.
This would explain why Kennedy's flight log, which might have proven
that there was a flight instructor aboard, disappeared even though
the turquoise duffel in which Kennedy always kept his flight logs
was intact. Thirdly, remove the backup battery from the cockpit
voice recorder. This would explain why although investigators recovered
the cockpit voice recorder, they were not able to get any information
out of it. A cockpit voice recorder records whatever the crew says
in the last few minutes of a flight, but it needs a backup battery
to retain this information. Once the battery goes, so does
all the data.

An extensive
coverup followed the mysterious death of John Kennedy, Jr that resembled
other coverups over the years. Hankey has studied many other coverups,
and has learned that although the details in each case are different,
they all followed a common pattern. In each case, honest eyewitnesses
provide the initial evidence to reach the public. Soon, however,
certain government officials in league with the conspirators step
in and remove these eyewitnesses from public view, seeing to it
that no one hears from them again. Next they manufacture evidence
to support a previously agreed-upon and different version of events
while omitting all further mention of the initial evidence. Compliant
members of the mainstream media then sell this new version to the
public. This happened after the assassination of President Kennedy
in 1963, and it happened again after the death of his son, John
Kennedy, Jr. in 1999.

It all started
with the Pentagon's telling reporters and others curious about the
crash of Kennedy's airplane that they could not expect any more
information from the government agencies that had helped them earlier.
Henceforth, they must take all their questions to the Pentagon.
Why the Pentagon? Kennedy was not a member of the military. He was
not flying a military aircraft. His flight had no military purpose.
Hankey believes the conspirators chose the Pentagon because it had
previously signed on to the coverup.

The Pentagon
got right to work by telling a long series of lies designed to portray
John Kennedy as a reckless pilot. Among other things, it insisted
that there had been no flight instructor on Kennedy's plane despite
the testimony of Carol Ratowell that there had. It insisted that
Kennedy had not contacted the control tower before landing, in spite
of the testimony of Todd Burgun that he had. It also made the dubious
assertion that Kennedy had not filed a flight plan with the FAA
in spite of the fact that he had done so on all 8 of his previous
flights along that same route that summer. The Pentagon insisted
that nobody reported the plane missing until 2 a.m. on Saturday
morning, in spite of the fact that members of the Kennedy Family
and others had been calling the FAA starting as early as 10 p.m.
Friday night and continuing into Saturday morning. Honest reporters
who tried to make sense of what was happening, like Linda Killian
of People Magazine, were cut off.

Coast Guard
Petty Officer Todd Burgun was mysteriously reassigned in the wee
hours of Saturday morning. Burgun's earlier statement to Channel 5
that Kennedy had called the Martha's Vineyard FAA control tower
at 9:39 p.m. on Friday night had been very damaging. If Burgun
were right, then the FAA would have had to explain its decision
not to order an immediate search. If given an opportunity to speak,
Burgun would probably have disputed the Pentagon's claim that Kennedy
had not contacted the Martha's Vineyard control tower. But no one
heard from Burgun again.

On the Saturday
morning after the crash, the perception that Kennedy was a reckless
pilot was given a big boost when persons identifying themselves
only as "the family" told Channel 5 both that
Kennedy may not have had a proper license to fly an airplane and
that he did not have a flight instructor on board. These two pieces
of information, the first of which was certainly false and the second
almost certainly false, strengthened the belief that Kennedy's own
carelessness was the cause of his crash. Of course, in the heat
of the moment and without time to do research, the Channel 5
understandably accepted this information at face value. But inasmuch
as we have more time than Channel 5 had to reflect on this
matter, we should ask some questions that they did not ask. Just
who were these mysterious persons who identified themselves as "the
family?" Why did they not give their names? Were they even
members of the Kennedy Family at all? If they were really members
of the Kennedy family, did they know that Kennedy had a private
pilot's licence? Did they believe that Kennedy had been flying for
seventeen years without a licence?

The NTSB had
a full year to clear up these questions before it issued its final
report, but it did not make constructive use of that time. In the
end it merely repeated all the contradictions and inconsistencies
that had been there from the beginning. The NTSB should at least
have investigated the telephone call Kennedy made on his cell phone
just before takeoff. The NTSB undoubtedly had a record of that call.
Under normal circumstances it would have investigated it and included
its findings in the final report, yet it did not do so this time.

To top it
all off, the NTSB report seemed to put all doubters of the official
version on the defensive with a stunning revelation. It said that
Robert Merena, one of Kennedy's flight instructors, had told the
NTSB six months after the crash that he had offered to fly with
Kennedy. According to Merena, Kennedy turned down Merena's thoughtful
offer with the explanation that he wanted to "do it alone."
This revelation made headlines and confirmed the view of Kennedy
as a reckless pilot. But quite apart from the fact that Merena's
own lawyer later denied that Merena had made that statement, there
are reasons to be skeptical about Merena's revelation. For one thing,
the NTSB memorandum in which Merena revealed that Kennedy wanted
to "do it alone" was suspiciously irregular. It did not
say when and where Merena gave this interview, nor did it have Merena's
signature. These were all serious violations of standard protocol.
And why did Merena wait 6 months after the crash to come forward?
Why did he not mention it in the earlier interview he gave the NTSB
five days after the crash? Merena's statements there imply that
Kennedy did have a flight instructor on board. For example,
Merena did say that to the best of his knowledge, he never saw Kennedy
flying his plane without a flight instructor, and left it at that.
Since Merena did not say anything about Kennedy's either wanting
or not wanting to "do it alone" this one time, one would
infer that Kennedy had a flight instructor on July 16 as well. Merena
tried to clear up the confusion by saying that he did not mention
Kennedy's statement that he wanted to "do it alone" in
his interview five days after the crash because he had already mentioned
it in his letter to the NTSB earlier on the same day that he gave
the interview. Yet that letter contained no mention of it either.

Thus we have
seen strong evidence that the death of John Kennedy, Jr. was the
result of a conspiracy. But who were the conspirators? There have
been rumors that the Clintons might have had something to do with
Kennedy's death, but the evidence Hankey marshals makes that seem
unlikely. Hankey, who has a bias against Republicans in general
and the Bushes in particular, believes that George W. Bush is the
chief suspect. Unfortunately, the only evidence that Hankey can
give in support of his position is that on the morning of Kennedy's
death, Bush, who had been campaigning in Iowa, boarded a bus and
disappeared for several days. Beyond that Hankey offers only conjecture
and speculation. Unless someone can provide more evidence than that,
it will take an extensive criminal investigation to clear up the
mystery of Kennedy's death. But that a criminal investigation is
necessary there is no doubt in the mind of anyone who bothers to
watch Hankey's documentary.

December
27, 2010

Christopher
Condon [send him mail] lives
in The Woodlands, Texas, just outside Houston.

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