The NTSB investigators on Tuesday repeated a scenario the safety board endorsed in 2000.
The series of events leading to TWA 800's disastrous final flight began when it was delayed at New York's John F. Kennedy airport. While the plane was sitting at the gate, the crew engaged the plane's air conditioner to keep passengers cool.
The air conditioning units, low in the plane's fuselage, heated the large, nearly empty fuel tank above it, creating a volatile fuel/air mixture.
Ten minutes after take-off, when the plane was at 13,700 feet and climbing, an electrical short that likely occurred in a wire bundle pushed a high-voltage current into the fuel tank, igniting it, and destroying the plane.
Divers found three overlapping fields of debris at the bottom of the ocean.
The first included the pieces of the fuel tank and the cabin above it. A second field contained the nose and cockpit. The final and largest debris field contained the rest of the plane.
Investigators said they worked hard to determine if a bomb or missile was involved, especially in light of the event's timing two days before the Summer Olympics and 10 days before the Olympic bombing in Atlanta.
"That really intensified the investigation," said investigator Joseph Kolly.
A cockpit voice recorder analysis showed a sound spectrum consistent with a low-explosive fuel tank explosion, not a high-explosive missile.
Eventually, investigators ruled out a missile or bomb, as well as lightning, meteor, electro-magnetic pulse, and other possible causes, Kolly said.
Kolly acknowledged some friction between the NTSB and the FBI during the investigation, but said "it didn't ultimately harm the investigation."
Kolly said the petition has not prompted him to rethink the board's 2000 findings. Since the petition was filed, Kolly said, he has re-read this report "a couple more times and it's pretty thorough."