November 2001 - American Airlines 587
On November 12, 2001, about 09:16 eastern standard time, American Airlines
flight 587, an Airbus Industrie A300-605R , N14053, crashed into Belle
Harbor, a New York City residential area, shortly after takeoff from
John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York. Flight 587 was a regularly
scheduled passenger flight to Las Américas International Airport,
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with 2 flight crew members, seven
flight attendants, and 251 passengers aboard the plane. Ed States served
as the captain, and Sten Molin served as the first officer.
The plane's vertical stabilizer and rudder separated in flight and
fell into Jamaica Bay, about 1 mile north of the main wreckage site.
The plane's engines subsequently separated in flight and fell several
blocks north and east of the main wreckage site. All 260 people aboard
the plane and 5 people on the ground died, and the impact forces and
a post-crash fire destroyed the plane. Flight 587 operated under the
provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 on an instrument
flight rules flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed
at the time of the accident.
The A300-600, which took off minutes after a Japan Airlines Boeing
747 on the same runway, flew into the larger jet's wake, an area of
turbulent air. The first officer attempted to keep the plane upright
with aggressive rudder inputs. The strength of the air flowing against
the moving rudder stressed the aircraft's vertical stabilizer and eventually
snapped it off entirely, causing the aircraft to lose control and crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the enormous
stress on the rudder was due to the first officer's "unnecessary
and excessive" rudder inputs, and not the wake turbulence caused
by the 747. The NTSB further stated "if the first officer had stopped
making additional inputs, the aircraft would have stabilized".
Contributing to these rudder pedal inputs were characteristics of the
Airbus A300-600 sensitive rudder system design and elements of the American
Airlines Advanced Aircraft Maneuvering Training Program.
Investigators were concerned in regard to the manner in which the vertical
stabilizer separated. The vertical stabilizer is connected to the fuselage
with six attaching points. Each point has two sets of attachment lugs,
one made of composite material, another of aluminum, all connected by
a titanium bolt; damage analysis showed that the bolts and aluminum
lugs were intact, but not the composite lugs. This, coupled with two
events earlier in the life of the aircraft, namely delamination in part
of the vertical stabilizer prior to its delivery from the manufacturer
and an encounter with heavy turbulence in 1994, caused investigators
to examine the use of composites. The possibility that the composite
materials might not be as strong as previously supposed was a cause
of concern because they are used in other areas of the plane, including
the engine mounting and the wings. Tests carried out on the vertical
stabilizers from the accident aircraft, and from another similar aircraft,
found that the strength of the composite material had not been compromised,
and the NTSB concluded that the material had failed because it had been
stressed beyond its design limit, despite ten previous recorded incidents
where A300 tail fins had been stressed beyond their design limitation
in which none resulted in the separation of the vertical stabilizer
The official NTSB report of October 26, 2004 stated that the cause
of the crash was the overuse of the rudder to counter wake turbulence.
the Cockpit Voice Recorder Transcript
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