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American Airlines Flight 587 Crash - NTSB Animation


Video 79 added on 2006-09-13:
Video Type: Crash
Aircraft: Airbus A300-600
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American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens in New York City shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport on November 12, 2001.

The Airbus A300-600 jet, registered N14053, which left JFK bound for Santo Domingo's Las Americas International Airport, crashed at 9:17 A.M. local time. All 260 people on board were killed ? two flight crew members, seven flight attendants, and 251 passengers (including five unticketed infants sitting on their parents' laps) ? along with five people killed on the ground, making it one of the deadliest crashes on American soil.

Because of the location of the crash, and its occurrence just two months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, many people initially believed it was caused by terrorism. These claims were supported by eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen the aircraft on fire shortly before the crash[1].

The official National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report of October 26, 2004, stated that the cause of the crash was the overuse of the rudder to counter wake turbulence[2]. The fire was the result of fuel leakage as the engines separated from the wings, or engine compressor surges.

The A300, which took off just minutes after a Japan Airlines Boeing 747 on the same runway, flew into the larger jet's wake, an area of very turbulent air. The co-pilot, Sten Molin, attempted to keep the plane upright with the rudder, but pushed the rudder too far to one side and then overcorrected too far to the other. 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. According to the NTSB, the crash would not have occurred but for the co-pilot's use of the rudder.

Airbus and American are currently disputing the extent to which the two parties are responsible for the disaster. American charges that the crash was mostly Airbus's fault, because the A300 was designed with unusually sensitive rudder controls. Most aircraft require increased pressure on the rudder pedals to achieve the same amount of rudder control at a higher speed. The Airbus A300 and later A310 do not operate on a fly-by-wire flight control system, instead using conventional mechanical flight controls. The NTSB determined that "because of its high sensitivity, the A300-600 rudder control system is susceptible to potentially hazardous rudder pedal inputs at higher speeds."[3]

Airbus charges that the crash was mostly American's fault, because the airline did not train its pilots properly about the characteristics of the rudder. Aircraft tail fins are designed to withstand full rudder in one direction at maneuvering speed. However, they are not usually designed to withstand an abrupt shift in rudder from one direction to the other. Most American pilots believed that the tail fin could withstand any rudder movement at maneuvering speed.

Flight 587 no longer exists. The flight route designation of flights between Kennedy Airport and Las Americas Airport now are under Flight 619, Flight 635, and Flight 789.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "American Airlines Flight 587".

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