2002-04-27 / Community

NTSB: No Reason To Ground The Airbus

NTSB: No Reason To Ground The Airbus

Despite the fact that seven American Airline pilots who regularly fly the A300-600 Airbus have urged the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to ground the aircraft pending safety checks of all the aircraft’s tail sections, the organizations president says that there is no reason to do so.

‘We have not seen anything to this point that indicates that kind of radical action is warranted," said Marion Blakely in a statement before the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee last week.

An A300-600 Airbus crashed into Belle Harbor on November 12, after losing its tail in Jamaica Bay, killing all 260 passengers on the aircraft and five Rockaway residents on the ground.

The NTSB investigation has focused on the question of why the tail fell off as a major concern of its investigation.

As the update on this page indicates, the agency is in the process of testing on both the tail from the A300 that was involved in flight 587 and on a tail purchased solely for the testing process.

NTSB officials will only say that the tail could have come off for a number of different reasons – wake turbulence from a Japan Airlines "heavy" that took off just prior to the Airbus; a defect to the tail (a "delamination" of the composite material the tail is made of) or the pilot over controlling the rudder, causing it to stress and come off. A combination of those factors may well be responsible for the accident, an NTSB spokesperson says.

Flight 587 experienced several sharp side-to-side movements prior to the tail falling off. The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) ordered tails on all aircraft that had experienced similar stress in the past to be closely screened. Several planes were checked but none were found to have major structural problems.

A spokesperson for Airbus would only say, "damage that cannot be seen could not weaken the tail enough so that it would fall off."

The eight pilots submitted a 70-page report to both the NTSB and to the FAA. That report states, "As professional line pilots who fly the A300-600 for American Airlines, we have been following the NTSB investigation of American Airlines Flight 587 with a great deal of interest and concern. Never in the history of commercial aviation has a vertical stabilizer separated from an aircraft. As such, there is a pressing need to conduct a rapid investigation with significant rigor. The information discovered thus far in the investigation has literally shaken the foundations upon which we define what is, or is not, safe."

The FAA has agreed with the NTSB. "We would agree that there is no evidence that would cause us to order the aircraft put on the ground," says spokesperson Les Dorr.

Meanwhile, the A300-600’s continue to over fly Rockaway every day.

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