2002-06-22 / Front Page

Lots of Thoughts, No Conclusions’ Father of Flight 587 Pilot speaks about his son and the crash

By Howard Schwach

Lots of Thoughts, No Conclusions’
Father of Flight 587 Pilot speaks about his son and the crash
By Howard Schwach


The crash site at Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue as it looks today.The crash site at Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue as it looks today.

Stan Molin lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, but he is often drawn to Rockaway, to a piece of land at the corner of Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue where his son died on November 12, 2001.

While many are drawn to that corner in grief for a loved one who was lost when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor on that day, Molin’s story is a little different.

His son, Sten, was at the controls of the A300-600 when it lifted off from JFK’s Runway 31L on that morning.

"I have been in Rockaway three or four times since that day," Molin told The Wave in a recent interview. "I came at the end of the week when the plane crashed, then again for the memorial service at the national park, sometime after that, and again about six weeks ago, when I visited the crash site and met at the Beach Club with some eyewitnesses to the crash.

Molin, a retired Eastern Airlines pilot, was surprised at the way the site was fenced off from the community.

"I was really surprised about the cyclone fence and the American Airlines security people that wouldn’t let anybody in," Molin says. "How can it be that people still can’t walk on their own property five months after the crash? I don’t understand it."

Molin was surprised as well by a CD ROM he recently got from the airlines.

The computer disc had pictures of thousands of items recovered from the site that were still unidentified.

"I was asked to go through the disc to see if there was anything of my son’s," he says. "Then, if I found anything, I was to contact them and they would send me a picture of the item."

"It’s an extensive process," he added.

Molin has already received some of his son’s belongings from the airlines.

His son’s hat still had his calling card inside the crown. He got his son’s wallet and credit cards, his son’s watch, destroyed beyond repair.

Molin taught his son to fly. He told a reporter that he was happy that his son had chosen to become a pilot, but that he never pushed him in that direction.

He taught Sten to fly on a Cessna 152 and then sent him off to a flight academy near Memphis to polish off his skills.

Sten was 34 when he died in Belle Harbor.

"The kid was a hell of a pilot," he told reporters.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the agency doing the investigation about the crash, has focused on the tail of the plane and on the fact that Molin had taken cold medicine prior to the flight.

The elder Molin is not happy with the investigation.

He says that his conversations with those in Rockaway who saw the plane in the air and with a woman who was rescued from her Belle Harbor home have made him concerned that the NTSB is not taking the witnesses seriously enough.

After talking with the witnesses, Molin thinks that the plane might have suffered some sort of electrical or mechanical trouble.

"The NTSB seems to be downplaying witness statements by saying that eyewitnesses are usually unreliable," he says.

"I’ve always had an abiding faith in the NTSB, but now I’m getting furious," he told a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times. "The NTSB is really not telling us much."

Molin recently listened to the tape of the conversations between flight 587 and the ground.

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) released the tape. The FAA also released a transcript of the tape.

At one point on the tape, about 25 seconds prior to the crash, the FAA official who did the transcription says that somebody on flight 587 said "Nice Game."

Molin and others who listened to the tape, however, say that the words were not "nice game," but "try escape."

That is pilot shorthand for a plane in trouble and an order to institute a specific routine that includes going to full power.

Pilots use that routine only when they are in danger of losing control of the plane.

Molin is certain that is was his son’s voice saying, "Try escape."

Molin says that he will try and be at the witness meeting that The Wave is hosting at the Beach Club on July 10.

"I probably wouldn’t miss it for the world," he told The Wave.

What does he think caused the crash?

"I have lots of thoughts, but no suspicions," he says.


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