2002-09-21 / Community

City Council Hears Flight 587 Testimony

By Victor Trombettas

City Council Hears
Flight 587 Testimony
By Victor Trombettas

On August 19th, I was contacted by the Office of New York City Council Member, Miguel Martinez, who had proposed a resolution calling on the House of Representatives to appoint the appropriate Committee to oversee, and hold hearings into, the Flight 587 investigation, the safety of the Airbus A300-600, and pilot training. Mr. Martinez, represents the Manhattan District which is home to many families who suffered the loss loved ones on Flight 587. I've met several families who had found usread.com, and some I met at the July 10th Witness Meeting. They contacted me, and came to the meeting, because they do not appreciate the paltry, and confusing information that's been released by the NTSB. They are not happy. Council Member Martinez was sensitive to the concerns and frustrations of his constituents and drafted the resolution. Council Member Joseph Addabbo, whose District includes the Rockaway Community, was a co-sponsor. Addabbo was present at the witness meeting in July, and expressed his great concern that "these people must be heard", referring to the Witnesses. "So many people can't be wrong", he had said.

I was asked by Martinez to testify about what I had learned in the months since the crash, and he asked me to assist him in securing others who might be willing to testify. The following individuals accepted my invitation: Dr. Vernon Grose, a former NTSB Board Member; Todd Wissing, an active A300 First Officer; witness Thomas Lynch, and witness John Power. Also, present (and invited by the Council to speak) were Stan Molin, the father of First Officer Sten Molin who was at the helm of Flight 587; Brett Landsman (who lost his father, mother, aunt, and uncle on 587); and Hector Algarroba (who also lost his parents on 587).

The Hearing was held on September 5th before the Transportation Committee of the City Council in the Chambers of the beautiful, and inspiring, structure that is New York's City Hall. In his opening statement, Council Member Martinez stated the NTSB "has acted irresponsibly by making statements as to the cause ... turbulence and pilot error".

In my statement to the Committee I expressed that the evidence pointed to a catastrophic mechanical/structural failure not associated with terror. However, I added that I could not rule out terror or sabotage for several reasons (which I enumerated later). I confessed to the Council that I have a lack of confidence in the NTSB's ability to "always get it right". I briefly touched on TWA Flight 800 and how millions of Americans, and more importantly, former NTSB Investigators, current and former Boeing engineers, Admiral Thomas Moorer (former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Brigadier Generals, Pilots, Aerospace Engineers, and countless others, believe, as Dr. Vernon Grose has put it, that "truth was subverted" in that case. One example I gave to the Council from that case was the nose-less climb theory put forth by the CIA, FBI, and NTSB, to explain the "streak of light and smoke" seen by hundreds of witnesses, which was never backed up by any data. In fact, the NTSB and FBI to this very day are fighting in the Courts to block Freedom of Information Act requests for that data. The best calculations put forth by experts have led to the conclusion that this theory is "an aerodynamic impossibility". And the CIA, FBI, and NTSB used this very questionable, highly suspect theory as a tool to dismiss the hundreds of witnesses who insisted they saw an object ascend to the plane and cause the explosion. Not very comforting -- to hear that the leading aviation accident investigative body in the world may be putting out "aerodynamically impossible" theories.

I shared with the Council that I've heard stories, from a former NTSB Investigator, of politics and fear of corporate backlash having a negative impact on investigations and on the work of fine Investigators.

I added my support to the Council's effort to ask Congress for Oversight and for Hearings (separate from the NTSB Public Hearings). We need to have a forum where more questions can be asked--where more information can be released to the Public in a much more timely manner. Why, after 10 months do we not have basic data such as radar, weather, flight recorder transcripts, etc. I also added my support to their concerns about the safety of the Airbus A300. I stated that Pilot Todd Wissing would better address those issues when he spoke. Todd is one of several Pilots who worked on an excellent report to the FAA and NTSB expressing their concerns with the plane's history of uncommanded rudder movements and the need for ultrasonic scans of the composite tails of all A300 and A310 series planes. Todd's statements (and those of Stan Molin and others) will be in Part 2 of this write-up next week.

The Council had stated that they wanted "answers" from the NTSB. I informed the Council that in all fairness to the NTSB, 10 months is not enough time for them to produce probable cause. If by "answers" they meant more factual data, then I expressed my support for that call.

I outlined for the Council some of the reasons why I have not been able to put terrorism (or sabotage) to bed yet: (1) The day of the crash, November 12th, was the Veteran's Day holiday. We were already under a general terror alert at that time but the Government had also received a specific threat to the Veteran's Day Holiday (as was reported by Bill Gertz of the Washington Times). (2) It was an American Airlines plane that crashed -- American Airlines was targeted on September 11th when two of its planes were used in the attacks. Also, approximately 40 days after the crash of Flight 587, Richard Reid, the Shoe Bomber, tried to blow up American Airlines flight. (3) All the witness statements of fire, smoke, and explosions. (4) Security is still a concern. I sighted the New York Daily News accounts released the week of the Hearing where their investigators successfully carried on objects that looked like weapons or could be used as weapons in 14 of 14 attempts.

I ended my statement by saying, "I don't want to sound arrogant ... I don't know what brought down Flight 587 ... but what I can tell you is that the story that has emerged from the NTSB ... I have serious doubts about. Council Member Martinez ... you mentioned wake turbulence and pilot error ... the NTSB will defend themselves and say 'we haven't said what the cause was' ... and that is true. But they have allowed a message to leak out ... and that (message) is wake turbulence and pilot over-control. That the pilot got spooked by the wake turbulence and over-controlled the rudder ... and broke (the tail). Scrutinizing the data the NTSB has released to date, paints a completely different picture. Based on the radar data I received from PASSUR, and the known weather conditions that morning, there's no way the wake vortices made it over to Flight 587 (especially for the 2nd wake encounter). The NTSB has refused to release the weather data. What about the pilot over-control of the rudder? The current timeline shows the crew was fighting something before the 2nd (alleged) wake encounter. If it wasn't wake turbulence the Pilot was responding to, what was it? Back in February, I brought to the NTSB's attention that their own data showed the plane was in trouble before the 2nd wake encounter. They have not responded (nor did they acknowledge that is what the data / timeline shows)."

Dr. Vernon Grose, the tall, soft-spoken, former NTSB Board Member (he had taken the train up from Washington, DC that morning to attend the Hearing) took the stand next and opened up with "if the NTSB was doing the job they were commissioned to do by the Congress in 1967, there'd be no need for this meeting today." He outlined a brief history of the NTSB and how they are intended to be an independent body.

   

He continued, "In 1996, something happened ... to the NTSB. It began to be politicized. Starting with the ValueJet 592 crash in the Everglades and followed almost immediately by TWA Flight 800, which has already been mentioned, politics began to enter into the investigatory process. And it's been a sad story almost since then and it's compounded by what's happened with American 587, as far as I'm concerned. The Chairperson of the NTSB, Marion Blakey, made a statement with zero evidence ... apart from Press reports, that all evidence pointed to this crash being an accident, and not terrorism. It's the most inappropriate statement any NTSB Member could ever make.

The idea of the NTSB is to go to the scene, dispatch a team, and generally there are 10 or 12 different groups, one of which is an Eyewitness Group. I'm rather shocked that that eyewitness group has not functioned, apparently, from the testimony I've heard. We know that eyewitnesses will vary ... but the fact that you have a preponderance of a large number of witnesses ... there is a commonality to them. And the commonality in this particular case is that there was evidently fire, of some type, on the starboard (right) side of the aircraft, aft (back) of the wing, and we have witnesses here today that saw that. The NTSB is in great danger right now of working backward toward the answer they decided the day the airplane crashed."

Part 2 (in the next issue of the WAVE and on usread.com by September 25th) will cover the statements of the other witnesses.


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