2002-10-12 / Community

Flight 587 Update- Part Two

The City Council Hearing
By Victor Trombettas
Flight 587 Update- Part Two The City Council Hearing By Victor Trombettas

By Victor Trombettas

Todd Wissing is an Airbus A300-600 First Officer and introduced himself to the New York City Council - Transportation Committee as someone who is required, by FAA regulations, to express his concerns in any safety related matter. This is why Mr. Wissing and some other Airbus A300 pilots wrote a letter to the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) expressing concerns they had about the A300 and the February 8th Safety Recommendation issued this year by the NTSB. Mr. Wissing expressed his desire to focus on issues that directly affect pilots and those issues that the pilots have direct knowledge of--what the FAA regulations require of pilots, what pilots expect of their aircraft, and what pilots expect of the FAA and NTSB.

Mr. Wissing stated, "We had always assumed ... that something more than a visual inspection of the tail ... would be conducted. We came up with a broad range of experts in the field of non-destructive testing of composites materials that supported that feeling on our behalf. We are ourselves have become somewhat layman experts, if you will, in the field of composites just from having talked to so many (experts). Experts from MIT, NASA, US Air Force, all which backed non-destructive testing (of composites). That point especially has significant impact for the future as the airplanes that are being built now, the Airbus A380 ... the Boeing Sonic Cruiser, are over sixty percent composite material, including composite wing boxes. Second issue was structural certification requirements for the rudder and vertical stabilizer for all commercial aircraft. We thought that certification standards that would allow something of that nature to occur (separation of the tail) ... we wanted more re-evaluation on that especially where it concerned metal tails versus composite tails."

"As pilots who have experienced the airplane, (many) of our pilots were concerned about documented rudder movements on the A300 which were not caused by pilots. In fact, if you look back through all the documentation you can't find a time when the pilot over-controlled the rudder on an A300, although we do have over 20, maybe even 30, documented cases of the rudder moving on its own. In one case in 1999, in Miami, the rudder moved 12 degrees left and right nearly resulting in the loss of the airplane. A special emergency procedure was issued for that (the uncommanded rudder movements). So it struck us when the NTSB issued warnings about pilot training versus certification standards ... why wouldn't you look at uncommanded rudder rather than look at possible pilot actions."

"We know that NASA has conducted a study and printed a report on the immature use of load bearing structures made of composite material. (Another area of concern) ... The rudder limiters ... what pilots expect versus certification standards was one of the main points. Of course, we are (also) concerned about pilot training ... if they are going to change the way they define certain things such as maneuvering airspeed, which is a basic truth that we've always learned, they need to come up with better training. We're still unconvinced that every word they're saying is true, but if that's the case ... the training needs to be looked at."

"A couple of things come to mind .. for the eight years since the crash of flight 585 (United Airlines) in 1991 in Colorado Springs, (it was) a Boeing 737 ... for eight years through the crash of US Air Flight 427 in 1994, Boeing and Parker Hannifin tried to convince the court that those crashes were caused by ... and I'll quote from an article on June 29th (2002) ... 'pilot overreacted from wake vortex .. pressed rudder pedals the wrong way'. That's what their lawyers, Boeing and Parker Hannifin, maker of a rudder part, were arguing in court in June 2002. The judge decided that Boeing was 25% liable and Parker Hannifin was 75% liable. A lawyer for Parker Hannifin, told the Press, 'I have no interest in saying anything bad about the pilots, (but) in a court room I have to defend my client'".

"As pilots we have to be wary of the fact that ... sometimes .. to avoid liability, manufacturers may try to implicate pilots wrongly for things that have happened on airplanes, and I think that case (Boeing / Parker Hannifin) is a defining issue."

"Another (item) I'd like to point out ... the NTSB said that this accident, with the rudder movements resulting in the tail coming off, could have happened to any airplane ... Airbus or Boeing. On July 28, the Los Angeles Times quoted three separate Boeing sources as saying that under the same forces, the Boeing 767's tail would not have broken."

Mr. Wissing ended his statement by saying, "Finally, a fellow pilot of mine, points this out regarding wake turbulence, and he says 'if you consider all the places in the world where aircraft take off that are behind other aircraft and you consider that these airplanes have been taking off one behind the other for 50 years ... large commercial airplanes ... and you consider that Kennedy Airport is probably one of the best airports in the world with the most highly trained air traffic controllers ... and you consider what's being speculated here about over-control in reaction to a wake turbulence event that is likely felt a lot by pilots, and I certainly have felt it many times, and you consider what we're being asked to believe that these pilots mis-controlled this airplane and caused structural damage ... and go back 50 years (and see that this) has never happened before ... it seems to us that they (NTSB) still need to do some work."

Part III to be continued in future issues of The Wave. The next installment will include statements by Stan Molin (an airline pilot and the father of Sten Molin, the first officer who was flying Flight 587, and others.

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