2002-10-19 / Front Page

Published Reports Blame Pilot For 587 Crash

By Howard Schwach

Published Reports Blame
Pilot For 587 Crash
By Howard Schwach

Unsubstantiated reports attributed to anonymous "investigators" point to Flight 587's First Officer, Sten Molin as the probable cause of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into Belle Harbor last November 12.

Those reports flooded the daily newspapers and television news shows in recent days.

According to a New York Times report, written by Matthew L. Wald, "investigators have turned up new information that has led them to focus more intensely on pilot training and performance as they try to explain the disaster that left 265 dead in Queens last November."

According to Wald, the new information "includes testimony that the co-pilot at the controls of the plane had a history of overreacting to wake turbulence, which the Airbus A-300 encountered shortly after taking off from Kennedy Airport on November 12."

The report goes on to say that two pilots who had flown with Molin when he was still in 727's told investigators that he was "awfully aggressive" in controlling the rudder and that he was "abrupt" in his use of the controls.

"When taken together, the new information has greatly increased official's interest in the actions of co-pilot Sten Molin," Wald says.

Wald adds, "Investigators have also discovered that the plane's rudder was prone to make large movements with very little effort from the pilot, meaning that a pilot could inadvertently swing the plane wildly from side to side."

Channel 7 ABC-TV news and MSNBC also ran similar stories on Tuesday night.

All of the stories were attributed to "investigators who asked to remain anonymous."

If the theory that the crash occurred because the pilot "flew the tail off by over controlling the rudder," then it belies the eyewitness testimony of more than a dozen Rockaway residents who reported fire and smoke on the fuselage of the plane prior to the crash.

It also belies the statements of Stan Molin, Sten's father. The elder Molin was a pilot for Eastern Airlines for 35 years and taught Sten how to fly.

"He is a hell of a pilot," Molin told The Wave back in June.

Molin attended the witness meeting sponsored by The Wave in July.

At that time, he said that he had lost confidence in the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) because "they are on the way to blaming my son for the crash."

If the New York Times article and the others are correct, and that theory is made clear at the NTSB hearing to be held at the end of this month, Molin's prediction may just come true.

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