2003-03-01 / Editorial/Opinion

Lots Of Questions Remain About 587

This editorial appeared in The Wave a year ago this week. We are reprinting it here because, despite the National Transportation Safety Board hearing last summer and the release of a transcript of the CVR tape from American Airlines Flight 587, many of the questions posed here remain today.

The devastating crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into Belle Harbor that killed five Rockaway residents (as well as 260 on the plane) and destroyed numerous homes and memories came nearly four months ago, but there are still many questions about the crash that need to be answered. Until one authority or another answers those questions, local residents will remain skeptical that the crash was, in fact, an accident. The first is the question of the "surveillance cameras" that supposedly were atop the Marine Park and Cross Bay bridges and that showed the plane in its short-lived flight. The Daily News says that it saw the tape. The FBI admits that it has the tape. Why can't we see it? The scenes on that tape might or might not "prove" the cause of the crash. The public has a right to see it as well. Right after the crash, Governor Pataki said that the aircraft dumped fuel over the bay. At the same time, locals reported that there was an "oily substance" in the bay nearby Rockaway. We now find that A300-600 Airbus aircraft cannot dump fuel. According to a number of airline pilots who have contacted The Wave, the aircraft can land fully loaded and therefore has no reason to have a mechanism for dumping fuel. Did the aircraft, for some reason, lose fuel over the bay? What was the "oily substance" that was seen by many in the bay? Residents have a right to answers to those questions? One of the official theories about the crash is that a JAL "heavy" right in front of AA 587 caused turbulence and that the pilots, fighting that turbulence, over controlled the rudder and caused it to be ripped off the plane. If that is the case, the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) should have reported the pilots talking about the problem, fighting the aircraft, trying to keep it aloft. What is on the CVR? While the transcripts of the conversation between the plane and the ground have been released, albeit recently, the transcript of the CVR has not. We realize that there are tough federal laws about releasing the CVR transcript, but the public has a right to know what that recorder reveals about the accident. Lastly, we have the case of the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) telling the pilot of 587 to "turn left and go direct WAVEY." WAVEY is a waypoint in the ocean about 30 miles from Rockaway. Aircraft dep-arting Runway 22L, as 587 did, turning left and going directly to Wavey would pass right over Belle Harbor. Should the aircraft have continued on the Breezy Track that it was reportedly scheduled for, it might have come down in the bay rather than on land. Why did the ATC tell the pilot to turn over Rock-away? Was this normal and regular procedure? Residents have a right to know. When we asked on pilot for information on what happened to Flight 587, he responded by saying, "The pilots of 587 did not break that airplane. This was not, by any stretch of the imagination crew error." We believe he is right, but then wonder what it was that brought down Flight 587 in Rockaway streets. We all have the right to the answer to that question.

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