AA, Airbus, Cut Deal On 587 Victims
By Howard Schwach
It was only last October, at a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing on the crash of American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A300-600, that American Airlines and Airbus Industries clashed over the reason for the Belle Harbor crash that killed 260 people on the plane and five on the ground when the tail of the airliner fell off into Jamaica Bay.
American Airlines set out to show that the Airbus A-300, which had a new composite technology built into its tail, was a faulty aircraft. For its part, Airbus attempted to show that the plane's first officer, Sten Molin, who was flying the plane on takeoff from JFK Airport on November 12, 2001, "flew the tail off the plane" by over controlling the rudder when hit by wake turbulence.
The battle was intense because there was lots at stake, including reputation, passengers and monetary damages for the victims of the crash.
While the NTSB hearing ended without a final report (one is due early next year), the lobbying by both corporations, seeking approbation for its point of view, continued unabated.
Now, however, American Airlines and Airbus have temporarily set aside their differences and have agreed jointly to pay for damage claims stemming from the Belle Harbor crash.
The filing last week in federal district court in Manhattan, which temporarily ends the dispute, means that lawyers for the families on the plane as well as those on the ground, will not have the chance to question the reason for the crash.
The agreement, in effect, provides a united front against the victim's claims.
Airbus, however, says that the decision was made to go ahead with the agreement in order to "make sure that the victim's families are taken care of."
"This is an interim step only," MaryAnne Greczyn," a spokesperson for Airbus in its Herdon, Virginia headquarters, told The Wave. "This is not an admission of liability. That will all be decided, perhaps by a court, after the final NTSB report is released."
John Hotard, a spokesperson for American Airlines in Texas corroborated the fact that an agreement had been reached by the airline and Airbus.
"American and Airbus did notify the court that they had reached an agreement, which was not filed, to pay for damages," Hotard said. "We are now ready to start serious settlement agreements with the plaintiffs."
Experts say that the focus in the crash has now shifted from determining the reason for the crash to determining the amount of damages to which each victim's family is entitled.
The agreement reportedly calls for a 50-50 split on the part of the two aircraft giants.
The companies and their insurance carriers, however, have reserved the right to battle it out at a later time to determine liability.