2003-09-12 / Front Page

NTSB To FAA

Require Inspection Of Overstressed Aircraft
By Howard Schwach
NTSB To FAA

NTSB To FAA:


The vertical stabilizer (tail fin) attachment point from the Airbus A300-600 that was American Airlines Flight 587 after the crash. Notice how the fin has pulled away from the lug that attached it to the body of the plane.The vertical stabilizer (tail fin) attachment point from the Airbus A300-600 that was American Airlines Flight 587 after the crash. Notice how the fin has pulled away from the lug that attached it to the body of the plane.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) urging that aircraft that have gone through what the investigative agency calls "severe turbulence or extreme maneuvers" be inspected much more carefully by airlines.

While it is not stated clearly in the safety recommendation letter sent to the FAA, the implication is clear that the letter was spurred by the investigation into the crash of American Airlines Flight 587, which killed 265 people, including five Belle Harbor residents on the ground.

According to earlier reports by the NTSB, the Airbus A-300-600 had hit wake turbulence from a Japan Airlines aircraft that had preceded its departure from JFK's Runway 31 Left on November 12, 2001.

"During the accident event, the vertical stabilizer and rudder departed the airplane in flight," a footnote to the letter states. "...The cause of the accident is still under investigation. Information to date indicates that the vertical stabilizer was subjected to large aerodynamic structural loading during the accident event."

According to the letter, on May 12, 1997, an Airbus Industrie A 300-600 operated by American Airlines as Flight 903, was involved in an "upset event." The plane's stall warning system activated and the plane rolled to extreme bank angles, both right and left.

After the crash of flight 587, the tail was pulled from the flight 903 aircraft and there was found to be delamination around the lugs that hold the tail to the body. That delamination of composite material used in the tail could cause the lugs to rip away and the tail to fall off the aircraft, according to experts.

Mary Ann Greczyn, a spokesperson for Airbus North America, said that the company "has implemented or is in the process of implementing all of the NTSB's recommendations."

Greg Martin, a spokesperson for the FAA says that the agency is "studying the recommendations."

The NTSB's recommendation is that the FAA require airlines to perform closer inspections of aircraft that have suffered 'upsets" such as wake turbulence.

Meanwhile, the NTSB's accident investigation group's Structures Group is working with NASA and Airbus on a static lug test to be done in Germany in the near future. According to an NTSB update on the crash issued in August, "The left-side rear main attachment lug from an A310 tail fin box will be tested to demonstrate the behavior of the lug under tensile load conditions to which the fin of flight 587 had been exposed during the accident sequence.

A Vanity Fair magazine article about the flight that came out late last year said that the aircraft that became flight 587 had suffered such an "upset" on a flight years earlier.

Ted Lopatkiewicz, a spokesperson for the NTSB, told The Wave that the final report on the flight 587 crash would probably not be issued until "springtime."


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