2004-07-16 / Editorial/Opinion

Whatever Happened To AA 587?

Whatever Happened To AA 587?

The summer is moving quickly and it will soon be November and the third anniversary of the tragic crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into Belle Harbor streets. Three years. How time flies! The majority of the lawsuits brought by relatives of the 260 people who died on the plane have been settled. According to lawyers for the plaintiffs, the majority of lawsuits brought by the families of those Belle Harbor residents who died on the ground that day on November 12, 2001 have been settled as well. Two of the homes that were destroyed and where locals died are well in their way to being rebuilt by new owners. The former Concannon home, where Franco died on that day is nearly ready for occupancy. The former Lawler home, where both Kathie and Chris died, has a framework and foundation and is on the way to being completed. The other homes that were totally destroyed still sit fallow. Lawyers tell us that the settlement conferences for those who had only property damage, as horrendous as that it, will have to wait for settlements until all of the lawsuits of those who died have been settled or become untenable. Two major questions still remain in the minds of local residents who were impacted in one way or another by the crash: What was the cause of the crash and what form a Rockaway monument to all of those who died that day will take. These are not inconsequential questions. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced some time ago that it would present its final report on AA 587 in Washington, D.C. sometime during this summer. It is mid-July, and no date has yet been set. A spokesperson for the NTSB told us this week that the final report would now be "sometime after Labor Day." That leaves a lot of territory. Most locals who have been following the story believe that the agency is going to blame First Officer Sten Molin, who was flying the A300-600 that day for the crash, finding that he overflew the rudder. Both American Airlines and Airbus will get some blame – AA for its training program that did not warn pilots about the plane’s rudder problems and Airbus for not correcting the rudder problem, which they had known about since the early 1990’s. The discovery process in court, which may have forced both the airlines and the manufacturer to show their proverbial cards, has been stopped by Federal Judge Sweet, who ended the process to allow victims to settle their claims. That process may or may not begin anew in October of November (Sweet is away for the summer months). The fact that there is a possibility that the NTSB’s report will become the only document detailing the crash and the reasons for its descent into Rockaway bothers many locals, including ourselves. The second question is more local. The site for a fitting memorial to those who died in the second largest plane crash in American history is now up in the air and being kept there by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has not yet made a decision on whether such as memorial will exist and, if so, where it will be place. We would urge him to make a decision prior to the third anniversary. It is time for both questions to be answered.

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