2004-09-17 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

People are beginning to think that The Wave’s editors have split personalities.

Two weeks ago, we ran a front-page story that came from Canadian sources that pointed to the possibility that a shoe bomber brought down American Airlines Flight 587 in Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001.

Last week, we ran a front page story that came from German sources that pointed to the possibility that Airbus Industries, the company that built the A300-600 that crashed in Rockaway, cooked the books in testing the ability of its rudder to take high loads from a wake turbulence event, causing the tail to be ripped off.

People called us to tell us that we can’t have it both ways.

Either a terrorist brought down the plane as posited two weeks ago, or the tail had a fatal flaw that led to the accident, as posited last week.

It was pointed out to us that, unless the bomber blew his shoes nearby an already weakened tail, causing it to come off; the two theories are mutually exclusive of each other.

That, however, is not the point. The editors of The Wave do not believe that a terrorist brought down the plane. Nor do the editors believe that Airbus cooked the books to make the tail look more attractive to those who had to vet the plane before it went into service.

What we do believe is that both reports were credible and that people in Rockaway have the right to read the reports in the light of everything else that they have read and then decide for themselves what they believe happened to AA Flight 587.

It is interesting to note that both the reports came from the foreign press, not from any of the large daily New York City newspapers who covered the story by reprinting press releases put out by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and by the paper mills run by American Airlines and Airbus.

Only one daily paper came to the witness meeting sponsored by The Wave in July of 2002. Newsday reporter Merle English came to the meeting, but no story about those who stood up and told of fire, smoke and explosion on the aircraft prior to its crash ever made that paper.

We were told that the story was spiked by Sylvia Adcock, the paper’s official aviation reporter. We were never able to find out why. No other paper in the city went so far as to mention that a meeting was held at which eyewitnesses presented what they had seen to the public at large. There was obviously no interest in refuting the official line that was coming out of the NTSB, that the first officer, Sten Molin, got into a wake turbulence event that led to the crash, whether because the rudder control system was somehow flawed or because his training program led him to over-control the tail in such a violent way that it was ripped right off the plane.

It seems that there is still little interest on the part of the local daily papers to confront the possibilities about the crash of AA 587.

In early September, the Canadian National Post, one of the most respected newspapers in that nation, ran a story saying that its security officials has interrogated a known terrorist who told them that a man named Abderraouf Jdey, also known as “Farouk the Turisian” has used a shoe bomb to bring down AA 587.

The New York Post picked up the story and did a straight recital of the facts in the story and let it go at that. No other New York City daily even picked up on the story despite the fact that Jdey is a known terrorist and is on the FBI’s list of the seven men who are being sought in connection with future attacks on the United States.

Did Jdey bring down AA 587? We have no way of knowing. Is there a possibility that Jdey brought down the plane with a shoe bomb? The NTSB continues to say that there is no evidence of a bomb in the plane’s wreckage. The agency also continues to discount the eyewitness reports as being “unreliable,” even though many came from firefighters and police officers, people used to seeing fire and smoke and being involved in tragedy.

Not one paper, with the exception of The New York Post and The Wave covered the story.

Last week, we covered another story about AA 587 that came from the foreign media. Der Spiegel is a newsmagazine that is widely read in Germany, sort of their Newsweek.

Der Spiegel writer Ulrich Jaegar, who has been writing about aviation issues for more than 20 years and has many contacts in the European aircraft community says that the magazine has proof that Airbus Industries falsified the test results prior to the A300-600’s approval by European aviation agencies corresponding to our own Federal Aviation Agency (FAA).

In an interview with The Wave, Jaegar says that he has a copy of an internal memo from Airbus that speaks to the cooked tests. Is that true? I have no way of knowing.

I called Jaegar in Germany to insure in my own mind that he worked for Der Spiegel and that the fax I received with the article was legitimate.

I called Airbus for comment and it was clear that the company has seen the article and was willing to comment on it, even if it were to say that they did not want to dignify it with a comment.

I called the law firm mentioned in the story, but nobody there was available for comment last week.

I called the firm again on Monday, and was told that they had never seen the article and were never asked for comment by any German reporter or magazine.

Blanca Rodriquez, the attorney who is the liaison with the families of AA 587, asked me to fax her the article and the translation done for The Wave. I did. She told me after reading the article that her firm is going to ask to reopen the discovery process for those families who have not approved settlements, but that the September 15 conference was going to be “a normal status conference,” not a confrontation.

Is the Der Spiegel story true? I have no way of knowing, one way or the other. Do I believe, however, that the readers of The Wave and every other reader in the city have the right to know what the German report stated?

Of course. It seems, however, that not one daily paper agrees.

None of them picked up the story despite the fact that they all have European bureaus that track stories written about their coverage area. That those bureaus do not read Der Spiegel in unthinkable.

I just have to believe that they had the story even before The Wave did. Why they didn’t run it, even as a “report” rather than as “fact,” is a question I can’t answer.

There seems, however, to be some sort of embargo on information about AA Flight 587 that does not come directly from the NTSB, the FAA or from the public relations flacks at Airbus and American Airlines.

There is no other explanation as to why the daily papers would not print credible stories about the second most deadly plane crash in American his


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