2004-11-19 / Community

Weiner: FAA Bears Burden For AA 587

In the wake of recently released findings by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding the crash of Flight 587, a member of the House Aviation Subcommittee is calling for a congressional investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

Representative Anthony Weiner announced new legislation that would initiate an investigation by the Government Accounting Office (GAO)-the investigative arm of Congress—into whether the FAA has been implementing NTSB directives intended to improve air safety, and requiring the FAA to take immediate action when airlines or airplane manufacturers express safety concerns about planes or pilot maneuvers. 

On November 12, 2001, American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in Rockaway, Queens, killing all 260 passengers on board, as well as five Rockaway residents on the ground.

According to the NTSB, Flight 587 crashed after it’s pilot, encountering wake turbulence, began moving the plane’s rudder back and forth, building pressure on the tail fin until it snapped off. 

In 1997, Flight 903, another Airbus built American Airlines jet, nearly lost its tail fin when a pilot engaged in the same maneuver. But in the four years between the two flights no one-not Airbus, not American, not the FAA-did anything to correct the safety flaw revealed by Flight 903. Instead, Airbus and American pointed the finger at each other, and the FAA stood by, doing nothing.

Weiner, who represents Rockaway, announced plans to introduce legislation to make sure that never happens again. Weiner’s Flight 587 Accountability Act would:

Hold the FAA Accountable for Putting Safety First.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the experts on transportation safety, has issued fourteen safety recommendations since they began their investigation into the crash of Flight 587, but the FAA hasn’t implemented any.  The Government Accounting Office will investigate whether, and to what extent, the FAA follows the NTSB’s guidance on safety issues.

Make the FAA Act on Safety Concerns . The FAA knew about the near catastrophe of flight 903, but let Airbus and American point the finger at each other, rather than making them correct the problem. The Act requires the FAA to mediate disputes between manufacturers and airlines about plane safety, and give them clear instructions about how to address them.

Give Pilots Clear Notice About Plane Safety.  When pilots want to know whether there are maneuvers they should avoid with regards to a specific airplane, they go to the “limitations” section of the plane’s manual.  But in the case of Flight 587, Airbus didn’t update the limitations section after Flight 903 with information about the plane’s rudder. Manufacturers should be required to put all information relating to airline safety up front, in the “limitations” section.

“The FAA utterly failed its responsibilities, with catastrophic results,” said Rep. Weiner. “Changes need to be made at the FAA.”


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