2006-03-31 / Editorial/Opinion

Getting Harder To Maintain The Fiction On AA 587

This editorial was originally published in The Wave on April 8, 2005. We decided to reprint it once again in the wake of a recent order by Airbus Industries that all airlines flying the A300-600 aircraft check the rudders of the plane for deterioration. The National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) has added its weight to that order as well. The order was promulgated after Airbus found that hydraulic fluid may cause the material that holds the rudder together to deteriorate. American Airlines Flight 587, an A300-600 aircraft, crashed into Belle Harbor in November of 2001. The NTSB ruled that the accident was a case of pilot error. The Wave has maintained that the aircraft rudder is dangerous for at least two years. See story on Page One.

Many Rockaway residents looked askance at the National Transportation Safety Board's final report on the November, 2001 crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue. That report, which blamed the crash on First Officer Sten Molin, who was flying the departure from JFK Airport that day, said that Molin "unnecessarily and aggressively" over-controlled the plane's rudder, ripping it from the aircraft when he encountered wake turbulence. Even many pilots scoffed at the report. At the time, an official of the Allied Pilots Association said, "Building a plane where the tail falls off if you over-control the rudder is like building a car where the wheels fall off every time you hit the brakes too hard. We agree. Now, in the wake of a number of other "upsets" that involved Airbus A300 series aircraft, including an Air Transat A310 on the way from Cuba to Canada that had to turn back when the plane's rudder separated from the tail fin and fell into the Florida Straits, many people want to take a new look at AA 587. Those incidents have caused a number of aviation experts to call for a reopening of the investigation into AA 587. The latest call came this week from Senator Charles Schumer. "The safety and reliability of the [Airbus] rudders have come into question," he said. "The NTSB owes it to the many families of the victims of the crash [of AA 587] and to the traveling public to find out whether traveling on those planes is dangerous." To the NTSB, Schumer said, "Given the similarities between the Canadian flight and other incidents involving A300 and A310 Aircraft, it requires you to reopen your investigation." In the wake of the Air Transat incident, the FAA required American Airlines to check the rudders of all of their A300 and A310 Aircraft. At least two were found to have problems with delaminations in their rudders. It is time to reopen the investigation. Continuing problems with the Airbus craft make it harder to maintain the fiction that AA 587 was caused by Molin ripping the tail off. Now is the time for the NTSB to admit its mistake and go back and find the real cause of the crash.

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