2006-11-10 / Community

NTSB: FAA Lags On AA587 Recommendations

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a report just before the fifth anniversary of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into Belle Harbor that criticizes the Federal Aviation Administration for not implementing changes that might keep a similar accident from occurring in the future.

On Thursday, just three days before the fifth anniversary, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark V. Rosenker today noted, "we have made progress in the areas of pilot training and their understanding of proper upset recovery techniques. However, we believe action is still needed on some recommendations dealing with rudder system design."

On November 12, 2001, American Airlines flight 587 crashed into Belle Harbor just minutes after taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport. All 260 persons aboard the plane and five on the ground died in the crash.

In its report, the NTSB found that the first officer's unnecessary and excessive rudder pedal inputs led to the separation of the plane's vertical stabilizer.

"As we reach the 5th anniversary of the crash of flight 587, we can be assured that improvements have been made to minimize such an accident from happening again. The pilot community now knows that excessive rudder movements, even at speeds lower than previously believed, can jeopardize the safety of the aircraft, and the FAA has issued a revised upset recovery aide that has been distributed to over 900 airlines worldwide," Chairman Rosenker said. "These actions have addressed a major problem uncovered by our investigation, and I commend the FAA and industry for their response."

"However, we have seen little progress up to now on recommendations to the FAA to revise certification regulations to ensure that the rudder system provides aircraft with safe handling characteristics, and apply those regulations to existing aircraft. We also asked the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA, the counterpart agency to the FAA) to require Airbus to modify its rudder systems on certain of its aircraft, because their sensitivity made them susceptible to potentially hazardous rudder pedal inputs at higher airspeeds.

The recommendations issued by the NTSB are outlined in Safety Recommendation Letter AAR-04-04, issued on November 10, 2004, just before the third anniversary of the crash.

AAR-04-04 calls for the FAA to "Review the options for modifying the Airbus A300-600 and the Airbus A310 to provide protection from potentially hazardous pedal inputs at high airspeeds and, on the basis of that review, require modifications to the A300-600 and A310 to provide increased protection."

Despite the passing of two years, the NTSB officials say, that recommendation has still not been implemented.

"I call on the FAA and the EASA to adopt our recommendations - which were issued two years ago - as soon as possible. Let's do all we can to make sure we don't see an accident like American 587 again."

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