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American Airlines Flight 587

Discussion in 'Legal' started by fedlaw, Oct 26, 2004.

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  1. fedlaw

    fedlaw Member

    Feb 22, 2003
    Whew, I sure am glad it was pilot error, and not what the NTSB supervisor told me a few days after the crash. The supervisor, a very good friend of mine and someone I had worked with for many years, told me they found C-4 residue and were pretty sure the plane was brought down by a bomb. Just goes to show you how wrong some people can be when they don't know all of the "real" facts.


    October 27, 2004
    Pilot Actions and Training Cited in '01 Airliner Crash in Queens

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 - The National Transportation Safety Board said on Tuesday that the crash of American Airlines Flight 587, the second-worst aviation accident in American history, was caused by the pilot's "unnecessary and excessive" use of the rudder. But flawed training by the airline and poor rudder design were major contributing factors, the board said.

    The plane, an Airbus A300, crashed shortly after takeoff from Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 12, 2001, killing all 260 people on board and 5 more on the ground in Belle Harbor, Queens. It was bound for the Dominican Republic.

    Encountering turbulence, the pilot moved the rudder back and forth to try to keep the wings at the proper angle, pushing the plane into a fatal oscillation, according to staff members of the safety board. The force of the wind eventually ripped the vertical tail fin off, sending the A300 plunging into houses on the Rockaway Peninsula.

    Sten Molin, the first officer, was at the controls as the plane hit the turbulence, the wake of a Boeing 747 that had taken off shortly before. The board said that he pushed the rudder too far to one side and then overcorrected by pushing hard in the other direction, and that the crash would not have occurred had he not touched the rudder.

    The board also noted that the rudder control system on the A300 was overly sensitive, and that American Airlines' training methods might have misled pilots into thinking that using the rudder was the only choice in that situation.

    The board's findings are only advisory, but will probably play into litigation now in progress in New York, where Airbus and American are negotiating how much each should pay to compensate victims' relatives.

    "It was a unique combination of events," said Ellen Engleman Conners, the chairwoman of the board. Mark Rosenker, the vice chairman, called it a "tragic coupling." Encountering the wake of the plane ahead of it, the A300 hit one of the two horizontal tornadoes that any plane leaves behind. According to the official transcript of the cockpit voice recorder, the captain, Edward A. States, said, "Little wake turbulence, huh?" to Mr. Molin. "Yeah," he responded. A few seconds later, the A300 hit the second wake.

    "You all right?" asked the captain. "Yeah, I'm fine," he responded. "Hang on to it, hang on to it," the captain said.

    The fatal sequence took less than eight seconds.

    According to the board's final report, which was discussed in the meeting Tuesday but not publicly released, two pilots who had previously flown with Mr. Molin said he reacted too aggressively to wake turbulence. But the report also said that American's pilots might have been left with the impression that jumbo jets like the A300 can recover from turbulence only by use of the rudder, a problem staff experts called "negative training."

    "Rudder input was not necessary," said John Clark, the board's chief staff official for aviation safety. He said Mr. Molin's use of the rudder and of the ailerons, flaps used to keep the wings level, were "very aggressive."

    The five-member board agreed unanimously on the causes but disagreed over whether the training or the tail sensitivity should rank second.

    For all airliners there is a "maneuvering speed" above which rudder use is unsafe, but the A300's system for limiting rudder use as speed increases is unusual. On most planes, as speed increases, the pedal must be pushed farther and farther to get a given amount of movement out of the rudder. On the A300 and the A310, the system simply limits how far the pedal can move. The result is that very small pedal movements produce relatively large rudder changes. Since pushing the rudder produces a delayed result, pilots may push too far when they get no immediate response, then overshoot.

    Dr. Malcolm Brenner, a psychologist with the board, called it "an inherently unfriendly design."

    The crash investigation exposed a widespread misunderstanding among pilots about when it is safe to use the rudder. Many pilots thought that if they were below maneuvering speed, any rudder use was allowed.

    In fact, to be certified as airworthy, a tail must be sturdy enough to allow the rudder to be pushed as far as it will go in one direction and keep the plane flyable. But a tail is not meant to withstand the rudder being applied in alternating directions. Engineers apparently did not convey this to pilots, however. John Lauber, a former member of the safety board who is now a safety official at Airbus, said in an interview that there was never any reason to believe that any pilot would want to use the rudder in alternating directions.

    American Airlines had argued vigorously in the last few weeks that one reason for the crash was Airbus's failure to tell all it knew about rudder problems in a 1997 incident involving the same kind of plane. In that incident, American Airlines Flight 903 lost altitude suddenly near West Palm Beach, Fla., and the crew recovered sloppily but managed to prevent a crash. Some board members said that they wished they had known more about that incident earlier, but they rejected American's contention that it was a warning that could have helped the industry prevent the crash of Flight 587.

    "You really can't look at 903 and predict to the future of the events that played out in 587," said Mr. Clark, the aviation safety official.

    After the board voted to accept the staff report, the airline said in a statement: "How is safety served, how is future aviation safety enhanced, by blaming the pilot, who had no way of knowing the design sensitivities of that airplane because Airbus, who did know, never told safety investigators, never told operators and never told pilots?"

    Airbus said in its statement that it was "surprised" by the concern about rudder sensitivity. The plane maker calculated that the co-pilot had used 140 pounds of force on the rudder pedal, enough to have "resulted in full rudder reversals on any commercial aircraft anywhere in the world."

    Airbus said it had warned several times on the possibility that using the rudder in alternating directions could make a plane break up in flight, including in its submission to the safety board on the Flight 903 investigation. American said that this was not clear to the airline.

    In the board meeting, staff members and members of the board engaged in extended discussions intended to disprove the idea that the crash was caused by sabotage. At the time of the crash, the wreckage of the World Trade Center was still burning, and witnesses insisted that they saw the plane on fire before it crashed. But board staff members said what they saw might have been the result of fuel leaking after the engines tore off as the plane broke up.

    The board also rejected the idea that the tail failed because it was made of composite materials. The crash is the first of an airliner in which failure of a composite part played a key role.

    American has 34 other planes of the same model, the A300-600. Among carriers in the United States, FedEx and UPS also fly them.

    The worst aviation accident in the country's history occurred on May 25, 1979, when a DC-10 went down after takeoff from O'Hare in Chicago when an engine fell off. That crash killed 271 people.
  2. saddenedcitizen

    saddenedcitizen Member

    Jun 27, 2003
    Sigh - another journalist

    These people just don't listen, are listening to the wrong people
    or just don't care about facts -

    'Maneuvering speed' is the speed RANGE at which full, abrupt
    movement of control surfaces (alerons and rudder) will
    NOT overstress the airframe.

    The rudder is used ALL the time in turns to avoid what is called
    'adverse yaw' (the nose of the aircraft yaws in the opposite
    direction of the turn).

    If Airbus is saying the rudder should not be used above a certain
    speed then they have discovered a new 'law' of aeronautics !!!!

    Personally, I WILL NOT get on an Airbus, ANY Airbus, for a variety
    of reasons (computer control limitations is just one of them).

    This is another case of Airbus blaming the (deceased and therefore
    cannot defend himself/themselves) pilot(s) so as not to have anyone
    question the safety of these **** 'flying laptops' with incredible
    amounts of software and the inherent bugs in massive amounts
    of software.

    BTW - the planes were designed using computers (more bugs)
    and as someone once said CAD (computer aided design) REALLY
    means computer aided DISASTER !!!!!
  3. Zrex

    Zrex Member

    May 28, 2004
    I am not in the aviation industry, but recalling some vague recollections:

    Is the Airbus A300 the plane that will over ride pilot inputs if the computer deems them too extreme or unnecessary?
  4. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 25, 2002
    Down East in NC
    The problem with the Airbus, as I understand it, is that the rudder pedals have a very high initial resistance to movement and relatively little additional resistance preventing full rudder travel. So it's very easy to accidentally put in full rudder. The aircraft does limit rudder travel above a certain airspeed, but the plane was (IIRC) below this airspeed when the incident occurred.

    Fortunately, stomping on the rudder pedal won't break the tail off, of an Airbus or anything else. The rudder is designed to withstand having full rudder applied, then once it reaches the equilibrium yaw position, having full opposite rudder applied.

    The problem here was that full rudder was applied, yawing the plane one way, then opposite rudder was applied, yawing the plane the other way, way past the point of static yaw equilibrium, and then the rudder was reversed again while the airplane had its tail way out. That exceeded the ultimate load on the rudder, and it broke off.

    This could happen on any large airplane; get it swinging back and forth, build the amplitude of the swing, then apply full opposite rudder just as the plane reaches the maximum dynamic yaw; no airliner is designed to withstand that kind of tail stress. This doesn't happen with smaller planes because they (1) have less rotational moment of inertia, and (2) due to scaling factors the forces involved are more manageable.

    BTW, here's a recent Aviation Week article on the topic:

    Aviation Week article
  5. Waitone

    Waitone Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    The Land of Broccoli and Fingernails
    I guess those video tapes of a small explosion over the right wing IIRC just before the crash were in error. By the way, has anyone seen those tapes since the investigation began.

    Good thing the federales are looking out for us. For a while there I thought it just may have been an explosive device.

    BTW, how many composite vertical stabilizers have failed in flight?
  6. CentralTexas

    CentralTexas Member

    Jun 2, 2004
    Austin Texas
    I've seen a few

    interviews with credible witnesses (LEOs & fireman etc) that said there was fire/smoke/explosion.....
  7. nipprdog

    nipprdog Member

    Feb 20, 2004
  8. feedthehogs

    feedthehogs Member

    Jan 8, 2003
    Being a pilot, but never flew an airbus, I don't buy the explanation.

    Do you know how many of those planes that fly everyday encounter the same turbulence and pilots respond in the same manner being equally trained?

    They would be dropping out of the skies.

    No tin foil hat crap here, but I don't buy it.
  9. Sergeant Bob

    Sergeant Bob Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    The Swamps of Goldwater, MI
    We have at least one Airbus pilot on this board, FlyA320's IIRC.
    Would be nice to get his input on this.

    I have to agree with this acessment.

    Their explanation kind of reminds me of the 13,000 ft "zoom climb" of TWA 800.
  10. Waitone

    Waitone Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    The Land of Broccoli and Fingernails
    <Poster's Comment> And so it starts again.


    NBC's Robert Hager – NTSB prostitute?

    Posted: October 28, 2004
    1:00 a.m. Eastern

    By James Sanders
    © 2004 WorldNetDaily.com

    The National Transportation Safety Board had yet another cartoon representing a "theory" of a commercial airliner crash. This time it was American Airlines Flight 587 that crashed Nov. 12, 2001, two months after 9-11, shortly after taking off from JFK airport on Long Island, N.Y. And, once again, the NTSB was preparing to sell a theory for which no credible evidence existed. NTSB success at selling virtual garbage as credible theory in the TWA Flight 800 crash, July 17, 1996, gave the NTSB confidence that its propaganda, placed in the correct hands, could be fearlessly used to contaminate the mind of the American masses.

    Did the NTSB go to ABC or CBS? No! It just picked up the phone, punched the quick dial and summoned its favorite "newsman" – Robert Hager – and on the NBC Oct. 26 evening news, there he was, selling that cartoon as if it was a surveillance film of Congressman Barney Frank in a Capitol bathroom with a page.

    The narrative was 100 percent NTSB, massaged just enough to sound like a real, honest-to-God news story that Hager had personally sniffed out. Its conclusion? Everything the NTSB said was the gospel truth and no loose ends exist requiring journalistic comment or investigation. Mothers and children of the deceased served as a backdrop, while Hager assured the American public that the families of the victims could take comfort in knowing how and why their loved ones died.

    But tens of thousands of new victims rose from the malodorous stench created by the NTSB and Robert Hager: The family of the pilot accused of "pilot error" when no credible facts back up the allegation; The American Airlines employees fighting to save their airline from bankruptcy, smeared by the NTSB without one credible supporting fact; And the American public, once again fed propaganda disguised as news.

    Here are the facts the NTSB failed to address and resolve before resorting to a theory without credible factual support:

    Many credible witnesses described a modest initial explosion that created a fire toward the rear of AA587. At least one rear passenger door and a cargo door appeared to have separated from the plane in the opening seconds of the tragedy.

    The NTSB made no attempt to interview and obtain comprehensive statements from the witnesses and attempt to use those statements to develop an initial investigative hypothesis. An honest investigation would have expeditiously taken this step. Then, evidence would be built around those statements, or the statements would be shown by objective analysis to be in error. And the reasons for judging witness statements in error would be fully explained in writing. This did not happen.

    The NTSB did not release photos and a debris field map showing where the first parts of the aircraft rested on the Bay floor under only a few feet of salt water.

    Potentially critical video tape of AA587 has been withheld from the public.

    Within minutes of AA587 going down, Colin Powell and other high-ranking federal officials raced for the media microphones and began chanting a propaganda mantra: It was not a terrorist act.

    The actions of government officials constitute evidence. We need not know precisely what brought AA587 down to know when a cover-up is unfolding before our eyes on national television. When senior federal officials race to media microphones and begin chanting, even before fire and police have put out flames and began interviewing witnesses and looking for evidence, the American public can be assured a cover-up is in progress.

    In this case, the reason for the cover-up is quite apparent. Sept. 11 caused significant economic disruption to the United States economy. Another terrorist attack within two months on our air transport system would have resulted in the grounding of commercial aviation for an extended period. It would also have caused an economic disruption leading to a major recession – or more likely a depression.

    And, the country had rallied around the president. That support would melt away as the American public realized that, despite all the hype, America was highly vulnerable to terrorist attack. So the federal government did what it has done since World War II when in trouble – lie to the masses in order to make it easier to govern.

    Over the decades it has become easier to take this route as the feds identify the Robert Hager's of the world, willing to use their position of trust as highly paid talking heads – paid by NBC, but frequently programmed by the American government.

    Prostitute: "A person who uses his talents or gifts for unworthy or corrupt purposes." Is Robert Hager a prostitute? You decide
  11. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 25, 2002
    Down East in NC
    Not necessarily. The tail obviously came off first, based on its location in the debris field, and the failure points were obvious shear/tension stress (ripped the mounting blocks right out of the fuselage, as I recall). But after the airplane departed controlled flight, it started shedding pieces due to aerodynamic stress; both engines separated from the aircraft, among other things, and ripping a running engine from the wing would obviously cause a localized fuel vapor fireball.

    Personally, I don't buy the TWA 800 official storyline either, but I think the AA587 explanation is pretty cut-and-dried. AvWk did a straightforward aerodynamics calculation based on the indicated airspeed, yaw angle, and rudder deflection as reported by the flight data recorder, and it exceeded the tail's calculated ultimate load (not the design load, the calculated failure load) by a considerable margin. Like I said, get a very heavy airplane yawing back and forth like a pendulum, and you can get the tail out enough to break it off.
  12. Fly320s

    Fly320s Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    New Hampshire
    Since Sergeant Bob asked, here I am.

    I'll start with the wake turbulence issue. I am not now, nor have I ever been, trained to use (primarily) the rudder to escape from a WT encounter. My training is to avoid the WT by flying above it when possible or to wait for a specified time or distance to avoid it. If I should encounter WT, I will use all control surfaces (primarily ailerons) to maintain control.

    While rudder control is always available to the pilot, Airbus planes have computers that control the rudder during normal operations to automatically maintain turn coordination, as saddenedcitizen mentioned. Because of this, I normally do not use the rudder during flight. That's not to say that I wouldn't, shouldn't or am trained not to, just that in normal operations I don't need to use the rudder pedals.

    On to rudder use, manuevering speed, and structural intergrity...
    benEzra's explanation of the stresses on the tail is right on. A transport category aircraft (FAA's definition) is not designed to be thrown around the sky regardless of speed or aircraft weight. The Airbus is a smart plane, but it can still be over controlled by pilots.

    After the AA587 crash, we received a reminder to exercise caution when using the rudder. Specifically, we were told (among other things) that when going from a full deflection in one direction to a full direction in the other direction that we should temporarily stop the rudder movement in the middle to prevent "slamming" the rudder to it's full-travel stops.

    Quted from benEzra: "The problem with the Airbus, as I understand it, is that the rudder pedals have a very high initial resistance to movement and relatively little additional resistance preventing full rudder travel."
    -- That has not been my experience in the A320. AA587 was an Airbus 300. IIRC, that was the first plane that Airbus built and the first airliner to use fly-by-wire technology. Whether that had an effect on the accident aircraft I don't know.

    Moving on. Just to clarify things, the entire vertical stabilizer (tail) broke off, not just the rudder which is the control surface mounted to the back of the vert. stab.

    Feedthehogs wrote: "Do you know how many of those planes that fly everyday encounter the same turbulence and pilots respond in the same manner being equally trained?"
    --- My answer is, "Very few." It is a rare occassion for me to encounter wake turbulence that is strong enough for me to have to resort to using "strong" control techniques to maintain aircraft control. In my experience, a WT encounter is very short-lived. Just a few seconds, at most, of bumps or rolling motions then it's over.

    I don't like wake turbulence. Can't stand it. But never have I encountered any WT that has caused me to need to use any control surface to it's maximum ability to control the aircraft.

    Disclaimer time: I wasn't in that plane: AA587. I don't know how bad the wake turbulence was. I'm merely trying to share my experiences with you.

    One more thing. The Airbus (at least the 320) is easy to put into pilot-induced-oscillations. Basically, it's easy to over control when the pilot is really work the controls, such as during a strong crosswind landing. Many times I have just made matters worse by trying to fly it like a normal plane. Sometimes the best technique is to let go for a second and let the flight control computers stabilize the aircraft.

    The fly-by-wire controls in conjunction with the hydraulics and the somewhat slow response of a heavy plane sometimes seem to work against me. That's because I am trying to fly it like a "normal" plane. The Airbus needs to be managed more than flown. It's different.

    That's it. Hope it helps.
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