American Airlines Flight 587

by NPHM | January 18th, 2010

With the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, fresh in American minds, another aviation disaster struck New York shortly thereafter. On Nov. 12, 2001, American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens, New York.

Flight 587 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight to Las Americas International Airport, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with two flight crewmembers, seven flight attendants, and 251 passengers aboard the airplane. With 260 aboard the plane killed and another five people killed on the ground, the crash is one of the deadliest disasters involving a U.S. airliner.

Investigator Robert Benzon of the National Transportation Safety Board staff said the copilot’s response to turbulence, just seconds after the Airbus A300-600 plane took off from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, was “unnecessary and aggressive.” In the conclusions of the Aircraft Accident Report, the findings included that, “Flight 587’s vertical stabilizer performed in a manner that was consistent with its design and certification. The vertical stabilizer fractured from the fuselage in overstress, starting with the right rear lug while the vertical stabilizer was exposed to aerodynamic loads that were about twice the certified limit load design envelope and were more than the certified ultimate load design envelope.”

The report when on to say that, “The first officer had a tendency to overreact to wake turbulence by taking unnecessary actions, including making excessive control inputs.” As the probable cause, the report said that, “The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the in-flight separation of the vertical stabilizer as a result of the loads beyond ultimate design that were created by the first officer’s unnecessary and excessive rudder pedal inputs. Contributing to these rudder pedal inputs were characteristics of the Airbus A300-600 rudder system design and elements of the American Airlines Advanced Aircraft Maneuvering Program.”

American Airlines has since modified its pilot training program. Previous simulator training didn’t properly reflect “the actual large build-up in sideslip angle and sideloads that would accompany such rudder inputs in an actual airplane,” according to the NTSB final report.,8599,184084,00.html