American Airlines Flight 587
|Date||November 12, 2001|
|Summary||Tail structure failure because of pilot error in wake turbulence|
|Place||Queens, New York City, United States|
|Injuries (non-fatal)||1 (ground)|
|Fatalities||265 (including 5 on the ground)|
|Aircraft type||Airbus A300B4-605R|
|Flew from||John F. Kennedy Int'l Airport|
|Flying to||Las Américas Int'l Airport
American Airlines Flight 587 was a scheduled commercial flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to Las Américas International Airport in the Dominican Republic. The aircraft used was a Airbus A300-600. On November 12, 2001, the aircraft crashed into the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens, New York. All 260 people on the flight were killed. Five people on the ground were also killed. The crash was caused by the failure of the plane's tail because of pilot error in wake turbulence (turbulence that forms behind an airplane as it goes through the air). It is the second-deadliest plane crash in the United States after American Airlines Flight 191, which occurred on May 25, 1979.
Aircraft and Victims[change | change source]
American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A300B4-605R registration (N14053) was piloted by Captain Ed States, (42) and First Officer Sten Molin, (34). The First Officer was flying the plane. Most of the passengers on-board were Americans, but 68 were Dominicans as well, there were also five Indonesians, three Taiwanese, two Canadians, two Australians, two Brazilians, one French, one German, one Haitian, one Italian, one Japanese, one Dutch, one Israeli, one Mexican, one British, and one Swiss passengers on board.
Flight[change | change source]
Flight 587 was scheduled to leave John F Kennedy at 08:00 for a flight to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The boarding process at gate 22 took a little longer than planned due to additional security procedures that delayed boarding. The gate was closed at 08:38 and push-back from the gate was accomplished at 9:00. The crew taxied to runway 31L behind Japan Airlines Flight 047, a Boeing 747-400 bound for Tokyo, Narita. Japan Airlines Flight 047 was cleared for takeoff at 9:11am, as the 747 climbed, the tower contacted Flight 587’s pilots and warned them about potential wake turbulence from the 747.
At 9:13:28 Flight 587 was cleared for takeoff from Runway 31L. The aircraft left the runway at 9:14:29, about 1 minute and 40 seconds after the JAL flight. From takeoff, the plane climbed to an altitude of 500 ft above mean sea level (msl) and then entered a climbing left turn to heading of 220. At 9:15:00, the pilot made initial contact with the departure controller informing him that the airplane was at 1,300 ft and climbing to 5,000 ft. The departure controller instructed the aircraft to maintain 13,000 ft.
At 9:15:36, when the aircraft hit wake turbulence from the JAL flight just in front of it. The first officer attempted to stabilise the aircraft with alternating aggressive rudder inputs from left to right. This continued for at least 20 seconds, until 9:15:56, when the stress of the first officer’s repeated rudder movements caused the lugs that attached the vertical stabilizer and rudder to fail. The stabilizer separated from the aircraft and fell into Jamaica Bay, about one mile north of the main wreckage site.
Eight seconds later, the stall warning sounded on the cockpit voice recorder. At the moment the stabilizer separated from the aircraft, the plane pitched downwards, headed straight for Belle Harbor. As the pilots struggled to control the aircraft, it went into a flat spin. The resulting aerodynamic loads sheared both engines from the aircraft seconds before impact. The engines landed several blocks north and east of the main wreckage site. Losing the engines cut off power to the FDR at 9:16:00, while the CVR cut off at 9:16:15 moments before impact.
The fuselage slammed into Belle Harbor on Beach 131st Street, instantly destroying three houses. All 260 people aboard the plane and five people on the ground were killed instantly, and the impact forces and post-crash fire destroyed the wreckage.
Investigation[change | change source]
The investigation into the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 was led by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
They concluded that the probable cause of the in-flight separation of the vertical stabilizer was the 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 A300-600 rudder system design and elements of the American Airlines Aircraft Manoeuvring Program.
References[change | change source]
- ASN Aircraft accident Airbus A300B4-605R N14053 Belle Harbor, NY
- "Pilot error blamed for Flight 587 crash", AP.
- Irvine, Reed. Accuracy in Media, Rumors about Flight 587, February 6, 2002
Other websites[change | change source]
- PDF (1.86 MB)
- Archive of AA.com on November 13, 2001
- Photos of the plane involved in the accident and of the crash scene from Airliners.net
- Algarobba, Hector; Burkeman, Oliver (September 11, 2002). "Hector Algarobba's essay on how he was affected by the disaster of AA587". The Guardian.
- "A Wave Exclusive….Flight 587 Witnesses Speak Out At Wave Sponsored Meeting". The Wave. July 20, 2002.
- Hoffstadt, Brett; Trombettas, Victor (July 24, 2004). "U.S.Read's Flight 587 Preliminary Report: Executive Summary". Usread.Com.