NTSB to hold public hearing on 587 crash

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Federal officials have scheduled a public hearing in Washington late next month as part of an investigation into the cause of the crash of an American Airlines jetliner at Belle Harbor that killed 265 people on Nov. 12, 2001.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the hearing is set for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the NTSB boardroom and conference center at 429 L'Enfant Plaza in Washington.

Although anyone may attend the hearing, only those witnesses called by the NTSB will be allowed to speak.

NTSB investigators have visited Belle Harbor where they talked to many witnesses of the crash of Flight 587, which plunged into the community shortly after taking off from Kennedy Airport en route to the Dominican Republic on a clear morning.

“The crash of Flight 587 was a great tragedy,” said NTSB Acting Chairman Carol. Carmody, “Not only for those who were directly affected — the loved ones of those aboard the aircraft and those who lost their lives on the ground — but for the city of New York, still reeling from the attacks of Sept. 11, and the entire nation.

“This hearing is part of the fact-finding phase of our investigation of the second deadliest aviation accident in United States history,” she said.

The NTSB said the hearing would look into:

Certification standards for the vertical stabilizer and rudder of the plane.

Potential role of wake turbulence in the accident sequence.

Continuing airworthiness inspection procedures.

Airplane manufacturers’ rudder system design philosophies and pilot training.

Technical witnesses are to be questioned by the NTSB members, a technical panel composed of investigators from the NTSB and its counterpart agency in France, the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses pour la Securite de l'Aviation Civile or BEA and the Federal Aviation Administration, Airbus Industries, American Airlines and the Allied Pilots Association.

Investigators have said they found evidence that layers of a composite material on the plane’s tail assembly peeled away from one another and may have been an important factor in the crash.

But more than half of the 350 witnesses to the crash reported the plane was on fire before it went down.

Marion Blakey, the chairman of the NTSB through the investigation until recently, has been appointed FAA administrator.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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