Feds look at ‘97 incident for clues to Flight 587 crash

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Federal investigators searching for the cause of the American Airlines Flight 587 crash at Belle Harbor in November have found what they term an “indication of damage” to the tail of another Airbus A300 jetliner that faltered on takeoff in Florida.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the plane veered out of control briefly after takeoff from West Palm Beach, Fla. on May 12, 1997, injuring two persons in the jet.

The agency said its investigators had removed the tail fin of the American Airlines A300-600 jet involved in the West Palm Beach accident for ultrasonic testing at a maintenance shop in Tulsa.

“Investigators report that an indication of damage (possibly delamination) has been found that apparently was not present at the time of manufacture,” the NTSB said. Delamination is the separation of layers of the composite material from which such aircraft components are made.

The tail assembly of such jetliners are made of a combination of epoxy and extremely strong carbon fibers.

Officials said a visual inspection of the plane in the Florida incident right after it happened turned up no damage.

The NTSB said Airbus Industries, the European manufacturer of the A300, has informed the federal agency that the stabilizer will be removed from service.

“The safety board will conduct further examinations of this component once the current testing in Tulsa is complete,” the NTSB said.

Unlike the plane involved the Florida incident, Flight 587 crashed, shortly after departure from John F. Kennedy International airport en route to Santo Domingo, killing 260 persons on the jetliner and five on the ground.

Federal investigators said they had determined that an abrupt maneuver of such a plane’s rudder can bring disastrous consequences.

The NTSB did not say that was the cause of the Nov. 12 crash on the Rockaway Peninsula or even whether it had anything to do with the crash.

But the NTSB asked the Federal Aviation Administration to make sure that pilots are aware of the danger of excessive and sudden pressure on rudder pedals.

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

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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