NTSB Reveals Flight 587 Failures

20 December 2001

The components that keep an airplane's nose up and the aircraft from swaying failed to work during a preflight check of American Airlines Flight 587, the National Transportation Safety Board reported Tuesday.

The plane crashed last month soon after taking off from Kennedy Airport. NTSB investigators, after reviewing the plane's maintenance logs, said the problem was resolved when a mechanic reset the computer that controls the pitch trim, which helps keep the nose up or down, and the yaw damper, which controls the rudder to reduce movement from side to side.

Aviation consultant Jim McKenna said safety investigators will focus on those components of the Airbus A300-600. ``They'll take a very close look at it,'' McKenna said. The NTSB said that the vertical stabilizer -- or tail fin -- and the attached rudder fell off the plane, as did both engines. The Nov. 12 crash killed all 260 people on board and five on the ground.

Following the accident, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered inspections of the tail, which is made from lighter-weight, nonmetallic composites. The NTSB is conducting ultrasound and other inspections of the vertical stabilizer and rudder, and is developing a plan for additional tests of the composites.

Maintenance records showed that the vertical stabilizer and rudder last were inspected visually in December 1999, and no problems were reported, the NTSB said. Board investigators reported that they found no evidence that the engines broke apart, sending shrapnel into nearby control systems, nor any evidence of a collision with a bird. There also was no evidence that there was a fire or a malfunction.

NTSB investigators again reported that they have found no evidence of a terrorist attack. All the evidence continues to indicate that the crash of Flight 587 was an accident, the board said.

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