NTSB Maintains New Rudder Worry Not Related To 2001 Flight
ANN REALTIME UPDATE: 04.17.06
1800EST: In response to the urging by members of the Allied Pilots
Association to reopen its investigation into the November 12, 2001
downing of American Airlines Flight 587, the National
Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday its recent warnings of a
specific kind of problem with Airbus A300 and A310 aircraft does
not affect the board's determination that the 2001 accident was
caused by the pilot moving the rudder too
"The scenarios are different. What we noted in our
recommendation letter in March did not occur on Flight 587," said
NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz to the Associated Press.
New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, who represents the Queens district
where Flight 587 fell from the sky, had joined with several
American Airlines pilots who asked the NTSB to reconsider its
earlier investigation, in light of the board's recent findings that
hydraulic leaks inside the rudder assemblies of A300-series
airplanes could lead to "disbonding" of the composite assembly and,
ultimately, structural failure.
Weiner said Monday the new findings about the A300's composite
rudder may offer new clues into what led to Flight 587's
The NTSB pointed out that with Flight 587, the entire tail
assembly failed -- whereas the recent problems concern only the
moveable rudder portion of the tail.
In light of the last month's call by the NTSB to
investigate rudder delamination in Airbus A300 and A310
aircraft, a group of American Airlines pilots are
calling on the agency to reopen its investigation into what brought
down American Flight 587 almost five years ago -- and,
specifically, if a similar "disbonding" issue on the A300's tail
could have contributed to the fatal crash over Rockaway, NY.
"We're just trying to renew the interest and concerns about
these particular model aircraft," said Capt. Bob Tamburini, a
member of the Allied Pilots Association, to the New York Post. "We
are requesting that the National Transportation Safety Board reopen
its investigation based on the information that came out as of
That information is based on two incidents involving A300-series
aircraft in the past year, one of which occurred while the plane
was inflight. In March of 2005, an Air Transat A310-300
lost most of its rudder after takeoff from Varadero,
Cuba. The flight crew was able to coax the stricken
airliner back to the airport for a safe landing.
Last November, the rudder of a Federal Express A300 was damaged
in an unrelated maintenance incident. When the rudder was shipped
to Airbus for inspection, however, crews found that a substantial
area of the rudder's inner structure had "disbonded" -- which could
have led to a complete failure of the structure.
Most significantly, investigators also found traces of hydraulic
fluid in the FedEx rudder assembly. Hydraulic fluid contamination
between the honeycomb skin and the fiberglass composite skin --
caused by a leak in the tail's hydraulic lines -- can lead to
progressive disbonding, which compromises the strength of the
In light of the discovery, the NTSB called for immediate
inspections of the tails of the roughly 400 A300 series planes
flying throughout the world, to determine if similar leaks were
present that could compromise the strength of the rudder
That report, issued last month, has led pilots to question the
NTSB's determination that the pilot of Flight 587 overcompensated
for wake turbulence encountered shortly after takeoff, pushing the
rudder past its limits until it snapped -- pilot error, in other
But that's not the whole story, the pilots say.
"I always believed the crash of Flight 587 had to do with a
combination of uncommanded rudder movements and structural
integrity defects in the composite material, and that the NTSB drew
its conclusion on incomplete evidence," said Jason Goldberg, a
former A300 pilot.
NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said the agency received the
pilots union letter over the weekend. "...I don't know how they're
going to respond to it," he said, adding the NTSB will issue no
public comment on the matter until it is reviewed.
American Airlines declined to comment on the matter to the Post
-- but Airbus spokesman Clay McConnell said the company considers
the matter resolved.
"Flight 587 was the most investigated accident in the history of
aviation and the NTSB did a very, very thorough job," McConnell