American Airlines Flight 587: Wikis


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American Airlines Flight 587
Accident summary
Date November 12, 2001 (2001-11-12)
Type Pilot error in response to Wake Turbulence
Site Queens, New York City, New York
Passengers 251
Crew 9
Injuries 1 (ground)
Fatalities 265 (including 5 on the ground)
Survivors 0
Aircraft type Airbus A300-600
Operator American Airlines
Tail number N14053
Flight origin John F. Kennedy International Airport
Destination Las Américas International Airport, Dominican Republic

American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A300, crashed into the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens; a borough of New York City in New York, shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport on November 12, 2001. This is the second deadliest U.S. aviation accident to date, after American Airlines Flight 191.

With 260 fatalities on board and 5 on the ground, this accident has the third highest death toll of any accident involving an Airbus A300. Both Iran Air Flight 655 and China Airlines Flight 140 had higher fatalities.

The accident took place two months after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Several factors, such as the date, aircraft size, airline, and location in New York, raised concerns that the crash was caused by another terrorist attack.[1] Al-Qaeda listed the crash among its successes, and a Canadian militant cooperating with authorities suggested that it had been brought down with a shoe bomb. Nonetheless, terrorism was officially ruled out as the cause by the National Transportation Safety Board, which instead attributed the disaster to the first officer's overuse of rudder controls.



Flight 587, circled in white, can briefly be seen in this video still moving downward with a white streak behind the aircraft. This video, released by the NTSB, was recorded by a tollbooth camera located on the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge.[2]

On November 12, 2001, about 09:16 eastern standard time, American Airlines flight 587, an Airbus Industrie A300-605R delivered in 1987 and powered by two General Electric CF6-80C2A5[3], N14053, crashed into Belle Harbor, a New York City residential area, shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York. Flight 587 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight to Las Américas International Airport, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with 2 flight crew members, seven flight attendants, and 251 passengers aboard the plane. Ed States served as the captain, and Sten Molin served as the first officer.

The plane's vertical stabilizer and rudder separated in flight and fell into Jamaica Bay, about 1 mile north of the main wreckage site. The plane's engines subsequently separated in flight and fell several blocks north and east of the main wreckage site. All 260 people aboard the plane and 5 people on the ground died, and the impact forces and a post-crash fire destroyed the plane. Flight 587 operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 on an instrument flight rules flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the time of the accident.


National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) employee Brian Murphy (second from right) updates NTSB Chairman Marion Blakey (third from right) on the investigation of the tail fin and rudder from AA flight 587 (February 11, 2002)

The A300-600, which took off minutes after a Japan Airlines Boeing 747 on the same runway, flew into the larger jet's wake, an area of turbulent air. The first officer attempted to keep the plane upright with aggressive rudder inputs. The strength of the air flowing against the moving rudder stressed the aircraft's vertical stabilizer and eventually snapped it off entirely, causing the aircraft to lose control and crash. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the enormous stress on the rudder was due to the first officer's "unnecessary and excessive" rudder inputs, and not the wake turbulence caused by the 747. The NTSB further stated "if the first officer had stopped making additional inputs, the aircraft would have stabilized".[4] Contributing to these rudder pedal inputs were characteristics of the Airbus A300-600 sensitive rudder system design and elements of the American Airlines Advanced Aircraft Maneuvering Training Program.[5]

Investigators were concerned in regard to the manner in which the vertical stabilizer separated. The vertical stabilizer is connected to the fuselage with six attaching points. Each point has two sets of attachment lugs, one made of composite material, another of aluminum, all connected by a titanium bolt; damage analysis showed that the bolts and aluminum lugs were intact, but not the composite lugs. This, coupled with two events earlier in the life of the aircraft, namely delamination in part of the vertical stabilizer prior to its delivery from the manufacturer and an encounter with heavy turbulence in 1994, caused investigators to examine the use of composites.[6] The possibility that the composite materials might not be as strong as previously supposed was a cause of concern because they are used in other areas of the plane, including the engine mounting and the wings. Tests carried out on the vertical stabilizers from the accident aircraft, and from another similar aircraft, found that the strength of the composite material had not been compromised, and the NTSB concluded that the material had failed because it had been stressed beyond its design limit, despite ten previous recorded incidents where A300 tail fins had been stressed beyond their design limitation in which none resulted in the separation of the vertical stabilizer in-flight.[5]

The official NTSB report of October 26, 2004 stated that the cause of the crash was the overuse of the rudder to counter wake turbulence.[7]

The crash was witnessed by hundreds of people, 349 of whom gave accounts of what they saw to the NTSB. About half (52%) reported a fire or explosion before the plane hit the ground. Others stated that they saw a wing detach from the aircraft, whereas in fact it was the vertical stabilizer.[8]

After the crash, Floyd Bennett Field's empty hangars were used as a makeshift morgue for the identification of crash victims.[9]


Since the NTSB's report, American Airlines has modified its pilot training program.[10] Training methods have been reviewed and changed as a result of the accident, as previous training methods may have contributed to the accident. Previous simulator training didn't properly reflect "the actual large build-up in sideslip angle and sideloads that would accompany such rudder inputs in an actual airplane", according to the NTSB final report.[11]

Flight 587 no longer exists. The flight route designations of flights between Kennedy Airport and Las Américas Airport are now 619, 635, and 789.

American Airlines retired all of their Airbus A300 aircraft by September 2009.

Terrorist claims

American Airlines Flight 587 taxiing moments before takeoff. (The timestamp shown in the picture is not the actual time of day[12])

Because the crash was two months after the September 11 attacks, several major buildings including the Empire State Building and the United Nations Headquarters were evacuated. In the months after the crash, rumors were suggesting that it had been destroyed in a terrorist plot, with a shoe bomb similar to the one found on Richard Reid.[13][14][15]

In May 2002, Mohammed Jabarah agreed to cooperate with investigators as part of a plea bargain. Among the details he gave authorities, was that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's lieutenant had told him that Reid and Abderraouf Jdey had both been enlisted by the al-Qaeda chief to carry out identical shoe-bombing plots as part of a second wave of attacks against the United States, and that Jdey had successfully blown up Flight 587, while Reid had been stymied.[16][17][17][18][19][20][21][22]

NTSB findings

An American Airlines A300, like the one in this photo, was used for American Airlines Flight 587

National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the cause of the crash was not terrorism, but overuse of the rudder mechanism while flawed training and poor rudder design were contributing factors.[23]

Airbus and American are currently disputing the extent to which the two parties are responsible for the disaster. American charges that the crash was mostly Airbus's fault, because the A300 was designed with unusually sensitive rudder controls. Most aircraft require increased pressure on the rudder pedals to achieve the same amount of rudder control at a higher speed. The Airbus A300 and later A310 do not operate on a fly-by-wire flight control system, instead using conventional mechanical flight controls. The NTSB determined that "because of its high sensitivity, the A300-600 rudder control system is susceptible to potentially hazardous rudder pedal inputs at higher speeds."[4] The Allied Pilots Association, in its submission to the NTSB, argued that the unusual sensitivity of the rudder mechanism amounted to a design flaw which Airbus should have communicated to the airline, and pointed to ten previous incidents in which A300 tail fins had been stressed beyond their design limitation.[5] American Airlines retired all its Airbus A300-600 Aircraft from service in August, 2009, with its last flight, flight 1908 from Miami to New York-JFK operating on August 24, 2009.

Airbus charges that the crash was mostly American's fault, because the airline did not train its pilots properly about the characteristics of the rudder. Aircraft tail fins are designed to withstand full rudder deflection in one direction at maneuvering speed. They are not usually designed to withstand an abrupt shift in rudder from one direction to the other. Most American pilots believed that the tail fin could withstand any rudder movement at maneuvering speed. The NTSB indicated that American Airlines' Advanced Aircraft Maneuvering Program tended to exaggerate the effects of wake turbulence on large aircraft. Therefore, pilots were being trained to react more aggressively than was necessary.[4]


Victims' nationalities[24]
Nationality Passengers Crew Total
 Dominican Republic 68 0 68
 France 2 0 2
 Haiti 1 0 1
 Israel 1 0 1
 Republic of China (Taiwan) 3 0 3
 United States 176 9 185
Total 251 9 260

All 260 people aboard the plane and 5 people on the ground died.

Relatives gathered at Las Americas International Airport; the airport created a private area for relatives wishing to receive news about Flight 587. Some relatives arrived at the airport to meet passengers, unaware that the flight had crashed.[25]

One of the passengers killed on the flight was Hilda Yolanda Mayol, a 26-year-old American woman [26] on her way to vacation in her native Dominican Republic. Two months earlier, on September 11, Mayol worked at a restaurant on the ground floor of the World Trade Center and escaped before the building collapsed.[27][28]

New York Yankee infielder Enrique Wilson was scheduled to be on the flight. However, when the Yankees lost the 2001 World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks and there would be no victory parade, Wilson flew home a few days earlier and was not on the flight.[29]

Around 90% of the passengers on the flight were of Dominican descent; The Guardian describes the flight as having "cult status" in Washington Heights, a Dominican area of Manhattan.[27]


A memorial was constructed in Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor's neighboring community, in memory of the 265 victims of the crash, at Beach 116th Street, a major commercial street in the area. It was dedicated on November 12, 2006, the fifth anniversary of the incident, in a ceremony attended by Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.

The memorial wall, designed by Dominican artist Freddy Rodríguez and Situ Studio, has windows and a doorway looking towards the nearby Atlantic Ocean and angled towards the Dominican Republic. It is inscribed with the names of the victims.[30] Atop the memorial is a quote, in both Spanish and English, from Dominican poet Pedro Mir, reading "Después no quiero más que paz." (Translation: "Afterwards I want only peace.")[31]

In a ceremony held on May 6, 2007, at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, 889 unidentified fragments of human remains of the victims of the crash were entombed in a group of four mausoleum crypts.[32]

Television documentaries

There have been two television documentaries made on the accident. An episode of the National Geographic Channel program Seconds From Disaster, first aired on September 6, 2006, examined the Flight 587 accident in detail. The episode was titled Plane Crash in Queens (also known as New York Air Crash). The BBC program Horizon also created an episode about the crash.

A 2006 episode of Modern Marvels on The History Channel also aired an episode entitled "Engineering Disasters 20", which featured detailed information on Flight 587.

See also


  1. ^ US Read, Special Report: Flight 587
  2. ^ "Animations and Videos from Board Meeting". NTSB. 
  3. ^ ASN Aircraft accident Airbus A300B4-605R N14053 Belle Harbor, NY
  4. ^ a b c "NTSB Press Release". October 26, 2004. Accessed December 6, 2005.
  5. ^ a b c
  6. ^
  7. ^ In-Flight Separation of Vertical Stabilizer; American Airlines Flight 587; Airbus Industrie A300-605R, N14053; Belle Harbor, New York; November 12 2001. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Aircraft Accident Report NTSB/AAR-04/04 of October 26, 2004.
  8. ^ Wald, Matthew L. "Ideas & Trends; For Air Crash Detectives, Seeing Isn't Believing", The New York Times, June 23, 2002. Accessed April 4, 2008. "According to the National Transportation Safety Board, which announced this month that it had gathered 349 eyewitness accounts through interviews or written statements, 52 percent said they saw a fire while the plane was in the air. The largest number (22 percent) said the fire was in the fuselage, but a majority cited other locations, including the left engine, the right engine, the left wing, the right wing or an unspecified engine or wing."
  9. ^ FDNY Responds: Flight 587 Crashes in the Rockaways, accessed January 1, 2007.
  10. ^ "Pilot error blamed for Flight 587 crash", AP, accessed February 7, 2008.
  11. ^
  12. ^ NTSB footage of takeoff from construction site
  13. ^ The Examiner, Air France flight 447 where once again, the media was wrong about a plane crash, July 2, 2009
  14. ^ Irvine, Reed. Accuracy in Media, Rumors about Flight 587, February 6 2002
  15. ^ Boston Globe, "Speculation about Flight 587 Crash Flourishes in Absence of Answers", November 13, 2001
  16. ^ Ticin Online, Terrorismo: Canada, accuse ad Al Qaida per aereo caduto a NY, August 28, 2004
  17. ^ a b Kephart, Janice L. Testimony before hearing,"Building a Wall Between Friends: Passports to and from Canada?", November 17, 2005
  18. ^ United States. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims, "The need to implement WHTI to protect U.S. homeland security", 2006. p. 24 of transcripts
  19. ^ Bell, Stewart. "The Martyr's Oath",2005. p. 157
  20. ^ Bell, Stewart. National Post, Montreal man downed US plane, CSIS told, August 27, 2004
  21. ^ Wave of Long Island, Canadian Report Causes AA 587 Stir, September 3, 2004
  22. ^ Pipes, Daniel,, Why did American Airlines 587 Crash?, September 2, 2004
  23. ^ Chan, Sewell. "Crash Memorial Evokes Peace and Home." The New York Times. November 13, 2006.
  24. ^ "Flight 587: final passenger list." The Guardian.
  25. ^ "Shocked relatives gather at Dominican airport." CNN. November 13, 2001. Retrieved on June 6, 2009.
  26. ^ "Airline releases victim list." CNN. November 15, 2001. Retrieved on June 6, 2009.
  27. ^ a b Younge, Gary. "Flight to the death: Just two months after 9/11, a Queens suburb suffered the second-worst plane crash in US history. Five years on, residents tell Gary Younge, the cause remains worryingly unresolved", The Guardian, November 11, 2006. Accessed January 24, 2008. "On flight 587, myriad immigrant stories of hope foundered. On board was Hilda Yolanda Mayol, 26, a waitress who had escaped from the north tower of the World Trade Center and was heading to the Dominican Republic with her mother and children to take her mind off the trauma."
  28. ^ "Second Scythe." Snopes.
  29. ^ Olney, Buster. "Epilogue: 'The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty'." ESPN. May 2, 2005. Retrieved on October 12, 2009.
  30. ^ Flight 587 Memorial Dedicated in Rockaways, WNYC, accessed November 16, 2006.
  31. ^ "5 years later, a memorial for victims of New York plane crash that killed 265", International Herald Tribune via the Associated Press, November 12, 2006.
  32. ^ Lee, Trymaine. "Only 4 Coffins, but 265 Victims Are Mourned at Mass in the Bronx", The New York Times, May 7, 2007. Accessed May 7, 2007. "Red roses in hand, about 45 mourners emerged yesterday from a Spanish-language Mass and walked a quarter-mile to a majestic mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.... More than five years after American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in Belle Harbor, Queens, killing 265 people, 889 fragments of human remains were placed in four coffins and finally laid to rest behind a wall of granite last week."

External links

Coordinates: 40°34′38″N 73°51′02″W / 40.57722°N 73.85056°W / 40.57722; -73.85056



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