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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 04:59 GMT
'Wake turbulence' theory examined
A flag flies over the wreckage of American Airlines flight 587
'Wake turbulence' may have caused the tragedy
Investigators of the American Airlines plane crash in New York said on Thursday that turbulence caused by a jumbo jet may have contributed to the accident.

Marion Blakey, NSTC
Blakey has been visiting the site herself
Flights are normally placed a standard two minutes apart, however it is thought the A300 Airbus Flight 587 took off only one minute and 45 seconds after a Japan Airlines jumbo jet.

"We do not know whether this contributed in any way to the actual accident, but we are looking at this closely," said Marion Blakey, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

All of the plane's 260 passengers and crew and at least five people on the ground were killed when the plane hit several houses in the Queens suburb.

Final moments of Flight 587
107 seconds after take-off begins: Rattling noise heard by pilots
114 seconds: Captain reports "wake encounter"
121 seconds: Second airframe rattling sound
127 seconds: Control of the plane is lost
144 seconds: Recording ends as plane crashes

American Airlines on Wednesday also said that it intended to inspect the tailfins of all 34 remaining A300 Airbuses although the planes won't be grounded.

"We felt it prudent to go ahead and conduct a test of our Airbus fleet," said American Airlines spokesman John Hotard.

The plane's tail assembly sheared off and its twin engines fell off before it crashed.

Investigators have not ruled out a terrorist act however evidence from one of the plane's black box recorders indicates mechanical failure rather than sabotage.

Voice recorder evidence

Analysis of the plane's cockpit voice recorder so far has revealed that there were problems on the American Airlines aircraft less than two minutes after taking off.

The recording captures a rattling sound, then another, and then the crew are heard making comments suggesting they have lost control of the plane.

Investigators have been looking very closely at the two General Electric engines which landed - one smoking but intact - just four blocks apart, and away from the rest of the plane's wreckage.

Salvage worker
Salvage work is continuing at Rockaway
The discovery of the second black box - the flight data recorder - came as it emerged that US aviation officials had issued a safety notice a month ago for the type of engine that powered the Airbus A300.

In its warning the Federal Aviation Administration called for more frequent inspections because it said an "unsafe condition" had been identified in the engine, but the order had not come into force by the time of the crash.

Flight 587 was bound for the Dominican Republic when it lost an engine and nose-dived into the Rockaway Beach residential area of the borough of Queens four minutes after taking off from John F Kennedy airport at 0913 local time (1413 GMT).

Flight 587 disaster
  • Departed: JFK Airport 0913 EST (1413 GMT)
  • Destination: Dominican Republic
  • Airbus A-300
  • 251 passengers
  • Nine crew

  • Grief

    The crash shocked New Yorkers, who are still trying to recover from the 11 September attacks, when two commercial airplanes were crashed into the World Trade Center in suicide hijackings, killing more than 4,300 people.

    About 500 dazed, grieving relatives of the crash victims gathered at the Ramada Plaza Hotel at the edge of JFK Airport on Tuesday.

    "Today is worse than the 11th," the manager of an airport cafe, Leonidas Araujo Quesada, told AP news agency.

    "On the 11th, there were people crying, but it was for everybody. Today it is for Dominicans," he said.

    Grieving relatives also gathered in Santo Domingo's airport, the doomed flight's destination.

    About 150 of the passengers on the plane were Dominican citizens.

    The BBC's Nick Higham
    "The investigation is centring on the planes tail section"
    Flight International magazine's David Learmount
    "America has been careful to improve safety and reliability"
    Residents of Queens
    recall the moment flight 587 crashed

    Key stories






    See also:

    13 Nov 01 | Americas
    13 Nov 01 | Americas
    14 Nov 01 | Americas
    14 Nov 01 | Americas
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