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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 15:31 GMT
Safety fears over crash jet's engine
Part of the plane's fin landed near a parked car
The pilot's nosedive averted a worse disaster
US aviation officials issued a safety notice a month ago for the type of engine that powered the passenger jet which crashed in New York on Monday, killing more than 260 people on board.

The Federal Aviation Authority called for more frequent inspections because it said an "unsafe condition" had been identified in the engine, but the order had not yet come into force, it has emerged.

Relatives of the American Airlines flight at Santo Domingo's international airport
About 150 of the passengers were from the Dominican Republic
Preliminary results of the investigation into the disaster involving American Airlines flight 587 indicate that it was caused by mechanical failure, not a terrorist attack.

The plane was bound for the Dominican Republic when it lost an engine and nosedived 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).

The crash has 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.

New York's grief

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

One of the plane's engines
The engine landed four blocks away from the plane

"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.

About 150 of the passengers on the plane were Dominican citizens. The country's president has expressed his deep sorrow and announced three days of national mourning.

There were similar scenes of grief in Santo Domingo's airport when relatives of passengers there heard the news.

Click here for a map of the crash site

The General Electric CF6-80C2 engine that powered the plane has been under close scrutiny since the spring of 2000, when failures in it were reported.

Flight 587 disaster
  • Emergency hotline: 1-800-245-0999
  • Departed: JFK Airport 0913 EST (1413 GMT)
  • Destination: Dominican Republic
  • Airbus A-300
  • 251 passengers
  • Nine crew

  • Last month's FAA warning called for tougher, mandatory inspections of possibly worn parts of the engine.

    The US National Transportation Safety Board had also warned that failure of these engines during flight could send hot metal fragments tearing through important control systems or fuel lines, and could cause a plane to crash.

    The American Airlines plane had gone through routine maintenance tests overnight on Sunday, and investigators were checking who had access to it during those hours.

    According to US law, the FAA must give a 60-day period for public and industry feedback before ordering more extensive and frequent inspections.

    The 60-day period set by the FAA was to end on 4 December.

    The engine is used on more than 1,000 aircraft worldwide, including the plane of the US president, Air Force One.

    General Electric says it believes the engine is "phenomenally reliable."


    Firefighters clearing smouldering pieces of American Airlines Flight 587
    A dozen Rockaway homes were consumed by flames
    Officials said the cockpit voice recordings, which yielded good quality data, indicated that the co-pilot had been at the controls. The search is continuing for the companion flight data recorder.

    "It is absent of any extraneous noises or acts that we would not associate with a normal aviation environment," NTSB investigator George Black said of the recording in an interview on CBS television.

    But he added later on NBC that the evidence did not rule out sabotage altogether.

    Emergency workers in New York have so far recovered 262 bodies from where the suburban residential area where the jet crashed. Up to nine people are still missing on the ground.

    Return to top

    The BBC's James Robbins
    "There is a real hunger for answers here in Rockaway"
    Residents of Queens
    recall the moment flight 587 crashed into the Rockaway Beach area
    Flight International magazine's David Learmount
    "America has been careful to improve safety and reliability"

    Key stories






    See also:

    13 Nov 01 | Americas
    Tragedy of New Yorkers hit twice
    13 Nov 01 | Americas
    Life must go on
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