In-Flight Separation of Vertical Stabilizer
American Airlines Flight 587
Airbus Industrie A300-605R, N14053
Belle Harbor, New York
November 12, 2001
NTSB Number AAR-04/04
NTIS Number PB2004-910404
Executive Summary: On November 12, 2001, about 0916:15 eastern standard time, American Airlines flight 587, an Airbus Industrie A300-605R, N14053, crashed into a residential area of Belle Harbor, New York, shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport, Jamaica, New York. Flight 587 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight to Las Americas International Airport, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with 2 flight crewmembers, 7 flight attendants, and 251 passengers aboard the airplane. The airplanes vertical stabilizer and rudder separated in flight and were found in Jamaica Bay, about 1 mile north of the main wreckage site. The airplanes engines subsequently separated in flight and were found several blocks north and east of the main wreckage site. All 260 people aboard the airplane and 5 people on the ground were killed, and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a postcrash fire. Flight 587 was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 on an instrument flight rules flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the in-flight separation of the vertical stabilizer as a result of the loads beyond ultimate design that were created by the first officers unnecessary and excessive rudder pedal inputs. Contributing to these rudder pedal inputs were characteristics of the Airbus A300-600 rudder system design and elements of the American Airlines Advanced Aircraft Maneuvering Program.
The safety issues discussed in this report focus on characteristics of the A300-600 rudder control system design, A300-600 rudder pedal inputs at high airspeeds, aircraft-pilot coupling, flight operations at or below an airplanes design maneuvering speed, and upset recovery training programs. Safety recommendations concerning these issues are addressed to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Direction Général de lAviation Civile.