National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
The National Transportation Safety Board continues to assist the Transportation Safety Board of Canada as it investigates an accident that occurred March 6, 2005, when an Air Transat Airbus A310-308 (C-GPAT) lost most of its rudder in-flight while en-route from Cuba to Quebec City, Canada.
The NTSB has dispatched a team of investigators to participate in the readout of the aircraft's flight recorders and the development of aircraft performance studies; to participate in the examination of the aircraft's vertical stabilizer, remnants of the rudder, and rudder actuators; and to work with the TSB's chief investigator in developing the issues to be addressed in the investigation.
Canadian authorities issued an investigation update on May 4 that can be accessed at www.tsb.gc.ca, under "What's New."
Based on information released by the TSB, NTSB investigators have noted significant differences between the circumstances of the Air Transat accident and two previous accidents investigated by the NTSB that also involved structural damage to composite components on Airbus aircraft.
On November 12, 2001, American Airlines flight 587, an A300-605R (N14053), crashed shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, killing all 260 persons aboard and 5 persons on the ground. The NTSB found that the vertical stabilizer separated from the aircraft in flight after experiencing aerodynamic loads beyond the plane's design strength following the first officer's unnecessary and excessive rudder pedal inputs. On May 12, 1997, American Airlines flight 903, an A300-600 (N90070), experienced an in-flight loss of control near West Palm Beach, Florida. The aircraft landed safely. During the recovery of the aircraft, the significant rudder pedal inputs led to aerodynamic loads that caused damage to the vertical stabilizer. The damage was not discovered until an ultrasonic examination of the stabilizer following the crash of flight 587.
In both of those cases, significant rudder inputs by pilots played a major role in producing the aerodynamic loads on the vertical stabilizer. Preliminary indications from the Air Transat event data show that the pilots were not manipulating the rudder before the events leading up to the loss of the rudder.
Furthermore, NTSB investigators note that in the flight 903 accident the rudder remained attached to the vertical fin and no significant damage was found on the rudder after the event. In the case of the flight 587 accident, the data indicate that the rudder remained intact and attached to the vertical fin until the fin separated from the airplane.
The NTSB will continue to participate and assist the TSB of Canada's investigation into the reason for the loss of the Air Transat rudder, and will continue to compare data from the earlier accidents to determine whether there are any similarities between all three events (beyond the fact that all three aircraft experienced damage to rear lugs of the vertical stabilizer).
All media inquiries about the Air Transat investigation should be directed to Mr. John Cottreau, Public Affairs Advisor, Transportation Safety Board of Canada, (819) 994-8053, John.Cottreau@tsb.gc.ca.
NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.