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Second Update on NTSB Investigation into Crash of American Airlines Flight 587
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 Second Update on NTSB Investigation into Crash of American Airlines Flight 587

The National Transportation Safety Board today released the following updated information on its investigation of the November 12 crash of American Airlines flight 587 in Belle Harbor, New York, which resulted in the deaths of all 260 persons aboard and 5 persons on the ground.

Vertical Stabilizer and Rudder

The vertical stabilizer and rudder were found in Jamaica Bay, having apparently come off the aircraft before the plane impacted the ground. The Safety Board's investigation will attempt to determine why those components - made of carbon fiber reinforced epoxy, a composite material - separated in flight.

This week, Safety Board structures investigators met with composite experts from Iowa State University, Sandia National Laboratories, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the FAA, to visually examine the tail structure at its temporary storage facility in New York.

The NTSB is planning to move the vertical stabilizer and rudder parts to NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The facility was chosen to assist the Board in further examination of these components because of its recognized expertise with composite materials and structures involving civil and military aircraft, and spacecraft. The facility has capabilities that include materials synthesis and processing, analytical modeling, nondestructive evaluations, structural dynamics, aeroelasticity, structural durability and damage tolerance, and experimental methods.

The test protocols are being developed; the extent of the examinations and testing have not been established at this time.

The tail assembly is scheduled to arrive at Langley on Monday.


Both engines, which also separated from the aircraft before the plane impacted the ground, have been sent to American Airlines' maintenance facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma for examination. Called "engine teardowns," the examinations began yesterday under the guidance of the NTSB's Powerplants Group Chairman and are expected to last about 10 days.

Aircraft Wreckage

Besides the engines and the tail structure, the aircraft wreckage is in a temporary storage facility on Floyd Bennett Field in New York. In the next few weeks, that wreckage will be moved to a longer-term storage facility in Harrison, New Jersey.

Airplane Performance

A Safety Board performance engineer is in Toulouse, France reviewing the process and procedures to be used to develop flight load information, which in turn will be used to develop information on structural loads this aircraft may have experienced.

Aircraft Systems

The Systems Group will meet next week at the Airbus facility in Toulouse to gather technical data regarding flight control system operations.

Future Activities

Each investigative group will continue to document investigative data that will be entered into factual reports, which will be placed in the public docket some months from now.

Investigative updates will be issued as appropriate.

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Contact: NTSB Media Relations
490 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20594