American Airlines Flight 587

November 12, 2001 in New York City

Kyle Coreth, pd 7

Sequence of events leading up to disaster

American Airlines flight 587, plane N14053, left JFK International Airport in New York City on November 12, 2001 at 9:14 A.M. with a destination of the Dominican Republic. The flight carried a total of 260 passengers and crew. Soon after it took off, the flight hit turbulence caused from the flight that had just taken off right before. This turbulence lasted for 20 seconds and eventually caused the plane's vertical stabilizer to stop operating and detach from the plane. The effect of this was the plane going into a spin and losing both engines while it plummeted towards Belle Harbor. The plane crashed in the harbor on Beach 131st street, killing all passengers and 5 others on the ground. The most likely main cause of the crash was flight 587 took off only 105 seconds after a Japanese Airlines flight 747. Turbulence from the previous flight is what caused the stabilizer, rudder, and cockpit voice recorders to fail.

Facts and Figures

The accident killed all 251 passengers and 9 crew members, all on impact. 5 residents of the Belle Harbor were killed from the crash and debris. The majority of the passengers were either from the United States or the Dominican Republic. One woman killed in the crash had escaped from a restaurant in the World Trade Center during the September 11th attacks earlier in 2001.

What was to blame?

Immediately after the accident, most worried that this was a terrorist attack. 9/11 was 2 months prior to this accident, so terrorism was still fresh in minds. The Empire State Building and the United Nations Headquarters were evacuated shortly after news of the crash broke. However, the real cause for the accident was the plane's rudder malfunctioning. The plane had taken off too soon after a larger jet had taken off before it and flew into turbulent air which put pressure on the plane's rudder and broke off the stabilizer from the plane. If the plane had taken off at a later time, the air would not have caused separation in the stabilizer.

Physics behind the accident

The physics in this accident were mostly the plane was not designed to experience as much turbulence as it did. The crash was caused mostly from pilot error. The plane moved side-to-side during turbulence. The vertical stabilizer was connected to a fuselage on the plane. They were connected by a composite material and aluminum with titanium bolts. Further investigation of the crash showed the composite material was damaged which detached the stabilizer from the plane. Even though the design and physics of the plane lead to the crash at the end, it was standard and would have survived the flight if not for the pilot error causing the turbulence.

What has come about because of this disaster?

Since the flight 587 disaster, American Airlines has reformed its pilot training program. 260 people died because of pilot error and they wanted to make sure nothing as catastrophic ever happens again.

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