AA Flt 587 - NTSB blames FO

Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by Tennessee Slim, Oct 26, 2004.

  1. Tennessee Slim

    Tennessee Slim Señor Member CLM

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    I, OTOH, blame the g*dd*m POS French airplane:
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    Co-pilot Blamed for Crash of Flight 587

    NewsMax.com Wires
    Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2004

    WASHINGTON – The co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 587 caused the November 2001 crash that claimed the lives of 265 people, the staff of the nation's airline safety agency reported Tuesday.

    Investigator Robert Benzon of the National Transportation Safety Board staff said the co-pilot's response to turbulence, just seconds after the Airbus A300-600 plane took off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, was "unnecessary and aggressive."

    Benzon also said that investigators found that American Airlines improperly trained its pilots to use the aircraft's rudder while recovering from upsets and said the problem could have been exacerbated by the airline's simulator training.

    Benzon said that the rudder control system on the aircraft was sensitive at higher air speeds, which is potentially hazardous.

    The safety board itself was expected to rule later Tuesday on the staff's findings.

    On Nov. 12, 2001, First Officer Sten Molin, the co-pilot, moved the plane's rudder back and forth after takeoff, trying to control the climbing aircraft, not realizing he was sealing the grim fate of those on board.

    Molin was at the controls when the plane hit turbulence almost immediately after taking off for the Dominican Republic.

    "Hang onto it, hang onto it," Capt. Edward States implored.

    "Let's go for power, please," Molin said.

    A second later came a loud bang, which investigators believe was the tail breaking off. Then came the roar of air rushing against the aircraft and alarms sounding in the cockpit.

    "What the hell are we into [inaudible]?" Molin said. "We're stuck in it."

    States' last recorded words came five seconds later: "Get out of it! Get out of it!"

    Airbus Industrie, which manufactured the jetliner, and American Airlines, which trained Molin, agree that if he had taken his foot off the rudder pedal, the tail wouldn't have broken off, and the plane wouldn't have plunged into a New York City neighborhood. It was the second deadliest plane crash on U.S. soil.

    But Molin didn't know he was putting more pressure on the tail than it could bear. Why he didn't, and who's to blame for that, is the subject of a bitter fight between Airbus and American.

    According to investigators, Molin tried to steady the aircraft using pedals that control the rudder, a large flap on a plane's tail. When his initial movement failed, Molin tried again and again. His actions placed enormous stress on the tail.

    American, the only U.S. airline to use that type of Airbus plane for passenger service, claims Airbus didn't alert it to the danger of sharp rudder movements until after the crash. The airline also contends the Airbus A300-600 has uniquely sensitive flight controls that can cause more severe rudder movements than the pilot intends.

    "Airbus had the ability to truly red-flag the issue," American spokesman Bruce Hicks said.

    Airbus says it told American a number of times and in a number of ways that the airline was improperly training pilots about how to use the rudder.

    An Airbus spokesman declined to comment on the investigation before the hearing. However, the company has provided the NTSB with a number of documents to support its claim.

    For example, a letter dated Aug. 20, 1997, warned American chief pilot Cecil Ewing that rudders should not be moved abruptly to right a jetliner or when a plane is flown at a sharp angle. The letter was signed by representatives from The Boeing Co., the Federal Aviation Administration and Airbus.

    Airbus contends that even people within American Airlines were concerned about how the airline was training its pilots. A letter to Airbus dated May 22, 1997, from American technical pilot David Tribout expressed concern about the airline's then-new training course on advanced maneuvers.

    "I am very concerned that one aspect of the course is inaccurate and potentially hazardous," Tribout wrote. His concern: Pilots were being taught that the rudder should be used to control a plane's rolling motion.

    Hicks countered that Airbus didn't share important safety information about the rudder after a problem with American Flight 903 in May 1997. During that incident, pilots used the rudder to steady an Airbus A300-600 plane on approach to West Palm Beach's airport. The plane nearly crashed, and one person was seriously injured.

    Afterward, Airbus told the NTSB that it included a warning that abrupt rudder movement in some circumstances "can lead to rapid loss of controlled flight," and, in others, could break off the tail.

    Hicks said Airbus' comments didn't specifically say the rudder movements on Flight 903 had exposed the tail to so much pressure that it could have been ripped off.

    Immediately after the Flight 903 incident, an inspection found no damage to the tail. But five years later, the plane was inspected more closely because of concerns aroused by the crash of Flight 587. Cracks were found and the tail was replaced.

    John David, a spokesman for American Airlines' pilots union, said pilots had always thought that they could use rudders to the full extent without hurting the airplane. He also believes Airbus didn't properly communicate what it knew.

    American now gives its pilots specialized training on the rudder control system based on information learned during the investigation.

    Online Article here.
     
  2. geoffinak

    geoffinak

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    Well if American Airlines are training crews to a standard set by the airline in conjunction with the maker(s), then how can the NTSB blame the co-pilot.

    Not using rudders at slow speed high angle of attack, that's usually when you need to use physical input

    Typical blame the 2 guys up front
    Airbus the destroyer of Americas last great Industry subsidized and tax free
    Geoff
     

  3. Tennessee Slim

    Tennessee Slim Señor Member CLM

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    What's the first rule of aircraft accident invenstigation?
    Dead Pilot = Pilot Error.

    What's the second rule of aircraft accident invenstigation (AKA Occam's Cessna)?
    In absence of evidence to the contrary, always assume pilot error.
     
  4. HKMark23

    HKMark23 Millennium Member

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    CALM DOWN EVERYBODY!

    The NTSB is very anal when it comes to discribing accidents, its the same with all investigation processes. The NTSB site is down(slow) because of the heavy traffic so I havent been able to see the report yet but I'm sure it reads something like;

    The crew's failure to maintain control of the aircraft after the tail seperated due to the Co-pilots "agressive" use of the rudders....contributing factors; the lack of (or improper) training by the airline.....weak vertical stabilizer.....etc, etc.

    They all read like that and are infact accurate. When Value Jet went down in FL. it was due to the crew loosing control of the aircraft, thats actually what happened....technically. The contributing factor to that happening was the smoke caused by the fire started by the O2 canisters, etc, etc.

    They only deal with physical facts and leave the speculation and emotions out (which is what I want anyway). Now its up to the laywers to fight it out with the airline and manufacturer as to sort out who told who what and when. Its one of the the few things laywers are good for, sorting out stuff like this because we all know its time for the blame game.

    From what Ive heard Airbus told the airline and the upper management knew about the issue of "overcontrol" as well as some of the instructors, but they failed to take steps to pass it along to the flight crews. If the crew did what they were trained to do as it seems then the final blame for that training falls on the airline.
     
  5. Tennessee Slim

    Tennessee Slim Señor Member CLM

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    It's not just the NTSB. Those are the two overarching principles of a military aircraft accident investigation, too.
     
  6. HKMark23

    HKMark23 Millennium Member

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    First off thats not true that the investigators think that way. Second, although as pilots our often over-inflated egos dont want to admit it, in the vast majority of aircraft accident WE are at fault.

    OUCH ;g I know its a hard pill to swallow.

    I think you missed my point, the NTSB is not "blaming" the pilot they are giving the cause of the crash. The aircraft went down because of loss of directional control due to the vertical stabilizer seperating from the aircraft. The vertical stab seperated because the co-pilot used too agressive control inputs with the pedals, that is the point at which the problem in that aircraft began and why it crashed.

    We all know now that if you bang the peals around in an Airbus the tail will fall off....

    Now whether they were trained to respond to an upset that way is being look into by the NTSB/airline/manufcturer as well, along with the horde of laywers that I'm sure have been hired. That is the root cause of the crash, they are seperate but eqaully as important.

    We all will soon know that if the airline/manufaturer had got off their a## and did more about the issue that was apparently known for sometime, pilots would have been trained on how to deal with the weakness of the Airbus so the tail didnt fall off....

    The NTSB find's the cause, laywers find the blame.
     
  7. aircarver

    aircarver Descent Terminated Silver Member

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    It's long been an aircraft design parameter that 'the pilot should not be able to break the airplane by using the controls'.....

    until Airbus that is... With them 'at some point "misuse" of the controls may break it'.....

    They leave it to you as an exercise, to determine at what point using the controls breaks it.... ;P
     
  8. JonnyB

    JonnyB Millennium Member

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    Isn't the Airbus a 'fly-by-wire' system? I thought the computer had the last word on control surface movement.

    Also, at low airspeeds, the rudder is a) correct for raising a wing, as the aileron can lead to stalling the wing instead, and b) certainly strong enough to not break. I can see something breaking at high - ie. above maneuvering - speed, but not at the speeds encountered on climbout. Even then, it's generally the elevator that breaks the tail - can you say Beech Bonanza?

    Disclaimer: I ain't never flown a jetliner.

    JB
     
  9. Douglas in CT

    Douglas in CT Millennium Member

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    What does your CT Permit say?
    ^6 ^6 ^6
     
  10. Tennessee Slim

    Tennessee Slim Señor Member CLM

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    Yes, it’s fly-by-wire, but Airbus’s computers don’t have the most sterling track record. In 1988, an A-320 at an airshow in France failed to respond to the Captain’s throttle input following a low pass and crashed into a forest. There was a massive cover-up -– to include switching the FDRs presented to the accident investigation board -– and the pilot got railroaded. Online article here.

    There's one story that the computer(s) interpreted the 'dirty' configuration as an attempt to land, then decided the pilot was making an error when he added power for the go-around. To protect the human from himself, the computer pulled off the power. Regardless, this was not the A-320s only occurence of engines failing to respond to pilot input.
     
  11. Semper Glock

    Semper Glock

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    The A300 is not fly-by-wire. Only the A320 series and the A340 are.
     
  12. Tennessee Slim

    Tennessee Slim Señor Member CLM

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    My bad.
     
  13. dozing4dollars

    dozing4dollars Plasticized ! CLM

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    Having flown both the "little" and the "big" Airbus, I would like to make a couple of observations:

    1. The Air France A-320 Captain alluded to above, descended below his reportedly hastily planned, and pre-briefed minimum demo altitude of 100'AGL. According to the CVR, there are a number of automatic RA callouts of his altitude indicating he had breached his 100' AGL minimum floor. Below 100' AGL, he lost the benefit of the Alpha Floor protection available above this altitude, which would have sent the autothrust automatically to TOGA as his alpha (AOA)continued to increase and his energy state deteriorated. TOGA power would have been automatically commanded even though the Captain had manually turned the autothrust OFF during the airshow demo. When in trouble, the Capt rapidly advanced the thrust levers manually and the engines spooled to about 83% or so within 5 secs as they were impacting the trees. The AF Captain had defeated a safeguard built into the airplane, the Alpha Floor, by descending below his pre-briefed 100'AGL altitude and the engines reacted EXACTLY as advertised when he manually advanced them forward, albeit too late.

    2. The newest generation of the Airbus family of airplanes (A319-A340) are very complex and sophisticated. With their unique flight control laws and automation, a pilot must CONSTANTLY be aware of their operating environment, employ proper procedure and understand its protections. The A-320, in its early days, was plagued by a number of operator error accidents, where the airplane did EXACTLY what it was programmed to do by the pilots.(Air India, Air Inter, etc)


    I must admit that I overwhelmingly prefer the Boeing approach to both "magic" and dinosaur airplanes, but every new generation Airbus accident that I recall was unfortunately, PILOT ERROR. As a current big "bus" driver, I try to be ever mindful of this.

    Just my 2 cents...
     
  14. HKMark23

    HKMark23 Millennium Member

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    Thats what I have heard several times as well. I know in the video you can hear the engines spool up well before he started to hit the trees (although you dont hear it on the tape till his in the trees because of the camera distance).

    A more complex/automated aircraft is no excuess for a crash, its the lack of training, and I think many pilots are reluctant to absorb the new skills needed because of their ego.
     
  15. Wulfenite

    Wulfenite The King

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    This sounds like garbage to me. How in the world can you certyfiy a plane, any plane, but especially a transport class aircraft, that can sustanin structural failure by abrupt control imputs below manuvering speed. After all thats the whole point of manuvering speed..... "the speed below which full or abrupt control movements may be made without damaging the aircraft."

    Why would you put a craft into production that can tear its tail off via the rudder pedals? Put on a rudder stop, decrease the area of the control surface, BEEF UP THE TAIL. Better to loose a couple hundred pounds of useful load than to loose the whole aircraft.
     
  16. dozing4dollars

    dozing4dollars Plasticized ! CLM

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    Wulfenite:

    Here's a letter from the NTSB to the FAA Administrator dated February 8, 2002, that discusses this very subject in great detail.

    www.ntsb.gov/Recs/letters/2002/A02_01_02.pdf


    In addition, here is a link to the NTSB site that shows the animated recreation of the AA 587 accident at JFK, including the series of four rapid rudder reversals in seven seconds on the Airbus A-300 and the subsequent loss of data to the FDR system from the rudder at its apparent structural failure. It is quite sobering...

    www.ntsb.gov/events/2001/AA587/board_mtg_anim.htm
     
  17. Wulfenite

    Wulfenite The King

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    Interesting animations.

    But I'm still not sure the solution is to blame the pilots and try to train them when to stop trying to prevent an upset. The control movements were pretty vigirous but the plane barely had enought time start responding to the inputs so its not like some kind of harmonic got set up.
     
  18. dozing4dollars

    dozing4dollars Plasticized ! CLM

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    As a matter of fact, at the NTSB Board Meeting of October 26, 2004, the NTSB presented a multi-hour video presentation on the Final Accident Report of AA 587 where they discussed the very issue of Airplane-Pilot Coupling (APC), in this accident (essentially a PIO in the yaw axis).

    http://www.ntsb.gov/events/boardmeeting.htm



    They presented a very instructive graphic series on the rudder inputs made by the FO and the rudder excursions set up as the FO began to battle and counteract his own previous aggravated control inputs.

    Please understand that I take no pleasure in criticizing my fellow airline pilots- it is all too easy to Monday morning quarterback someone's efforts with the benefits of hindsights and time.

    This aircraft was destroyed in about seven seconds as the FO cycled the rudder from side to side four times and the vertical stab and rudder assembly departed the jet. A system redesign in the A-300-600 rudder limiter system from its predecessor may have been a contributing factor due to its short throw and low breakout force.

    We MUST learn the hard technical and operational lessons from each accident so that they are identified and corrected. I have learned a great deal from this Airbus accident that I will use in my cockpit and brief my fellow Airbus pilots on.
     
  19. CaptainOveur

    CaptainOveur

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    I've flown 727 and 737 sims, but I have studied Airbus extensively. The only real disadvantage I can see with the airbus is the A/T function, the thrust levers do not move automatically like they do on the boeing when they are set to A/T, and you have to "reset" the thrust levers to the proper setting when disengating the A/T.

    Other than that it's a fine aircraft. Sure, there's no hard wires, but with a big aircraft you aren't going to be able to move the control surfaces with manual servo-tabs anyway. Only with a smaller plane (737) is that really possible.

    Everybody has their favorites...but I wouldn't complain about flying either of em :D