Heavy Rudder Use Blamed In Crash

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Vigorous use of the rudder is being blamed for the crash of an American Airlines Airbus last November even though company officials and the NTSB may have known excessive rudder use could cause the airframe to fail. Documents released at the first day of the public hearing into the crash of Flight 587 revealed that both Airbus and American officials warned of the potential danger. The tail fell off and the plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Kennedy International Airport Nov. 12 last year killing all 260 on the plane and five more on the ground. The documents show that the copilot of the plane, Sten Molin, was at the controls when rudder inputs induced a back-and-forth motion that caused the tail to fall off. Airbus said the tail was subjected to 1.9 times its rated stress load and was certified to take 1.5 times that. In May 1997, American's designated expert on the A-300 complained that, during training, pilots were taught to put too much emphasis on the use of rudder to recover from turbulence or other upsets. The course has since been changed to include coordination of aileron input with rudder. In February, the NTSB warned all airline pilots not to use too much rudder to recover from upsets. The hearing will last until Friday in Washington.