American Airlines Flight 587

American Airlines Flight 587

Infobox Airliner accident|name=American Airlines Flight 587

Date=November 12 2001
Type=Pilot error, design and training failures
Site=Queens, New York, United States
Fatalities=265 (including 5 on the ground)
Injuries=1 (ground)
Aircraft Type=Airbus A300-600
Origin=John F. Kennedy International Airport
Destination=Las Américas International Airport
Operator=American Airlines
Tail Number=airreg|N|14053|disaster

American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens; a borough of New York City in New York, United States, shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport on November 12 2001. This was the second deadliest US aviation accident to date, after American Airlines Flight 191. The accident occurred over two months to the day after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Several factors (including the date, aircraft size, airline, and location in New York) caused many people to fear that the crash was caused by another terrorist attack. However, terrorism was ruled out as the cause almost immediately.


On November 12 2001, about 09:16 eastern standard time, American Airlines flight 587, an Airbus Industrie A300-605R, N14053, crashed into Belle Harbor, a New York City residential area, shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York. Flight 587 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight to Las Américas International Airport, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with 2 flight crew members, seven flight attendants, and 251 passengers aboard the plane. Ed States served as the captain, and Sten Molin served as the first officer.

The plane's vertical stabilizer and rudder separated in flight and fell into Jamaica Bay, about 1 mile north of the main wreckage site. The plane's engines subsequently separated in flight and fell several blocks north and east of the main wreckage site. All 260 people aboard the plane and 5 people on the ground died, and the impact forces and a post-crash fire destroyed the plane. Flight 587 operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 on an instrument flight rules flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the time of the accident.


The A300-600, which took off just minutes after a Japan Airlines Boeing 747 on the same runway, flew into the larger jet's wake, an area of very turbulent air. The first officer attempted to keep the plane upright with aggressive rudder inputs. The strength of the air flowing against the moving rudder stressed the aircraft's vertical stabilizer and eventually snapped it off entirely, causing the aircraft to lose control and crash. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that the enormous stress on the rudder was due to the first officer's unnecessary and excessive rudder inputs, and not the wake caused by the earlier Japan Airlines 747 that had crossed that area. In fact, if the first officer had stopped making additional inputs, the aircraft would have stabilized. However, contributing to these rudder pedal inputs were characteristics of the Airbus A300-600 sensitive rudder system design and elements of the American Airlines Advanced Aircraft Maneuvering Training Program.

Investigators were concerned in regard to the manner in which the tail fin separated. The tail fin is connected to the fuselage with six attaching points. Each point has two sets of nuts, one made out of composite material, another out of aluminum, all connected by a titanium bolt; damage analysis showed that the bolts and aluminum lugs were intact, but not the composite lugs. The idea that the composites were faulty caused fear because they are used in other areas of the plane, including the engine mounting and the wings. Examinations of the construction and materials gave the plane a clean bill of health.

The official NTSB report of October 26 2004 stated that the cause of the crash was the overuse of the rudder to counter wake turbulence. [ [ In-Flight Separation of Vertical Stabilizer; American Airlines Flight 587; Airbus Industrie A300-605R, N14053; Belle Harbor, New York; November 12 2001, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Aircraft Accident Report NTSB/AAR-04/04 of October 26 2004.] The smoke and fire resulted from fuel leakage as the engines separated from the wings due to huge g-forces, or engine compressor surges.

The crash was witnessed by hundreds of people, who gave conflicting accounts of what they saw. Some reported a fire or explosion before the plane hit the ground. [Wald, Matthew L. [ " Ideas & Trends; For Air Crash Detectives, Seeing Isn't Believing"] , "The New York Times", June 23 2002. Accessed April 4 2008. "According to the National Transportation Safety Board, which announced this month that it had gathered 349 eyewitness accounts through interviews or written statements, 52 percent said they saw a fire while the plane was in the air. The largest number (22 percent) said the fire was in the fuselage, but a majority cited other locations, including the left engine, the right engine, the left wing, the right wing or an unspecified engine or wing."]

After the crash, Floyd Bennett Field's empty hangars were used as a makeshift morgue for the identification of crash victims. [ [ FDNY Responds: Flight 587 Crashes in the Rockaways] , accessed January 1 2007.]

Flight 587 no longer exists. The flight route designations of flights between Kennedy Airport and Las Américas Airport are now 619, 635, and 789.


Airbus and American are currently disputing the extent to which the two parties are responsible for the disaster. American charges that the crash was mostly Airbus's fault, because the A300 was designed with unusually sensitive rudder controls. Most aircraft require increased pressure on the rudder pedals to achieve the same amount of rudder control at a higher speed. The Airbus A300 and later A310 do not operate on a fly-by-wire flight control system, instead using conventional mechanical flight controls. The NTSB determined that "because of its high sensitivity, the A300-600 rudder control system is susceptible to potentially hazardous rudder pedal inputs at higher speeds." [ "NTSB Press Release".] October 26 2004. Accessed December 6 2005.]

Airbus charges that the crash was mostly American's fault, because the airline did not train its pilots properly about the characteristics of the rudder. Aircraft tail fins are designed to withstand full rudder deflection in one direction at maneuvering speed. They are not usually designed to withstand an abrupt shift in rudder from one direction to the other. Most American pilots believed that the tail fin could withstand any rudder movement at maneuvering speed. The NTSB also assigned a portion of the responsibility to American Airlines by indicating that their Advanced Aircraft Maneuvering Program tended to exaggerate the effects of wake turbulence on large aircraft. Therefore, pilots were being trained to react more aggressively than was necessary.

Since the NTSB's report, American Airlines has modified its pilot training program. [ "Pilot error blamed for Flight 587 crash"] , AP, accessed February 7 2008.]


All 260 people aboard the plane and 5 people on the ground died.

Relatives, including a Dominican military officer, gathered at Las Americas International Airport; the airport created a private area for relatives wishing to receive news about Flight 587. Some relatives arrived at the airport to meet passengers, unaware of the fact that the flight had crashed. [" [ Shocked relatives gather at Dominican airport] ." "CNN".]

One of the passengers killed on the flight was Hilda Yolanda Mayol, a 26-year-old American woman " [ Airline releases victim list] ," "CNN"] on her way to vacation in her native Dominican Republic. Two months earlier, on September 11, Mayol worked at a restaurant on the ground floor of the World Trade Center and escaped before the building collapsed.Younge, Gary. [,,1945114,00.html "Flight to the death: Just two months after 9/11, a Queens suburb suffered the second-worst plane crash in US history. Five years on, residents tell Gary Younge, the cause remains worryingly unresolved "] , "The Guardian", November 11 2006. Accessed January 24 2008. "On flight 587, myriad immigrant stories of hope foundered. On board was Hilda Yolanda Mayol, 26, a waitress who had escaped from the north tower of the World Trade Center and was heading to the Dominican Republic with her mother and children to take her mind off the trauma."] [" [ Second Scythe] ." "Snopes".]

Had the New York Yankees won Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, infielder Enrique Wilson would have flown home to the Dominican Republic and been aboard American Airlines Flight 587. [ [ Sometimes, ballpark not best place to be] , "Times Herald-Record", September 26 2004.]

Around 90% of the passengers on the flight were of Dominican descent; "The Guardian" describes the flight has having "cult status" in Washington Heights, a Dominican area of Manhattan. Belkis Lora, a relative of a passenger on the crashed flight, said "Every Dominican in New York has either taken that flight or knows someone who has. It gets you there early. At home there are songs about it."

Victims' nationalities:

1 - American Airlines identified a passenger as from the United Kingdom; the passenger held a French passport. "The Guardian" stated "as far it was concerned she was French." The passenger was formerly based in London. [" [ Flight 587: final passenger list] ." "The Guardian".]


A memorial was constructed in Rockaway Park, Belle Harbor's neighboring community, in memory of the 265 victims of the crash, at Beach 116th Street, a major commercial street in the area. It was dedicated on November 12 2006, the fifth anniversary of the incident, in a ceremony attended by Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.

The memorial wall, designed by Dominican artist Freddy Rodríguez and Situ Studio, has windows and a doorway looking towards the nearby Atlantic Ocean and angled towards the Dominican Republic. It is inscribed with the names of the victims. [ [ Flight 587 Memorial Dedicated in Rockaways] , WNYC, accessed November 16 2006.] Atop the memorial is a quote, in both Spanish and English, from Dominican poet Pedro Mir, reading "Después yo quiero no más que paz." (Translation: "Afterwards I want nothing more than peace.") [ [ "5 years later, a memorial for victims of New York plane crash that killed 265"] , "International Herald Tribune" via the Associated Press, November 12 2006.]

In a ceremony held on May 6 2007, at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, 889 unidentified fragments of human remains of the victims of the crash were entombed in a group of four mausoleum crypts. [Lee, Trymaine. [ "Only 4 Coffins, but 265 Victims Are Mourned at Mass in the Bronx"] , "The New York Times", May 7 2007. Accessed May 7 2007. "Red roses in hand, about 45 mourners emerged yesterday from a Spanish-language Mass and walked a quarter-mile to a majestic mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.... More than five years after American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in Belle Harbor, Queens, killing 265 people, 889 fragments of human remains were placed in four coffins and finally laid to rest behind a wall of granite last week."]

Lottery coincidence

The New Jersey Lottery holds two Pick-3 lottery drawings per day, and on the day of the crash, the numbers selected for the evening drawing were 5-8-7. The afternoon drawing was 5-7-8. So many people chose the combination for the evening draw that the prize was $16 for each 'winner', whereas $275 is the typical straight bet payout for Pick-3. While the winning numbers were mere coincidence, the low payouts indicate that they had been selected by a much larger number of people than ordinary. [ [,2933,38665,00.html 587 Is Winning Number in N.J. Lottery] , Fox News, November 13 2001. "In a morbid coincidence, the winning number in one of the New Jersey Lottery's games Monday was the same as the number of the American Airlines flight that crashed in Queens earlier in the day: 587."]

Television documentaries

There have been two television documentaries made on the accident. An episode of the National Geographic Channel program "Seconds From Disaster", first aired on September 6 2006, examined the Flight 587 accident in detail. The episode was titled "Plane Crash in Queens" (also known as "New York Air Crash"). [ [ Seconds From Disaster: Plane Crash In Queens] , accessed April 13 2007.] The BBC program "Horizon" also created an episode about the crash.

A 2006 episode of Modern Marvels on The History Channel also aired an episode entitled "Engineering Disasters 20", which featured detailed information on the Flight 587.

ee also

* List of notable accidents and incidents on commercial aircraft


External links

*PDF| [ NTSB Accident Report on AA 587] |1.86 MiB
*PDF| [ NTSB Cockpit Voice Recorder Transcript] |76.5 KiB
* [,-73.850452&spn=0.001008,0.001886&t=k&om=1 Satellite view of crash site from Google Maps]
* [ BBC documentary on crash]
* [ Getting Harder To Maintain The Fiction On AA 587]
* [ NTSB - American Airlines Flight 587] , Official site for the National Transportation Safety Board investigative hearings on the crash
* [ Debunking of rumors about terrorists causing the crash] (from
* [ Images of the crash scene]
* [ Photos of the plane involved in the accident and of the crash scene] from
* [ Flight 587 Memorial Project]
* [,,592701,00.html Flight 587 Final Passenger List] "The Guardian"
* [ Meteorology and Wake Vortex Influence on American Airlines FL-587 Accident]
* [ Irish evening news bulletin from the day] , which details initial speculation and other information (RTÉ)
* [ American Airlines Flight 587] , "CBS News"
* [ Airline Releases Victim List] , "CNN"
* [] Archived page of on November 13, 2001, with a press release from Don Carty
* [ Hector Algarobba] 's essay on how he was affected by the disaster of AA587

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