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Wake turbulence

Reader comment on item: Why Did American Airlines 587 Crash?

Submitted by SteveB (United States), Sep 3, 2004 at 23:56

I work in the aviation business, in the support side of air traffic control. I am not a pilot. But I do believe there are some reasons supporting a probable cause other than mechanical failure.

The primary cause of the crash has been attributed to wake turbulence eminating from a Boeing 747 heavy jet that took off immediately preceding flight 587. However, if hitting the wash of another airplane while in flight was the prime reason for a tail fin to fall off, I suspect we'd be having a plane crash a week. And keep in mind, this wasn't a Cessna following the 747, it was another heavy aircraft, an A300.

In my opinion the atmosphere can produce stronger levels of turbulence all by itself, and large airplanes rarely crash when encountering it. I also have trouble believing pilot error was involved, which the NTSB seems to hint at by saying there was excessive use of a control surface. Pilots may differ. But the bottom line for me-- if hitting wake turbulence is going to cause tail fins to fall off, that's alot more frightening than a random shoe bomber. Emperical evidence over years and years of flight doesn't appear to support a catastrophic wake turbulence upset due to it's isolated nature. Also, we as travelers would like to think they bolt the tail fins on a little better than that. So what's left?

Those aside, the only plausible idea remaining is a terrorist act. Eyewitnesses seem to support that notion. The CVR indicates a loud noise but it's unclear whether the tail fin separated before or after this noise. Al Qaeda has taken credit, twice. Richard Reid occured one month later, before shoes were being checked. As others have said-- it should be easy to check the manifest and surveillance tapes. Interesting the FBI still considers this an ongoing investigation, or is that just SOP?

One thing is certain. Whether it was a failure of the composites used in French built aircraft or a terrorist act, both reasons suggest a potential cover-up. The former due to the ripple effect of grounding the entire fleet of Airbus aircraft and the resulting body blow to the already teetering post 9-11 airline industry. The latter due to a renewed fear of flying by an already wary public and the resulting body blow to the already teetering post 9-11 airline industry. Hopefully one day we'll learn the truth.

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