View Full Version : New Theory and Speculation On AA A300 Crash In New York

5th Jan 2002, 22:28
Moral of this story: If your plane is flying out of control, don't try and recover, you'll upset things: <img src="rolleyes.gif" border="0">

From the New York Times
[quote]Investigators looking into the crash of an American Airlines flight in Queens in November have so far found no pre-existing flaw in the jet's tail section and are now focusing on the performance of the pilots, who they believe triggered the airplane's wild rolling and yawing in the seconds before it went down.
The data recovered from American Airlines Flight 587 showed that the plane hit turbulence from a plane in front of it and seconds later, began to swing violently and break up before it fell 2,900 feet to the ground, killing 265 people. The vertical tail of the plane, and the rudder attached to it, were the first parts to break off, and investigators began to look early on at whether that caused the crash, possibly because of some undetected flaw.
But now, after extensive testing of the tail, they have found no pre-existing problem. And so they are intensely exploring whether the pilots, in trying to correct and control the plane after the turbulence, might have put more stress on the tail than it was designed to handle.
"A brand-new tail would have broken," said one investigator, underlining his belief that the effort by the pilots to control the plane set in motion the fatal series of events. Another investigator involved in the National Transportation Safety Board's inquiry pointed out that it is possible to take an airplane in perfect condition and maneuver it into a breakup, just as a driver could take a sport-utility vehicle in perfect condition and make a radical maneuver at high speed that results in a rollover or other accident.
The plane that crashed, an Airbus A300, is a long airplane — 177.5 feet — and with the fuselage acting like a long lever, sudden movements from side to side produce powerful pressures at the end, where the vertical tail sits. By international regulation, the tail is supposed to be able to withstand a force 50 percent stronger than the largest it is likely to ever encounter, and Airbus officials said that the A300 tail exceeded even that standard. But investigators now believe that the tail was overstressed.
The latest developments in the investigation come eight weeks after the American Airlines plane bound for the Dominican Republic went down in Belle Harbor, on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, shortly after takeoff from Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 12.
And although investigators are interested in the latest theory, they emphasize that they are far from declaring a definitive cause. Indeed, some are still trying to determine if the rudder moved differently from the way the pilots intended. The investigation is being led by the N.T.S.B., with the participation of the F.A.A., Airbus, American Airlines, the union that represents American Airlines' pilots and other aviation experts.
Investigators had focused originally on the rudder and the vertical portion of the tail to which it attaches, both of which fell off the plane. The tail is made of carbon-reinforced plastic, a composite material that has come into common use in airplane structures only in the last 15 years and investigators have relatively little experience with it.
The Safety Board had the tail trucked to a NASA laboratory in Hampton, Va., for analysis. But the lab has turned up no sign of fabrication error or damage to the tail before the accident, according to people involved in the investigation. Now, investigators think it tore off because of the increased strain placed on it by the pilots' maneuverings — rolling and skidding the plane in the air.
The Airbus had hit the wake of a Boeing 747 that was about five miles ahead of it, which is considered a safe distance. That preceding plane created what investigators say was a minor bump, but the encounter may have prompted the Airbus crew to try to compensate.
"They thought they had something from which they thought they needed to recover quickly," said one investigator, reflecting the current hypothesis. At the controls of the jet was the first officer, Sten Molin, 34. Mr. Molin was an experienced pilot, with 4,400 hours of flying time, 1,835 of them as co-pilot of an A300.
After using the flight controls to steady the airplane, the objective normally would have been to bring it back to its previous orientation — in this case climbing and banking slightly to the left in its first turn out of Kennedy.
"Before they could do that, something else happened," the investigator said.
Several investigators said the training of pilots would be carefully examined. Crews at American were trained in the mid-1990's to use the rudder to recover from "flight upsets," but Airbus, Boeing and the F.A.A. later warned against this practice, saying it could produce dangerous stresses. American said it changed its training in 1999 to de- emphasize use of the rudder. Evidence recovered from the plane's data recorder indicates that the pilots were using the rudder to try and stabilize the plane.
The investigators are finding their work slowed by limitations on their tools. One tool is a computer-driven simulator owned by Airbus, which can predict what happens to the plane with each change in rudder or other control surfaces.
But the computer does not make good predictions at dangerous angles, because it is difficult to conduct test flights to gather such data. "You don't do extremely weird things to airplanes" to gather such data, one investigator said. As a result, he said, "When you get in a situation way outside the envelope of the airplane, you don't know."<hr></blockquote>

I would expect more from the New York Times, to be quite honest. It is somewhat infuriating the way they can twist one of the various theories (without displaying objectivity and comparing it to others) to make a lay-public believe this nonsense.

Any comments?

SFly <img src="eek.gif" border="0">

[ 05 January 2002: Message edited by: SFly ]</p>

5th Jan 2002, 23:13
Perhaps an argument for the fly-by-wire protections featured on subsequent Airbus airliners?

Fast Erect
5th Jan 2002, 23:25
There are no protections in Yaw, though.

5th Jan 2002, 23:30
Ofcourse no word about a design-manoeuvring speed........

<img src="rolleyes.gif" border="0">

5th Jan 2002, 23:56
It would be interesting to hear from someone with a knowledge of the design of rudder limiters and their protection.

6th Jan 2002, 03:04
Quite why anyone should attempt to use rudder as a primary control in a swept wing aircraft in flight, I cannot imagine - other than for spin recovery or to counter the initial effect of loss of engine thrust at high thrust settings. In the type I fly, the aileron and elevator artificial feel system is TAS related whereas the rudder feel is IAS related; as a result the rudder feel increasesfrom min to max much more quickly than the elvator and aileron feel, reducing the chance of inadvertant fin stress from pilot input. In the event of total feel failure, 2 of the 3 rudder PCUs are isolated to reduce rudder power. Rudder is never used to recover from a divergent Dutch roll (although we no longer practice this in the air) - the only time I make a conscious rudder deflection other than during a cross-wind flare is to apply a small rudder doublet to excite the lateral stability mode during air tests to check yaw damper operation.

[ 05 January 2002: Message edited by: BEagle ]</p>

6th Jan 2002, 05:53
I find this all a bit difficult to believe.

I thought that if you were below max maneuvering speed you could apply an individual control fully and would not overstress?

What speed were they doing when the initial "upset" occurred?

Surely you have to grossly mishandle to cause a break up during this phase of flight?

There must be some other factor in this accident.

6th Jan 2002, 05:59
It's the same old story. The pilots are dead so lets blame the whole thing on them. I'm not an A300 pilot but I do know that you should have full athority of pedal movement at any speed without breaking anything due to the rudder limiter. If you lose an engine at full thrust on that thing I guarantee that rudder is on the floor. What a load of crap! <img src="mad.gif" border="0">

6th Jan 2002, 07:37
I'm amazed.
I read the NY Times article before I came to this thread as a result, it had the ring of truth then and still does.

Maybe someone who knows the chapter and verse on Airbus product can help me, but I understood the design philosophy behind the whole FBW concept was that the computer control laws were such that they prevented inputs that would exceed the aerodynamic and structural envelopes.
That is, short of turning all the protections off it was almost impossible to "kill" the aircraft.
If I understood it correctly, this was supposed to allow higher design and structural limits and expand flight and stability envelopes to promote the overall operating economics.

Or is it that they'll only keep you safe as long as you remain within "normal limits" and in anything other set of conditions you are out there on your own <img src="frown.gif" border="0"> <img src="confused.gif" border="0">

I find the concept of training to one set of training skills for say engine failure, viz use of rudder and a different set for inflight excursiona in the after take off segment, ie. not use of rudder because we'll come to bits, difficult to grasp.

BEagle suggests, properly, that use of rudder "in flight";
"other than for spin recovery or to counter the initial effect of loss of engine thrust at high thrust settings" should be avoided.

Difficult to argue with that, but given that the wake turbulence from the preceding aircraft has been accepted as the event initiator, (?)
it is possible that the resulting aircraft behaviour that prompted the pilot inputs could have exhibited either of those effects (spin onset or large "apparent" assy).
Who amongst us wouldn't have reacted instinctively with rudder and/or who amongst us would have been aware of the apparent consequences.

Are we that far out on the "pushing the certification limits" bough that a single moments inattention by a pilot will break it off.

Only two things can operate here.
Either the certification process needs a seriously vigourous rethink and overhaul, and a seriously deep audit of the control laws.
A couple of pilots are being hung out to dry for "killing" an aircraft by using control inputs made available to them by the computer controlled flight control system that they believed provided such protection and limits.

Either way?

6th Jan 2002, 10:10
The A300-600 is not a FBW aeroplane.
Can remember years ago dutch roll recovery training in the B707....better to keep OFF the rudder.

6th Jan 2002, 14:15
Quite right 411A; it is not so much a question of overstressing the fin by initial large rudder inputs, it is a question of causing a divergent lateral mode to develop which may lead to overcontrol, departure fromcontrolled flight, overstress, structural failure and an accident.

Without prejudice in any way to the deceased, one wonders quite how much in the way of manual flying is practised these days by most airline pilots.

..and yes, the A300 is not a FBW aeroplane.

Semaphore Sam
6th Jan 2002, 15:05
Assuming the delicacy of the tail assembly to high-speed gross rudder inputs (ref 411A & Beagle); just how gross do these inputs have to be at relatively low speeds (approx 250 IAS during low level departure) to do damage? BTW, was the autopilot possibly in use at the time?

6th Jan 2002, 16:28
Thanks guys.
Well there you go, but I still feel uncomfortable with being able to "kill" the aircraft in that flight segment.
I'm with BEagle, with the youngsters first 'big one' now being 'fully automatic' and coming in with relatively low hours compared with the past just how well their manual skills can be maintained, particularly long haul.
In our State a unless you have learnt and pass your drivers license test on a manual car your license limits you to automatics. Dodgy parallel perhaps but you know what I mean.

411A mate is dutch roll recovery training currently included in type rating and is it done in the sim, or have they flicked that one over to the Yaw Damper too?
I ask the same question as Fireflybob and raas767.

In a related thread 'Plastic Bug' made a comment that made think
[quote] 587 managed to intersect a number of non related and normally insignifigant events that resulted in the departure of the vertical stabilizer.

The airplane, in my opinion, managed to bullseye the preceding airplanes wake turbulence not once, but twice.

While recovering from wake encounter number one, they hit number two.

With controls set to recover from a diversion in one direction and then encountering a diversion in the OPPOSITE direction, I am believing they found themselves outside of the envelope.

And that is where the tail went.

You may, of course, disagree.


Whatever, it seems it just wasn't their day and given the evidence and competing politics it would be a pity if they wore it.

6th Jan 2002, 21:00
Given the fact that the A300-600 has experienced severe rudder deflection at full authority with no control input from the pilot, no less than twice that I am aware of (not including 587), should be a huge heads up to anyone investigating this accident. For the NYT to publish that article and insinuating that our pilots may have caused that crash before thay have even finished the full technical evaluation of the FDR is nothing short of criminal. I urge each of you to listen to the APA hotline at 1800 APA PILOT were the union responds to this nonesense. These men are dead with no way to defend themselves! <img src="mad.gif" border="0">

Willit Run
6th Jan 2002, 21:41
Does anyone really understand an Airbus?
There are so many viable, decent scenarios posted here, but folks, we are SPECULATING!
Second guessing what happened to these guys is not fair. We weren't there and have no idea what they went through.
That article was way out of line.Lets just wait and see what the FDR has to say.
I've been through some wake from a Tri-star while I was in a Tri-star, and it was nothing short of violent!

Lets give these guys the respect that we would want.

7th Jan 2002, 00:53
I have been in excess of 500 stalls in commercial aircraft(not flying). Over half at heavy aft CG, flaps and gear down. Half of those being wind ups. I have seen and heard noises coming from airplanes that 98% of pilots will, luckily, never hear or feel during their careers. I have watched rivets popping up out of wing skins, saw flames shooting forward out of engines as they swing back and forth and I have sat in the cockpit watching the pilots violently twisting the controls after one wings breaks early and the aircraft rolls over on its back and nothing but light covers and flaps delaminating(a bit). Nothing ever broke off, even in a 727(if you know stalls then you understand).

I just can't see how a pilot fighting a bit of turbulence can bust his airplane. If they broke that easy I wouldn't be here and you guys would be loosing friends on a daily basis. It just makes no sense to me. <img src="confused.gif" border="0">

7th Jan 2002, 02:15
I feel a big fat political whitewash coming at our expense. This is where the accident investigation committee of the union should and will raise a HUGE stink!

7th Jan 2002, 02:18
On the stalls you witnessed you never saw the pilots putting in full rudder followed immediately by full opposite rudder.
Thats what breaks aeroplanes!

7th Jan 2002, 04:48
There is no evidence at this point that the pilot made any rudder input at all. As you well know rudder dampening systems should prevent any overstress on the rudder even if the pilot did use full deflection, which is doubtful.
The bottom line is that we should all stop speculating about what caused this accident until all the FACTS are in. To do so is completely unprofessional, an insult to our fallen comrades, and worst of all it plays right in to the worst form of tabloid journalism. Accident investigation is a science. Good science takes time. lets wait and see.

7th Jan 2002, 05:36
apfds-I have seen them go hard one direction on the rudder while inputing oposite column input and then go the oposite rudder deflection with again oposite column input and back and forth to make the plane fish tail I think the most was about 8-10 times in a row in rapid succesion. Really tosses stuff around. Other than redlining an airframe, I doubt there is any input a pilot could do that should make control surfaces or the tail or engines come off a plane if it satisfies all FAR requirements for structural integrity.

Unless there was a 10 g gust that wasn't registered I just don't believe the pilot did it even on a ScareBus. Look at that Alitalia DC-8 that lost half its wing and one engine going through, and I forget the name of it, that rare wind pattern. Pilot puts in hard rudder one way plane goes the other he pushes harder, then the plane sails through the cross wind and the controls start to respond as they should now the pilot snaps the tail the other way to stop the fast roll and the wing snaped just outboard of the inner engine. He still landed the plane.

8th Jan 2002, 03:55
On this aircraft does the flight data recorder
log the position of the rudder pedals or just
the position of the rudder itself?

8th Jan 2002, 05:49
The last I heard, the FDR cannot determine weather the pilot caused full deflection of the rudder or if the rudder deflection caused a feed back to the peddles. Given the history of rudder problems on the A300-600 it gives credibility to the latter scenario.

8th Jan 2002, 06:23
Hey there, 747FOCAL, you say.....have been thru 500 stalls (not in aircraft)....this must have been in the Sim. Yes?
What makes you think the sim actually demonstrates actual stall conditions? Are you a test pilot or what?
You sound like an amateur to me. Or, to give you the benefit of the doubt, misinformed. <img src="rolleyes.gif" border="0">

8th Jan 2002, 11:59
....or perhaps he/she's a Flight Test Observer/Engineer and has been involved with testing although not at the controls him/herself? Incidentally, the term 'breaking' in his/her post refers to a +Gz 'break' at the stall, not structural failure, and a 'wind up' is a manoeuvre incolving increasing +Gz and angle of bank in level flight untilthe point of stalling is reached - rather him/her than me in a large aeroplane!

I suspect he/she is far from being an 'amateur' as you have suggested, 411A.

[ 08 January 2002: Message edited by: BEagle ]</p>

8th Jan 2002, 12:52
747FOCAL, you stated

īI doubt there is any input a pilot could do that should make control surfaces or the tail or engines come off a plane if it satisfies all FAR requirements for structural integrity.ī

Just look at FAR 25.361 and you shurely believe a pilot can overstress a planeīs tail :

14 CFR 25 Sec. 25.351 Yawing conditions.

The airplane must be designed for loads resulting from the conditions specified in paragraph (a) of this section. Unbalanced aerodynamic moments about the center of gravity must be reacted in a rational or conservative manner considering the principal masses furnishing the reacting inertia forces:

(a) Maneuvering. At speeds from VMC to VD, the following maneuvers must be considered. In computing the tail loads, the yawing velocity may be assumed to be zero:

(1) With the airplane in unaccelerated flight at zero yaw, it is assumed that the rudder control is suddenly displaced to the maximum deflection, as limited by the control surface stops, or by a 300-pound rudder pedal force, whichever is less.

(2) With the rudder deflected as specified in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, it is assumed that the airplane yaws to the resulting sideslip angle.

(3) With the airplane yawed to the static sideslip angle corresponding to the rudder deflection specified in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, it is assumed that the rudder is returned to neutral.

(b) [Reserved]

[Doc. No. 5066, 29 FR 18291, Dec. 24, 1964, as amended by Amdt. 25-23, 35 FR 5672, Apr. 8, 1970; Amdt. 25-46, 43 FR 50595, Oct. 30, 1978; Amdt. 25-72, 55 FR 29775, July 20, 1990; 55 FR 37608, Sept. 12, 1990; 55 FR 41415, Oct. 11, 1990; Amdt. 25-86, 61 FR 5222, Feb. 9, 1996]

So just apply full rudder (FAR 25.361 (1)), wait for maximum sideslip angle (FAR 25.361 (2)), dont just return rudder to neutral as specified in (FAR 25.361 (3)) but apply full opposite rudder and you shurely overstess your airframe. And in this case the yawing speed is not even accounted for, for a plane wich such a long aft fuselage it produces another amount of effective tail fin angle of attack. Additionally the maximum dynamic sideslip angle is much larger than the static one, so it is easyly possible to produce about twice the angle of attack dynamically and apply rudder in the direction that increases aerodynamic forces. European JAR 25.361 is just the same as the FAR requirement.

As my structural design professor always said : It is impossible to design a plane that can not be destroyed by wrong pilot control inputs at the right speed and flight attitude. (might not be true for fighter airplane where the physical capabilities of the pilot are the limiting factor and the pilot rather kills himself before breaking the airframe)

There are some more paragraphs important for structural design of the fin like lateral gustloads and single engine failure loads, so it is not clear if the 25.351 yawing condition is the most critical for a specific airplane. But it is for shure possible to exceed the loads specified in this paragraph.

8th Jan 2002, 17:33
Supposing there was an uncommanded rudder 'hard-over' (like in the 737's) - it still does not explain the break-up? Those 737's didn't break up, and at cruising altitude they would have been flying much faster than this A300 was on departure.

8th Jan 2002, 21:02
First 411A- Why would you think simulator since I refered to feeling and hearing sounds that most pilots will never encounter or whatever I said? I only said I wasn't doing the flying. Of course they were in a real airplane. Been sitting in the cockpit of a 727 when the pilot took it down to 85 kts at 18,000 ft. He said it was probably wrong as we were at such an attitude that the pitot tubes were not getting proper airflow. In a simulator, thats rich. I can barrel roll a 747-400 at 875,000 in the sim, bet I couldn't do it in real life. <img src="eek.gif" border="0">

[ 08 January 2002: Message edited by: 747FOCAL ]</p>

8th Jan 2002, 21:08
"As my structural design professor always said : It is impossible to design a plane that can not be destroyed by wrong pilot control inputs at the right speed and flight attitude. (might not be true for fighter airplane where the physical capabilities of the pilot are the limiting factor and the pilot rather kills himself before breaking the airframe)"

He said "right speed and flight attitude" This airplane was way below it's design maximum speed. And was not at an attitude that was out of cert limits. Of course if you dive to mach 1 and pull back hard at step on one rudder pedal hard the wings and tail will come off. I been in flutter tests as well.

8th Jan 2002, 21:14
Your profile indicates that you are an Aero Engineer so I am hardly in a position to argue with you in this field, but does part 25 take in to account aircraft with rudder limiting systems designed to negate the large inputs that could cause the vertical stab to fail?
If it was so easy to cause a vertical stab to fail then the world would be littered with aircraft aluminum. I just don't buy it.

8th Jan 2002, 22:07
BEagle- Thanks for your support. You are correct I am a flight test engineer among other things. It is fun to do that stuff, but I am glad I don't do it everyday. 4 hours of stalling and your head feels all swollen up. doesn't hurt just feels different from your brain bouncing around in the the brain bucket. :)

9th Jan 2002, 09:02
Well 747FOCAL, suggest you keep to engineering and leave the "piloting" to....actual pilots (or flight test pilots).
And...stick to KILOS so our European friends understand.

9th Jan 2002, 19:27
411A- You must be daft. Then again this isn't the first thread I have seen your rantings. I think I hear the Guv calling........ How is that live in Hey Boy thing going anyway? :)

ps. to convert lbs to kilos divide by 2.2 and you should be close enough for that C152 they let you motor around your backyard.

[ 09 January 2002: Message edited by: 747FOCAL ]</p>

Bomber Harris
24th Jan 2002, 07:43

like you I am a pilot and an engineer. Surely you should have enough experience to know that we have no idea which way a particular aircraft type will react to certain stresses in certain conditions. History has proven time and time again that 'foolproof' systems have a way of failing. Imagine the bridge buiders shock who built indestuctable bridges when they were confronted by 'resonance' and found a moderate wind could knock their bridges down. I am amazed that you cannot accept that a structural problem caused by control input in certain conditions resulted in this accident.

Of course it may not have been, but JFK conspiracy theories do not lie around EVERY corner in life. History has proven that aircraft crash investigators do a pretty good job and are reasonably honest (thank God). How likely is it that they are trying to cover something up or that they are barking up the wrong tree and that a 500 stall man is correct. Unfortunately I have to say my money goes on the investigators. No offense intended but I think you need to accept that history will probably prove you wrong. Of course there is a chance that what you say is correct and I accept that and welcome discussion on it, but I think you are a bit brazen to shoot down the proven experts based on your lower level of experience in crash investigation (I assume you are not an experienced crash investigator because I'm sure you would have added it to your CV)

24th Jan 2002, 09:02
I don't care what any of you engineers or crash investigators say. Tails are NOT supposed to fall of transport catagory airplanes due to wake, control input, composites, or anything else.. .There is at least 50 years of design experience with aluminum flight control surfaces and all but maybe 10 with composites. I hate to throw this out, but has anyone considered the fact that Airbus may have screwed it up on this one?

24th Jan 2002, 11:20
I was reading an article (I think from Flight International) that indicated the data from the flight was, in fact, filtered internally.

Would this tend to hide the sudden transients and control extremes that are being talked about here?

If the data extremes can not be determined from the FDR, then what course of action can the investigators take apart from some intelligent guesswork ?

The same article also refers to the testing of a fin assembly identical to the one from the destroyed aircraft.

24th Jan 2002, 19:01
If my memory is correct there was a 707 that was involved in a midair breakup, in the early days of the jets, which was attributed to overcontrol in turbulence, and that aircraft was built like a brick outhouse.. .regards

24th Jan 2002, 19:57
Correcto Steamhead............Over Mt. Fuji in Japan. In that area you can get CAT that will shake your teeth out. I have been in 170 knot winds in that area. But that is a whole lot different than being 5 miles behind a B 747.

24th Jan 2002, 22:04
Can any of you try this out, as a thought experiment?

Put 10 oz of semtex pressed in a somewhat shaped charge ( as someone pressing their shoes against the AC fuselage would shape a charge), perhaps in the rear head or last few seats in the plane, and then discharge this bomb on 587.

Can you come up with the sudden gyrations and loss of control resulting in the tail falling off, along with the AC breakup, to fit the crash of 587 when you consider this charge? The size of the charge is small, so would that keep it off of the sound recorder? Would such a charge actually be shaped, such that if in the rear of the aricraft it would be similar to a small rocket thrust, violently moving the read sidewais similar to a flat spin?

Or can a stinger be fired with out a tail being noticed?

My thoughts initially raised ire and condescending platitudes from most of you, but it is near humorous (but for the fact that this is a most terroble tragedy) now in observing the contortions most of you are going through trying to figure out why a perfectly good AC dropped out fo the sky when piloted by a senior pilot during optimal flying conditions. It seems most are starting to come to an Airbus conspiracy coverup assisted by the NTSB, or soemthing similar. (A NTSB coverup of a bomb to avoid total implosion and panic of the airline industry is more likely.)

In times of war, on a clear beautiful day with little or no normally occuring exogenous forces or events identified, a large AC will usually fall from the sky from an act of war. Makes sense to me. Why do you refuse to take the Occum's Razor approach?

I am very impressed with the majority of "ostrich" like views here that refuse to try on the thought model above, despite all the terrible things that have happened since 9/11 and most importantly since Reid.

Why dont you guys wake up? We are at war.

Come on, as a public service, use your professional skills and engineering ability to proof out how such a bomb charge model can fit the event. Try hard. Then , and only after that effort, should you discard an act of war as the reason. Most of you have it totally ass backwards and will be forced to consider the bomb after losing much personal credibility by trying out incredible contortions first.

Rescue your professional consderations and reputations.

Try the thought experiment.

25th Jan 2002, 02:42
<a href="http://pull.xmr3.com/p/25356-E59F/30254611/rudder.html" target="_blank">http://pull.xmr3.com/p/25356-E59F/30254611/rudder.html</a>

Cyclic Hotline
25th Jan 2002, 06:35
Dozens of Pilots Want American to Ground A300. .By John Crawley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dozens of pilots at American Airlines want the carrier to ground its fleet of Airbus A300s, saying too many unresolved safety questions have been raised since one of the airliners crashed in New York in November.

"Are we completely comfortable putting our friends and family on an A300? If the answer to that question is not a resounding yes, then logic would lead a well-trained pilot to conclude that no one should be flying on them either,'' according to a recent open letter initially signed by a dozen American A300 pilots in New York, Boston and Miami.

About 60 pilots have signed the letter, which was also circulated to other crew members.

American, a unit of AMR Corp. has about 400 pilots who fly the carrier's 34 wide-body A300s, the company said.

The airline and Airbus SAS said on Thursday there were no plans to ground the fleet, stressing that safety officials investigating the crash of Flight 587 have found no reason to do so.

That plane, An A300-600 crashed shortly after takeoff from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, killing all 260 aboard and five people on the ground.

Investigators are looking at a possible mechanical problem, a structural defect with the composite materials that make up the aircraft's tail fin, or actions by the crew to explain the disaster.

No other U.S. commercial carrier other than American offers A300 service, but cargo airlines Fedex Corp. and United Parcel Service operate them.

The letter was not linked to the pilots union at American, the Allied Pilots Association. In fact, the union said it did not back the demand.

"We are not advocating a grounding of the A300 fleet at this point,'' spokesman Gregg Overman said.

The pilots who signed the letter are unhappy that investigators, the manufacturer and the airline have yet to develop a clear idea of why the jetliner's tail fin, or vertical stabilizer, and rudder fell off before the A300 crashed into a residential neighborhood.

"At this point, safety experts and our own safety and fleet people have agreed that no test exists to definitively check the structural integrity of the vertical stabilizers on our remaining 34 aircraft,'' the letter said.

After the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration (news - web sites) ordered American and the cargo carriers to conduct visual checks of the A300 tail section. All reported no safety problems.

Aside from the focus on the carbon-reinforced plastic composites that make up the thick tail fin, investigators are looking closely at three sharp, unexplained rudder deflections just before the plane crashed.

It has not been determined whether these rudder movements were commanded by the crew, or if there was a glitch in the Airbus systems associated with the flight control components.

The safety board is looking into a handful of flight control mishaps over the past several years involving the A300. One involved the ill-fated American jet in 1994.

Investigators confirmed on Thursday they were examining a report that an uncommanded rudder movement prompted the pilot of an American A300 to return to Caracas, Venezuela, shortly after takeoff on Jan. 17. That plane was bound for Miami.

25th Jan 2002, 09:24
I just talked to a friend of mine that went to the APA meeting in Miami. The latest information that the guys on our accident investigation team have is that the speed of the rudder oscillation was such that it could not have been made by the pilot. He simply would not have been able to move his feet that fast. They timed the rudder movement using CFR data and came up with some rediculously high number. This is consistent with rudder events concerning American A300's at both Miami and Lima.

26th Jan 2002, 05:29
Long time before I was born, revolutionary airplanes called COMET started to fall out of the skies. What has happened ?. .I try to recall some facts : engineers and designers have overlooked the fact that square passenger window frames with "sharp" corners in a cyclic pressurized vessel were the fatal origin of subcritical crack growth within the aluminum frame (oh yes aluminum !). The learning process started..... .Did anybody subsequently ban aluminum as a structural material to be used in modern airplanes ? No, people started to learn from those accidents.. .Ever heard of fracture mechanics and life time prediction ?. .This highly developed sience and technology is one of the fundamentals of our daily civilized life in cars, on bridges, sky scrapers, trains ..... and of course airplanes !

I am very new to the pilots business, flying as an F/O on a Jet since nearly 6 months for a big european airline an I enjoy it very much(no, not on an Airbus !). However, within the composites science and technology I have more than 10 years of profound experience especially in the area of fracture mechanics and reliability.. .I have followed this topic since this tragic event. With my little experience of flying jets I am not at all in the position to comment on the flying aspects of this accident.. .I have read many of my fellow ppruner statements concerning the materials and design issues and must say that most of it is just a mirror of pure incompetence and lack of solid scientific and technical education and understanding.

The knowledge base of fracture mechanics and life prediction within large composite structures is due to historical reasons not as big as with metals. Nevertheless, before anybody of our "hobby-experts" within this forum will come to the final composite bashing conclusion, let us stand by for the final crash investigation report.. .The learning process will start again.....

No design has ever been and will ever be 100% fool proof. Everybody who can not live with this fact, should get out of the plane and look for an other job.


26th Jan 2002, 21:50
I flown in a lot of bad turbs -- over Japan (egads the pressure lines get bad over there, as well as 12 seconds behind KC-135s during heavy minimum interval takeoffs during the Cold War. I've also experienced a full rudder hardover on a KC-135 that was strong enough to bounce my head of the side window, but the aircraft sustained NO damage. There is NO WAY that any of that should be able to cause catastrophic structural failure. . .This is starting to smell like a controls design problem and maybe a weak structure to boot.

There was a test B-52 many years ago that sustained almost complete loss of the vertical stab. The details there were they were deliberatly out looking for mountain wave turbulence over the Rocky Mountains, and found it in spades. They lowered the landing gear for additional yaw stability and landed safely.

If there's any US govt agency associated with aviation that competent, it's the NTSB. Let's wait for their report.

[ 26 January 2002: Message edited by: Roadtrip ]</p>

Cyclic Hotline
26th Jan 2002, 23:30
Very interesting story about the B-52 vertical stab. This was all I could find about it, anyone got any other information about this incident?

B-52 Vertical Tail Failure

A B-52 lost about 75 percent of its vertical stabilizer and rudder while flying at 350 knots indicated airspeed (KIAS) at a pressure altitude of 14,300 feet msl 5.4 miles east of Spanish Peak in Colorado, on January 10, 1964. The ground elevation was about 8,500 feet. The mountain top level was 13,500 feet. Boeing calculates the angular velocity at .66 radians per second for this event. Maximum gusts exceeded 140 feet per second.

27th Jan 2002, 01:18
You might also read up on the history of the English Electric Lightning. The F1 and F2 had a round topped fin. From the f3 onwards this was replaced with a larger square top fin.

I seem to recall the problem was a high speed flutter mode in which the fin failed and separated from the aircraft. Happened on several occasions before the redesign.

Cyclic Hotline
27th Jan 2002, 02:12
Did find a little more on that B-52.

B-52H-170-BW S/N 61-0023 From a famous series of photographs taken after severe turbulence sheared off most of the vertical stabilizer. The aircraft had been specially instrumented for air turbulence research after some operational B-52s were lost. The tail was lost after a severe and sustained burst (+5 seconds) of clear air turbulence violently buffeted the aircraft. The Boeing test crew (Pilot - Chuck Fisher & Copilot - Dick Curry) nursed to aircraft to Blytheville AFB, Arkansas and landed safely. Also note the (inert) AGM-28 Hound Dog missiles still attached to the wing pylons. The dotted line shows the normal outline of the vertical stabilizer and rudder.


29th Jan 2002, 02:24
I note that the rudder and the vertical stab landed separately in the bay. I would have thought that they would be firmly attached to each other with hinges etc. Does anyone know if the rudder actuator reacts against the tail of the fuselage or the vertical stabilizer?

30th Jan 2002, 12:53
Airbus fin and rudder are connected by 7 hinges, 3 of them are also used by the actuators which react to the fin, not to the fuselage.

All 3 Actuators are installed closed together in one gropp at about 40% of the fin height. The rudder front spar broke between upper and middle actuator attach point. These attach brackets are also made of composites mainly from CFRP but also from GFRP in the reinforced area of the actator attach bushing (to prevent galvanic corrosion). The fittings are riveted to the rudder front spar by use of multiple <a href="http://www.huckaerospace.com/products/threaded/hilok/" target="_blank"> HiLok </a>shear pins. (26 HiLoks for the uppermost hinge, donīt know the exact number for the others but it will be some more at the actuator attach brackets). .There is only 1 hinge in the lower rudder area but 3 above the actuators. This lower hinge (letīs call it No. 1) seems to broken at the hinge pin, No. 6 is broken at the fins aft spar attach point. All other 5 hinges failed in the HiLok connection from the composite brackets to the composite ruder spar. This can be seen clearly in the NTSB videotape.

Seems to me the key lies somewhere in this rudder from fin separation and the damage to the rudder in the actuator attach area, but I still wonder what could be the first part that failed.

31st Jan 2002, 02:06
Volume - Your knowledgeable remarks about the rudder actuators are tantalizing. I am having difficulty visualizing how the three actuators work independently & together at the same time. A sketch or pix would be sooo helpful.

One guesses that the actuators are push-me pull-you variety, each with authority to command some arc of movement. How do they keep out of each others' way? What mechanism negotiates the battle if each of the three wants to move in a different way, and what does THAT lever against? And how does IT fail?

This is probably a dumb question - my coffee to sleep ratio is runnng way too high right now. Your specific knowledge of rudder details seems like a beacon in the fog that surrounds this.

2nd Feb 2002, 14:50
One point raised in the thread with regard to a second vortice caught my attention having experienced it. In a light jet 10 miles in trail of a 74 configured for landing we hit his vortices and were spun violently onto one wingtip. Having recovered, and before there was time to even make a comment about what had just happened, we were spun just as violently in the opposite direction. Luckily no injuries and plane sustained no damage but very thought provoking. . . In 72 dutch roll training we were instructed to keep firmly away from the rudder.

6th Feb 2002, 03:06
Has anybody heard anything about a FedEx A300 bent rudder actuator rod, discovered today. Don't know where the airplane is, but evidently, the FAA is to investigate.

6th Feb 2002, 05:04
Just found:

<a href="http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/02/05/airbus.new.problems/index.html" target="_blank">http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/02/05/airbus.new.problems/index.html</a>

6th Feb 2002, 07:02
Date: 06/06/1994. ."The NTSB has said the yaw damper on the doomed American 587 flight in New York had to be re-set before the crew could push back from the gate the morning it crashed......

However, an American Airlines Airbus preparing to land in Miami after a flight from Bogota, Colombia, on May 11, 1999, experienced control problems that were traced to the yaw damper.

An FAA report said that when the plane aborted the landing and flew over the airport, "the yaw deviations increased and became extreme." The plane landed safely.

The NTSB has said two wires in the yaw damper had been inadvertently reversed. The FAA issued a directive which appears to have corrected the problem".


"Location: Xi'an, China. .Airline: China Northwest Airlines. .Aircraft: Tupolev TU-154M. .Registration: B-2610. .Fatalities/No. Aboard: 160:160. .Details: The plane broke-up in flight 10 minutes after taking off. Auto-pilot induced oscillations caused the aircraft to shake violently. The autopilot yaw-channel was accidentally connected to the bank control and the bank-channel to the yaw controls".

Without implying this was in any way the same problem, it does show that faulty or incorrect wiring can induce an output capable of causing an aircraft to exceed limits and break up.

[ 06 February 2002: Message edited by: ORAC ]</p>

7th Feb 2002, 01:47
Anybody get the feeling we are about ready to see a couple of ADs coming down the G/S.

Lu Zuckerman
7th Feb 2002, 02:41
On the A-310 it is possible to cross connect the cannon plugs on the Power Control Units, the PPUs both wing tip and PCU the wing tip brakes and the Command Sensor Unit. Not with each other, but within themselves. If the PPUs are cross connected the systems (flap and/ or slat system will lock up. If the Command sensor unit is cross connected nothing bad will happen but if a problem arises the troubleshooting will be extremely difficult and if the solenoids on the PCU are mismatched the system will not operate properly and things could happen out of sequence.

7th Feb 2002, 06:14
Before all is said and done, this is going to get a lot more intensive, and the press will add the fuel. Check out

<a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002/02/06/usat-rudder.htm#more" target="_blank">http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002/02/06/usat-rudder.htm#more</a>

Shore Guy
8th Feb 2002, 07:23
NTSB Advisory. . National Transportation Safety Board. . Washington, DC 20594

. .February 7, 2002


WASHINGTON, D.C. - National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Marion C.. .Blakey will hold a press briefing tomorrow to provide an update on the. .Board's investigation into the November 12, 2001 crash of American Airlines. .flight 587.

WHAT: News Conference on flight 587.

WHO: NTSB Chairman Marion C. Blakey

WHEN: Friday, February 8, 2002. .11:00 a.m.

WHERE: NTSB's Board Room and Conference Center. .429 L'Enfant Plaza, S.W., Washington, D.C.

Shore Guy
8th Feb 2002, 07:57
The leaks begin.....

<a href="http://www.msnbc.com/news/702146.asp" target="_blank">http://www.msnbc.com/news/702146.asp</a>

Oliver James
8th Feb 2002, 22:10
"Final" wake vortex?. .LL ATCO here, question?. .We have been talking recently about the application of wake vortex spacing at LL when crossing behind heavy traffic to get on to the other runway. Early in the morning, for example, the traffic is all heavy and we are often asked to use both runways requiring some crossing over (Inevitably some traffic from the north wants the southerly runway and vice versa).

I have always interpreted our book to demand the application of "Final Approach" w/v spacings when crossing behind traffic onto the other runway, even if still on "Base Leg" i.e. not actually on Final Approach. Irrespective of what the book actually says, it seems to me to be a most sensible precaution to apply Final Approach w/v spacings once the lead aircraft has begun to configure for the Final approach.

However, I now discover that not all agree and some ATCOs only apply Final spacing when actually on final. Having discussed the matter with many and varied it seems that our book is not absolutely clear on this point. I was wondering what our pilot friends thought on the issue. What do you think you are getting and what do you think you should get? If I am wrong then it is legal to cross a LR35, 3 miles behind a B757 at the same level for the other runway, when I would have to use 6 miles if approaching the same runway.

Anybody care to comment?

Point 4

8th Feb 2002, 23:44
The more I read the happier I am that I am retired. Flying use to be fun. Now, golf is fun.. .The latest:

<a href="http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/02/08/ntsb.flight587/index.html" target="_blank">http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/02/08/ntsb.flight587/index.html</a>

9th Feb 2002, 01:01
Something to look forward to next recurrent.

<a href="http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2002/A02_01_02.pdf" target="_blank">http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2002/A02_01_02.pdf</a>

17th Feb 2002, 01:10
Two words, bull-sh*t.

The rudder swung 11 degrees to the right for a half a second, 10.5 to the left for 0.3 seconds, between 11 and 10.5 to the right for 2 seconds, 10 left for a second, and 9.5 to the right before the data became unreliable (till the tail fell off).

The crew must have been tap-dancing on that rudder to make it move like that. It seems like the pilots did one thing and the rudder did it's own thing <img src="eek.gif" border="0"> .I could physically do that if I was hell-bent on it as I'm in pretty good shape, well coordinated and have strong-legs. But why the hell would I *WANT* to do that!? Who in their right mind would be flinging the rudder to the left, the right, the left, and the right like that? I think it's a malfunction. Didn't they find a bent-actuator rod in the wreckage?

My opinion, it's a defect in the composites that caused the tail to get overstressed like that and a mechanical problem, not pilot-error, that caused the rudder to behave erratically before failing. No tail should fail... even with full-rudder deflection. In fact rudder-harddovers have happened before. Remember those two 737 crashes? In either event the rudder went hard-over, and despite this, the tail stayed intact. They crashed, but the tail stayed on that plane until it hit the ground. I could understand the breakup happening if they were above maneuvering speed, but they were about 18 knots below it.

Composites have not been as tested and tried as have metals. Does this mean we give up on composites? No, it means we learn from our mistakes and re-design the composites until that rudder can take a full-deflection and not fly off the plane!

I started taking flying lessons when I was 15, which means I've been flying almost 21 years (almost 15 as an airline pilot (3 with Comair, almost 12 with Delta), I've flown aircraft ranging in size from a Cessna-152 all the way up to a 767-300ER (I'm now on the 757/767 -200's out of CVG) post 9/11), and *yes* there have been times where I've had to give it full-rudder (mostly with the props) to keep it flying straight, and no, the tail didn't come off. If it did, I'd be in a grave-yard, resting in pieces.

What Blakey is doing is very low. Blame the dead guys, they ain't gonna object <img src="mad.gif" border="0"> .

Anyone remember USAir 427? They claimed the F/O (the pilot flying) had a seizure, then they claimed he panicked and stepped on the wrong rudder peddle and for some stupid reason held it until they hit the ground "in a panic", and then they claimed this and that! It took 3 years before they finally got to the bottom of it.

You know, after awhile you begin to get a sixth-sense for detecting crap. Thank God for my BS repelling shoes though, when I'm about to step in a load of crap, it moves it out of the way so I don't get it on my shoes <img src="tongue.gif" border="0"> .


17th Feb 2002, 06:19
I step into this discussion with much trepidation <img src="confused.gif" border="0"> so be gentle on me if I'm wrong, but...

I can remember getting a phenomina called "Fin-Stall" when I've mis-handled the rudder during aero's or, I think, E/O exercises in a twin turbo-prop. With me so far?

At the speed these guys were flying SURELY the fin would have stalled out before the side-loading exceeded the permissable or sensible structural limit and prevented the seperation.

At higher speeds Boeings (some) have rudder limiters to prevent excessive loading on the fin from over-exuberant application of rudder.

Any comments?

If Deadflyer's report about the oscillations is correct then look for component failure, 5 full cycles in less than 5 seconds is mishandling even I'm incapable off!!

17th Feb 2002, 21:55
Regarding fin stall.. .Interesting thought, but V2 on that airplane when it's heavy would be around 155kts. Perhaps I'm missing your point here but if you lose an engine at max thrust and fly at V2 or V2+10 to clean up you are going to have very close to full rudder fed in until you can accelerate and power down. If the rudder doesn't "stall" then, why would it stall at 250knots?. .The investigation is ongoing but I will wager my 401K (such as it is) that those pilots had nothing to do with the rudder going crazy. The powers that be will try their best to blame the crew because of political expediancy and it will be up to us and our unions to keep the "bull**** filter" up.

18th Feb 2002, 23:26
Can anyone, or has anyone, briefly described the A300 rudder load-limiter system? What are the degrees of travel above and below the crossover point? What is the crossover point (airspeed)?

In addition, how does the limit system limit travel? Are there mechanical stops or hydraulic restrictors? What are the signals and parameters that affect the system?


19th Feb 2002, 02:26
See <a href="http:////http://www.pprune.org/ubb/NonCGI/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic&f=1&t=017746" target="_blank">NTSB and Rudders</a>

19th Feb 2002, 20:05
Thanks, I'll have to look for that. I didn't relaize they gave a mechanical description of the system operation.

19th Feb 2002, 22:25
It looks like the answer to the crash will be pilot error, either from mis-applying AA procedures or because AA was teaching the wrong drill. Sures looks to me like that this is where it is going.

But, after reading these threads it still doesnt rest my concern.

Now, could any of you work on the model that a bomb caused the violent side to side sway on 587. Work on the model in terms of how much force is required and placed where on the AC to get the necessary side ways force to rip the rudder off, to explain the "tap dancing" on the pedals and the quandry you all seem to be wrestling with up above. Try to proof such a model not to solve a conspiracy theorey or to please the nuts, but rather to see if it is impossible to work with the bomb as a model. If it cannot explain the forces and movements that ripped AA 587 rudder/tail off, so be it - but it is starting to appear that the bomb model is not as whacky as a AA pilot suddenly breaking into a deadly Fred Astaire routine on the pedals. (Since we have discared the material and material fatigue as most here were convinced of)

I would start with Reid shoe bomb placed in the stern, being basically a shaped charge to the side acting as a thruster swinging the tail hard to one side.

See if it can be done.

I do not have the engineering ability or flight knowledge, obviously, top be effective here. But many here do.

You might want to start working on it, for otherwise 587 will likely go down as pilot error. Does that result satisfy you? A senior pilot for AA would be so incompetent?

Baiting I am, but I bet a "bomb model" will have less back flips in logic than the rather bizarre twists and turns folks are making trying to explain how pilot error could rip the rudder off what appears to be a functional and air worthy plane.

Al Weaver
20th Feb 2002, 02:52
Trader Al

You need to change your name to "Bomber Al"

You are predictable.

20th Feb 2002, 06:31
I dont see an A300 Rudder Load limiter system description anywhere.

21st Feb 2002, 02:48
Iom, and you should change your name to "pig to a slaughter" as it seems the professional pilot class is willing to accept the fact that a brethren inexplicable decided to do a tap dance on the pedals. Why? The logic here is bizarre and incredible contortions of very very talented people's models first accomodated geese, then wake, then material failure, and now the pilot just inexplicably paniced over the wake and started doing a tap dance on the pedals.

Any engineers wish to answer what sideways thrust in terms of whatever was required to rip the tail off of 587? How many G's? Semtex on the side of the cabin shaped to explode out produces how much thrust per ounce? Can a shoe bomb be large enough? Does this make sense?

It completely confuses me that after Reid someone with the skill set hasnt at least seen if enough force is in a shoe bomb to provide the sideways spin. I am amazed how completely gullible the professional airline set has been in first accepting the adminstrations dealing with Reid as the mere "shoe bomber", as if it weer a M80 he had on the craft. I doubt few of you would question that he had enough to bring the plane down. If he had, then would we not have another AC down as mysteriously done as 587?

But methinks you all will go back to geese before you try out this thought experiment/model first.

It is an incredibly bizarre pysche that refuses to consider the obvious first so as at least it is eliminated from obfiscating the discovery.

Lu Zuckerman
21st Feb 2002, 03:11
Here is something to consider providing it hasn’t already been covered. Perchance there was undetected damage within the fin that caused the separation or worked in concert with the excessive rudder movement.

Here is a case in point. During the production of the 767, which also has a composite fin an operator of an overhead gantry crane was moving a production jig. He noted that the jig made a very small contact with the fin with that contact being concentrated in a very small area.

He notified the production manager and they sent a technician up to check the contact spot. He returned to ground level and told the production manager that the damage could be worked out with wet and dry sandpaper. They were ready to let it pass when a production technician who specialized in composite repair walked up and indicated that he would go up inside the fin and check it out. What he found were several skin stiffeners that were debonded indicating that the skin oil canned inward about twelve inches and popped out again. They had to remove the fin in an out of position operation and replace it with a newly minted fin assembly. Had the technician not gone up inside the fin then perchance there would have been a 767 that would have lost its’ rudder and fin.

Composite material is very difficult to verify that repairs have been effected properly because in many cases the repair material is opaque to X-ray inspection.

21st Feb 2002, 09:48
Interesting comments from the latest issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology (18 February 2002, page 44..."As one pilot quipped, "Don't tell me not to kick the rudder around until the facts are in".. .Clearly, these guys have NOT been in civil jet TRANSPORT aircraft for very long...otherwise, they would know better.. .I wonder if these types are ex-USAF and expect the aircraft they now fly to respond like a fighter?. .If so, God help the flying public...AKA, the passenger.. .Any pilot in civil jet transport aircraft who does a tap-dance on the rudder (especially at higher speeds) needs to be REPLACED without delay.. .The lessons from the past are there for all to see. Wonder where the training departments stand? Have ALL the old guys retired, or what?

21st Feb 2002, 23:16
411A - this is where it is going to go, gross pilot error. Doesnt make sense considering the pilots for 587 were not raw but experienced and that the speed of the rudder movements was, as recounted above, impossible to have been implimented from the pedals. Now what else could whip a rudder around liek that? Geese? Lightening (nope blue sky)? 747 wake? The force has to be monstrous, sudden, and invite a reflex snap back.

I just find it very hard that for all these decades professional pilots have been flying the Airbus using skills that are grossly negligent. First it is not the habit of the industry and second more Airbus' would have fallen from the sky by now - consider all the rudder use during bad conditions to date.

So, if it isnt the 747 wake, if the weather was pristine, if it wasnt large birds, if it wasnt a material failure - why dont we start to be brave enough to consider what else could produce such force rather than shoot down the old rabbit hole "pilot error".

22nd Feb 2002, 09:08
Closed due to length.