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- March 25, 2002
- Former TWA 747 Captain Shares Thoughts of Flight 587
- by Bernard Rawlings
- Although I have expressed an opinion that it is possible
for pilot rudder-pedal-input to damage the rudder and vertical
stabilizer of an airplane like the Air Bus, I don't think it
is PROBABLE that is what happened to Flight 587. I can easily
speculate on rudder displacement in excess of design. For example
- if a pilot held full right rudder (for example, 11 degrees
) it would displace the vertical stabilizer to the left - let's
say 10 degrees. Now the pilot rapidly applies full left rudder
and the fin only swings back 5 degrees right before the rudder
reaches 11 degrees left. Bingo! The rudder is at 16 degrees relative
to air-flow. Over design limits. Over-limit force on both rudder
and fin. Rudder separates from fin and fin separates from fuselage.
NTSB writes report. Case solved. Pilot error. Rudder never exceeded
11 degrees relative to fin. Everything okey-dokey. Don't worry
your pretty little head about the design of this fine airplane.
But I see no logical reason for those pilots to treat the rudder
that way. I have spent many years flying into and out of the
heaviest-traffic airports in the world. I have been in a lot
of prop-wash and jet-wash and never, ever have I encountered
wash (or wake turbulence) scary enough to justify anything near
full rudder. So I believe that other factors brought 587 down,
and I applaud your efforts to investigate them.
I am a strong believer in the ability of the Feds to get it all
wrong. I believe TWA 800 was brought down by a missile and I
have published a book expressing that belief (http://www.booklocker.com)
and I think the NTSB will get it wrong if they dismiss Flight
587 as simple pilot error.
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