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Letters From U.S.Readers, Jan. 15th - Feb. 27th 2002


 
February 27, 2002
 
From Robby (Sargeant, New York Police Dept., Rockaway, NY)
I wanted to thank you for trying to put together the many pieces of the story to try to uncover what actually happened to flight #587. I have more than just a passing interest in what happend to flight #587.
 
First, as a resident of Belle Harbor, with two small children, I'm concerned for the continued safety of my family, friends, and neighbors. The sooner we come to an accurate conclusion as to what happened to the aircraft, the sooner we can prevent another large aircraft from visiting my neighborhood uninvited.
 
Second, I have become something of an aviation buff over the last few years. The constant noises of aircraft going over my house sparked an interest that led to the purchase of several hundred dollars in books (how to be a pilot, aircraft identification, Jeppesen guides, commerical aircraft pictures) and radio equipment (scanners, to listen to the pilots and air traffic control). This hobby started led me to aviation photography, causing me to spend many hours at area airports listening to control towers and taking pictures of aircraft for my collection. As a "buff", I'm curious as to what caused #587 to crash.
 
I'm not sure what happened to #587, and although I'm not ready to buy into any of the conspiracy theories that have been suggested, I'm not sure I have complete trust in the FAA/NTSB to provide accurate information.
 
If I can be of any assistance in your endeavor to uncover the truth, please let me know. Keep up the good work!

February 26, 2002
 
From Brett H, an Aerodynamicist at a Major U.S. Aerospace Firm

Vic,
Yes, indeed. The plot thickens. I applaud you
for applying your brain and persistence to this
incident!

Based on what you wrote, there is definitely
something very wrong before the tail failure.

Given the facts of the transcript and timeline,
there clearly must be another precipitating cause.
But I don't think you need a rocket scientist to
make that conclusion!

But, if you want one, I am here! "I confidently
say that your analysis is sound and deserving of
serious attention. It sheds new light on the
reported facts, and raises questions about the
validity and direction of the current investigation."


February 26, 2002
 
From Glen, who has worked at many notable places including NASA in Tape Recording and Telemetry Systems Engineering
Victor, I have only scanned the TIMELINE article and will "beat it to death ---or life"shortly. My initial impression is that the NTSB has been acting very suspiciously on 587 and you appear to have nailed them. Keep up the good work.

February 26, 2002
 
From Ray Lahr, Graduate engineer from USC, former Navy pilot (WWII vintage), former ALPA safety representative, and former United Airlines pilot
Vic - Very good work. You made a good point about the compressor stalls.
If there was a compressor stall, it should have been heard on the cockpit
voice recorder and registered on the flight data recorder. Sometimes after
landing, a pilot will put on too much reverse thrust and carry it to a slow
speed. The engines will ingest some of their own exhaust and it will cause
a compressor stall. The sound is muffled, but you can hear it and feel it
in the cockpit. I assume the tape you had of the compressor stall was made
using a microphone on the ground. If you could get the cockpit voice
recorder for the same event, it would verify your point. Keep up the good
work.

February 16, 2002
 
From Glen (who has worked at many notable places including NASA in Tape Recording and Telemetry Systems Engineering) re Witness Alpha's Testimony:
Victor, keep up the good work. If enough pressure is put on the NTSB -----and kept there ---- they will either have to cave in or be driven to madness. I believe the problem may be the NTSB honestly believes they are doing the right thing by lying, i.e. keeping the public flying with warm and fuzzy feelings so airline companies and manufacturers don't fold. But, I bet none of them fly from JFK to Europe. cheers.

February 15, 2002
 
More on the Rudder from Ron Schmiedeke, a retired quality control test engineer
I wanted to address this matter for a long time. But after seeing the photos I really got concerned. It seems the fabrication of the tail section is very feeble .
Cutting weight for the airplane at this important tail control area in order to carry more passengers or freight is certainly a design error. The newspaper article states a pilot error could have caused the problem before the plane came apart in the tail section is just an excuse.

A more plausible explanation is that the tail section probably started to weaken first then overriding automatic controls (or the pilot tried to compensate) for the tail weakened state condition, then the weakened tail rudder repeats the oscillation again in the opposite tail rudder position. A few of this compensating twisting loaded oscillating conditions of the tail rudder would cause the whole assembly to comes loose because of the material compostion make up. I doubt a pilot would act that quickly or abruptly when he is at the controls.

A design flaw in using this type of material in the tail section created the problem in the first place and also a lack of follow-up load testing procedures for this type of material and construction really created the problem.
From perplexed Ron.
 

February 15, 2002
 
A Long Island Skeptic Sounds Off
TWA 800...gone! Egypt Air 767ER...gone!, Swissair Flight 111...gone! American
#587...gone...four jumbos in the same general area, total loss of
life, different type aircraft each event with no duplication anywhere else in
the world. Obviously not aircraft design flaws. Its seems apparent that
traveling to Europe via JFK airspace, has in its design...some risks that our
government does not want the flying public to have knowledge of. How many
more of these incidents must we endure?
How many more of these incidents will "YIELD NO CLUES "? What happened to the
honed skills of the NTSB? Why is it that CVR's and FDR's "YIELD NO
INFORMATION'?
It all makes for good hangar talk, and an abundance of E mail chatting,
but you really have to wonder...WHAT IS GOING ON ?

Gerard Isaacson
Pilot and Aviation Photographer
Long Island, NY

February 15, 2002
 
In Re the Rudder Puzzle Picture
I read this picture as evidence of a flat spin.

The vertical tail assembly of an aircraft, moving in excess of 200 miles an
hour, is not designed to survive the aerodynamic forces that would occur if
a plane were to rotate in a flat spin that reached 90 degrees. Wind
resistance would blow off the vertical tail assembly in a way not unlike a
child would blow out a candle on a birthday cake. The broken off tail
assembly, found so far away from the crash site, indicates that the flat
spin occurred close to the time when the pilot first lost control of the
aircraft.

Confirmation of the flat spin should be evident by closely examining the
flight data recorder altimeter readings. The construction of the outside
altimeter sensor, located on the side of the aircraft, would make the
altimeter artificially react to a flat spin. The forward momentum of the
aircraft would subject the altimeter sensor to an overpressure reading when
the sensor faced the direction of the plane's forward movement. An
under-pressure reading would occur when the sensor faced away from the
plane's forward movement.

Now what could cause the aircraft to snap into a flat spin? The only thing
I can imagine would be the deployment of an engine reverse-thrust cowling.
But if that happened, the flight data recorder would indicate the
corresponding pressure measurements from the engine pressure sensors.

But imputing all of this from just a picture is just a wild guess. We put
flight data recorders on our aircraft to eliminate the need for guessing.
What does it say?

Martin
Former Logistics Engineer at McDonald Douglas
Sacramento, CA

From Bob Durant in New Jersey on Feb. 8th in re NTSB's Press Conference re Rudder Inputs by Pilots (Bob was a Navy Pilot, Commercial Airline Captain, and Flight Ops Management)
 

In a press conference the NTSB has proposed that pilot inputs tore the
rudder and vertical stabilizer off AA 587. This is their tentative scenario:

1. AA 587 encounters wake turbulence generated by the JAL 747 five miles
ahead.

2. The AA aircraft is sufficiently disturbed that the pilot takes extreme
corrective action.

3. This takes the form of applying full left rudder, causing the airplane to
go into a sideslip. He holds the rudder until the sideslip reaches maximum,
which is about 10 degrees, equal to the maximum rudder deflection at this
airspeed. When the sideslip is established at this maximum, the pilot
suddenly applies full right rudder.

4. Although heretofore unknown, this combination of rudder movements is
sufficient to stress the vertical fin beyond its design limits. This
analysis was published in the January 21, 2002 issue of Aviation Week & space
Technology, and is cited by the NTSB.

5. Implied but not stated by the NTSB is that the loss of the tail fin
caused the crash.

I have the following comments. A series of improbable events occurred,
if the NTSB scenario is correct. First, pilots routinely fly through wake
turbulence. It is rare to take off or land without following another
aircraft, because the airports are so busy. The effect of wake turbulence on
a large transport category aircraft like the A300 is nothing more than
momentary turbulence. But in this case the turbulence must have been
extraordinary (highly improbable but not impossible). We know it was
extraordinarily severe because the pilot took extraordinary steps to control
the aircraft. That is, this is the necessary initializing event for the NTSB
scenario.

Second, the use of rudder to control the airplane is most unusual. The
wing tip vortices produce a rolling motion in the air mass, and thus a series
of rolling forces on the wings and fuselage. This is clearly distinguishable
from a force causing a yaw. To the extent that much control movement is
required for such an encounter, it is aileron movement and possibly some
elevator movement.

Third, even if rudder was applied, the use of extreme "to the stop"
rudder is inexplicable. When the airplane had achieved a ten-degree
sideslip, moving it back to balanced flight could have and should have been
done by simply (and gently) releasing the rudder force. But the NTSB
scenario requires that the pilot quickly reversed the rudder input, forcing
the opposite (right) pedal all the way and holding it there. Simply put, I
can't imagine a situation where a pilot would do this, other than possibly on
an engineering test flight for initial certification. Air carrier pilots
constantly practice being as "smooth" as possible, mainly in order to
maximize passenger comfort. But it is also a sign of professionalism and
individual pride.

Fourth, it is far from clear why the loss of the tail fin caused the
crash. The fin weighs much, and has a long moment arm to the center of
gravity of the airplane. So we could expect the nose to drop when the tail
departed. Would the elevator and movable stabilizer have enough authority
to hold the airplane level? This is, I suspect, not a difficult question to
answer, but apparently it has not been addressed. In other words, just
because the fin fell off it does not automatically follow that the airplane
should crash. We need more on this from the NTSB.

I need to remind this group that the fire and the engine being slung off
are not in the "official" record. Nor is it likely these two items will ever
appear as "facts." They derive from witness testimony, and at the earliest
stages of the NTSB investigation the witness testimony was trivialized.

Whether the engine could have been slung off due to the side loads on the
pylon caused by the alleged extreme rudder inputs is another issue that
should be amenable to engineering analysis. But this won't be done simply
because the engine never fell off, you see.

The Aviation Week article should be studied with care by all in this
group. I don't think it was "faked" in any way. And I am now quite sure the
NTSB will use it as the "probable cause" of the accident.

On the other hand, I expect Airbus Industrie to raise hell, and probably
to counter the Aviation Week analysis. For example, it may be that the
actual proprietary design load limit exceeds the failure point found in the
Av Week article. There is a hint that this is the case with Boeing's
rudder-vertical stabilizer systems.

Another party that will be heard from is the Allied Pilots Association,
which is the pilots' union at American Airlines. They may be joined by the
Air Line Pilots Association, which has a formidable engineering/accident
investigation cadre. This is because, regardless of how it is glossed, the
NTSB scenario bottom-lines at pilot error. And in a sense the worst kind of
pilot error, in that the maneuvers allegedly performed are such that they
would be surprising if done by a candidate for a private pilot's license.

Finally, it seems to me that the voice recorder should tell us if
anything like the NTSB scenario was underway. The missing last ten seconds
are unfortunate, but the extreme wake turbulence followed by extreme
pilot-induced yaws must have occurred prior to CVR cutoff, and would almost
certainly have resulted in comments from both pilots. Or so 31 years in the
cockpit tells me.

--Bob Durant


In Re Rudder Reconstruction Picture, Feb. 7th

From Gerard Isaacson:

I was at the crash scene the day this crash occurred.The vertical fin was
extracted from the bay completely in tact. The rudder surface was not
attached to the fin.This demonstrates RUDDER FAILURE.If this were vertical
fin failure, segments of the rudder would have still been attached to the
fin.Barring sabotage,I speculate severe rudder surface FLUTTER, continuing a
damaging progression to the integrity of the fin, loss of the vertical
surface and yaw control...side loading the engines along with gyroscopic
rotation give way to both engine pylon failures, followed by complete loss of
the flight.
I'm no rocket scientist but I'll bet my life that an initial event
caused the above.
(much like flight 800)...I've been a pilot for eighteen years and a published
aviation photographer for eleven of those years.That vertical fin was
designed to withstand the loads of spin recovery,50 times that of wake
turbulence from a 747 400 WITH winglets which by design, REDUCE wake
turbulence.


From Ron Schmiedeke, a retired quality control test engineer

Looking at these pictures (rudder reconstruct picture) it looks like the plane parts are made from light fiberglass foam probably held together with epoxy or resin. No real load bearing beams or ribs of aluminum are seen in these picture to hold the assemblies together.

Testing of these assemblies can easily be accomplished by using sensitive microphones attached externally to the tail surfaces and rudder then create a dead weight loading to the rudder and tail rudder, while the plane is on the ground. During the weight loading procedure the microphones give off little or no noise if the internal structure is good. But if the microphone noise continues even when loading is held steady then faulty internal failures in the tail and rudder assembly are occurring and soon the tail or rudder will soon fail do to normal load flying conditions.
This technique has been used to detect failures in composition fiber beams used in Department of Water and Power (L.A. City) electrical boom trucks when I was employed there.
We came up with this procedure to routinely test truck insulated composition boom man lifts that started to fail in the field during normal usage. This microphone test was only way we could predict premature failing of internal hidden fiber glass composition material products.


Thoughts from Peter (Bronx, NY) on February 3rd

Last week, I traveled to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on business on an American Airlines A300. Needless to say, I was quite reserved about even getting on the plane but thank God, everything went well. This was my first flight since the September 11th attacks and as would be expected, I was a bit nervous and visually checking everyone out.

Based on what I have read about this incident, I sincerely believe that this was an act of terrorism. My theory and thoughts on the incident seem to be supported by all of the eyewitness accounts .

Having just recently traveled to Santo Domingo on an A300, I took the opportunity to look over the plane and figure out, in layman terms, why there would be explosions, engines would fall off, and fire would be seen spewing out of one side of the plane. My thoughts went out to the victims of this incident as I sat in the plane and imagined what they had experienced that morning.

My theory about this incident is as follows. I understand it, there are aviation professionals who visit this site. Maybe you can discuss this with them for their opinion and not make these thoughts public. My intention is not that of creating hysteria but rather a great sense of getting to the truth of this matter.

a) On September 11, airliners were used as missiles on New York and Washington landmarks. On November 12, an Airliner was used as a bomb into a new York neighborhood.

b) The person(s) who executed this "bombing" knew two things: Security at Kennedy Airport, particularly for Caribbean flights, is lax, to say the least. I know this first hand. I have gone through those gates about 10 times in the past 4 years.

Two, that they only had minutes before they were over water and their "bomb" would not be as effective. They therefore had to execute their terrorism within the first 1 - 5 minutes of the flight.

c) While on the A300 recently, I noticed that there is a bathroom located on either side of the plane just forward of each wing. It is my belief that an explosive device, whether it was just placed there or was attached to a person, was detonated from this location. The person(s) would have entered the bathroom just prior to take off and stayed there. In this case, it would have been the bathroom on the right side of the plane.

d) Upon detonation, whether there was one or two of them, the explosive blew a hole through the fuselage. Debris from this explosion was sucked in by the right engine which in turn caused the fire and smoke which was seen coming from the right side.

I think that we know the rest. The pilots lost control of the aircraft, tried several maneuvers to no avail and the plane came crashing down. In the process, the airplane lost tail, engine, etc...

I believe that the NTSB and US government in general would be rather reserved and embarrassed to admit that this was an act of terrorism having already been on high alert and having deployed the Reserves just months prior.

As I have read on this site, the NTSB drew their conclusion before the black boxes were recovered and while the plane was still smoking. This is an absolute miscarriage of an investigation...drawing a conclusion before even beginning to look at the facts.

My job takes me to among other places, Santo Domingo, on a regular basis. I sincerely feel that the public has been misled from the very beginning with the initial statements of Ms. Blakey declaring this an accident. An incident, yes... an accident, NO.
I feel that the NTSB and the other branches of government associated with this investigation give the public a FALSE sense of security when they declare something an accident that really is questionable. Fact is, they endanger the public. Whether the motivation is to not further hurt the economy or not is no justification to outright lie to and mislead the citizens of the United States!!! They need to understand that people are not idiots and we are not going to swallow just anything that is handed to us.

Furthermore, we are in a war environment. This investigation, if it really is one, is taking way to long to produce its conclusion. We can not afford the comfort of a stretched out, long term investigation with no clear conclusion.

We need the truth NOW!!!

Thanks for listening Vic. I hope to get the thoughts of your professional readers.


In re "Flight 587 Update, January 15th, 2002"

Brian Hunting from Tujunga, CA

I believe and trust that most (if not all) Americans would be more
comfortable with the idea of the plane being taken down by a terrorist than
by the tail falling off arbitrarily, or some random explosion of unknown
origin on the plane.

Our policy makers and business leaders in government apparently believe that
by misleading the public and distorting the facts of flight 587, will make
the problem go away. This approach will not. If it was not so serious, it
would be funny how these bureaucrats continue to fool the public. Those of
us in the scientific community are not fooled by any of this. What we are
seeing here is a decision based on potential bankruptcies of airlines,
cruise ship businesses and in short, another melt down of the stock market. I
guess only the educated and strong survive.

 
"If a nation expects to live ignorant and free, it expects what never was,
and what never will be". - Thomas Jefferson

 
From Chuck Stoy, Sun City, Ariz., re "Flight 587 Update, January 15th, 2002"
 
I have been actively following the TWA800 investigation since the early days when various govt. officials started making stupid statements concerning that crash.  As an aeronautical engineer and a former military pilot with some experience in crash investigations, when I heard government officials discussing ideas which violated the laws of physics, I figured they had another cover-up under way.  The investigation was being politicized, and the truth was being ignored, similar to the JFK murder.

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