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NTSB Probing Tail of Another Plane

Jan 1, 2002 | AP The tail of another American Airlines Airbus A300-600 may have survived the same forces that downed Flight 587, the National Transportation Safety Board (news - web sites) said.

The NTSB (news - web sites) is re-examining a May 1997 incident involving American Flight 903 at it neared the West Palm Beach, Fla., airport. The board is looking at the data to see whether the tail of that plane experienced the same stress as the vertical stabilizer on Flight 587, which broke off before the crash.

Flight 587 crashed in November 2001 shortly after taking off from Kennedy Airport. The crash killed all 260 people on board the plane and five on the ground.

In the case of Flight 903, the tail did not fall off as pilots used the rudder to try to steady a plane veering up and down and from side to side for about 34 seconds. One passenger was seriously injured and one flight attendant received minor injuries. The safety board said the pilots failed to maintain an adequate speed.

NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said board investigators decided to re-examine the 1997 incident as they discovered that moving a plane's rudder in one direction, followed by a sharp movement in the other direction, could break off the tail fin. The NTSB issued such a warning earlier this month.

Airbus and American Airlines have removed the tail from Flight 903 and are going to use ultrasound to see if there is any damage to the vertical stabilizer. Lopatkiewicz said the NTSB asked the companies to do more than a visual inspection of the tail, and they decided to take the tail off.

The board also said all the major parts of the Flight 587 plane either had been on the plane since it came off the assembly line or came from the original manufacturers. None came from secondary sources. In January, Italian police seized Airbus parts that were suspected of being falsely certified as new or properly inspected. Some of those parts were supposedly earmarked for the United States.

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