Flight 587 had rudder problem in pre-flight check
By Beth Lewandowski
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A review of maintenance records of the American Airlines jet that crashed last month found two rudder components did not work properly during a pre-flight check, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.
According to the latest crash update, NTSB investigators were told that a mechanic re-set a computer that controlled the jet's pitch and yaw, "which resolved the problem."
But an aviation safety expert cautioned that the NTSB likely will take a closer look at the rudder components, which control the slight side-to-side movements a plane makes during flight and allows the aircraft to comfortably fly straight forward.
"If the yaw damper fails, this has the potential of pushing the rudder further than the pilots intended it to go, which could cause control problems," explained aviation expert Jim McKenna.
Flight 587 crashed shortly after takeoff from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport on November 12, killing all 260 people aboard and five others on the ground in the Queens neighborhood of Belle Harbor.
Flight data recorder information from American Airlines flight 587 shows the plane experienced violent side-to-side movements coinciding with movements of the rudder.
Investigators said the tail and rudder section, followed by the engines, fell off before the plane hit the ground.
"Investigators are going to want to get a good handle on how effective the reset (of that yaw damper) was," McKenna said. "They need to make sure the reset is valid, and didn't just have the appearance of fixing the problem."
The NTSB said a team of investigators flew to Toulouse, France, to work with its counterparts at Airbus Industrie and the French Accident Investigation Bureau and familiarize themselves with the operation of the A-300-600, which was the type jet that crashed. They planned to take a detailed look at the rudder system, the NTSB said.
Airbus says the Airbus A300-600 is the first generation of planes it manufactured that include tail sections made up of a new kind of composite material consisting of graphite and resin rather than traditional metal parts.
The tail section, including the tail fin and rudder, have been delivered to NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to undergo inspections -- ultrasound, thermography, and tap testing -- to test the composite components.
NTSB investigators also said both engines were transported to American Airlines facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where an "engine teardown" or detailed examination, was conducted. According to the NTSB, there was no evidence found of an engine failure.
National Transportation Safety Board
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