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A306, vicinity JFK New York USA, 2001

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Summary
On November 12, 2001, an Airbus Industries A300-600 operated by American Airlines crashed into a residential area of Belle Harbour, New York, after take-off from John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York. Shortly after take off, the aircraft encountered mild wake turbulence from a departing Boeing 747-400.
Event Details
When November 2001
Actual or Potential
Event Type
AW, HF, LOC, WAKE
Day/Night Day
Flight Conditions VMC
Flight Details
Aircraft AIRBUS A-300-600
Operator American Airlines
Domicile United States
Type of Flight Public Transport (Passenger)
Origin New York/John F Kennedy International Airport
Intended Destination Las Americas International Airport
Take off Commenced Yes
Flight Airborne Yes
Flight Completed No
Flight Phase Climb
ICL / ENR
Location - Airport
Airport vicinity New York/John F Kennedy International Airport
HF
Tag(s) Inappropriate crew response - skills deficiency,
Manual Handling,
Procedural non compliance
LOC
Tag(s) Airframe Structural Failure,
"Flight Control Error" is not in the list of possible values (Airframe Structural Failure, Significant Systems or Systems Control Failure, Degraded flight instrument display, Uncommanded AP disconnect, AP Status Awareness, Non-normal FBW flight control status, Loss of Engine Power, Flight Management Error, Environmental Factors, Bird or Animal Strike, Aircraft Loading, Malicious Interference, Temporary Control Loss, Extreme Bank, Extreme Pitch, Last Minute Collision Avoidance, Hard landing, Take off Trim Setting, Incorrect Thrust Computed, Unintended transitory terrain contact, Collision Damage, Incorrect Aircraft Configuration, Aerodynamic Stall, Minimum Fuel Call, Flight Envelope Protection Activated, Flight Crew Incapacitation, Aircraft Flight Path Control Error, Runway FOD, Undershoot on Landing) for this property.
WAKE
Tag(s) ICAO Standard Wake Separation prevailed,
In trail event,
Pilot over compensation
AW
System(s) Airframe
Outcome
Damage or injury Yes
Aircraft damage Hull loss
Non-aircraft damage Yes
Injuries Most or all occupants
Fatalities Most or all occupants ()
Causal Factor Group(s)
Group(s) Aircraft Operation
Safety Recommendation(s)
Group(s) Aircraft Operation,
Aircraft Airworthiness
Investigation Type
Type Independent

Description

On November 12, 2001, an Airbus A300-600 being operated by American Airlines on a scheduled passenger flight crashed into a residential area of Belle Harbour, New York, after take-off from John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York. Shortly after take off, the aircraft encountered mild wake turbulence from a departing Boeing 747-400.

Synopsis

This is an extract from the official report of the accident published by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

“[…] The effect of the turbulence was typical of a minor wake encounter—a momentary 0.3 G drop in normal load factor, a 0.04 G drop in longitudinal load factor, and a 0.07 G shift in lateral load factor. However, the first officer reacted to this first wake turbulence encounter by moving the control wheel rapidly right and left several times, with large control wheel deflections up to 37 degrees right and 34 degrees left.”

Following the wake turbulence encounter, the first officer had provided excessive rudder pedal inputs which ultimately resulted in in-flight break up of the aircraft vertical stabiliser.

“The airplane’s vertical stabiliser and rudder separated in flight and were found in Jamaica Bay, about 1 mile north of the main wreckage site. The airplane’s engines subsequently separated in flight and were found several blocks north and east of the main wreckage site. All 260 people aboard the airplane and 5 people on the ground were killed, and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a post-crash fire.”

The Report makes the following conclusion:

“[…]The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was:

  • the in-flight separation of the vertical stabilizer as a result of the loads beyond ultimate design that were created by the first officer’s unnecessary and excessive rudder pedal inputs.
  • Contributing to these rudder pedal inputs were characteristics of the Airbus A300-600 rudder system design and
  • elements of the American Airlines Advanced Aircraft Manoeuvring Program.

The Report's recommendations, beginning on page 161, also address institutional, manufacturing and organisational issues (see Further Reading).

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Further Reading

For further information see the full accident report published by NTSB.