On November 12 2001 most of the passengers flying to the Dominican Republic from JFK Airport were of Dominican descent; friends and relatives were waiting happily for their arrival at Las Americas International Airport. Then came the shocking news: shortly after take-off, the American Airlines Airbus A300 had crashed, killing all on board. Images of smoking wreckage and distraught families filled TV screens worldwide.
The crash came just two months after the attack on the World Trade Center and, inevitably, rumors circulated that this, too, was the work of terrorists. Though a member of al-Qaeda later claimed the plane had been blown up, the crash was in fact caused by structural failure. As the first officer tried to stabilize the plane when it entered turbulence caused by the take-off of another jet, first the tail-fin and rudder, then both engines separated, causing complete loss of control. Impact and fire destroyed the plane and many of the passengers’ bodies.
Investigation ruled out terrorism, suggesting ‘aggressive’ use of the rudder as the reason for the disintegration. Airbus blamed pilot error, claiming training was at fault. American Airlines, who later modified training systems, held that the rudder controls were unusually sensitive. Subsequently, structural flaws, invisible to the naked eye, were found in similar fiber-reinforced composite plane bodies. Although Airbus stated that, even with such damage, their planes were safe to fly, some pilots felt inspection policies were inadequate.
Flights to the Dominican Republic are no longer numbered 587. A memorial near Belle Harbor, the scene of the crash, is angled to face the Atlantic, in the direction of the victims’ homeland.
When was the Flight 587 Crash: November 12 2001
Where was the Flight 587 Crash: New York, USA
What was the Flight 587 Crash death toll: 251 passengers, nine crew members and five people on the ground were killed.
You should know: A woman who died in the crash en route to a holiday in her native land had, on September 11, escaped from the ground floor of the World Trade Center.