Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Neither the pilots’ conversations nor background noises in the cockpit of American Airlines Flight 587 showed any evidence that a terrorist attack or sabotage brought down the plane, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board said yesterday.
A complete transcript of the cockpit voice recorder, including background noises, showed no indication of a bomb or explosion, said NTSB Chairman Marion Blakey.
“You’re seeing evidence that points in the direction of this having been an accident,” Mrs. Blakey said. “We continue not to have anything that points to terrorism.”
American Flight 587 plunged to the ground minutes after taking off from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 12. The crash killed 265 persons. Coming just two months after four commercial airplanes were hijacked, the crash initially raised fears of another terrorist attack.
Investigators were focusing on the tail of the Airbus A300-600, which sheared off before the crash. The plane hit turbulence from the Japan Air Lines 747 that took off before it, and the rudder showed sharp movements, but aviation analysts said neither event should have been severe enough to break off the tail.
“Turbulence is significant,” said John Clark, the NTSB’s aviation safety director. “It’s a player. But we don’t see a huge vortex that just came along and knocked the tail off.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered inspections of the tail assembly of the French-built A300-600 and the A-310, which is made from the same nonmetallic composites. Mrs. Blakey said no problems have been detected in any of the planes inspected so far.
One issue investigated by the NTSB was whether the tail was weakened in 1994 when the plane hit an air pocket while flying to Puerto Rico.
The turbulence was so severe that 47 persons were injured.
American Airlines yesterday said it had inspected its fleet of 34 Airbus A300 planes and detected no problems in the tail sections.

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