Skip to main content

Aircraft design linked to crash that killed 265 people in New York

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Federal officials say some Airbus planes have a potentially hazardous rudder system design
  • The design may have contributed to a crash in New York in 2001
  • National Transportation Safety Board urges European safety officials to consider modifying planes

(CNN) -- Federal officials say a plane crash that killed 265 people was caused in part by a rudder system design featured in various Airbus models.

American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in a residential area of Belle Harbor, New York, soon after taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport on November 12, 2001.

All 260 people onboard died, along with five people on the ground.

According to a recommendation issued this week by the National Transportation Safety Board, the plane's vertical stabilizer likely separated because of "the first officer's unnecessary and excessive rudder pedal inputs."

But those inputs were likely caused in part by "characteristics of the Airbus A300-600 rudder system design."

Two families of Airbus planes use a system design that limits available rudder pedal deflection as airspeed decreases, according to the safety board.

"Consequently, at high airspeeds require lighter pedal forces ... to obtain maximum available rudder than at low speeds," the safety board wrote.

The safety board notes the circumstances of flight 587 are similar to a 2008 accident involving an Airbus Industrie A319. Air Canada Flight 190 experienced "in-flight upset" and landed in Calgary. Three passengers suffered serious injuries.

The popular Airbus A320 family could also be affected. The European-based company's website says it sold more than 3,200 A320 planes worldwide.

"The Airbus 320 family is also susceptible to potentially hazardous rudder pedal inputs at higher airspeeds," the safety board wrote.

Safety board officials recommended the European Aviation Safety Agency review options for modifying some Airbus planes "to provide increased protection from potentially hazardous rudder pedal inputs."

No one from Airbus was immediately available for comment early Saturday.