American Airlines Flight 587 took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York at 9:13 A.M. on November 12, 2001, headed for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. About three minutes after takeoff, radar contact was lost as the Airbus A300 crashed in Queens, near Rockaway Beach. All 260 people aboard the plane (251 passengers and 9 crew members) were killed, along with 5 people on the ground. The accident also destroyed four houses and severely damaged eight others.

All three New York-area airports (JFK, LaGuardia and Newark), and all tunnels and bridges leading into New York, were closed for several hours after the crash. The Empire State Building was evacuated. For a while, there was speculation that the crash was related to the events of September 11, 2001. However, it is now thought to have had less to do with terrorism than with engine failure or separation of the vertical stabilizer from the rest of the plane.

Update - 26 October 2004

Almost four years later, the National Transportation Safety Board is about to rule that the plane crashed due to an error on the part of its co-pilot. More specifically, the government agency says that the co-pilot's use of the plane's rudder in response to turbulence shortly after takeoff was "unnecessary and aggressive."

Airbus Industrie, which manufactured the aircraft, and American Airlines, which trained the co-pilot, agree that if he had taken his foot off the rudder pedal, the tail wouldn't have broken off and the plane wouldn't have crashed. But he didn't know that he was putting too much pressure on the tail, and Airbus and American blame each other for his ignorance.

American Airlines claims that Airbus failed to alert them until after the crash to the danger of sharp rudder movements. Airbus claims to have told American repeatedly that they were not training their pilots in proper rudder use.

American, the only U.S. airline to use the Airbus 300 for passenger service, now gives its pilots specialized training on how to handle that plane's rudder control system.

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