Ford Scanner Aids American Airlines Crash Inquiry
Washington, June 4 (Bloomberg) -- A Ford Motor Co. scanner used to spot engine defects is helping a U.S. board investigate tail damage in the November crash of an American Airlines jetliner in New York.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent two six-foot- long sections of the plane's tail to a Ford laboratory at a Livonia, Michigan, test track for examination with a computerized tomography, or CT, scanner. The board is trying to determine whether the tail was damaged before the Nov. 12 crash.
The automaker considers the machine the most advanced of its kind and uses it on engines, transmissions and other auto parts, said Robert McGee, supervisor and technical specialist at the laboratory. The scanner produces cross-sectional views of the tail portions' internal structure.
The board wants to know whether ``delamination,'' a peeling apart of carbon-fiber layers that make up the tail section, played any role in the crash of the AMR Corp. unit's Flight 587. The Airbus SAS A300-600 jet crashed in the Queens section of New York less than two minutes after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport, killing all 260 people on board and five on the ground. The plane was bound for the Dominican Republic.
About half of the 349 eyewitnesses to the crash reported seeing a fire while the plane was in the air, said the board, which released an update on the crash today. The NTSB has said there's no physical evidence of a fire during the flight. Twenty percent reported that they didn't see a fire, the board said.
Eighteen percent reported seeing the plane in a left turn, and the same percentage said it was a right turn, the board said.
``We continue to have letters coming in from people that advance various theories,'' NTSB Chairman Marion Blakey said at a briefing.
The Ford scanner being used on the tail sections is similar to those used for medical CAT scans. Tests began two weeks ago and will continue for another two weeks, McGee said. The NTSB disclosed Ford's role in a statement and at Blakey's briefing.
Investigators said the A300-600's vertical stabilizer, a tail fin that helps the plane fly straight, tore off after five large movements of the aircraft's rudder. The rudder is a flap attached to the stabilizer that turns the plane left or right.
The safety board is researching whether a malfunction or pilot action caused the rudder movements. The NTSB hasn't ruled on a cause of the crash. The board plans a public hearing on the crash in October.