- Flight 587 from New York to Santa Domingo had just taken
off and was arcing into the clear autumn sky when the co-pilot, Sten Molin,
felt a violent shaking.
- What followed was the final 37 seconds for all 260 people
on board, revealed in chilling detail by the cockpit voice-recorder of
the airliner that speared into a New York suburb on Monday.
- The American Airlines A300 Airbus had been aloft for
just 1 minute 47 seconds when the flight recorder captured what had
First Officer Molin - described by investigators as an "airframe
- Seven seconds later, the jet pitched in the sky as if
tossed by a tidal wave of turbulence.
- The black box records Mr Molin as saying he fears the
plane has crossed into the jet stream of a Japanese Air 747, which took
off 2 minutes 7 seconds earlier.
- The normal separation time between flights from John
F. Kennedy, one of the world's busiest airports, is two minutes.
- Another seven seconds later, just 2 minutes 1 second
into the flight, a second, more violent rattle can be heard on the cockpit
- Mr Molin's voice increases in volume and anxiety. He
calls for the captain, Edward States, to apply "maximum power"
in the hope that he can fly out of what he thinks is extreme
- It is suspected that it was at this point that the rear
tail fin, or stabiliser, came off as the plane flew over Jamaica Bay
the Rockaway peninsula.
- The tail fin and rudder would be found in the bay later
on Monday, about 750 metres from where the plane crashed.
- At 2 minutes 7 seconds on the cockpit recorder, the two
pilots are heard saying that they have lost control of the plane.
- Witnesses say that at this point the Airbus lurched
to the right and left, as if the pilots were battling desperately to keep
it flying straight.
- The black box does not record what was happening among
the terrified passengers as the plane pitched hopelessly on its way to
now certain disaster.
- Soon after the pilots lost control, both engines broke
away from the wings and plunged to the ground.
- One landed in a boat parked in the backyard of Kevin
McKeon's house. The other slammed into a service station driveway just
metres from where Ed DeVito huddled under his truck - narrowly missing
a petrol bowser and even greater devastation.
- The pilot of a United Airlines flight heading for John
F. Kennedy Airport at the time said he believed he had heard the pilot's
last words - "We're having a mechanical ..."
- At 2 minutes 24 seconds after take-off, the cockpit
ends. Flight 587 had spiralled, nose-first into the middle of four houses
in Rockaway in Queens, exploding in an orange fireball and killing all
on board and at least five on the ground.
- Investigators from the National Transportation Safety
Board (NTSB) released details of the voice recording to a stunned and
- Soon after, they revealed that the plane's other black
box, containing the flight data recorder, had been recovered.
- The investigators hope that this information will
answers to what caused the shaking that Mr Molin first reported and the
second, more violent, shudder that apparently caused the plane's tail fin
to snap off.
- The NTSB chairwoman, Ms Marion Blakely, maintained that
the evidence pointed to a "catastrophic mechanical failure",
but FBI agents said they had not ruled out a bomb or sabotage.
- A lead NTSB investigator, Mr George Black, said that
he did not know of any precedent for a tail fin snapping off an Airbus
- The recorded separation time between the doomed flight
and the preceding Japanese Air 747, if accurate, was considered within
safety guidelines and not so close as to create the extreme turbulence
that would cause a following aircraft to break apart.
- Amid the heightened sensitivity after the attacks on
the World Trade Centre and Pentagon, the Airbus crash has reignited a
furious debate over the level of baggage screening.
- Airport authorities have conceded that just 2 per cent
of all bags that are checked at the counter are screened for bombs before
they go on board a plane.
- As Congress continues to debate legislation that would
tighten the regulations on baggage screening, the US airline industry
crippled by an acute loss of consumer confidence and a rush of flight
- The cancellations are expected to keep coming as the
flying public learns more about the horrifying last seconds of Flight
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