Accidents are messy affairs, in the first instance at the scene, and later sometimes even more grievously during the aftermath. Quite how messy depends on how well the investigation is handled and how accurately the conclusions are arrived at. It can be comforting to know that no expense has been spared, no rock left unturned and the truth arrived at by those connecting the myriad fragments of both lives and machines to build a picture of the truth.
Before we take this too much further, lets look at the way a couple of other investigations played out. Remember Egypt Air 990, a Boeing 767-366ER that came down in the Atlantic 60 Miles South of Nantucket, Massachusetts on October 31, 1999?
The airline argued that the aircraft manufacturers product was implicated in the ‘accident,’ but the reality may well have been that the Captain had effectively included the passengers and crew in his suicide. The arguing swayed to and frow until the huff died down…. and what was the conclusion, where was the follow up?
A 737 transiting the Persian Gulf fell to earth scattering its remains across the desert floor. A terrorist atrocity was cited; it was reported that a bomb had been planted in the forward hold. Is that what really happened? Within the Gulf military community lies the truth and the real story is well displaced from the official version of events. I was there at the time and had primary source information that identified the real cause.
What I am saying here (and carefully) is that things happen and, for one reason or another the truth is retained by governments and agencies for reasons of public interest or national security. Sometimes (on balance) reasonably, sometimes less so. Against that we have the absolute need for trust in the organisations and institutions that provide for our safety and security. Without that trust, we are lost.
So what did actually happen to AA587 during that terrible time post 9/11?
Captain Brian Power-Waters XIII has a theory that he presents in his book ’93 seconds to disaster’ iUniverse, 2005) Brian sets the scene including extensive background information on the crews involved. If you knew these people then the story is one of sorrow, most of us involved in the industry recognise the characters well, either as ourselves or those we know and love. What follows is a stinging indictment of Airbus, the NTSB and the FAA. He accuses them of collusion and coverup, highlighting flaws and errors made by the US authorities in the post crash analysis during the aftermath.
[If you recall the fin and rudder departed the main structure of the aircraft during an encounter with wake turbulence thrown off by a preceding aircraft.]
Brian is a highly experienced pilot and has engineering qualifications that add some weight to his claims. I cannot attest here to the accuracy of the work nor the accusations he makes as I have not researched the accident nor sifted through the evidence myself. But Brian puts his case well and if his work is valid, there are questions to be answered that have to date been papered over and forgotten by the authorities.
For example, the FAA send the NTSB seem to support (certainly at the time) the assertion by Airbus that composite structures can be satisfactorily inspected visually or by using the ‘tap method.’ Ask the same question of independent composite structures engineers and they will laugh at you. So how do you explain the current position of the US authorities? Do they still hold the same view I wonder and if they don’t, have they re-opened the investigation into AA587′s crash?
What on earth would prompt current line Captains of enormous experience to lobby their company, the FAA and the NTSB to re-open an investigation to establish the the facts if the investigation had been properly carried out and the truth established?
To step up to the line and make such claims always places the claimants at risk of their livelihoods – the industry does not forgive nor excuse challenges of this nature and I have friends who can attest to that to their heavy cost. Brian is one such man, his courage is proven as he has paid such a price himself for principle and less commonly seen displayed – action.
To simply blame the handling pilot for the losses on that terrible day would seem to be cowardly and …. somehow a familiar strategy. There are many unanswered questions raised by Brian’s book and although I would like to have seen an extensive bibliography and references to research carried out, it does hit the spot it is aimed at.
Review at the invitation of the author.