By Philip Newman
Tape recordings of conversations between the John F. Kennedy International Airport air controllers and the pilot of American Airlines Flight 587 seemed to indicate that all was normal only minutes before the plane crashed at Belle Harbor, killing 265 people.
The tapes released by the Federal Aviation Administration last week offered no reason for the crash of the American Airlines jet bound for Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The JFK tower began giving the pilot instructions at 9:10 a.m., cleared the plane for takeoff at 9:13 a.m. and gave further instructions until shortly after 9:15 a.m.
At 9:16 a.m. another pilot radioed: “Tower, look to the south, there’s a plane crashing.”
Another pilot said: “Affirm a fireball.”
The JFK tower then tried to get Flight 587 by radio. There was no response. Officials have yet to suggest any cause for the Nov. 12 crash, although the National Transportation Safety Board said recently the rudder of the Airbus A300 broke away at a point when the plane was at a half-mile altitude.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it had recommended to the FAA that it direct pilots to become aware of the danger of exerting sudden pressure on the rudder pedals at high speeds. The NTSB has not said the rudder was either the cause or contributed to the cause of the crash.
Tape recordings of the conversations involving the stricken plane’s captain and first officer before the crash have not been released.
The crash killed 260 persons aboard the jetliner and five others on the ground in Belle Harbor on the Rockaway peninsula.