Sunday, November 08, 2009

Did a Bomb Take Down Flight 587?

By Nicholas Stix

January, 2002
Middle American News

(November 8, 2009: In four days, Belle Harbor will hold its annual memorial for the victims of Flight 587.)

Was the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 last November 12, in which 265 people perished, a tragic accident, or an act of terrorism?

The A300 Airbus exploded over Belle Harbor, Queens, killing 260 passengers and crew members, and five people on the ground. Federal officials immediately assumed that mechanical failure had caused the crash, though they had no evidence to support that conclusion, and used the mainstream media to float several different theories. The theory they settled on a few days after the crash, required the public to take one leap of faith after another. Over two dozen eyewitnesses to the crash, however, have refused to take the leap. The witnesses say they saw the jet on fire before its tail broke off, and it went into a fatal spiral; they have largely been ignored by federal officials and the media.

If explosions preceded the tail’s breaking off, a bomb begins to look more plausible as the cause of the crash.

The day after the crash, the feds floated a story, according to which the pilot, sensing trouble, had been dumping fuel into nearby Jamaica Bay. That would be a first in the annals of modern, commercial aviation: A pilot who would take emergency measures, without ever signaling May Day, or otherwise contacting Air Traffic Control.

In yet another first, the feds then suggested that “flutter”—from turbulence stirred up by the preceding Japan Airlines 747—caused the plane’s tail (vertical stabilizer and rudder) to break off, and the jet to crash. But as Russ Buettner of the New York Daily News reported, “Flutter could be the element that connects those two phenomena [the turbulence and the broken tail], though it would be the first time in aviation history, experts said.”

It is a fundamental rule of scientific explanations that, the more unusual an explanatory theory is, the more powerful the evidence supporting it must be.

The feds and the media have settled on the speculative theory that flutter caused the tail to break off, and the loss of the tail caused the jet to drop like a stone from the sky.

This would not be the first time that the loss of a tail caused a jetliner to crash. In the worst crash in aviation history, in Japan 1985, a Japan Airlines Boeing 747 crashed, killing 520 people, following the loss of its tail. However, that plane was able to fly in circles for 30 minutes before crashing into a mountain. There is no record of a previous commercial airliner immediately crashing, following the loss of its tail section.

In crashes that occurred in 1991 in Colorado Springs, and 1994 outside Pittsburgh, tail flutter was deemed a cause. However, in neither case did the plane’s tail break off.

Since November 12, more than two dozen witnesses have come forward, insisting that they saw fire, smoke, or a fireball issue from the plane before its tail section fell off, and the plane dropped from the sky.

Consider reports by retired police lieutenant Jim Conrad, retired New York Police Department sergeant JoAnn V. Catanese, and retired New York City fireman Tom Lynch, all of whom are trained, experienced observers.

Catanese’s letter to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), was published on December 29 in the local newspaper, The Wave, which covers the Rockaway area, where Flight 587 went down. Catanese reported, “... approximately one minute after hearing said airplane engine roar. The left side of the plane, from the left wing to the tail, exploded, which caused the aircraft to bank left and spiral down to the earth. There were flames coming from the aircraft after the explosion.”

Retired fireman Tom Lynch insisted to the New York Post’s Steve Dunleavy, “I’m telling you, the tail was there until the second explosion. No tail fell off, not before the explosion. I swear to that.

“.... It made a bank turn and suddenly there was an explosion, orange and black, on the right-hand side of the fuselage. It was a small explosion, about half the size of a car.

“The plane kept on going straight for about two or three seconds as if nothing had happened, then ‘vwoof’ - the second, big explosion on the right wing, orange and black. It was only then that the plane fell apart. It was after the explosion and I’m telling you, the tail was there until the second explosion.”

Dunleavy quoted retired cop Jim Conrad as saying, “I saw exactly what Tom saw.... First, the small explosion. The plane kept on going, tail intact, then the big explosion and the plane nose-dived. The first thing I said was, ‘The bastards did it again.’”

Lynch, Catanese, and Conrad complain of having been ignored by the FBI and NTSB, U.S. Rep. Antony Weiner, and by U.S. senators Charles “Chuck” Schumer and Hillary Clinton.

NTSB spokeswoman Marian Blakey now says the agency “never ruled out terrorism, but there is no criminal component” to the investigation.

NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz was militantly non-committal, telling me, “We have their statements, and we have not said anything about their statements.”

“We said we are going to handle this as an accident until we have evidence to the contrary. Immediately after the crash, we said there was no evidence that a bomb had been involved. We didn’t say we didn’t believe them [the witnesses]. We’re taking their statements, along with hundreds of other people” for the final report.

How many of those people said they saw flames?

“I don’t have that breakdown, but I’m hoping that by some time next week we’re going to try and see” what it is.

How do those statements mesh with the theories you’ve heard from your experts?

“I don’t want to get into anything analytical like that.”

Meanwhile, deli manager Ellie Scholfield insists, “They’re discounting what we saw.”

The NTSB has soft-pedaled investigation results in the past. In the case of the October 31, 1999 crash of EgyptAir Flight 990, which killed 216 passengers and crew members, the NTSB report eliminated mechanical failure as the cause of the crash. The only other candidate as an explanation was that disturbed First Officer Gameel El-Batouty had committed what was then the worst act of murder-suicide in the history of aviation.

During his New York layovers, El-Batouty, a troubled man, was fond of mixing alcohol and Viagra. Several female guests at the hotel he stayed at, had complained to hotel security that El-Batouty had exposed himself to them, and female staffers had complained of being harassed by him.

During the fateful flight, El-Batouty, who had just relieved a colleague, and was alone in the cockpit, disengaged the auto-pilot. The cockpit voice recorder showed him robotically chanting the Muslim prayer, “God is great,” again and again, as the plane went down.

American aviation experts agreed that El-Batouty had deliberately crashed the plane, yet to placate angry Egyptian authorities, who continued to insist that the crash was due to mechanical failure, the NTSB would not connect the dots on its own official report.

There is no record of the NTSB ever falsifying a crash report, but these are extraordinary times. We are a nation at war. In November, we were still in shock from 9/11. The President had just authorized a $150 billion bailout of the airline industry. Public confidence in the safety of air travel was at an all-time low. And the nation was in a state of hysteria over anthrax attacks through the mail. Under such circumstances, federal officials, political leaders, and even media chiefs, might have felt it their duty to “fudge” the truth, in order to calm the troubled waters of public opinion.

Was the crash of Flight 587 a tragic accident, or an act of mass murder? We still don’t know.

No comments: