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AA 587, Another TWA 800 Cover-up?
On the day American Airlines (AA) Flight 587 crashed, various government agencies initially treated the possibility of terrorism as a real possibility. However, within a few hours after the crash, they issued confident statements that precluded the possibility of a terrorist act, even though there was an obvious lack of substantial facts at that time. This quick about face was then followed by a long list of contradictory explanations that changed over time. Also many credible witnesses and experts were clearly ignored as well.
Remain Calm and Keep Flying
The American economy is in a recession and record levels of layoffs are slamming the travel and tourism industry. A total collapse in these critical market sectors could spell economic tragedy for a nation of travellers who are now postponing non-essential trips. This would be reason enough for the government to tell everyone shortly after the crash that they should remain calm, as terrorism had been eliminated as a possibility.
The Washington Post, November 12, 2001
Fighter jets flew over the scene in the Rockaway Beach section of Queens. All three metropolitan-area airports — Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark, N.J. — were closed for several hours, and international flights were diverted to other cities. Major bridges and tunnels into New York were also closed for hours. The United Nations was partially locked down, and the Empire State Building was evacuated.
CNN, November 12, 2001
News of the crash sparked the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to scramble jets already on "strip alert" at a number of other bases around the country.
CNN,November 12, 2001
As part of the increased post-September 11 security environment, the Pentagon ordered additional combat air patrols over the United States and its coastlines after Flight 587 crashed.
CNN confirmed Bush postponed a scheduled meeting with Russian and American reporters so he could meet with advisers to discuss the crash. "The president is on top of it. They're alert; they're watching everything else all over the country," Giuliani said. "So I think people should remain absolutely calm. This can be handled, and we're just being tested one more time. We're going to pass this test, too."
Why would an airplane crash that was not linked to terrorism prompt President Bush to discuss it with advisors? What kind of situation is Bush "on top" of? Why would the President and his advisors stop their other activities to discuss low-level details, such as ins and outs of vertical stabilizer structures, turbulence velocities and composite delamination problems? Could they have been talking about the economy instead?
Once the government agencies found some time to think things through, they began collectively formulating as many different theories as possible for the ensuing investigation. Eager for breaking news, the media released news stories about these and every other pundit theory under the sun, while carefully sidestepping the possibility of terrorism. The only mention of terrorism was a few token quotes from officials that it was not being ruled out.
Here is a summary of the trial balloon explanations organized in an approximate order of release.
Flight 587 -- Day One
Firstly, the White House went into damage control by announcing that it was not a terrorist attack.
The Washington Post, November 12, 2001
WASHINGTON — White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said there were no unusual communications from the cockpit of an American Airlines plane that crashed Monday in New York, and a senior administration official added, "It's looking like it's not a terrorist attack."
Then, there was news that the flight had been delayed due to a technical problem.
BBC News, November 12, 2001
Its original take off slot was reportedly delayed due to a technical fault, though it is not known what that problem was.
Next, the pilot apparently knew of a problem and dumped the fuel into the bay, but there was actually no technical problem before takeoff.
CNN,November 12, 2001
"We have been advised that the pilot did dump fuel over Jamaica Bay before the crash, which is consistent with the pilot having some belief that there was a significant mechanical failure on the plane," New York Gov. George Pataki said at an afternoon news conference.
The plane had not been delayed by mechanical problems, said American Airlines Chairman Don Carty.
"It was delayed at the gate, as so many airplanes are since the (September) 11th, largely to ensure that the security arrangements were fulfilled," he said. "And they were."
The FBI then confirmed reports that an explosion occurred on the plane.
The Washington Post, November 12, 2001
Bush administration officials said the FBI believed an explosion occurred aboard the jet, and witnesses reported hearing one and seeing an engine fall off. But investigators suggested the noise was caused by a catastrophic mechanical failure, and a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "It's looking like its not a terrorist attack."
Then, there was no such explosion.
MSNBC,November 12, 2001
Despite reports from witnesses that one of the jet's engines exploded and separated from the aircraft shortly after the plane took off, an initial examination of the wreckage by explosives experts from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms found the pattern of the wreckage was not consistent with an explosion. <<
Flight 587 -- Day Two
Governor Pataki changed his initial announcement regarding the dumping of fuel.
CNN,November 13, 2001
Pataki said there were "inconclusive" reports the pilot dumped fuel into Jamaica Bay, an indication he may have known of a problem on board.
Officials said the Coast Guard had found no evidence of a fuel slick in the waters off Kennedy airport.
Eventually, even the bird theory had a brief moment in the spotlight.
Aviation Now, November 13, 2001
Investigators found what appeared to be bird remains inside one of the jets engines, the Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition Tuesday, helping bolster the theory that a bird strike may have started Monday's chain of events.
But a source with knowledge of the evidence significantly downplayed the bird-strike theory, telling AviationNow.com that birds "don't appear to be the cause" of the crash.
Despite previous assurances that it was not a terrorist attack, partly because they had no threats, reports of at least one threat did hit the media.
The Washington Times, November 13, 2001
U.S. intelligence agencies received a warning that terrorists were planning an attack timed to Nov. 11 but so far do not believe yesterday's airliner crash was part of an attack.
One intelligence official said a warning was sent to senior Bush administration officials last week stating that unidentified terrorists were planning to carry out some type of mass attack on Nov. 11 — Veterans Day — at 11 a.m.
Attention then turned to wake turbulence from another plane.
The Washington Post, November 13, 2001
The pilots on Flight 587 also spoke of encountering wake turbulence, which is believed to have contributed to other deadly airline crashes. Black said a Japan Airlines jumbo jet took off two minutes and 20 seconds before Flight 587 — a full 20 seconds longer than the normal separation time between takeoffs.
Flight 587 -- Day Three
Officials quickly changed their original statements again, this time concerning the distance between Flight 587 and the Japanese Airliner.
CNN,November 14, 2001
A senior federal transportation official said investigators believe the American Airbus A300 was only about 90 seconds behind a Japan Airlines 747, a much shorter time span than originally reported.
Reports of rattling sounds heard on the cockpit voice recorder were earlier attributed to wake turbulence. Another theory was added to the mix, this time it was loose bolts.
Guardian Unlimited, November 14, 2001
Instead, it is thought now that the pilots' mentions of rattles, caught on the cockpit voice tape, might have been unwitting references to a loosening of the bolts fixing the vertical stabilizer to the tail. <<
Personally, I believe it would be impossible for the pilots to hear a few bolts rattling 177 feet away when you are travelling at several hundred kilometers per hour.
After the third day, interest in this prematurely declared accident had waned, and practically all of the major news agencies had stopped covering what little developments were being made public.
By day eight, there were some new developments that warranted attention after American Airlines inspected their fleet of Airbuses.
Flight 587 -- Day Eight
BBC News, November 19, 2001
American Airlines has announced that it discovered no defects with the tailfins on its fleet of 34 Airbus A300 aircraft during an investigation ordered in the wake of last week's deadly New York crash.
One issue being investigated by the NTSB is whether the tail was weakened in 1994 when the plane hit an air pocket while flying to Puerto Rico. The turbulence in that incident was so severe that 47 people were injured.
Despite their previous speculation of wake turbulence playing a significant role, the NTSB once again changed their statement.
MSNBC,November 19, 2001
Washington — An American Airlines plane that crashed last week, killing up to 265 people, encountered wake turbulence that was "not outside of normal limits," National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Marion Blakey said Sunday.
The biggest contradiction made so far in this investigation is not like any of the previous trial balloon excuses reported so far. It is the tampering of time itself.