Safety board rejects pilots' request to ground Airbus jets

Thursday, April 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The head of the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday there is no reason to stop flying the Airbus A300-600, one of which crashed in New York last year.

Marion Blakey said she disagreed with a group of eight American Airlines pilots who wrote her last month urging that the government consider grounding the plane.

``We have not seen anything to this point that indicates that kind of radical action is warranted,'' Blakey told the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee.

Still, the pilots' concerns are serious enough that ``the urgency is probably accelerated to get a verdict on this plane,'' said John Clark, the safety board's aviation safety director.

Board investigators still do not know why the tail fell off American Flight 587 before the plane crashed shortly after taking off from Kennedy Airport on Nov. 12. The crash killed 265 people.

Flight 587 experienced several sharp side-to-side movements before its tail fell off and the plane crashed shortly after taking off from Kennedy Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration last month ordered inspections of A300-600 and A310 planes that experience similar movements.

Investigators know the plane's rudder sharply moved from side to side, but do not know if the movements put more stress on the plane than it was designed to handle, or if the tail had some hidden damage that weakened it before the flight.

Airbus officials have said damage that cannot be seen cannot weaken the tail. Some American pilots say the planes should have regular inspections, such as with ultrasound equipment, to look for hidden flaws.

Eight pilots submitted a 70-page report to both the safety board and the FAA last month. Their union, the Allied Pilots Association, disagreed with the report, saying there was not enough evidence to ground the plane. The union is helping the safety board investigate the Flight 587.