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- March 25, 2002
- Updated March 30, 2002
- Story of B52 That Landed With Rudder and Most of Tail
- Story Contributed by Ray Lahr with Photo by Professor
- Ray Lahr was a Graduate engineer from USC, former Navy
pilot (WWII vintage), former Air Line Pilots Assoc. Safety Representative,
and former United Air Lines Pilot
- Ray Lahr shared with U.S.Read:
- Many years ago the Air Force was testing clear air turbulence.
They used one of their bombers (a B52) and they were flying near
the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. When strong winds blow, it is
like an ocean wave breaking on the downwind side of those mountain
ridges. They found some extreme turbulence and it knocked off
the vertical stabilizer. They made it back OK but I think that
ended their testing.
- Pilot Arthur Doucette who has studied aviation accidents
- Note that the B52's design is quite different and that a
good size piece of the VS remained (enough to provide significant
lateral stability). The B52 also had the wing mounted much further
forward, hence the whole fuselage acted as a stabilizing force
(the feathered arrow effect). The A300 is just barely stable
without the fin, with the wing mounted further aft the pitching
forces ahead of the center of rotation are about the same as
those behind the center of rotation. If the A300 fin departed
while any amount of rotation was going on, the forces would have
quickly spun the aircraft in the previously described "flat
- The witness statements generally do not support the complete
separation of the tail assembly at 2400 feet as the NTSB asserts.
Many Rockaway witnesses insist the plane had it's vertical stabilizer
present and Witness
Kenny Good saw it separate after the right engine broke free.
What is possible is that the rudder began to break apart (it
broke into 5 pieces that were retrieved from Jamaica Bay by the
NYPD Harbor Unit and photographed
by the Coast Guard) and the vertical stabilizer may have
partially broken off at 2400 feet. Also, John Power has been
adamant since the accident that the flat spins occurred while
the vertical stabilizer was still on the plane. His
testimony is here.
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