Seconds From Liftoff
- Time Stamp in MM:SS format
- (9 a.m. New York Time)
Description / Comments
||LC (Local Control): "american
five eight seven heavy wind three zero zero at niner runway three
one left cleared for takeoff" (Local Control Transcript
- LCT). JFK Tower clears AA 587 for takeoff. Tower gives the
surface winds as from 300 degrees at nine knots, which is about
ten miles per hour. The runway heading for runway 31L is 313
degrees, so the wind is slightly left to right.
||AAL587: "cleared for takeoff
american ah five eight seven heavy" (LCT). AA 587 reads
back and acknowledges the takeoff clearance.
||LC: "american five eight seven
heavy" (LCT); plane is rolling
||Wheels are up. Liftoff (PASSUR).
Altitude is 100 feet @ 141 knots
||Altitude is 400 feet @ 164 knots
||600 feet @ 160 knots
||LC: "american five eight seven
heavy turn left fly the bridge climb contact new york departure
good morning" (LCT). JFK Tower gives the "bridge
climb" and "contact departure" instructions. The
tower operator turns his attention to the airplane next in line
||800 feet @ 159 knots
||AAL587: "american five eighty
seven heavy so long". AA 587 acknowledges the clearance.
Passed off to JFK Dep. Control. (TRACON).
||1000 feet @ 159 knots
||1200 feet @ 161 knots
||AAL587: "uh new york american
five eight seven heavy thirteen hundred feet we're climbing to
five thousand". JFK Tower has told AAL587 to contact
Departure Control. They do and give their current altitude and
target altitude. This helps the controller to crosscheck the
transponder altitude readout. The flight path is the predetermined
standard departure routing.
||1300 feet @ 170 knots
||J108 (JFK Departure Control / TRACON):
"american five eight seven heavy new york departure radar
contact climb and maintain one three thousand". "Radar
contact" means that the departure controller has positively
identified AA 587 on his radar screen. With this, he clears AA
587 to continue climbing to 13,000 feet. As you may have noted,
all numbers are stated to insure clarity, i.e., 13,000 is not
enunciated as thirteen thousand, but as one three thousand.
||1300 feet @ 179 knots
- AAL587: "one three that's for american five eighty seven
heavy". AA 587 reads back the new climb altitude.
- 1400 feet @ 188 knots
||1500 feet @ 198 knots
||1500 feet @ 218 knots
||PASSUR says this transponder
reply was corrupted - this could be the first evidence we
have to date of trouble on board the plane. PASSUR states they
can receive corrupted packets if there is a lot of air traffic.
It is also possible that electrical interference on board the
plane can be responsible for this. PASSUR says they do not discard
packets if they are readable; even if the altitude change is
severe. We are still 34 seconds from the start of the rudder
movements. As we progress through the timeline ... you will see
that from this moment on we are looking at 44% of the transponder
replies being deemed "corrupted" or "erroneous".
Flight 587 had a total of 20 radar replies from takeoff to it's
last reply when the transponder died. For comparison purposes,
Japan Air Lines Flight 47 (JAL47) had 41 hits in it's first 184
seconds of flight. Of those 41 hits, JAL47 had zero corrupted
hits. Zero "erroneous" hits. Flight 587, which
had a much shorter flight and thus half the radar interrogations,
had 4 bad replies out of it's last 9. And I'm not even factoring
into these calculations the fact that the transponder dies 16
seconds before impact and, in effect, misses 3 more radar replies.
This would increase the transponder's fail rate from this moment
on to 58%.
||1700 feet @ 228 knots
||1800 feet @ 230 knots
||J108: "american five eighty
seven heavy turn left proceed direct wavey". Now Departure
Control clears AA 587 to deviate from the standard departure
routing, and to "proceed direct wavey." Wavey is a
navigation fix far from JFK, but on the long range routing flight
plan. One of the pilots inserts this position in the navigation
computer. The airplane may or may not be on autopilot at this
time. In either case, the navigation computer produces the heading
to wavey, and the airplane is turned toward it. The airplane
is continuing to climb while this is taking place.
||1900 feet @ 240 knots
||Flight Data Recorder (FDR) records
first lateral (sideways) acceleration averaging about 0.1g
... "consistent with wake vortex" according
to the NTSB. Weather data has not been released by NTSB to support
the theory that the wake vortices spun off by Japan Air Lines
47 (JAL47), were blown into the path of Flight 587. JAL47 was
90 seconds ahead, 0.7 nautical miles west of AA587 and 500 feet
higher. A constant wind speed at that altitude of 28 knots is
required in order to push the vortices into 587's path. The only
weather data available thus far for that morning indicates winds
at 18 knots from 325 degrees at 1900 feet, and 19 knots from
334 degrees at 2800 feet. These winds leave the vortices at least
5 football fields short of Flight 587 (1500 feet).
||Airframe rattling noises recorded
on the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR)
- AAL587: "uh uh turn direct wavey american five eighty
seven heavy" (TRACON). AA 587 acknowledges and reads
back the clearance. This is the last transmission from AA 587.
||2200 feet @ 246 knots
||NTSB says there is a "wake encounter"
comment by captain captured on the CVR.
||2400 feet @ 244 knots - According
to information NTSB has released to U.S.Read, the plane doesn't
gain any altitude between now and when the rudder data becomes
"unreliable" and the tail falls off (16.5 seconds from
this point) and that all transponder replies from this moment
on (indicating higher altitudes) are "erroneous". How
can the plane not gain any altitude if they are clearly in a
climb, having received clearance to 13,000 feet? Just four seconds
from now, the pilots will apparently call for the "escape"
maneuver which includes a 15 degree nose-up and maximum power
application. It is very unusual that the NTSB implies the plane
has leveled off here when the plane just gained 500 feet after
hitting the alleged first wake turbulence 9 seconds earlier
at 15:39. If the turbulence is to be blamed ... why did
the plane climb after hitting it?? According to the NTSB,
the plane's "attitudes" are unchanged from 15:39 to
15:59; which would imply the plane has not changed its
pitch and rate of climb. The NTSB refuses to further clarify
this entire sequence or surrender radar data from the Flight
Data Recorder and FAA facilities. Lastly, why has the transponder
just sent it's last "correct" readings when the plane
is still 29 seconds from impact? The rudder movements that "break
the tail" don't even start for another 11
escape" comment heard on JFK Departure Control Tape
and part of this transmission is simultaneously heard on the
JFK Local Control Tape. The FAA transcribed this portion as "nice
game". American Air Lines Pilots have confirmed to U.S.Read
that this is a specific procedure to "escape" what
the crew believes is wind shear or micro-bursts. During this
procedure a crew member literally calls out in the cockpit
... "escape", which involves the disengagement of autopilot
(which was probably off for 587 at this point), disengagement
of auto-throttle, rotating the nose up 15 degrees, and applying
maximum power. The Flight Data Recorder has recorded no accelerations
since 15:39 and won't again till 15:59. The crew is 13 seconds
past the 1st alleged turbulence encounter which the NTSB stated
(at a Press Conference) did not affect the attitudes of
the plane. So the question must be asked ... what is happening
to this plane that has so concerned the crew, and is rattling
the airframe? Whatever it is ... it cannot be attributed to wake
- also ...
|2600 feet @ 252 knots. NTSB says
this is an "erroneous" radar reading sent by the plane's
transponder. Why is the transponder malfunctioning? The tail
is still attached and the rudder is still sending position data
to the cockpit. Unbelievably, the NTSB, after 6 months, believes
releasing all the available radar hits from the FAA facilities
and from the FDR to the Public will be counter-productive.
||2nd airframe rattling noises on
CVR. NTSB attributed first rattle at 15:40 to wake turbulence.
Here we have the second rattle and no wake encounter. What caused
the plane to rattle a second time?
||PASSUR says this transponder reply
||First Officer calls for maximum
- Plane encounters the second 0.1G lateral movement
(NTSB alleges it is wake turbulence). This is the start of the
infamous 8 second sequence where the rudder experienced five
large movements, and the plane experienced 3 severe lateral accelerations
"consistent" with the rudder movements (NTSB had stated
at a Press Conference that these larger lateral forces, all at
least 0.3 g, are not from the wake turbulence). The 8
second sequence ends when the FDR dies. Even though the rudder
movements are only now beginning, the plane is in trouble
since the crew is only 1 second from proclaiming "loss of
control". Clearly, what put the crew in this terrible situation
is not the rudder's movements or the loss of the tail (which
does not occur for another 5.5 seconds).
| "Unintelligible" noise on TRACON
tape; first of four consecutive noises within an 11 second period
that NTSB Member George Black Jr. referred to at a Press Conference
on Nov. 13th which he said were heard about the time the crew
lost control. This noise is most probably a mike being keyed
(pressed) on 587. It is brief but filled with interference. This
is a second indicator now of electrical disturbances on the plane
before the tail rips off (the transponder sending corrupted or
erroneous packets is the first). Many aviation experts believe
this is a potential indicator of a disturbance (fire or explosion)
on the plane which occurred at the time of the first lateral
movement at 15:39 or, possibly, as early as 15:25, the time 587
sent its first corrupted radar reply. U.S.Read has made available
relevant portions of the FAA Tapes at http://usread.com/flight
587/FAA_Tapes_mp3/FAA_Tapes_mp3_format.html. If there was
a fire or explosion on board this could very well have led to
the radio interference, transponder errors and transponder death,
death of the FDR, and more importantly, negatively affected flight
controls and generated most (if not all) of the very unorthodox
- In regards to the wake turbulence, as stated earlier
(in comments above for time stamp at 15:39), no weather data
has been released by the NTSB to justify the postulation that
587 encountered wake turbulence at 15:39. To believe 587 encountered
wake turbulence now, at 15:59 (the start of the rudder
movements) is akin to black magic and witchcraft. And this is
no exaggeration or sensationalistic claim. Here's why:
- 1. Pilots from many transport categories have mentioned to
me that the way the NTSB has proffered the wake turbulence scenario
is inconsistent with real world turbulence and inconsistent with
the events that unfolded in the cockpit during those 20 seconds.
For example: Why was there a 2nd rattle at 15:54 five seconds
before the alleged second wake encounter at 15:59? Why did the
pilot call for the escape procedure 13 seconds after the
first wake encounter and 7 seconds before the next?
- 2. If the winds at at 9:15:59 am (the time of the alleged
2nd wake encounter) at 2400 feet (587's altitude according to
the NTSB) were from the same general heading as they were at
7 am (approximately 330 degrees) it would mean that the wake
vortices' distance to 587 would be over 1 nautical mile away.
This would require a consistent 40 knot wind from 330
degrees! We haven't seen any supporting data. We don't
see the Emperor's
- 3. If the weather data suggests wind coming from the west
(270 degrees) then this wake encounter is still impossible given
the fact that JAL47 was at 3800 feet at that point, 1400 feet
above where the NTSB says 587 was (at 2400 feet). That would
require the wake vortices to fall at a rate of 933 feet per minute
AND travel laterally at 28 knots. Dr. Fred Proctor, a wake turbulence
expert with NASA's Langley Research Center, states that wake
vortices fall at 300 to 480 feet per minute before they
begin to decay. If we are generous to the wake encounter theory,
and grant that the vortices did not decay at all during the 90
seconds and fell at a maximum rate of 720 feet over 90 seconds
(while maintaining an eastward romp of 28 knots), the vortices
would still be 680 feet above 587. Of course, the vortices
would probably be higher since the vortices did experience some
decay during the 90 second fall that would have slowed their
descent below the max rate of 480 feet per minute, perhaps much
slower. The Emperor is naked.
|| If wake turbulence
didn't kick off the NTSB's 8 second sequence of mayhem ... what
did? The NTSB, up until April 11th, referred to the
two 1/10th g lateral movements as being "consistent"
with wake turbulence yet they never offered data to support that
theory. As of April 12th, the NTSB now refers to what was a theory
as now being an established fact, "the wake vortices
that flight 587 encountered". This
in their 7th Flight 587 Update Release dated April 12th.
Still no data to support what has now become fact. The simplest
application of basic math skills and true wake turbulence behavior
indicates both encounters are unlikely, especially the 2nd encounter.
Have they done the simple calculations we have? You would think
so. If, due to other information we don't have at our disposal,
they came up with results that support their wake turbulence
theory, why didn't they release that information when they made
their statements about wake turbulence? Now they have asked NASA
to produce a "model" to show the effects the
turbulence might have had on Flight 587. This is important. They
haven't asked NASA to do a model showing if the encounters
occurred, the NASA model is to show what would have happened
to 587 since it did encounter the turbulence.
- Crew makes several comments on CVR about loss of control
- Why is the plane out of control when, according to the NTSB
and the witnesses, the tail is still attached, and ...
only 2 of the suspicious 5 rudder movements have occurred?
- 3,019 feet @ unknown speed. NTSB released this radar
"hit" in November. NTSB informed U.S.Read on March
25, 2002 that "any" radar data above 2400 to 2500 feet
is "erroneous" data transmitted by the transponder
for some unknown reason. NTSB refuses to provide all the radar
data. We have to wait till the factual reports which may not
be released till late Summer (or later).
||Last Transponder Reading (Radar
Return) at 2800 feet, 237 knots, latitude 40.5873, longitude
73.8502 (PASSUR). NTSB says this too is an "erroneous"
reading sent by the plane's transponder. Why has the transponder
now sent it's 3rd consecutive bad packet? The tail is still attached
and the rudder is still sending position data to the cockpit.
Control" comments also picked up on FAA Tapes. FAA describes
this noise (on the TRACON tape) as "Unintelligible".
Sound Analysis by U.S.Read, audio experts, and a former NASA
Recording Systems Engineer, confirms what NTSB says the crew
was already saying, "Losing Control". Radio transmissions
from the plane are severely garbled and interference riddled.
What is responsible for this severe interference on the radios
and the death of the transponder? The tail is still attached
yet the plane has been out of control for 3 seconds. The rudder
is still sending position data to the cockpit. It appears both
pilots keyed their microphones because a similar (but more garbled)
message is picked up on the Local Control tape and sounds like
"Mayday, Losing Control".
- Rudder data becomes unreliable, and, according to
the NTSB, the vertical stabilizer separates from the craft.
NTSB says the FDR shows lateral acceleration increases to 0.8g,
yaw rate of 10 deg/sec., left bank through 25 deg. with pilot
applying right wheel, pitch down to -30 deg."
- 2400 feet @ 255 knots airspeed (reading from FDR released
by NTSB at 2/8/02 press conference).
||Plane's transponder does not
reply to radar interrogation - no erroneous data,
no corrupted packets. Just silence. And this continues for the
next two radar interrogations up to the point of impact. This
is unusual since the Airbus A300 has 2 antennas (1 on top, 1
on bottom for each of the two transponders) and the transponder
is on the most protected electrical bus on the plane and can
run off the plane's battery backup if power fails from the engine
driven generators; the CVR can run off the plane's battery and
it worked until impact. A source in the radar industry believes
the two most likely explanations are (a) electrical failure or
(b) damage to the transponder itself. The separation of the tail
cannot account for either. Exhibit
3 below is a schematic of the transponder, it's location
on an Airbus A300, and the antenna locations. All very far from
||FDR Quits (93 seconds after
liftoff based on NTSB Press Releases) and 10 seconds before impact.
NTSB has not stated yet the most likely reason for the FDR failing;
it was most likely a loss of power but what cut the power is
the real question to be answered. CVR Sound Spectrum Analysis
by NTSB confirms engines are heard running beyond this
point. The FDR runs solely off the engine-driven generators therefore
it's power source was still functioning. It is not on the same
electric bus as the CVR, Transponder, and Radio, which will all
run off the plane's battery if power fails. We await the factual
reports to address this in detail. We know from witness statements
that the engines (which drive the generators that provide power
to the FDR) were attached until approximately 16:14 ... seven
seconds after the FDR quit.
- "Unintelligible" noise (similar to first three)
on the TRACON tape; this is the fourth consecutive NOISE which
spanned 11 seconds on the TRACON tape.This 4th noise was not on the TRACON transcript.
- Plane's transponder does not reply to radar interrogation
||(Unknown pilot): "straight ahead"
(local control transcript). It appears a pilot has spotted
AA 587 in trouble (6 seconds before the crash) and is trying
to draw the Tower's attention to it. FAA and NTSB must have identified
this pilot. We'd like to know what he saw. We look forward to
this in the factual reports.
||(Unknown pilot): "tower look
to the south there's an aircraft crashing" (local control
||Plane's transponder does not reply
to radar interrogation
CVR Quits (based on NTSB Press Releases), 103 seconds after
liftoff. NTSB believes the CVR quit at impact.
||(Unknown pilot): "an aircraft
just crashed to the south of the field" (local control transcript).