NEW YORK (AP) Investigators raised the possibility yesterday that turbulence caused by a jumbo jet contributed to the crash of American Flight 587, saying the two planes took off less than the standard two minutes apart.
“We do not know whether this contributed in any way to the actual accident, but we are looking at this very closely,” said Marion Blakey, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
“Wake turbulence” has blamed for deadly airline crashes in the past. Investigators want to know whether it caused Flight 587 to break apart three minutes after takeoff from Kennedy Airport on Monday, killing all 260 people aboard and as many as five on the ground. The plane”s tail assembly sheared away and its twin engines fell off as the jet went down.
The standard minimum amount of time between flights taking off is two minutes. However, Blakey said it appeared there were less than two minutes between the takeoff of Flight 587 and a Japan Air Lines jet that left ahead of it from the same runway.
“We believe that in fact it was 1 minute and 45 seconds in terms of the actual distance,” Blakey said.
Blakey, at a news conference, also said that a flight data recorder recovered from the flight was repaired by the manufacturer, allowing investigators to extract data on the last minutes of the doomed flight. The black box recorder had been scorched and banged up in the crash.