On November 12, 2001, American Airlines flight 587 crashed at Belle Harbor, N.Y., shortly after taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport. All 260 people on board the airplane and five people on the ground were killed. The investigation began pointing to the likelihood that the airplane’s vertical stabilizer and rudder broke off because of full-rudder deflection. As the evidence became overwhelming that the vertical stabilizer separated because it was exposed to aerodynamic loads that were about twice its certified design limit and greater than its ultimate design limit, investigators had to figure out how those loads could have been produced.
Flight 587 was scheduled from New York to Los Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The flight was operated under Part 121 on an IFR flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions existed at JFK International Airport. The flight left the gate at 9 a.m., and followed a Japan Airlines Boeing 747 to runway 31L.