AA crash lawsuits begin

NEW YORK, USA — Several passengers on the ill-fated American Airlines (AA) plane that crashed in Kingston last December have filed legal claims against the airline, AA officials confirmed yesterday.

A total of 92 of the 154 people on board AA flight 331 on December 22 were injured when the aircraft overshot the runway in driving night rain, busted through a perimeter fence, crossed the Port Royal road and ended up on the beach across from the Norman Manley International Airport.

The aircraft broke into three, but there were no reported fatalities.

Tim Wagner, the airline’s senior public relations manager, told the Observer that several passengers on the ill-fated aircraft had filed legal action against the airline resulting from the crash.

He said he could not give details as it was not airline policy to comment publicly on legal matters against it.

Efforts by the Observer to get comments from the Chicago-based law firm, Ribbeck Law Chartered, which is said to be representing victims of the crash, were unsuccessful as the firm did not return messages left on its voicemail.

Claims for damages against the airline could run into million of dollars, legal sources said.

Meanwhile, the probe into the cause of the accident is still underway.

Both AA’s Wagner and Keith Holloway of the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed they were continuing to assist with the investigations being undertaken by Jamaican authorities at the country’s Civil Aviation Authority into the matter.

The NTSB’s Holloway said analysis of the plane’s flight recorder had already been completed. But he said that neither the agency nor himself could comment on the findings at this time. The flight, which had originated in Washington, DC, had stopped in Miami, Florida before the final leg of its journey to Kingston.

It was reported that the pilot opted not to utilise a mis-approach, as suggested by local air traffic controllers.

The mis-approach option, which would require the pilot to circle and make another landing attempt, was offered as the Boeing 737-800 approached the runway with a tailwind and in heavy rain.

The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority had indicated that its preliminary investigations did not reveal any mechanical failure of the commercial jet.

Jamaica’s Transport Minister Mike Henry, speaking at a press conference a few days after the crash, said the airline crew had contacted the Jamaica Air Traffic Control to request the Instrument Landing System approach for Runway 12, the designated runway broadcasted by the Automatic Terminal Information Service for arrivals that night.

They were, however, advised of tailwind conditions on Runway 12 and offered a circling approach (or missed approach) for landing on Runway 30.

The crew repeated their request for Runway 12 and were subsequently cleared to land on that runway with the controller further advising the crew that the runway was wet, Henry said.

The pilots, said the minister, reported that after descending through the cloud cover they made visual contact with the runway at between 1,000 feet and 700 feet above ground level.

The Flight Data Recorder (FDR) recorded that the aircraft was travelling at the Vref (landing) airspeed of 148 knots, with ground speed of 162 knots, that is with a tailwind component of 14 knots, when the wheels made initial contact at about 4,000 feet down the 8,900 foot runway.

The FDR further indicated that the aircraft bounced once, then settled onto the runway, Henry said, adding that during the landing rollout the aircraft veered to the left of centreline and departed the end of the runway at a ground speed of 63 knots.

The FDR, the minister said, did not indicate any anomalies or malfunctions with the operation of the brakes, spoilers or thrust reversers, adding that it also indicated that the rate of deceleration appeared normal for a wet runway.

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