New theory on Flight 587

New theory on Flight 587

By Joe Baker

Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Another theory has emerged on what caused the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Queens, N.Y. on Nov. 12. It also disputes the government’s claim that the crash was an accident.

Marshall Smith, a veteran pilot with degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering and physics. He also has taught ground school for aspiring pilots. (

Smith contends explanations so far have not conformed to the known facts. He said the theory of wake turbulence is not possible. What did happen, he believes, is that someone sabotaged the thrust reverser controls on the jet’s left engine.

Loss of the vertical stabilizer would not send the plane out of control, Smith said. He said in August 1985 a Japanese 747 lost its vertical stabilizer and continued to fly in circles for more than 30 minutes.

A thrust reverser activation, Smith said, would send the aircraft into a flat spin and the forward-backward thrust from its engines would accelerate the rate of that spin until the engines ripped off and sailed outward from the fuselage. The engines were found some distance from the main wreckage.

The National Transportation Safety Board continues to claim the crash was an accident.

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