A close call for American Airlines Flight 300 at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport now appears far worse than first reported. Sources tell CBS News the Airbus with 102 passengers and eight crew on board "nearly crashed" last week when the wing scraped the ground and hit a sign and light pole during takeoff.
"We were banking, uncontrolled bank 45 degrees to the left," a pilot could be heard saying on the air traffic control audio of the incident.
"Turbulence from another aircraft?"
"I don't think so. There's a good cross wind but we had an uncommanded roll to the left as we rotated," he responded.
One source briefed on the incident told CBS News: "That was as close as anybody would ever want to come to crashing." According to people familiar with the ongoing investigation, preliminary indicators are that there was a "loss of control" on takeoff, reports CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave.
The Airbus A321 took off around 8:40 p.m. on April 10, bound for Los Angeles. But just as the plane was beginning to lift off, it rolled to the left, causing the wing tip to scrape the ground. The wing then hit a runway sign and a light pole before pilots managed to regain control and continued the takeoff. The force of the impact bent the wing.
The flight returned to JFK 28 minutes later with no injuries reported. American Airlines tells CBS News, the airline "is investigating this incident in coordination with federal authorities."
The FAA is investigating and have not determined why the plane banked sharply at a critical moment of takeoff. The NTSB has requested data from the incident. After this report, the NTSB also announced a formal investigation, saying in the statement: "The FAA, American Airlines, and the Allied Pilots Association will be parties to the NTSB's investigation, and the BEA of France has designated an Accredited Representative as the state of design and manufacture of the airplane with Airbus as their technical advisor."
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