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News Briefs

FAA Orders Inspection Of Airbus Tail Fins


The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it will order an ultrasound inspection of some of the vertical tail fins of Airbus A300-600 wide-body jetliners similar to the one that cracked off American Airlines Flight 587 on Nov. 12 as it climbed away from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The FAA said it might also extend the inspection to another class of Airbus aircraft, the A310, if sufficient problems are found in the A300-600 fleet.

The inspection, in line with Airbus recommendations, was prompted by new evidence that an in-flight upset of another A300-600 in 1997 nearly ripped loose one of the six lugs holding the fin -- called a vertical stabilizer -- to the fuselage.

In the New York crash four years later, the vertical stabilizer did rip loose, and the plane crashed into the Belle Harbor neighborhood near the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 260 people aboard the plane and five on the ground.

As part of the New York inquiry, investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board and Airbus took another look at the plane involved in the 1997 incident and discovered damage that had not been detected before to the all-composite tail fin.

In that incident, an American Airlines A300-600 experienced severe gyrations in the air as it approached Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at 16,000 feet on May 12, 1997.

Ceremonies at Crash Sites Mark Six Months Since Sept. 11


Moments of silence, pledges that good will overcome evil and twin beams of light piercing the night sky on Monday commemorated the six months since terrorists attacked the World Trade Center.

“We saw the worst of mankind. We saw the face of evil,” New York Gov. George Pataki told an audience, some fighting back tears, who gathered in Battery Park to mark the moment that the first of two jetliners slammed into the twin towers. Pataki pledged that 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11th will remain “a date and a time we will never forget.”

The true remembrance, added New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “will be in our hearts.”

At ground zero, workers paused briefly to recall the assault on America before resuming the task of removing rubble and searching for bodies. More than 2,800 people died at the site where the buildings collapsed.

Similar ceremonies were held Monday in Washington, D.C., near where another suicide pilot crashed into the Pentagon, and in western Pennsylvania, where passengers struggling with hijackers forced a fourth jetliner into a field.

At the United Methodist Church in Shanksville, Pa., hundreds of people took part in a multifaith service where candles were lit and the names of the 44 people who perished aboard the plane were read aloud. Church bells tolled to remember the victims of United Airlines Flight 93.

“The first thing they hijacked was our name and our religion,” said Iman Fouad El Bayly, representing the Islamic Center of Johnstown, Pa.

Judge to PA County: Keep Commandments, Elsewhere


A federal judge handed down an order to county officials in southeastern Pennsylvania last week: Thou Shalt Not Post the Ten Commandments.

In the latest skirmish between secularists and religious groups, U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell ordered officials to remove a bronze Ten Commandments plaque from the Chester County Courthouse, where it has hung since 1920. County officials had argued that the plaque was less a religious than a historical document.

Dalzell didn’t buy it. The judge, appointed 10 years ago by President George H.W. Bush, noted that the wording was plucked straight out of the King James version of the Bible.

“The tablet’s necessary effect on those who see it is to endorse or advance the unique importance of this predominantly religious text for mainline Protestantism,” he wrote in a decision released last Wednesday.

The Ten Commandments wars are growing in intensity. From Indiana to Tennessee to North Carolina, state legislatures and city councils have passed laws allowing for the posting of the Ten Commandments on public property. And in many cases, courts are ruling against them.

The city council in Omaha, Neb., is appealing a federal court ruling that the commandments must be removed from a city park. In Indiana, the governor just lost a bid to get the U.S. Supreme Court to say he could post them on the statehouse lawn.

El Nino Is Back, NOAA Reports


It’s becoming increasingly clear that the El Nino weather phenomenon, which typically causes bizarre and often-destructive weather around the globe, is returning this year.

The temperature of the surface of the ocean in the eastern equatorial Pacific warmed by about 4 degrees Fahrenheit in February, and the warming was accompanied by an increase in rain in the area -- both signs of a returning El Nino, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported last week.

“It’s still too early to determine the potential strength of this El Nino or exactly what weather conditions it will bring to the United States,” said NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr. in a statement.

El Nino typically occurs every four or five years and can last as long as 12 to 18 months. It has been nearly four years since the last one, which occurred in 1997 and 1998.