Year
2001
Month Day
November 12

Plane crashes in Rockaway, New York

An American Airlines flight out of John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport in New York City crashes into a Queens neighborhood after takeoff on November 12, 2001, killing 265 people. Although some initially speculated that the crash was the result of terrorism, as it came exactly two months after the September 11 attacks, the cause was quickly proven to be a combination of pilot error and wind conditions.

Flight 587 took off at 9:14 a.m., bound for the Dominican Republic with 260 passengers and crew on board. Just ahead of the Airbus 300 jet, also using runway 31, was a Japan Air 747. Even with the standard four-mile distance between them, the 747 created some wake turbulence that hit Flight 587 just minutes after takeoff. As the plane climbed to 13,000 feet, there were two significant shudders and then a violent heave.

Unfortunately, the pilots of Flight 587 overreacted to the wake turbulence and their subsequent maneuvers put too much strain on the tail section of the plane. The tail, along with the rudder in the rear, broke off completely and fell into Rockaway Bay. Without this part of the plane, Flight 587 crashed to the ground.

As Flight 587 was in its final moments, Kevin McKeon was in his house on Queens’ Rockaway Peninsula. In an instant, his house virtually exploded; he was thrown out into his yard as the plane fell onto his house. In all, 10 homes were set ablaze, and five people on the ground, as well as all 260 people on the plane, lost their lives. The disaster hit Rockaway especially hard, as the community was still reeling from the September 11 attacks, in which 65 area residents lost their lives.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First meteor shower on record

Andrew Ellicott, an early American astronomer, witnesses the Leonids meteor shower from a ship off the Florida Keys. Ellicott wrote in his journal that the “whole heaven appeared as if illuminated with sky rockets, flying in an infinity of directions, and I was in constant ...read more

Akihito enthroned as emperor of Japan

Crown Prince Akihito, the 125th Japanese monarch along an imperial line dating back to 660 B.C., is enthroned as emperor of Japan two years after the death of his father. Akihito, the only son of the late Emperor Hirohito, was the first Japanese monarch to reign solely as an ...read more

Ellis Island closes

On November 12, 1954, Ellis Island, the gateway to America, shuts it doors after processing more than 12 million immigrants since opening in 1892. Today, an estimated 40 percent of all Americans can trace their roots through Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor off the New ...read more

Seymour Hersh breaks My Lai Massacre story

Seymour Hersh, an independent investigative journalist, in a cable filed through Dispatch News Service and picked up by more than 30 newspapers, reveals the extent of the U.S. Army’s charges against 1st Lt. William L. Calley at My Lai. Hersh wrote: “The Army says he [Calley] ...read more

Scott Peterson convicted of murder

On November 12, 2004, Scott Peterson is convicted of murdering his wife Laci and their unborn son. A jury of six men and six women delivered the verdict 23 months after Laci Peterson, who was pregnant, disappeared on Christmas Eve from Modesto, California. The case captivated ...read more

The destruction of Atlanta begins

On November 12, 1864, Union General William T. Sherman orders the business district of Atlanta, Georgia, destroyed before he embarks on his famous March to the Sea. When Sherman captured Atlanta in early September 1864, he knew that he could not remain there for long. His tenuous ...read more