There are no recorded events in which wake vortices from aircraft have resulted in any aircraft structural failure, according to UK consultancy Airclaims. But wake vortices have caused de-stabilisation to aircraft close to the ground which has resulted in several crashes following loss of control, even to large aircraft.

The most dramatic event recorded in which a tail fin separation started a sequence of events leading to aircraft breakup - including engine separation - during descent was the 1966 British Overseas Airways Boeing 707 which was caught in severe mountain wave clear air turbulence in the lee of Mount Fujiyama after climbing away from Tokyo airport, Japan.

The American Airlines A300-600 in this latest case (N14053) was delivered to the airline in July 1988. It had encountered severe turbulence in 1994 in an incident in which 40 people were injured, but an inspection after the flight revealed no damage. The NTSB, however, confirmed that one of the fin-fuselage fitting points delaminated before delivery to American, and the Airbus assembly factory at Toulouse, France, carried out a repair by applying a doubler and using rivetting.

Source: Flight International