NTSB critical of American Airlines after runway overrun
- December 31st, 2010 7:33 pm ET
- By Joel Siegfried, Airlines/Airport Examiner
On Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 11:37 a.m. local time, an American Airlines (AA) Boeing 757-200, Flight 2253, tail number N668AA, from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), in Jackson, Wyoming, ran off the end of runway 19, and came to rest in hard packed snow about 350 feet beyond the runway overrun area. The aircraft was carrying 175 passengers, two pilots and four flight attendants.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the incident has determined that the airline broke protocol when transporting the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) to its offices for investigation.
As the Board stated, “The NTSB has a requirement that following such incidents in which no serious injuries or substantial damage to the aircraft or other property has occurred, the airline itself has the responsibility of delivering both recorders to the agency without delay and without accessing the information contained within them by any means.”
That’s where American Airlines was at fault. The recorders were flown to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where American Airlines technicians downloaded information from the DFDR, a strict breach of the Safety Board’s policy, which according to the agency, “has worked well for over 40 years.”
As a result, the NTSB has excused the airlines from further participation in their investigation of this incident. While it may seem like a slap on the wrist, it leaves American Airlines out in the cold until an official report and findings are issued.
According to a statement by NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman, issued on Friday, December 31, 2010, “Although a thorough examination by our investigators determined that no information from the DFDR was missing or altered in any way, the breach of protocol by American Airlines personnel violates the Safety Board’s standards of conduct for any organization granted party status in an NTSB investigation. Because maintaining and enforcing strict investigative protocols and procedures is vital to the integrity of our investigative processes, we have revoked the party status of American Airlines and excused them from further participation in this incident investigation.”
The airline has promised the NTSB that it is reviewing its procedures and internal controls to avoid a repeat of such a mistake.
As to the incident itself, according to the NTSB, “The CVR provided a two-hour recording of excellent quality audio; the voices of each of the pilots on the flight deck were clearly audible. The DFDR provided 1200 recorded parameters of flight data and captured the entire incident.”
Both of the pilots have been interviewed, and it has been determined that the First Officer was flying the aircraft during the landing. The NTSB also stated, “The crew, who were interviewed on Thursday evening, (December 30) indicated that they saw the runway prior to reaching the minimum descent altitude before touchdown. Both crew members characterized the flight and approach to landing as uneventful prior to the runway overrun.”
What is also remarkable about this incident is that one of the passengers captured the aircraft’s landing on a video recording, which is attached to this report, and is narrated, possibly indicating a mechanical delay in the deployment of the engines’ thrust reversers, and possible failure to deploy spoilers on the wings.
It is yet to be determined if this accident was caused by pilot error, or aircraft system failure.
The NTSB has said that the actual incident docket will contain additional factual information, and is expected to be open in 60 to 90 days. Senior NTSB Air Safety Investigator Joseph Sedor has been designated as the Investigator-In-Charge.
A dispatch by CBS News and the Associated Press indicated that light snow was falling when the plane landed, with visibility at about 1.5 miles. The runway had some snowy patches, but its surface afforded good braking friction, according to Ray Bishop, director of the Jackson Hole Airport. He added that the plane went into deep snow 658 feet past the end of the runway, which included a 300-foot paved safety apron and 358 feet of dirt beyond that.
Kevin Huelsmann, a local newspaper reporter who was on the flight, told The Associated Press “There was snow everywhere outside the windows. We couldn’t see anything. But there was no big impact. It happened so quickly, most people didn’t react until it was over. The pilot told passengers after the plane had come to a stop that the brakes had failed.”
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