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Tue, Jun 07, 2005

Safety Board Bristling?

NTSB Issues Rare Statement After AAL 1420 Verdict

The NTSB stands by its report on the mishap that killed eleven people in June, 1999. This, in spite of a jury's decision to award the widow of American Airlines Captain Richard Buschmann, who died in the crash of AAL Flight 1420 in Little Rock, AR.

As ANN reported on Monday, the captain's widow, Susan Buschmann, was awarded $2.1 million in her suit against Little Rock National Airport. She'd accused the airport of reneging on safety promises to the FAA. Her attorneys claimed that LIT officials had promised to beef up the safety area at the end of Runway 4R. That didn't happen by the time AAL 1420 went off the end of the strip in a thunderstorm and crashed into a gully.

In a rare statement of rebuttal, NTSB spokesman Paul Schlamm pointed out to the Associated Press that the standards for reaching a decision in an agency investigation and those used in the trial were very, very different.

"This is a separate process with... different competencies involved," he told the AP.

"The probable causes of this accident were the flight crew's failure to discontinue the approach when severe thunderstorms and their associated hazards to flight operations had moved into the airport area and the crew's failure to ensure that the spoilers had extended after touchdown" to slow the plane, according to the NTSB report on the mishap.

"We're prohibited from giving opinions or testimony in civil trials," Schlamm said. Job one at the NTSB is to promote safety, he said. "We push our agenda."

At the bottom line, Schlamm said, the NTSB's conclusions were reached by a panel of experts -- not 12 people quite literally picked at random.

FMI: NTSB Finding Of Probable Cause

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