NTSB Says US Airways Accident in Philadelphia Caused by Crew

Almost two years ago, US 1702, an A320 traveling to Fort Lauderdale (FLL), aborted takeoff in PHL and ended up with major damage after a tail strike and collapsed nose-gear. All passengers were forced to evacuate via emergency slides. Yesterday, the NTSB ruled that the accident was caused by the crew entering the wrong information in the flight computer and then incorrectly reacting to it. They called out the pilot for rejecting the takeoff while the plane was traveling fast enough to fly and briefly became airborne. Apparently, the co-pilot entered the wrong runway into the flight computer. The pilot noticed it and the co-pilot fixed it, though forgot to also adjust the thrust and speed for the new runway. As the plane was speeding down the runway, an audio alarm blared “retard”.  The pilots became confused as that warning is normally for landings and so the captain decided that it was not safe to fly and aborted the takeoff. Airbus says the system reverted to landing mode since the thrust was not set. From the report:

“The flight crew members exhibited a self-induced pressure to continue the takeoff, rather than taking the time to ensure the airplane was properly configured,” the NTSB said in a final report. “The captain initiated a rejected takeoff after the airplane’s speed was beyond V1” – the plane’s proper liftoff speed – “and the nose wheel was off the runway when he should have been committed to the takeoff,” investigators said. “The flight crew members’ performance was indicative of poor crew resource management in that they failed to assess their situation when an error was discovered, to request a delayed takeoff, to communicate effectively, and to follow standard operating procedures.”

US Airways removed the flight crew from flying status immediately after the incident. “This is standard practice when these events occur,” said Ross Feinstein, spokesman for American Airlines, which merged with US Airways. “Neither pilot has returned to flying for the airline, and we are not going to comment further on their employment status as they are entitled to their privacy.”

One NTSB board member said “this investigation ultimately reveals a crew that made decisions which resulted in minor injuries to passengers and substantial damage to what was otherwise a perfectly sound plane.”

Check out the excellent debrief by Philly.com here.

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