On September 13, 2016, a hearing held by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed the conclusions of its extensive investigation in to the airplane crash – and its causes – that occurred last year at LaGuardia Airport. In the course of representing six of the injured passengers, attorney Patrick Wheale of Childers, Schlueter & Smith has been following the investigation of the NTSB very closely. In short, primary responsibility for the crash was placed on the pilots of Delta Flight 1086.
On March 5, 2015 Delta Flight 1086 made a hard-landing in snowy conditions at La-Guardia Airport in New York, New York. Unfortunately, the pilots lost directional control of the aircraft, which quickly departed the runway shortly after landing. The aircraft caused extensive damage to the sea berm built along the coast of Flushing Bay, before coming to rest with its nose overhanging the water. 127 passengers were on-board and many were injured in the incident.
After completing a thorough investigation of the Delta Air Lines crash, the NTSB released its much-anticipated conclusions in a public meeting held this past Tuesday. The NTSB found, in part, that Delta’s pilots engaged reverse thrusters that exceeded the highest-recommended Engine-Pressure Ratio (EPR), causing the loss of the control of the aircraft. In addition, the NTSB found that lack of communication among the flight crew, as well as inadequate policies and procedures from Delta, contributed to the conditions that resulted in injuries to many of the passengers aboard Delta Flight 1086. Some of the conclusions found in the executive summary include:
- Use of excessive engine reverse thrust and rudder blanking on MD-80 series airplanes;
- Subjective nature of braking action reports;
- Lack of procedures for crew communications during an emergency or a non-normal event without operative communication systems;
- Inadequate flight and cabin crew communications, coordination, and decision-making regarding evacuations for an emergency or a non-normal event;
- Inaccurate passenger counts provided to emergency responders;
- Unclear policies regarding runway friction measurements; and
- Unclear policies regarding runway condition reporting.
The excessive use of reverse thrusters caused, in part, “rudder blanking” of the Delta aircraft, causing it to leave the runway. “Rudder blanking is a term used to describe the situation where the forward force of the aircraft is counter-acted by the reverse thrust of the engines. By comparison, rudder blanking is similar to when a motor vehicle ‘fish-tails’ when the brakes are suddenly applied,” Patrick Wheale shared.
In a press release, NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart accurately stated that “[t]he passenger and crew of Delta flight 1086 were fortunate to have survived this crash with no loss of life or serious [physical] injury.”
We applaud the NTSB on their comprehensive and meticulous investigation in to the causes of this unfortunate incident. Their findings will result in new rules and procedures that can be implemented to make air travel safer and to avoid future injuries to passengers.