National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
The following is an update on the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the incident involving the Midwest Airlines MD-81 airplane carrying Senator Barack Obama on July 7, 2008, in which the tail cone evacuation slide deployed in-flight.
Preliminary findings reveal that the slide was partially inflated and the inflation bottle was empty. Examination of the hardware did not reveal any evidence of missing components, nor any evidence of tampering.
The slide and hardware were removed from the aircraft for examination. There was no evidence of any punctures in the slide; however, there were marks consistent with rubbing of elevator control cables. Additional evidence was found to indicate that a catwalk railing was broken and impinged upon elevator control cables. The slide and hardware will be sent to the manufacturer for detailed examinations supervised by the NTSB.
The flight recorders have been removed and are en route to NTSB headquarters for download and analysis. Flight crew statements indicate that the crew did not hear the slide deploy in flight nor did a mechanic who was seated in the rear of the airplane. The flight crew confirmed that they detected elevator control stiffness during the initial level off after departure from Chicago Midway Airport. Maintenance records have been secured for further examination.
Research has been initiated into the certification of the slide, its service history, and its design interface with the airplane.
The NTSB completed the on scene phase of the investigation yesterday.
NTSB Media Contact:
Deployed tail cone evacuation slide from incident airplane - Larger photo at http://www.ntsb.gov/Pressrel/2008/images/Deployed_slide.jpg
Undeployed tail cone evacuation slide as installed on another aircraft - Larger photo at http://www.ntsb.gov/Pressrel/2008/images/Undeployed_slide.jpg
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.