Good morning and welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board. I am Christopher Hart, and it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the NTSB. Joining me are Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr, Member Robert Sumwalt, and Member Earl Weener.
Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider the fatal crash of a Hawker 700A into an apartment building in Akron, Ohio, while on final approach, about 1.8 miles short of runway 25 at Akron Fulton International Airport. The Captain, first officer, and seven passengers lost their lives in the crash.
On behalf of my fellow Board Members and the entire NTSB staff, I would like to extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of those who died. Nothing can replace your loved ones, but we hope that this investigation helps us to prevent such tragedies in the future.
Fortunately, the residents of the building were not at home, and while people on the ground faced property losses and dislocation from their residences, none was killed or injured.
The accident flight was an on-demand charter flight operated by a company called Execuflight under Part 135 of the Federal Aviation Regulations.
Part 135 was created to protect passengers and pilots in such operations. Many conscientious air-charter services take care to establish and maintain safe operations pursuant to Part 135, and Federal Aviation Administration inspectors are assigned to each operator to ensure that the regulations and company procedures are being followed.
A traveler boards an on-demand charter flight with the assumption that these government and company protections are in effect. However, in the accident that you will hear about today, we found a flight crew, a company, and FAA inspectors who fell short of their obligations in regard to safety.
As you will hear, the flight crew did not follow company procedures. Against company procedures, for example, this crew flew an unstabilized approach and used an unapproved flap configuration.
In addition, the flight crew’s approach briefing was conducted in violation of Execuflight procedures and was unstructured, inconsistent, and incomplete. As a result there was no shared plan for executing the approach and landing. Required checklists and call-outs were disregarded on the accident flight.
The disregarded procedures I have mentioned – and you will hear about others – read like pages from a basic text for preventing accidents, derived from a long history of accidents in aviation. Yet these procedures, and the accident lessons that they represent, were ignored.
This disregard for safety was not confined to the actions of the flight crew. It extended to their employer, Execuflight.
Our investigators found organizational factors in hiring, training, scheduling, and other practices that predated the accident flight.
For example, the company’s Crew Resource Management (CRM) training included PowerPoint presentations and a multiple choice test. The captain’s test answers, according to the CRM manual, merited a failing grade of 40%. Yet Execuflight had graded it 100%, glossing over CRM training deficiencies that could have been corrected. It is not surprising that CRM issues featured prominently in the accident flight.
Finally, at the federal level, FAA oversight of Execuflight was insufficient to catch and correct the company’s non-compliance with the regulations and with its own standard operating procedures.
When travelers arrange an on-demand charter flight, they do so believing that the flight will be safe. They implicitly trust that FAA standards, the charter company’s standard operating procedures, and the professionalism of the pilots will protect them from harm.
They have a right to believe that these protections are practiced on every flight, without exception – so that they can be sure that such protections apply to their flight. It is incumbent upon the FAA and Part 135 operators to ensure this protection.
Today, tragically, we consider the events that took the lives of nine people on board this flight, including both flight crew members.
The protections built into the system were not applied, and they should have been.
We hope that by learning from the facts that led to this crash, we can recommend changes that help prevent such failures in the future.
Now Managing Director Zoeller will introduce the staff.