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Speeches

Investigative Hearing in Connection with the Accident Involving Southwest Airlines 1380 Boeing 737-700 with CFM56-7B Engines, Philadelphia, PA, April 17, 2018 - Opening Statement
T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH
NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center
11/14/2018

​Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome.

My name is Bella Dinh-Zarr and I am a Board Member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). I am honored to serve as Chairman of the Board of Inquiry for this investigative hearing.

Today we are opening a hearing concerning the accident involving a Boeing 737-700, with CFM56-7B engines, operated by Southwest Airlines, which occurred near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 17, 2018, that claimed the life of one of the passengers.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the family members of the passenger who lost her life in this tragic event. On behalf of the NTSB, I offer our sincere condolences for your loss. I would also like to acknowledge the other passengers who were on that flight. Our thoughts are with all of you. The ultimate goal of our investigation is to learn from this tragedy so that we can prevent it from happening again to others.

An investigative hearing is one tool the NTSB may use to help complete an investigation. This hearing is being held for the purpose of supplementing the facts, circumstances, and conditions surrounding this accident. This process will assist the NTSB in determining the probable cause of the accident and in issuing recommendations to prevent similar accidents in the future, when the final report is presented to the Board.

This hearing also provides the opportunity – for the public, the commercial airline industry, and others – to see a portion of the investigative process. During this hearing, we will examine witnesses and secure, in the form of a public record, facts pertaining to the accident and surrounding circumstances.

The purpose of this inquiry is not to determine the rights or liability of private parties, and matters dealing with such rights or liability will be excluded from these proceedings. I want to emphasize that this hearing is non-adversarial – it is a fact-finding examination.

In addition, we will not attempt during this hearing to analyze the testimony received, nor will any attempt be made at this time to determine the probable cause of the accident. Such analyses and cause determinations will be made at a later date by the full Board after consideration of all of the relevant evidence gathered during our investigation. The final report on the accident, reflecting the Board's analyses and probable cause determinations, will be available to the public, as are all of our investigative products.

Today’s hearing will concentrate on the following issues:

  1. CFM56-7B Fan Blades: Design and Certification, Consequences of the Fan Blade Out, Inspection Intervals and Procedures.
  2. Boeing 737/CFM56-7B Inlet and Fan Cowl: Design and Certification, Structural Capability following a Fan Blade Out Event.

I would like to emphasize that while this hearing is certainly an important part of our investigation, it focuses only on two specific aspects of the investigation: the Fan Blades, and the Inlet and Fan Cowl.  Investigators also have been working on, and will continue to work on, other issues that will not be covered in this hearing, issues such as cabin safety, operational factors, window separation, and others.  It is important to remember that the investigative process, on all factors related to this accident, will continue after this hearing ends, and that all factors will be addressed in the final report.

Now, let me introduce the NTSB’s staff who have a key role in the hearing.

Serving with me on the Board of Inquiry are:

  • Mr. Michael Budinski, Chief of the NTSB Materials Laboratory
  • Mr. John Delisi, Director of the Office of Aviation Safety

Mr. Bill English is the Investigator-In-Charge for this accident, and the Hearing Officer for the hearing.

Members of the technical panel are:

  • Mr. Pierre Scarfo, Aerospace Engineer (Powerplants)
  • Mr. Brian Murphy, National Resource Specialist (Structures)
  • Dr. Matthew Fox, Senior Materials Engineer
  • Mr. Vincent Ecalle, Accredited Representative for BEA France, which is the French government’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety.

Mr. Keith Holloway, from the Board's Office of Media Relations is here to assist in matters dealing with the news media.

Ms. Heidi Kemner is providing support for the exhibits and audio-visuals.

NTSB Assistant General Counsel, Mr. Benjamin Allen, is seated behind me and is here to provide legal support for the hearing.

Federal regulations provide for the designation of parties to an NTSB investigative hearing. Those persons, governmental agencies, and organizations whose special knowledge will contribute to the development of pertinent evidence are designated as parties. The parties to this hearing have been designated in accordance with these regulations, and have been selected for their technical expertise in their respective fields. Our rules of practice make clear that a party cannot be represented by anyone occupying a legal position, or anyone who also represents claimants or insurers.

I will now call the names of the parties to the hearing, and as I do, I will ask the designated party spokesperson to please give his or her name, title, and affiliation for the record:

  • The Boeing Company - Robert MacIntosh
  • Federal Aviation Administration - Jeffrey Guzzetti
  • Southwest Airlines - Erin Carroll
  • CFM International - Jerry Juenger
  • United Technologies Aerospace Systems - John Anderson

Yesterday the Board of Inquiry held a prehearing conference in this Board Room. It was attended by the hearing’s Board of Inquiry, Technical Panel, and representatives of the parties to this hearing. During that conference, the parties were advised of the witnesses to be called at the hearing, the areas in which the witnesses will be examined, and the exhibits which will be offered in evidence. They also had the opportunity to submit additional documentary exhibits they desired to offer at this hearing.

As we begin this morning, Mr. English will summarize the accident and the investigative activities that have taken place to date. Following this, the first panel of witnesses will be called.

The witnesses have been selected because of their ability to provide the best available information on the issues pertinent to this accident investigation. They have each been pre-qualified and their qualifications and biographical information are available on the NTSB website.

Each witness will testify under oath. They will be questioned first by the NTSB Technical Panel, followed by the spokesperson for each party. Parties will each have 5 minutes to question the witnesses. After one round of questions, due to time constraints, a second round will be limited to pertinent questions that serve to clarify the record or to address some new matter raised as a direct result of prior questioning. After the parties have questioned the witnesses, the Board of Inquiry will question them.

As I mentioned earlier, the NTSB does not determine blame or liability; this investigative hearing is a fact-finding proceeding with no adverse parties. Therefore, cross-examination in the legal sense will not occur, and questions directed to the issue of blame or liability will not be permitted.

As Chairman of the Board of Inquiry, I will be responsible for the conduct of the hearing. I will make all rulings on the admissibility of exhibits and pertinence of proffered testimony, with the assistance of NTSB Assistant General Counsel, Mr. Benjamin Allen, seated behind me. All such rulings will be final.

The record of the investigation, including the transcript of the hearing, all exhibits entered into the record, and the presentations, will become part of the NTSB's public docket and will be available on the Board’s website: www.ntsb.gov.

Witnesses who have completed their testimony should be aware that they may be subject to recall should the need arise. Therefore, witnesses should not leave unless they have checked with the Hearing Officer, Mr. Bill English.

At this time, I call on the Hearing Officer, Bill English, to go over housekeeping items, summarize the accident and the investigative activities, and describe the exhibits to be used during the hearing. Mr. English.