The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says it has been forced to subpoena the pilots of an American Airlines jet that was involved in a potentially catastrophic near miss at New York JFK last month after the pilots refused to be interviewed on tape about the incident.
In a preliminary report published by the NTSB on Friday, the federal safety agency confirmed that the American Airlines Boeing 777-200 entered an active runway while a departing Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 was speeding along the runway for takeoff.
The pilots of the Delta jet have been praised for averting a near disaster after they managed to slam on the brakes when they noticed what was happening. The two aircraft came within just 1,400 feet of one another with the Delta plane traveling at 100 knots.
After both aircraft cleared the runway, the American Airlines aircraft was surprisingly cleared for its scheduled departure to London Heathrow. As a result, potentially crucial data from the cockpit voice recorders were overwritten and lost.
The crew on both aircraft have provided written statements to help the investigation but in its preliminary report, the NTSB said it also wanted to interview the pilots of the American Airlines plane to get a better understanding of what occurred on the evening of January 13.
The pilots refused three separate requests from the NTSB to be interviewed.
In fact, the NTSB was so desperate to get the pilots to provide an oral account on tape that they convinced American Airlines to clear the pilots schedules for the purpose of the interview. Still, they refused.
According to the NTSB, the crew “would not consent to participate in audio recorded interviews in any manner.”
The suggestion is that the pilots would be willing to be interview if the interview isn’t taped but the NTSB isn’t willing to budge’ arguing that a recorded interview is essential to obtain the “highest degree of accuracy”.
“As a result of the flight crew’s repeated unwillingness to proceed with a recorded interview, subpoenas for their testimony have been issued,” the preliminary report continues.
Air traffic control recordings suggest that the American Airlines pilots thought aircraft were departing from a different runway, although this is yet to be confirmed.
In a statement, the Allied Pilots Association which represents flight crew at American Airlines said it was opposed to voice recorded NTSB interviews and felt that note taking and stenographic records were sufficient.
The APA suggested recorded interviews would lead to less “candid” answers and could persuade those involved in an accident investigation not to agree to an interview at all.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.