1999 Airline Crash Debated In Court

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The 1999 crash of an American Airlines MD-82 in Little Rock, Ark., in which 11 people died (including the flight's captain) is under debate in federal court this week. A lawsuit by the captain's widow alleges that the airport was negligent, because the approach light system that the jet ran into was too close to the runway and too rigid, and the overrun was less than half of the 1,000 feet it should have been. The airport's defense is that the pilot's actions caused the crash. The NTSB found the probable cause of the accident to be the flight crew's failure to discontinue the approach when severe thunderstorms had moved into the airport area, and the crew's failure to ensure that the spoilers had extended after touchdown. Contributing to the accident, the NTSB said, were the flight crew's impaired performance resulting from fatigue and the situational stress associated with the intent to land under the circumstances, continuation of the approach to a landing when the company's maximum crosswind component was exceeded, and the use of reverse thrust greater than 1.3 engine pressure ratio after landing. The trial is expected to last a couple of weeks.