NTSB's Final Words

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Tampa Skyscraper Crash...

Released Monday, the NTSB's factual narrative on the January 5 teen / skyscraper crash in Tampa, which brought front-and-center the specter of GA terrorism and precipitated a list of non-mandatory recommendations from the FAA to flight schools, adds a little more to the story than what we previously knew. The 15-year-old student pilot who alone took a flight school's Cessna 172 aloft and crashed it into the Bank of America building in downtown Tampa first flew through MacDill Air Force Base airspace, this we knew. What we didn't know was that while inside that airspace the boy also flew within "a few feet" of the control tower. The NTSB now says Charles Bishop buzzed three base hangars, flew by the tower and then flew 75 to 100 feet above two loaded tanker planes. A Coast Guard helicopter tried to get Bishop to land, but was unsuccessful. Bishop then turned toward Tampa where he crashed a few minutes later in an apparent suicide. In spite of much speculation about Bishopís motives, including theories of terrorism, the NTSB did not find any evidence to support his claims that the crash was an act of terrorism. Further speculation about the possible role of a prescription acne medication, which listed "suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and suicide" in its warnings section, was not supported by the report's medical and pathological section, which states, "the examination revealed no Ethanol or drugs detected in the blood."

...Maintenance, Approvals, And Alaska Airlines Crash

Itís not quite final yet, but the NTSB is working on a draft report that casts blame on flawed maintenance practices permitted by the FAA for the January 2000 crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261. All 88 on board were killed when the plane plunged into the sea near Point Mugu, Calif. Specifically, The Seattle Times says the NTSB cites "insufficient lubrication" as causing the jackscrew mechanism -- part of the aircraft's stabilizer assembly -- to fail. FAA officials previously testified that they could not provide an account of how the part was approved, nor could they provide records of the process that approved it. However, the FAA had given approval for the airline to reduce the frequency of lubrication of the jackscrew, while also increasing the period between inspections. The report also accuses Alaska Airlines of having serious flaws in its maintenance operations, but the NTSB says that design flaws in the MD-80 were also a factor. The ruling could lead to mandated modifications of the MD-80, as well as the 717. Flight 261 crashed January 31, 2000, off the southern California coast. The flight was en route from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to San Francisco and Seattle.