NTSB, Gulfstream At Odds In Investigation

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NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman has criticized some of the actions of Gulfstream staffers during an investigation into a fatal crash during a flight test of a G650 in New Mexico last year. In a letter dated April 4, 2012, that was recently posted to the NTSB's public docket, Hersman says that while interacting with Gulfstream, NTSB investigators "encountered a variety of situations that are not typical when dealing with parties to investigations." She goes on to list her concerns, including "noncompliance with instructions from the NTSB investigator-in-charge relating to quarantine of accident-related telemetry data … unexplained missing evidence, including a computer hard drive containing accident-related telemetry data… [and] general conduct and dilatory tactics prejudicial to the investigation." Gulfstream President Larry Flynn defended the company's actions in a letter, also posted to the docket, stating that "Gulfstream has responded to each and every request for information from the NTSB as promptly as possible."

The missing hard drive was accidentally thrown away by an employee, who was later fired, Flynn said. He expressed concerns over the NTSB's use of proprietary data. "Because the accident occurred during a developmental flight test, Gulfstream has provided an enormous amount of trade secret and proprietary information to the NTSB -- much more than would be required for an accident involving an in-service model," he wrote. The NTSB was not clear about which redaction requests had been granted and which documents would be published, he said. "Gulfstream has fully supported the NTSB investigation, has behaved with the highest ethical standards, and has at all times made the safety of its flight test and flight operations its highest priority," Flynn wrote. The investigation is ongoing, and is expected to be completed later this year.