NTSB: Captain Could Have Averted Denver Crash

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The captain of a Continental 737 that ran off a Denver runway in December 2008 as winds gusted up to 45 knots probably could have kept it on the runway if he had applied enough rudder at the right time, the NTSB said in its final report on the accident on Tuesday. However, the board also said that if the crew had been given better wind information before trying to take off on Runway 34R, they might have delayed departure or requested a different runway. Air traffic controllers provided all the weather data that was required, telling the crew winds were from 270 degrees at 27 knots, but information from sensors located in the center of the airfield showed gusts as high as 40 knots. If the crew had been better trained in crosswind techniques, that also might have helped, the board said. Nobody was killed in the accident, but the captain and five of the 110 passengers were hurt. The board also said better seats in the cockpit would help to reduce crew injuries.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman praised the flight attendants for evacuating passengers quickly, before fire reached the cabin. "This accident was nothing less than the holiday miracle," she said. The board noted that in reacting to the crosswind, the captain tried using inappropriate controls to steer the aircraft, including the control yoke, which contributed up to four seconds delay. When he called for a rejected takeoff it was too late.