American Pilots To Comply With NTSB Subpoenas


CNN is reporting the Allied Pilots Association says three American Airlines pilots will comply with an NTSB subpoena to testify in the board’s investigation of a runway incursion at JFK Airport on Jan. 13. The pilots were on a Boeing 777 that crossed a runway in front of a departing Delta 737. They initially refused to agree to have their statements recorded and the NTSB countered by issuing subpoenas. The union claimed the NTSB’s plan to record their statements was out of the ordinary but the board insisted it was necessary to ensure accuracy.

The incident was the first of a string of runway incursions that has prompted a call to action by the FAA to address what the agency fears may be an erosion of safety vigilance or systems. Since that mishap, a FedEx 767 had to go around to avoid landing on top of a departing Southwest 737, and a United 777 crossed a runway in front of a landing Cessna Caravan cargo plane.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. It seems that the more innovative the glass cockpit displays and computerized flight programming the more heads-down time spent attending to the needy flight decks. It’s only human nature to be attracted to shiny thingies we can fiddle with (same reason manufactures put glitter paint on bass boats). The blinky lights and connected cockpit can distract us from the marvelous, ultra high-definition, 3D, non-electrical-system-dependent moving map displays installed on all aircraft from the Piper J2 to the 787; windows.

    • “Needy flight decks” – Bingo. If we are serving the automation and the automation is not serving us, that system needs to be discarded for something more appropriate.

        • Not at JFK. You’ll be waiting for an hour to get a word in edgewise. Why does a huge airport only have one ground control frequency? I’m not trying to defend the AA crew but these things seldom have only one causal factor. (ASDE/X saved the day… not the solitary ground controller who was probably busy yelling at Air China.)

          • I agree, questioning every rwy crossing clearance (instead of only those where there are doubts) is neither practical nor good use of busy frequencies.

  2. One can only wonder if the crewmembers looked out the windows and said “clear left”/”clear right” respectively before crossing the hold short line. Is that required at AAL? It’s unfortunate that the CVR data was overwritten and thus lost in the mists of history.

  3. American Airlines is done. They’ve had their turn to play in the big games, and now, just like every other airline that’s ever existed, they are going to collapse. Then some other airlines will come along and be the next big deal. History repeating itself yet once again.

  4. I don’t understand the unwillingness to have testimony recorded if you’re telling the “truth, whole truth, nothing but…” It might put a court reporters’ job at risk..??
    The few times I’ve been in court always left me with the wonder why the whole thing wasn’t audio and visually recorded…. and why I had to PAY to get a copy of my own testimony!

    • FAA “pilot bill of rights”, anything you say can and will be used against you! Any recording or printed report can be accessed by local courts as previously happened before. NTSB’s record of keeping such records confidential is not encouraging. I’m sure this crew has filed an ASAP report with their company and, hopefully a NASA report also.

  5. I am not taking any sides. I do not have access to any facts pertaining to those pilots or that cockpit. What I know is that Jennifer Homendy recently took the “reins” of control over at the NTSB and this is not the first time NTSB investigative procedures (under her control as Chairperson) have raised eyebrows. Maybe we need more information about procedural changes she has introduced at NTSB before we question the Allied Pilots Association (union) reason for initially rejecting a recorded session. Just a thought.