The NTSB has taken the rare step of subpoenaing the crew of an American Airlines Boeing 777 involved in a runway incursion at JFK Airport in mid-January. The crew provided written statements but has refused to be interviewed by investigators because their statements will be recorded for later transcription. Controllers agreed to the recorded interviews. The Allied Pilots Association, which represents the pilots, is backing the crew’s decision, saying the recording requirement is a relatively new wrinkle in the investigation process. The NTSB says the recording is necessary to ensure the complete accuracy of the crew statements. “As a result of the flight crew’s repeated unwillingness to proceed with a recorded interview, subpoenas for their testimony have been issued,” the NTSB said in its preliminary report on the incident.
The APA said in a statement that NTSB interviews have historically been done with a stenographer or with the investigators taking their own notes and it believes the recording requirement is counterproductive. “We firmly believe the introduction of electronic recording devices into witness interviews is more likely to hinder the investigation process than it is to improve it,” the union said in its statement. “Not only may the recording of interviews lead to less candid responses from those witnesses who may choose to proceed under such requirements, but the existence and potential availability of interview recordings upon conclusion of an investigation will tend to lead many otherwise willing crew members to elect not to participate in interviews at all. Either outcome would not serve to advance the goal of conducting effective investigations in order to promote aviation safety.”
Meanwhile, the prelim confirms information previously gleaned from ATC tapes and ADS-B-based flight trackers. The 777 crew crossed Runway 4L without clearance as a Delta Air Lines 737 began its takeoff roll after receiving clearance. The potential conflict triggered the Airport Surface Detection Equipment, Model X (ASDE-X) and the controller canceled the Delta flight’s takeoff clearance. The Delta crew hit the brakes at 100 knots after the 777 had already cleared the runway and the closest the two aircraft came was about 1,400 feet.