Expectation Bias Cited In NTSB’s Final Report On 2022 JetBlue Tail-Strike


The NTSB has concluded a JetBlue captain’s decision to take off prematurely to prevent a potential head-on collision with an opposing King Air led to a heavy tailstrike that forced an emergency diversion.

As we reported at the time, the incident occurred at Yampa Valley Airport in January of 2022. The airport does not have a control tower so pilots operating there were receiving instructions from Denver-area controllers while communicating with each other on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF).

The report says the JetBlue flight crew announced their intention to taxi to Runway 10 for departure. Meanwhile, a Beechcraft B300 King Air reported it was nine minutes out and planned to land on Runway 10. The King Air pilots later changed their plan, opting to land on Runway 28, reiterating the decision multiple times over the CTAF as they approached.

At 11:55 the JetBlue aircraft received clearance to take off with a specified two-minute clearance time. However, the flight crew thought the King Air was landing on Runway 10 in the same direction they were to take off. The crew’s misunderstanding led them to accelerate their departure to stay ahead of the traffic. The captain and first officer said they never saw the other aircraft and veered to the right after takeoff due to an indication from the onboard traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS). The captain pitched the aircraft up 24 knots before rotation speed to avoid the King Air and subsequently struck the tail.

The final report also cited the JetBlue pilots’ expectation bias as a contributing factor, noting, “In this case, the crew’s expectation that the King Air was arriving on Runway 10, biased their perception of incoming information such that contradictory evidence (radio calls indicating the King Air was landing on Runway 28) was ignored or manipulated in the brain to be consistent with the person’s current expectation.”

The JetBlue flight reached 16,000 feet before the crew decided to divert to Denver for an inspection of the aircraft. It was grounded and other arrangements were made for the passengers, some of whom posted videos of the experience on social media.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. I’ll bet the Jet Blue crew were not used to uncontrolled airport ops as well. I never received a 2 minute void time and would never accept such a tight time, too many things (checklist items, traffic) that can get overlooked in a 2 pilot airplane.

    • It would most likely have been up to the chief pilot on duty whether or not to remove them, non punitively I would hazard a guess, immediately from further duty pending investigation. The ASAP program is a robust tool that would be employed as this fits the criteria for inclusion.

      A sample recommendation, might be remedial ground training including threat and error management, runway incursions, and operations at non-towered airports followed by a four hour simulator session with emphasis on TCAS procedures and rejected takeoff considerations for various abnormals with and without emergency evacuation.

      One note I might add is the article says the 320 veered to the right after takeoff due to the TCAS (RA) I assume. For many reasons discussed here before, TCAS procedures do not include lateral guidance so that may have been a point of discussion during the investigation as well.

      • I wonder about the TCAS comment as well. TCAS Resolution Advisorys only provide vertical guidance, and are inhibited on the ground, and below 1000 feet AGL. Perhaps the pilots were responding to seeing the King Air on their traffic display or receiving a Traffic Advisory…

      • (I think) The proper response to opposite-direction traffic during takeoff below V1 would be to abort the takeoff.

  2. HDN is already a bad mix of 91, 135 and 121 ops. Add no tower to that mix and you have an incident or worse waiting to happen. If the high season clientele served by this airport can afford their winged sleigh rides to and from, they can afford a private tower.

    • I disagree. I have flown in and out of HDN with clients during ski season. It just means that flight crews need to be cognizant of uncontrolled ops and have a little consideration for each other. It’s not that difficult!

      • Yes Matt I’ve done the same and for the most part consideration for each other happens. And yes it’s not that difficult. It’s the one time that consideration is not given for whatever reason combined with crews not used to uncontrolled ops that things go badly.

  3. Don’t assume anything at an uncontrolled airport. Verify the location of any other aircraft. Two minute void time? Call and get another release from ATC. Don’t create a dangerous situation by being in a hurry. (Why didn’t the NTSB include the flight crews rushed operation as a causal factor?)

  4. What about the King Air crew’s portion of responsibility? Sure, they are allowed to change their plan, and they didn’t cause the tail strike, but when an aircraft is assigned to take off on an active runway, the king air crew seem to have messed up here.

  5. Was the clearance a clearance to operate in Class E airspace under IFR? Where does that begin at HDN? Does ATC at least have the obligation to notify the JetBlue traffic of any known or observed traffic in the area?

    “Rushing to Comply” could be the title to almost every incident/accident report because when you rush, you jettison the planning necessary for safe flight.

    • That is exactly right. If I audit every mistake I’ve made in aviation, and consider those of others, I find that being in a hurry is almost always the root cause. As far as the void time issue, “unable” is one of the most powerful words in the aviation vocabulary. Never let another person – pilot or controller – cause you to do something you wouldn’t do if you were in total control.

  6. Technical correction:

    “At 11:55 the JetBlue aircraft received clearance to take off with a specified two-minute clearance time.”

    As this was a non-towered airport, there would have been no takeoff clearance. This would have been a departure release from Denver Center.

  7. I’m also interested to knowing if the king air was IFR as well. Doesn’t appear so from the article, because the JetBlue acct wouldn’t have been given a clearance to takeoff until the king air landed and called the center and cancelled reported they had landed.

    • Denver ATC cannot give a takeoff clearance. They give a departure clearance. The King Air could still be on an IFR clearance. Denver ATC has every right to expect that the aircraft at the uncontrolled airport communicate on local frequency as was being done by the King Air.
      Regarding the 2 minutes. There seems to be a lot of misperception as to what happens. You call for your clearance while still on ramp. They will ask you when you want to depart. You give them an estimate and they will tell you to contact them when you are ready. You depart the gate on CTAF and coordinate with any other aircraft in the area. You reach the hold short line and are ready to go. You contact Denver for your release. Denver says something to the effect of Cleared to enter controlled airspace. If not off within 2 minutes contact us on (freq) and advise of intentions.
      Very simple procedures and very safe and effective as long as pilots follow them. There really is no excuse for a professional pilot to not know and follow these procedures.

      • ttuite767, an aircraft cannot receive a release while another IFR aircraft is inbound. Similarly, once a release has been issued and acknowledged, “Other IFR traffic for the airport where the clearance is issued is suspended until the aircraft has contacted ATC or until 30 minutes after the clearance void time…” AIM 5-2-7(a)(1) Note 1.
        This is one reason why the advise is NOT to cancel your IFR flight plan at an uncontrolled airport until on the ground. There have been several accidents where an inbound cancelled IFR and had a conflict with an aircraft was released for an IFR departure from the same airport. If you don’t cancel IFR, you are protected from IFR departures. Had the King Air been on an IFR flight plan while inbound, the Jet Blue would not have been given a release.

    • Chris P, you are correct. What happened here is that the king air had been IFR, but reported the airport in sight and been told to squawk 1200. It’s in the NTSB report, but not the article.

      • “Airport in sight” does NOT mean “Cancel IFR”. If he/she was told to squawk 1200, he/she did the latter.

        • Sorry…I was trying to be brief, but maybe should have been more precise. From the NTSB final report…
          “the King Air flight crew was contacting Denver ARTCC to cancel their IFR flight plan because they had visually acquired HDN and intended to land on runway 28. The Denver ARTCC controller acknowledged the IFR cancellation, instructed them to squawk 1200 in the
          aircraft’s transponder and approved a radio frequency change.”

  8. Dead Right is still dead!! About we go around what for the big silver tube crowd killer to take off and we land when it is safe to do so?? (BTW) the “silver tube crowd killer” was my dad’s. Vietnam vet who flew the CH-34.

  9. Just for credibility purposes, I’ve been “coaching” instrument rated pilots and Instrument
    wanna bes consistenly for 25 + years. Anyway, this SHOULD be pretty straight forward at a non towered airport. For the departing IFR traffic it is: monitor CTAF, get clearance, monitor CTAF, get release, monitor CTAF, ANNOUNCE DEPARTURE INTENTIONS to include departing runway continue to monitor CTAF, contact departure when local traffic is no longer a factor. Naturally, especially if departing in VMC, look outside. For the arrival traffic: IFR or VFR insure CTAF awareness as best as possible no later than 8-10 mile final/base leg/pattern entry. Make appropriate position report with intentions. Announce pattern entry if that is the case, again with intentions/runway to be used. Announce 1-2 mile final, to include runway approaching.

    We all know there are a mess of “ifs” and “buts”, but arguably, this should not have happened.

  10. I’m with Frank Loeffler here. Perhaps we are unconsciously altering our thinking about the uncontrolled field rules of procedure because a 121 Operation aircraft/crew was involved. I suspect that if the 121 crew was monitoring the CTAF – as all the other traffic is required to – “…arguably, this should not have happened.” These 2 pilots will probably never accept a 2 minute IFR window again at an uncontrolled field with traffic broadcasting on CTAF in the area, but that factor amounts to a contributing factor, not a cause. The cause is most likely failure to monitor CTAF continuously at an uncontrolled field. With 2 pilots on the flight deck, there is no excuse for not monitoring CTAF continuously.

  11. No one has asked or mentioned the terror the passengers went through so I will throw this out there.
    It was terrifying for every passenger onboard, a loud bang, the right wing down to a point where passengers looking out the starboard windows could see nothing but the ground up close. Or the wing tip seeming to be just shy of ground contact. Traumatizing, anxiety inducing, ptsd potentially. I spoke to Amanda, a passenger on the flight with a window seat on the right side the day after the event at the Denver airport, who I sat next to at a bar in the terminal. Amanda’s anxiety was through the roof. She thought she was going to die in a flaming airplane crash. Jetblue did absolutely nothing to help any traumatized passenger(s)on that near miss accident. Basically JetBlue gaslighted her as far as I could understand. With the final report out, I hope its enough to make JetBlue accountable to those who suffered emotional trauma from this horrible experience.

  12. ” With the final report out, I hope its enough to make JetBlue accountable to those who suffered emotional trauma from this horrible experience.”

    No, this, and every NTSB report for the last handful of decades says:
    49 U.S. Code § 1154
    No part of a report of the Board, related to an accident or an investigation of an accident, may be admitted into evidence or used in a civil action for damages resulting from a matter mentioned in the report.

    “make JetBlue accountable” – what exactly does that mean? Are you saying the girl you met at an airport bar said she wants some money, and after a couple of drinks you think someone else should give it to her?

    “that near miss accident.”
    The report is showing that the two planes never got closer than 2.27 nm in-line. I’m within 1/4 mile of other traffic in the runway environment pretty much every day, it’s usually SWA at my airport breathing down my neck on a rapid “N123 cleared for takeoff, expedite, no delay” clearance, and I am certainly traumatized 2000 times a year, where’s my $$$ at?

    “Jetblue did absolutely nothing to help any traumatized passenger(s)on that near miss accident.” – again, besides paying her some money, what do you want? If it’s the money, how does that help?

    “Traumatizing, anxiety inducing, ptsd potentially. ” – that sums up pretty much every B6 flight I’ve been on, but there’s no NTSB report for breaking down the chain of errors that led to me sitting next to a family of 8 going to Orlando unfortunately. But hey, Give Me Money!!!

    “Basically JetBlue gaslighted her as far as I could understand.”
    As far as you can understand from a conversation at a bar with a woman you just met. Got it.
    For frank’s sake, if I never hear that G term again… But shout out to a great movie BTW, can’t go wrong with Joseph Cotton.