NTSB’s Final Words

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Tampa Skyscraper Crash…

Released Monday, the NTSB’s factual narrative on the January5 teen / skyscraper crash in Tampa, which brought front-and-center the specterof GA terrorism and precipitated a list of non-mandatory recommendations fromthe FAA to flight schools, adds a little more to the story than what wepreviously knew. The 15-year-old student pilot who alone took a flight school’sCessna 172 aloft and crashed it into the Bank of America building in downtownTampa first flew through MacDill Air Force Base airspace, this we knew. What wedidn’t know was that while inside that airspace the boy also flew within”a few feet” of the controltower. The NTSB now says Charles Bishop buzzed three base hangars, flew by thetower and then flew 75 to 100 feet above two loaded tanker planes. A CoastGuard helicopter tried to get Bishop to land, but was unsuccessful. Bishop thenturned toward Tampa where he crashed a few minutes later in an apparentsuicide. In spite of much speculation about Bishops motives, includingtheories of terrorism, the NTSB did not find any evidence to support his claimsthat the crash was an act of terrorism. Further speculation about the possiblerole of a prescription acne medication, which listed “suicidal ideation,suicide attempts and suicide” in its warnings section, was notsupported by the report’s medical and pathological section, which states,”the examination revealed no Ethanol or drugs detected in the blood.”

…Maintenance, Approvals, And Alaska Airlines Crash

Its not quite final yet, but the NTSB is working on a draftreport that casts blame on flawed maintenance practices permitted by the FAA forthe January 2000 crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261. All 88 on board werekilled when the plane plunged into the sea near Point Mugu, Calif. Specifically,The Seattle Times says the NTSB cites “insufficient lubrication” as causingthe jackscrew mechanism — part of the aircraft’s stabilizer assembly — tofail. FAA officials previously testified that they could not provide an accountof how the part was approved, nor could they provide records of the processthat approved it. However, the FAA had given approval for the airline to reducethe frequency of lubrication of the jackscrew, while also increasing the periodbetween inspections. The report also accuses Alaska Airlines of having seriousflaws in its maintenance operations, but the NTSB says that design flaws in theMD-80 were also a factor. The ruling could lead to mandated modifications ofthe MD-80, as well as the 717. Flight 261 crashed January 31, 2000, off thesouthern California coast. The flight was en route from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico,to San Francisco and Seattle.