The NTSB saysan Ameristar Charters MD-83 crew “did everything right” and likely saved their lives and those of 110 team members and supporters of the University of Michigan basketball team when the aircraft overran the runway at Ypsilanti Airport near Detroit last March. The aircraft’s right elevator mechanism had been damaged in a windstorm a few days earlier and the damage was undetected and virtually undetectable by the crew until they tried to rotate the airliner on takeoff. “This is the kind of extreme scenario that most pilots never encounter—discovering that their plane won’t fly only after they know they won’t be able to stop it on the available runway,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt. “These two pilots did everything right after things started to go very wrong.”
Investigators determined the elevator mechanism was damaged by wind turbulence that caused the elevators to “flap” and damage the actuating system on the right elevator. The crew cycled the flight controls as part of their regular check and the controls behaved normally, which the NTSB flagged as a safety issue with the type. When the flying pilot pulled back at V1, the right side remained deflected downward at 15 degrees and the left one went up 16 degrees. The plane didn’t rotate and at 158 knots and more than two-thirds of the way down the 7,500-foot runway, the pilot aborted. The aircraft left the runway, used up the 1,000-foot overrun and ended up 950 feet beyond the perimeter fence. There were no serious injuries.