Friday, March 28, 2008

NTSB investigates separation of wing panel from US Airways Boeing 757

NTSB logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has announced that it will investigate the recent aircraft accident in which a panel from the wing of a US Airways Boeing 757-200 separated during flight. That's right, I said "aircraft accident," because that's what the NTSB is now calling it.

Here is an excerpt from the NTSB press advisory about the investigation, issued yesterday:
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating an aircraft accident in which a panel from the wing of a US Airways B-757, flight 1250 en route from Orlando, Florida, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, separated from the aircraft somewhere over Maryland. The aircraft landed in Philadelphia about 30 minutes after the separation occurred. None of the 174 passengers or 6 crew were injured.

On Saturday, March 22, 2008, at about 9:30 a.m. EDT, a composite panel, measuring about 4 feet by 5 feet, on the trailing edge of the upper side of the left wing, broke lose from the aircraft and struck several of the windows towards the rear of the aircraft. The impact caused the outer pane of one window to crack. The inner pane was undamaged and the pressurization of the aircraft was not compromised.

Because the loss of the wing panel adversely affected the flight characteristics of the aircraft, the event has been classified as an accident.
The errant wing panel is still missing. Investigators are at work trying to define a search area by "using a specialized computer program to perform a Ballistic Trajectory Analysis with data such as the aircraft ground track, speed, prevailing winds and other factors." Once the data have been modeled, the Board will notify local authorities in the vicinity where the panel is most likely to be found.

At present, the content of the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and the flight data recorder (FDR) are being evaluated at the NTSB's laboratory in Washington, DC.

The investigation team includes representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, US Airways, and the Air Line Pilots Association.