Friday, July 11, 2008

NTSB photos and update on the incident involving Sen. Obama's plane

Deployed escape slide inside aircraft tail coneYesterday, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an advisory with updated information about the incident in which a chartered plane carrying U.S. Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama diverted to St. Louis due to a mechanical problem. The MD-81 aircraft, chartered from Midwest Airlines, was carrying Sen. Obama and his party from Chicago to Charlotte, NC, when it developed a "flight control anomaly." The plane diverted to St. Louis, where it landed safely. No one was injured.

Once the aircraft was on the ground at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, it was discovered that the escape slide within the tail cone of the aircraft had deployed in flight. Along with today's update on the incident, the NTSB provided two photos, republished here. The first photo shows the deployed tail cone evacuation slide from incident airplane; the second shows an undeployed tail cone evacuation slide as installed on another aircraft, for comparison. [Click on the photos for a larger view.]

Undeployed escape slideThe NTSB advisory issued on July 10, 2008 provides this additional information about the Board's investigation of this incident:
Preliminary findings reveal that the slide was partially inflated and the inflation bottle was empty. Examination of the hardware did not reveal any evidence of missing components, nor any evidence of tampering.

The slide and hardware were removed from the aircraft for examination. There was no evidence of any punctures in the slide; however, there were marks consistent with rubbing of elevator control cables. Additional evidence was found to indicate that a catwalk railing was broken and impinged upon elevator control cables. The slide and hardware will be sent to the manufacturer for detailed examinations supervised by the NTSB.

The flight recorders have been removed and are en route to NTSB headquarters for download and analysis. Flight crew statements indicate that the crew did not hear the slide deploy in flight nor did a mechanic who was seated in the rear of the airplane. The flight crew confirmed that they detected elevator control stiffness during the initial level off after departure from Chicago Midway Airport. Maintenance records have been secured for further examination.

Research has been initiated into the certification of the slide, its service history, and its design interface with the airplane.
The NTSB completed the on scene phase of the investigation on July 9, 2008.

[Photo Source]