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Report on AA crash finds landing-conditions breaches

Published:Friday | May 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Police guard the wreckage of American Airlines Flight 331 near the seaside above the Port Royal main road in Kingston before it was moved to a hangar at the Norman Manley International Airport in December 2009. - FILE

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

SOME BASIC landing conditions at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) were found to be breached with Jamaican personnel ignoring basic safeguards on December 23, 2009, when an American Airlines Flight 331 overshot the runway, injuring several passengers.

The long-awaited aviation accident report on the incident stated that although some fundamental requirements were met, Jamaica fell down in the area of aerodrome maintenance.

The report said the runway in question was determined to be out of use, but the critical information was never conveyed to the crew of American Airlines flight.

"Currently, the guidance for maintenance standards ... is minimal at best, the report stated. "Standards, particularly in the case of maintenance of runway strips, may be inadequate."

The report added: "We feel that the situation found along the runway edge associated with accumulation of debris and 'edge-damming' along the runway may be the result of insufficient guidance provided to self-inspection and aerodrome maintenance staff.

"In addition, we feel that the situation associated with the accumulation of debris associated with edge-damming is also the result of insufficient training being provided to maintenance staff."

The report suggested that, had staff been properly trained in the International Civil Aviation Organization requirements associated with provision and maintenance of runway strips, the situation that developed along the runway edges may not have occurred.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

"This is the one area where we feel that MKJP (NMIA) could do a better, more thorough job, and JCAA (Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority) could provide more oversight," the report stated. "This is the one specific area where the airport may not be in compliance with the recommended practice.

The report stated that the "well-rested" crew was unable to stop the aircraft on the remaining 4,811 feet of runway and it overran the end of the runway at 62 knots ground speed on Flight AA331 BOEING 737-823 that was carrying 145 passengers and three infants.

It was reportedly operated by a crew of six, on a scheduled flight to the NMIA which landed on runway 12 at 10:22 in the night.

The report stressed that the captain and first officer were properly certified and qualified under Federal Aviation Regulations and company requirements. "The investigation revealed no pre-existing medical or behavioural conditions which might have adversely affected the flight crew's performance during the accident flight."

Local personnel manning the aviation activities were also given a clean bill of health based on their qualifications, expertise and experience.

The report stated that evidence indicated that announcement of the cancellation of the runway closure was never delivered to the flight crew even though it was issued several hours before the flight's departure.

The aircraft broke through a fence, crossed above a road below the runway level, and came to an abrupt stop on the sand dunes and rocks between the road and the waterline of the Caribbean Sea.

The report further stated that there was no post-crash fire, but the aircraft was destroyed, with its fuselage broken into three sections, while the left landing gear collapsed even as the right engine and landing gear were torn off.

The left wingtip was also reportedly badly damaged and the right-wing fuel tanks were ruptured, leaking jet fuel on to the beach sand.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com