Federal investigators said Friday they issued subpoenas to force the pilots of an American Airlines plane to sit down for taped interviews about a close call with a Delta plane on a runway in Kennedy Airport in New York last month.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it attempted to interview the crew members three times, but a union representative said the pilots refused to have their statements recorded.
“The NTSB has determined that this investigation requires that interviews with the flight crew be recorded and transcribed by a court reporter to ensure the highest degree of accuracy, completeness and efficiency,” the agency said. in a preliminary report. “Due to the flight crew’s repeated reluctance to conduct a recorded interview, subpoenas for their testimony have been issued.”
The three pilots have seven days to respond to subpoenas, which order them to report for interviews at NTSB headquarters in Washington. American said he is not currently flying for the airline.
NTSB investigators will not hear any conversations between the pilots in the cockpit during the incident – in some cases, a very valuable investigative tool. The recording was recorded when the crew took off for London shortly after the close call.
The NTSB said an American Airlines Boeing 777 crossed an active runway on Jan. 13 without air traffic controllers’ approval, leading to a close call with a Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 taking off on the same runway. track.
Disaster was averted when an air traffic controller, using an expletive, urgently told the Delta jet pilots to abort their takeoff. Audio recordings show that the controller immediately communicated the seriousness of the situation to the American Airlines crew.
The pilots have not been identified. The union that advised them not to show up for interviews said it objects that the NTSB is now recording those interviews instead of just taking notes, which the union says is sufficiently accurate.
“NTSB investigations are meant to be fact-finding proceedings without adversarial parties. We do not believe this should be an adversarial issue,” the Allied Pilots Association said in a statement.
The union said changing interviews from notes to tapes “deters otherwise cooperative witnesses from participating in the investigative process” and defeats the purpose of promoting safety.
The NTSB said it had a long practice of recording certain interviews, and that it is particularly important in this case because the cockpit voice recording was overwritten.
“It’s unusual for pilots not to agree to be interviewed,” said John Cox, a former airline pilot and now a safety consultant.
American, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, said it was cooperating with the NTSB.
The American crew took off shortly after the nighttime incident and completed their scheduled flight to London. The Delta pilots flew their plane back to the gate. Delta picked up passengers overnight and the plane departed the next morning for the Dominican Republic.
Cockpit voice recordings in both aircraft were lost as a result. Devices typically capture a two-hour loop before being recorded.
The NTSB said an air traffic controller at JFK was alerted to the danger of the US plane crossing the wrong runway by a surveillance system that allows controllers to track the movement of planes and ground vehicles.
The board said the American Airlines Boeing 777 and Delta’s Boeing 737 were about 1,400ft apart at the closest point – a bit further apart than previously reported.
Another close call happened last weekend at Austin, Texas airport when a FedEx cargo plane was cleared to land on the same runway a Southwest Airlines plane was taking off from. The FedEx pilots were able to abort their landing and avoid a collision. The NTSB is also investigating this incident.