2005-01-07 / Community

Report: Airbus, AA Lobbied NTSB Members

By Howard Schwach

The chairwoman for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) told reporters gathered for a breakfast sponsored by an aviation advocacy group that the unprecedented lobbying of board members by American Airlines and Airbus over the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 was inappropriate and may have delayed the final report on the cause of the November, 2001 crash in Belle Harbor.

According to a published report in Newsday, the lobbying consisted of one on one meetings between the five NTSB members who had the final vote on what caused the crash and representatives from both the aircraft manufacturer and the airline involved in the crash.

“That’s not an appropriate thing to be happening,” NTSB chairwoman Ellen Engleman Conners reportedly said at the breakfast. “The potential for contaminating the investigation exists.” Engleman Conners said, however, that she did not believe that the lobbying affected the conclusions of the report.

Sylvia Adcock, the Newsday Staff Correspondent who wrote the report, said that board member Carol Carmody, when asked about the remarks, agreed that the lobbying in the AA 587 case was inappropriate, but that board member Deborah Hershman said that she met twice with Airbus and three or four times with American Airlines over the course of several months and did not find that to be excessive. “It’s part of our obligation to meet with the public,” Adcock reports her as saying.

The final report blamed the crash on First Officer Sten Molin, who was flying the departure from John F. Kennedy Airport that day. That report, which was issued late last year, said that Molin “excessively and inappropriately” used the plane’s rudders in such a way as to rip the tail section from the Airbus A300-600.

According to the NTSB report, there were also two contributing factors for the crash, which killed all 260 people on the plane and five on the ground – the design of the Airbus A-300’s rudder system and the American Airlines pilot training program.

Airbus and American are presently fighting it out in federal court in Manhattan to decide liability for the crash.

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