NTSB, Jamaica launch inquiry into American Airlines crash
KINGSTON, Jamaica - Jamaican and US authorities launched an investigation yesterday to examine whether the pilot of American Airlines Flight 331 could have avoided an accident that cracked open the plane and sent nearly 100 people to the hospital.
One alternative could have been to abort the landing and circle around for another attempt, said Oscar Derby, director general of Jamaica’s Civil Aviation Authority.
The plane’s fuselage broke open, its left main landing gear collapsed, and its nose was crushed. All 154 people aboard survived, with 92 taken to hospitals, but none of the injuries were considered life-threatening. The State Department said 76 of the passengers were US citizens.
Investigation of the wreckage will probably be wrapped up Sunday, Derby said. Officials were interviewing the crew and passengers and looking at flight controls and weather conditions. Other planes landed safely and without difficulty that night, but conditions varied, Derby said.
“The weather was changing by the hour,’’ he said. “The weather experience for that particular flight at that moment could have been somewhat different from the weather experienced by other airlines.’’
A team of six US investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board was in Kingston to assist the inquiry led by the Jamaican government, agency spokesman Keith Holloway said.
One of two flight data recorders was retrieved and taken to the NTSB laboratory in Washington. The second will arrive after the holidays, Holloway said.
The pilot had 22 years experience, while the first officer had 10 years experience, said American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely. The pilot and first officer were completing a 12-hour shift when the arrived in Jamaica.