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Pilots in JFK close-call to comply with NTSB subpoenas

The Allied Pilots Association responded to the NTSB's issuance of subpoenas for the flight crew of American Airlines flight 106, which refused recorded interviews after the runway incursion on Jan. 13 at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK). The Allied Pilots Association's initial statement opposed the recorded interviews but a representative announced the pilots would comply with the subpoenas. Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the APA said that the pilots would appear before the NTSB for their interviews in accordance with the subpoenas. This decision came after the initial APA response that felt recorded interviews would hinder the investigative process and stood by the flight crew's refusal to participate. Fox Business reported that the union further noted that they are prohibited from speaking about the investigation while it is pending. The NTSB announced it was issuing the subpoenas when it released the preliminary report, stating the interviews can help with the conversations and activities leading up to the incursion.RELATED STORY:Flight crew refuses interview after JFK runway incursion, NTSB issues subpoenas While investigating the runway incursion at JFK, the NTSB requested recorded interviews with the flight crew from both planes involved since the recorder data from both the aircraft and the cockpit voice recorder was overwritten. The AA flight crew's schedule was cleared for the interview process, but the crew refused to take part in an interview "on the basis that their statements would be audio recorded for transcription." An APA representative told the NTSB they would not consent to a recorded interview and the organization issued a statement on the matter. The organization was concerned with the insistence on electronically recorded interviews and felt that doing so "is more likely to hinder the investigation process than it is to improve it."Figure from the preliminary report "Not only may the recording of interviews lead to less candid responses from those witnesses who may choose to proceed under such requirements, but the existence and potential availability of interview recordings upon conclusion of an investigation will tend to lead many otherwise willing crew members to elect not to participate in interviews at all," the statement said. "Either outcome would not serve to advance the goal of conducting effective investigations in order to promote aviation safety." The statement noted that the board's published investigation manual says non-consensual recording of witness interviews is not allowed and implementing changes to long-standing investigative practices would discourage cooperative witnesses from participating. "Implementing changes to established practices, especially those with a demonstrated history of success, in a way that discourages otherwise cooperative witnesses from participating in the fact-finding process is antithetical to the purpose and goal of the NTSB," the statement said. In their statement on the use of recorded interviews in accident investigations, the NTSB said that the recordings are used for the highest accuracy and completeness of critical evidence and the practice has been used in multiple past investigations involving commercial airlines. CVR only records two hours of flight data so the evidence had been overwritten by another departing flight, making the transcripts from the flight crew's account of the incident particularly important. The NTSB also made the request that the FAA require commercial air carriers to be equipped with CVR capable or storing at least 25 hours of audio. The preliminary report outlined the information currently known about the incursion but recorded audio from the flight crew is important when looking into operational factors like human performance or traffic control. The incursion occurred when the AA flight crossed the runway without ATC clearance, making the crew's statements important to understanding what happened to cause the close call. On the day of the near-miss, the AA plane had been given clearance to cross runway 31L at taxiway K and upon reaching the intersection of taxiways B and K, continued without clearance. The Delta Airlines flight 1943 in a Boeing 737-900ER had begun its take-off roll and was increasing speed, reaching 2,700 feet from the intersection when the AA flight entered the runway. ASDE-X alerted the tower to the potential conflict and Delta's takeoff was aborted, stopping 500 feet short of taxiway J. The closest point of contact between the aircraft was 1,400 feet. This close call is one of the many in a string of recent runway incursions. Runway incursions are steadily increasing at a time when organizations like the FAA are under scrutiny for the growing concern over aviation safety.RELATED STORIES:FAA's new rule requires SMS program implementation at over 200 airportsReturning to 'gold standard for aviation safety' top priority at Senate committee hearing with FAA's Billy NolenRecent runway incursions cause alarm, stats show they are on the rise Runway incursions like the JFK near-miss are bringing attention to the concern across airports in the country, with the FAA imposing a new rule to impact over 200 airports in order to increase safety. The recent rule would enforce an SMS program at approximately 256 certified airports, covering 90 percent of all US. passenger enplanements and facilities with the largest number of commercial operations. With a spike in runway incursions and the standard of safety in aviation at risk, cooperation is imperative to conducting accident reports and investigations that can prevent incidents like this in the future.
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