NTSB Board Discusses Cause Of Houston Atlas Air Crash

On February 23rd, 2019, Atlas Air flight 3591, heading to George Bush Intercontinental from Miami International, crashed near Anahuac, Texas. This incident resulted in three fatalities. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) today held a webcast to determine what happened.

Amazon Air 767 Getty
Atlas Air was operating a scheduled domestic shipping service for Amazon Air. Photo: Getty Images

The probable cause

The Aviation Herald has shared the transcript of the discussion. According to investigations, the co-pilot on the Boeing 767-300F inadvertently activated a form of autopilot and panicked as he incorrectly thought the plane was stalling.

Therefore, the crew crashed into a marshy area at Trinity Bay. Unfortunately, the captain, the first officer, and a non-revenue pilot, lost their lives as a result.

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“The NTSB determines that the probable cause of this accident was the inappropriate response by the first officer as the pilot flying to an inadvertent activation of the go-around mode, which led to his spatial disorientation and nose-down control inputs that placed the airplane in a steep descent from which the crew did not recover,” the NTSB said, as per The Aviation Herald.

“Contributing to the accident was the captain’s failure to adequately monitor the airplane’s flightpath and assume positive control of the airplane to effectively intervene.”

An industry failure

Moreover, the group believes that systemic deficiencies in the aviation industry’s selection and performance measurement practices also contributed to this incident. It also shares that the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) failure to implement the pilot records database in a sufficiently robust and timely manner is a contributing factor.

Atlas Air cargo
Atlas Air specializes in cargo operations. Photo: Atlas Air

The chair concluded that if the FAA had done its job, this pilot would not have been employed by Atlas. Subsequently, this accident would not have occurred.

A word from Atlas

Simple Flying has seen a statement from John Dietrich, the president and chief executive officer of Atlas Air Worldwide. He said that the accident has significantly impacted all of the members of staff at the company. He also added that firm remains heartbroken about the losses, and it continues to provide the affected families with care and support.

Atlas Air
Atlas was shocked about the crash. Photo: Atlas Air

Additionally, he said that Atlas has been working closely with the NTSB to learn what took place and why it happened. Above all, the institution’s report provides vital findings that will help the airline and the aviation community to improve safety across our industry.

Furthermore, the executive adds that there is a critical need for an enhanced federal pilot records database. This move would provide operators with full visibility of crew history in the hiring process. 

Altogether, Atlas will undoubtedly be eager to understand how this crash happened. The airline takes safety seriously, and since the incident, it has made several important enhancements to its hiring, training, and pilot review processes.

What are your thoughts on what happened on this Atlas Air operation last year? What do you make of the NTSB’s findings? Let us know what you think of the incident in the comment section.