NTSB seeks to modify plane’s parking brake after fatal CT crash

The Kansas-based company that built the Cessna 560XL that crashed in Farmington in 2021, killing four people, knew at least five years earlier that the plane lacked a parking brake warning system, which which had been a factor in other crashes, according to federal documents.

But Textron Aviation did not act on recommendations to improve parking brake safety after a crash in Australia in 2015, according to a report on safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board released in May.

The NTSB and the widow of Danbury pilot Mark Morrow, who died in the Farmington crash, now want the Federal Aviation Administration to ask Textron Aviation to make the safety improvements they believe could prevent future tragedies. A Textron spokesperson said the company is awaiting a recommendation from the FAA.

“This was a 10,000 per cent preventable death,” said attorney Douglas Latto, representing Dunja Morrow.

The Farmington crash killed the planes’ two pilots, Morrow, 57, and William O’Leary, 55, of Bristol, and passengers Courtney Haviland, 33, and her husband William Shrauner, 32, both Boston doctors who were expecting their second child. . On the ground, one man was seriously injured and three others suffered minor injuries as a result of the crash, officials said.

The Cessna was cleared to take off from Robertson Airport in Plainville on September 2, 2021, according to reports. But the plane never seemed to reach the proper altitude and looked like “something was wrong” from the start, according to witnesses who spoke to NTSB investigators.

The aircraft was exceeding the airspeed required for takeoff but overshot the runway on a short stretch of grass, pitched up without gaining altitude, impacted the ground and struck a power line pole before crashing. crashing into a Trumpf Inc. building near Farmington, NTSB investigators said in a preliminary report released in late September. The cockpit, cabin and wings were engulfed in flames, the agency said.

The NTSB, which investigates all types of transportation accidents, pointed out in the preliminary report that the plane’s parking brake was still on when the Cessna crashed and the aircraft’s configuration warning system takeoff of the plane “did not incorporate the position of the parking brake valve as part of its activation”. logic.”

This means that there was no light indicating that the parking brake was still engaged that both pilots could see when attempting to take off and there was no verbal checklist item requiring each to call for making sure the brake was disengaged, Latto said.

“Even your car has a light if your emergency brake is on,” said Latto, whose practice only represents victims of aviation accidents. Her client is considering suing Textron Aviation among her options as she continues to struggle with the loss of her husband, Latto said.

At least three other Cessna 560XL or Cessna 550 accidents built by Textron Aviation have been investigated since 2015 by the NTSB or similar authorities in Australia and Nigeria, according to the NTSB safety recommendation report released months before the publication of the final report on the Farmington accident.

The NTSB has no regulatory authority and can only make recommendations to the FAA based on aviation accident investigations.

The federal agency wants the FAA to issue an “airworthiness directive” that would require Textron Aviation to install warning systems in all existing and newly manufactured Cessna 560XLs or 550s and update pilot take-off lists to include a check of the parking brake is still engaged. . The FAA could also choose to make recommended but not mandatory changes or adjust the recommendations, Latto said.

The decision to adopt an “airworthiness directive” comes six years after Australian authorities recommended that Textron Aviation update parking brake safety systems following an accident there in 2015, according to the NTSB report.

But at the time, Textron declined to add the features, the NTSB said. In a 2017 response to the Australian Inquiry Report, “Textron said the recommended actions were not necessary as it was a ‘simple sense of air’ to remember to release the parking brake before takeoff,” the NTSB said. As a result, Textron did not update its pre-takeoff checklists or add a parking brake warning system, the federal agency said.

The airline is currently reviewing the NTSB’s safety recommendations and awaiting a decision from the FAA on whether or not the proposed safety changes are necessary, Textron Aviation spokeswoman Sarah White said.

“Textron Aviation is awaiting the Federal Aviation Administration’s position and recommendations regarding the NTSB’s findings,” said White, who declined to comment on the crash, citing the NTSB’s ongoing investigation.

The FAA acknowledged Wednesday that the agency was working on the recommendations with the manufacturer, but declined to specify a timeline for determining whether Textron Aviation would be required to install the parking brake safety features.

The FAA institutes about 80% of the safety recommendations issued by the NTSB, said FAA spokesman Eric Weiss.

No one was injured in the Australian crash that happened in South Wales in September 2015, agency officials said. But the pilot had to abort the takeoff when he realized he was not gaining altitude, according to Australian authorities. The plane ended up careened beyond the runway with the nose landing gear detached, the Australian Transport Safety Board said in a 2016 report.

The Australian agency concluded in its investigation that the parking brake, which was still engaged, prevented the acceleration necessary for the pilot to take off properly and also prevented the pilot from bringing the aircraft to a safe stop on the runway.

The NTSB made similar findings, stating that the engaged parking brake does not prevent Cessna 560XLs from gaining altitude, but may also prohibit pilots from safely aborting takeoff.

The NTSB also investigated a 2019 Cessna 560XL crash in Oroville, Calif., where the plane also overran the runway while the pilot aborted takeoff because he was not gaining altitude, according to a report. . In this case, the pilot and passengers were uninjured but the plane was destroyed by a “post-impact” fire, the NTSB said.

The cause of this crash was likely “the pilot’s failure to release the parking brake before attempting to initiate takeoff,” the NTSB said. The fact that the aircraft did not have a warning system that the parking brake was engaged and there were no checklist items to ensure the parking brake was “fully loosened immediately before takeoff” were contributing factors to this accident, according to the NTSB report.

In those cases, the pilots and their passengers survived and were not seriously injured, the NTSB said. But the planes were heavily damaged, the agency noted. This is because the topography beyond the runway during these crashes was flat, allowing pilots to abort takeoff without crashing into objects, including hills, highways or water, the company said. ‘agency.

Just beyond the Plainville track, the ground drops, Latto said. This created a scenario where O’Leary, the lead pilot, pulled very hard on the yoke to get the plane airborne, but tarmac friction prevented the plane from taking off, the lawyer said.

As the ground collapsed, the friction stopped, which likely caused the plane to rapidly flip upwards, Latto said. This kind of sudden change can cause the plane to stall, leaving a pilot with no options, he said.

The parking brake warning system “should be on every plane,” Latto said. “We are talking about human lives.