NTSB Reaffirms PenAir Accident Probe Conclusion

Credit: NTSB

WASHINGTON—The NTSB is standing by its determination that a latent technical fault was the primary factor in the 2019 runway overrun of a PenAir Saab 2000 in Alaska, emphasizing that feedback from UK and Swedish counterparts challenging some of the board’s conclusions was reflected in the final report.

The Swedish Accident Investigation Authority (SHK) and UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) ) recently submitted comments on the NTSB’s probe based on a draft of the final report. Among the European investigators’ conclusions: the NTSB’s final report did not sufficiently emphasize the PenAir flight crew’s role in the accident sequence. 

The NTSB determined the crew’s decision to land with a tailwind and not change the aircraft’s configuration to permit a slower approach—and less runway stopping distance—contributed to the overrun that killed one passenger. 

The primary cause, however, was a latent mechanical issue that affected the aircraft’s braking system, the U.S. investigators found.

SHK and AAIB, which participated in the probe, countered in comments filed on the draft report that the two issues played equal roles.

“The NTSB, SHK and AAIB all agreed that the aeronautical decision-making of the flight crew played a role in the accident,” the U.S. agency said in response to the comments. “The NTSB determined that the flight crew’s inadequate decision‑making skills contributed to the accident and that the miswiring of the Saab 2000’s landing gear wheel speed sensors was causal to the accident. SHK and AAIB believed that both the flight crew’s faulty decision-making and the incorrect wiring of the landing gear wheel speed sensors caused the accident.”

The NTSB added that some of the issues raised by SHK and AAIB were discussed during the Nov. 2 final board meeting that reviewed the draft report. 

“Deliberations during that meeting resulted in changes to the draft report that addressed some of the comments made by SHK and AAIB,” the NTSB said.

The NTSB included the SHK and AAIB comments in the final report.

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.