US NTSB: just plain rude, or something more unpleasant

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I hope this is not a sign of things to come. The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been behaving very oddly with respect to the fuel-icing issue on Boeing 777s thrown up by the British Airways crash at Heathrow last year.

At best they’ve been plain bloody rude to their UK equivalents, at worst they’re committing the cardinal sin of dragging politics into safety. On this occasion I’m discounting the cock-up theory.

The question is: why did the NTSB release its own high-profile findings on this UK investigation 24 hours before the actual investigating authority – the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) – put out its own highly detailed report?

For a couple of weeks now it’s been common knowledge in the industrythat the AAIB was about to produce its second interim report on thisvery difficult investigation. It’s been keenly awaited because it’seffectively not just an investigation of what happened on this flight,but on the whole issue of fuel-icing which may have much widerconsequences.

Now, it only takes a phone call (I hope anyway) for the AAIB or NTSB tofind out what each other are doing. So I have little doubt that theNTSB knew perfectly well that the AAIB was going to release its reportyesterday afternoon as it did.

However, the NTSB released its own document in the form of a safetyrecommendation a day earlier. That really is very odd behaviour. Whatwas that recommendation based on? Why, the AAIB investigationpresumably.

Now if the NTSB was aware of some major difference of opinion with theAAIB then that would be fair enough – that kind of thing has happenedbefore. But it isn’t – its recommendation is simply that Rolls-Royceshould develop a fix and airlines should implement it.

The AAIB makes basically the same recommendation plus several more.

So I rather think that this is simply the NTSB trashing the normalprotocols in order to look as if it’s on top of the situation. Playingpolitics with safety in other words.

That may make acting NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker look good, and I suppose it’s pretty harmless in isolation, but it’s a slippery slope.

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