The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has rebuked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for publicly releasing internal documents relating to an ongoing aircraft accident investigation.
The FAA’s disclosure – first reported by Flightglobal – violated a prohibition on releasing information during an active investigation, the NTSB says.
“The NTSB has shared its strong concern about this matter with the FAA,” the NTSB statement says.
The controversy stems from the investigation of an accident involving US Airways flight 1702 on 13 March. The landing gear of the Airbus A320 collapsed during take-off, causing the aircraft to slide 2,000ft down the runway, causing minor injuries to passengers.
The FAA subsequently released preliminary information related to the investigation, following a request under the Freedom of Information Act. These documents were later obtained by Flightglobal, which reported on them in a news article on 12 December. Several Philadelphia and national media outlets then picked up the story about three weeks later.
The NTSB says that the FAA should have asked for permission before releasing such documents, but failed to do so.
The FAA documents provide details of the initial investigation at the scene of the accident by an agency inspector. That inspector’s observations clashed with initial reports by US Airways and the NTSB, which described only a blown tyre and an unusual cross-wind as possible factors in the accident.
The FAA documents, however, detail a series of procedural errors by the flight crew, starting with the failure to enter the correct runway information into the flight computer. The documents also indicate that the captain aboard flight 1702 was flying too soon after taking a prescription medication.
The NTSB says it is concerned that such disclosures by parties involved in the investigation can taint the integrity of an accident investigation.
“The FAA is reviewing this case to see how the disclosure of information occurred and will review its policies and procedures to ensure that information from accident investigations is properly protected,” the NTSB says.
The FAA did not respond immediately to a request for a response to the NTSB statement.