Ramon Lopez/WASHINGTON DC David Learmount/LONDON

THE US NATIONAL Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is to examine airline rights of access to pilots' previous employment history, following the investigation of a 1994 regional-airliner accident which killed 15 people.

The NTSB, which blames the pilot of the Flagship Airlines British Aerospace Jetstream Super 31 for the crash, says that he had resigned from Delta Connection regional carrier Comair under threat of dismissal, although Flagship did not know that when it employed him days later.

The report says: "Flagship did not obtain any training records on the accident captain from Comair. Comair's standard response for employment history would not, had it been obtained, have included meaningful information on training and flight proficiency, despite the availability of such data."

Tony Broderick, the US Federal Aviation Administration's deputy chief, is strongly urging full disclosure of pilot-performance records, despite it being a complex legal issue involving invasion-of-privacy rights.

Broderick says that he is working with the NTSB to enable rule-making. US transportation secretary Federico Pe¤a is supporting the move, saying: "We are working with Congress to get legislation passed to allow airlines to share [pilot-competency] information, and we will support such legislation."

The Super 31 crashed in woods 7km (3.8nm) short of runway 5R at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on 13 December, 1994. Fifteen of the 20 occupants, including both pilots, were killed. On approach in rain and fog, the crew selected flight idle on the power levers and 100% RPM on the condition levers, reports the NTSB. The captain misinterpreted the momentary operation of the left-engine ignition annunciator light as loss of power, although the AlliedSignal Garrett TPE331 engines were operating normally.

The report says that, although the crew believed that it was faced with an engine failure, it did not follow checklist procedures for a single-engine approach. The captain allowed the airspeed to drop and, despite cockpit stall-warnings and calls from the co-pilot to pitch the nose down, the aircraft stalled and went out of control.

Source: Flight International