(WASHINGTON) — The National Transportation Safety Board released its finding of probable cause Thursday for a botched US Airways takeoff in Philadelphia in 2014 that forced an emergency evacuation of passengers and crew and put an aircraft out of service.
US Airways Flight 1702 was headed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from Philadelphia International Airport on March 13, 2014, when the incident happened at 6:25 p.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The jet was carrying 149 passengers and five crew members.
The plane slammed onto the runway, bounced into the air and then careened 2,000 feet into an empty field. With the plane’s nose gear collapsed and its left side smoking, frightened passengers were forced to evacuate on emergency slides. Some exited on the plane’s wings before sprinting away to safety. No serious injuries were reported.
At the time of the crash, a blown tire or landing-gear trouble were suggested as possible causes. According to the NTSB Thursday, it was pilot error.
The agency pointed to not following procedures and the “captain’s decision to reject the takeoff” after the plane had reached a speed in which it was no longer safe to do so as probable causes.
The agency said that the pilots did not input a piece of information into the flight computer correctly. According to the report, the pilot told the first officer that they’d get the data issue “straight when we get airborne.”
That inaccurate data then triggered a series of audio alerts, according to the NTSB. As a result, when the jet started to take off, alerts sounded in the cockpit. According to an NTSB specialist’s factual report, the plane was “in air” for 4 seconds.
The captain’s decision to abort takeoff after the plane had already become airborne was the primary cause of the incident, according to the NTSB.
Simulator testing showed that if the pilot had not aborted the takeoff, the plane would have been able to fly just fine.
American Airlines, which merged with US Airways, told ABC News Thursday that both pilots had not flown since the incident and that the aircraft had been taken out of service.
“US Airways thoroughly reviewed this incident, providing robust input to the aviation safety community. As a result of our review, we made several changes to our procedures, manuals and training programs to mitigate risk, while we also supported design changes to certain onboard systems. All of our flights operate today with the benefit of these — and many other incremental safety improvements — which are part of our constant commitment to the highest safety standards,” airline spokesman Ross Feinstein said.
“We are not going to comment further on [the pilots’] employment status as they are entitled to their privacy. US Airways removed the flight crew from flying status immediately after the incident. This is standard practice when these events occur,” Feinstein said.
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