Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

S.F. Crash Dwarfs 'Routine' Newark Accident

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

S.F. Crash Dwarfs 'Routine' Newark Accident

Article excerpt

The blow-by-blow updates from federal investigators about what might have gone wrong during the final minutes of a fatal crash landing of a passenger jet in San Francisco last weekend have drawn attention to the relative silence of investigators probing a recent crash landing in Newark.

In the more than two months since that incident, a US Airways flight from which all 34 passengers emerged unscathed, federal officials have released only the most basic information, capped by a two-paragraph preliminary report issued last Friday. That document gave the time of the landing and sketched the outline of the crew's successful actions, mostly repeating the statements made in the immediate aftermath of the crash.

But aviation officials said the reason for the disparity is simple.

"The San Francisco crash had two deaths, many injured and a destroyed aircraft -- that's $180 million up in smoke," said J.P. Tristani, a former commercial pilot and aviation instructor who lives in Ramsey. "Newark was routine."

Both incidents have an equal capacity to draw a cold sweat from anyone with a fear of flying. But the available details indicate the similarities stop there, Tristani and other aviation experts said. Early indications are that the plane that crashed in San Francisco, operated by the South Korean Asiana Airlines, veered off course because of human error. In Newark, by contrast, the crew appears to have acted appropriately.

After most aviation accidents -- especially when there is no pressure to answer to grieving families -- it can take up to a year to release detailed investigation reports. Unions and other officials often discourage pilots and airline crews from ever making public statements under all but the most extraordinary of circumstances -- such as the "Miracle on the Hudson" flight that made Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger a hero.

The Newark plane, a Dash 8-100 turboprop, hurtled to the runway and landed on its belly just minutes after the crew detected a problem with the landing gear.

"There was nothing that would make me raise an eyebrow," said Bob Checchio, an instrument-rated pilot and national aviation policy expert.

Spokesmen from US Airways and the National Transportation Aviation Safety Board declined to comment on the investigation on Tuesday. The airline has declined to make the crew available.

According to initial reports from Federal Aviation Administration and Port Authority officials, the flight, US Airways Express Flight 4560, left Philadelphia just before 11 p.m. on May 17 and was scheduled to arrive in Newark at 11:44. After its left landing gear failed to extend, the crew circled to exhaust its fuel supply before successfully landing at 1:04 a.m. May 18 with its gear up.

The experience was terrifying for passengers. …

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