NTSB: Final determination into cause of plane accident could take 18 months

Investigators interviewing pilots, crew, while trying to remove plane from water


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into why a Miami Air Boeing 737-800 slid into the St. Johns River could take up to 18 months to complete. The removal of the aircraft could be delayed another day because of rainy weather conditions.

The NTSB will update its investigation again Sunday at 4:30 p.m.



So many questions remain about why the plane coming into Naval Air Station Jacksonville skidded into the St. Johns River but those questions may not be answered for quite some time.

The military-chartered jet with 142 people on board landed hard, then bounced and swerved as the pilot struggled to control it amid thunder and lightning, ultimately skidding off the runway and coming to a crashing halt in a river at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

It meant chaos and terror for passengers in the Boeing 737 as the plane jolted back and forth and oxygen masks deployed, then overhead bins opened, sending contents spilling out.

But authorities said all the people onboard emerged without critical injuries Friday night, lining up on the wings as they waited to be rescued. Only a 3-month-old baby was hospitalized, and that was done out of an abundance of caution, officials said.

"I think it is a miracle," said Capt. Michael Connor, the base's commanding officer, hours after the plane landed. "We could be talking about a different story," he said.

News4Jax spoke with the vice chairman of the NTSB, Bruce Landsberg, about why it could be such a lengthy process.

“We always go very thoroughly into these (investigations) and not nearly as fast as you would like to have them. We want to get it absolutely correct, but these things typically will take 12 to 18 months,” Landsberg said.
The NTSB investigation will look into the flight crew and the aircraft cabin crew, the aircraft itself, the airframe and the environment, including the airport. The weather and air traffic control issues are a big interest.

“The flight data recorder is off and it's up in our labs in Washington, D.C. and we get more than 1,000 parameters off of that, which will give us a tremendous amount of detail as to what actually happened,” said Landsberg.

The NTSB will relay its findings but does not prescribe punishments if an individual was the cause of the accident.

“That's for the Federal Aviation Administration. Our job is strictly to investigate the accident, figure out what happened and to make recommendations to prevent the recurrence,” said Landsberg.

The NTSB hopes to get the plane out of the water by Monday so it can access the voice data recorder, which records conversations between crew members. Right now, the recorder is in the plane's tail section, which is underwater.

Rain and storms could keep the NTSB from taking any action Sunday to try to remove the plane from the river.

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