Jamaica Crash Landing Caused by Pilot Error


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The investigation of a Jamaican plane crash that occurred almost five years ago has cited a botched landing coupled with pilot fatigue as being the cause of the incident which seriously injured fourteen passengers.

On Dec. 22, 2009, an American Airlines Boeing 737-829 overshot a rain-soaked landing strip at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Jamaica, and split into segments. The plane crashed through the seaside airport's perimeter fence, skidded across a road and came to a stop in sand dunes on the shore of the Caribbean Sea.

Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Ava Marie Ingram commented on the slow process of compiling the final report on the crash of flight AA331, explaining that "the investigation involved a number of very involved processes." Ingram said a copy of the report was forwarded to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

The report concludes that aside from the experienced crew being fatigued, "after being on duty for nearly 12 hours, and awake for more than 14 hours," the pilot decided to land in heavy rain, and was unaware of a standing water warning on the runways which was included in manuals at the time. There was also a tail wind close to the landing limit.

The report added that the crew did not do an adequate landing distance calculation and crossed the runway threshold 20 feet above the ideal height, touching down farther along the runway than what would have been safe. The plane landed "4,100 feet down the runway or 1,130 feet beyond the touchdown zone, as defined by the AA flight manual." The 737 bounced once, before crashing down another 200 feet further down the runway. The crew slammed on the brakes but was unable to stop the plane before it slid off the end of the runway.

The fuselage of the 737 broke into three segments and the right wing's tanks spilled jet fuel. All 154 people aboard survived, though 92 people were taken to the hospital, and no life-threatening injuries reported. American Airlines provided each passenger $5,000 to compensate for the lengthy quarantine of baggage.

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