December 20, 2020 By The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Federal investigators have found problems with an anti-skid device in an airplane that crashed in Alaska last year, killing one person and injuring four others on Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands, according to documents.
The documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday said the plane’s systems showed signs of a mechanical issue that could have affected interplay between its brakes and its anti-skid controls, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Investigators said there were crossed wires on the left side of the plane. The manufacturer of the anti-skid system, Crane, said in the document that the crossed wires could have prevented the brakes on the plane’s left side from working.
The Saab 2000 turboprop crashed after attempting a second approach into Unalaska under windy conditions.
The plane — which carried 39 passengers and three crew — overran the runway, crashed though a perimeter fence and across a road before stopping on rocks next to the Bering Sea shore.
The front wheel rolled into the water. Shrapnel and part of a propeller sliced into the cabin.
A 38-year-old Washington state man who was travelling to Unalaska for work was killed. His death was the first crash-related death on a U.S. commercial airline in the last decade.
The documents do not include a probable cause for the accident. A board meeting on the investigation is projected to take place in 2021.
The documents also revealed that the Ravn Air Group pilots lacked the flying time traditionally needed to make the challenging flight to Unalaska from Anchorage.
A subsidiary of Ravn Air had bought longtime Alaska carrier Peninsula Airways’ naming rights and planes after the company declared bankruptcy in 2018.
The investigators said that though PenAir had required a minimum of 300 hours of flying time to conduct the Unalaska flights — with a 100-hour waiver only for pilots with extensive experience — Ravn pushed to loosen the requirement by the summer of 2019.
The captain on the flight had 131 hours of flying time in the Saab 2000 plane and was on his 10th flight with the airlines to Unalaska, the NTSB said in the document.
The flight’s first officer had 138 hours of flying time in the Saab 2000 and had flown into Unalaska 15 times with the airlines, the document said.
It was the 19th accident involving Ravn Air Group members since 2008, the Daily News reported last year.
Many pilots told investigators that morale began to decline in the months preceding the crash after the company began to consider reducing qualification minimums for difficult airports such the one where the accident took place.
The company’s safety director told investigators “he considered the overall safety culture as ‘still good’ but said that he had pilots approach him saying they were ‘not as comfortable anymore — saying something or making a decision and being questioned on it’ since the new management came in,” according to the document.
Representatives who worked at the time for Ravn Air Group, which has since restructured under new leadership, could not be reached for a comment by the Daily News. A message left by The Associated Press seeking comment from the new Ravn Alaska was not immediately returned Thursday.