NTSB Says Pilot at Fault for 2008 Denver Runway Crash, Points Finger at Lack of Proper Pilot Training

The National Transportation Safety Board released their report on the probable cause of the December 20, 2008 Continental Airlines Flight 1404 Denver runway accident. The NTSB determined that the captain was at fault for the directing the Boeing 737 plane off the runway, which left him and five passengers critically injured. According to the NTSB, the accident occurred due to strong crosswinds that “exceeded the captain’s training and experience.” As the plane began its take-off roll down a runway at the Denver International Airport, strong winds rocked the plane and caused it to veer to the left of the runway. The plane then caught on fire.

None of the 115 people on board were killed but six people were seriously injured. This could have been avoided, according to the NTSB, if the pilot used the rudder for directional control instead of the “tiller” for directional control on take-off. Investigators found that the captain failed to properly input the aircraft’s rudder and instead used the nosewheel steering tiller, which was “ineffective and inappropriate for steering the airplane.” The tiller is to be used to control steering during taxi, not for directional control after the aircraft is accelerating for take-off.

Contributing to the accident, the NTSB said, was the lack of crosswind training for pilots in the airline industry. The NTSB also partly blamed the air traffic control system, which did not require or facilitate the dissemination of key wind information to the air traffic controllers and the pilots.

In their July 13, 2010 report, the NTSB failed to discuss the captain’s failure to abort the take-off when he started losing control at a speed under 100 knots, as called for in the procedures set forth in the flight manual. “Had the captain aborted, instead of continuing the take-off roll as he was losing control” says Baum Hedlund attorney and former airline captain John Greaves, “he could have stopped the aircraft instead of running it off the runway in his attempt to take-off.”

The NTSB sent 14 recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration regarding their investigation of the accident.

Baum Hedlund aviation attorneys represent several passengers and crew from this Continental Airlines runway accident.