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NTSB warns airlines on media briefings

THE US NATIONAL Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is to issue carriers with new rules for post-accident briefings to the media, after a strongly worded exchange with American Airlines over the handling of the recent Little Rock crash.

Following a meeting with the Air Transportation Association (ATA), the NTSB will shortly release formal new directives for dealing with the press after a crash. "We're giving airlines written guidelines on what they should and should not talk about," says Jamie Finch, NTSB director of government, family and public affairs.

Current NTSB practices have been criticised for being too "arbitratory" and out of touch with the "realities of 24h media coverage", says an airline official. The NTSB in turn has taken issue with airlines it claims are releasing information directly relating to a crash investigation. There is the veiled warning that dissenters could be excluded from involvement in investigations.

Matters came to a head in June when NTSB chairman Jim Hill rebuked American chairman Don Carty, expressing "profound disappointment" with the carrier's briefing in the immediate wake of the fatal MD-82 crash landing at Little Rock. A copy of the letter and subsequent correspondence has been obtained by Flight International.

Hall accuses American executive vice-president Robert Baker of giving a "discourse on investigative matters", during which he made "supposition about the weather, the operation of navigation equipment, the events surrounding the last few seconds of the flight, the wreckage path, the value of cockpit and tower recordings...and who will be interviewed".

Carty says he "was utterly dismayed" at the letter and defends Baker's actions. He argues that the board cannot be allowed to put carriers in the position of "being evasive, unwilling to disclose facts. . .or less then 100% candid".

Source: Flight International, October 6-12, 1999 issue, page 16
              Complete article.  Emphasis added.
[Webmaster's note: While neither I nor anyone else here endorses Flight International, we encourage you to write to them and tell them your views.   The Flight International email address is
As they are a British publication, you may have a better chance of having your views published than with Aviation Week & Space Technology which won't touch Burnelli at any price (they're owned lock-stock-and-barrel by the military industrial complex - just check-out who their advertizers are).]

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