NTSB docket spotlights investigation of plane that hit St. Johns River

Board says probable cause will be issued at conclusion of investigation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday opened a public docket for its ongoing investigation into the Boeing 737 that skidded off a runway and into the St. Johns River at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

It happened back in May 2019. All 143 people who were on board survived.

The docket contains hundreds of pages and documents, shining new light on exactly what the pilots were dealing with.

The NTSB said that in its investigation so far, investigators determined the cockpit voice recorder wasn’t setup properly, and had poor audio quality.

“Interesting and valuable info was lost,” explained News4Jax aviation analyst Ed Booth. “Good thing was, the crew was there to give a statement.”

Booth has read several hundred pages of the NTSB’s more than 1,000-paged preliminary findings. He noted that there was also physical things wrong with the plane that night, including the A/C system, which was working at 50%.

He also pointed out that only one of the two thrust reversers -- which help slow a plane down -- were working. It may have proved helpful, causing the plan to veer away from steel poles on the runway.

“Would have sliced the fuselage open,” Booth said. “The best thing that happened to them was that they went off the runway at a point without significant obstructions.”

Couple that with the sudden, heavy rain conditions the pilot was monitoring using outdated information.

“He had tuned into the recorded broadcast from Jax International, giving the weather conditions there -- it’s an automated recording that’s updated about once an hour,” Booth explained.

Booth said the report indicates the plane hydroplaned when it touched down in the heavy rain, causing it to skid off the runway.

A probable cause will be issued at the conclusion of the investigation, which Booth believes could happen before the end of the year.


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