More than three years after a CBS News report prompted a formal National Transportation Safety Board investigation into‘s near-crash at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, a final report released Monday reveals how close the flight came to disaster.
More than 100 passengers, along with eight crew members, were on the Los Angeles-bound Airbus A321 on April 10, 2019 when, as CBS News andwere first to report, the flight’s pilots nearly lost control of the plane as it banked left during takeoff. The plane dragged the wing along the runway before it gained altitude, and a runway light was found embedded in the wing after it returned to JFK.
At the time of the incident, the pilots told air traffic controllers, in audio obtained by CBS News, “we were ah bankin’ ah ah uncontrolled bank 45 degrees.”
In the days immediately following the near-disaster, a source told CBS News, “That was as close as anybody would ever want to come to crashing.”
The newly released NTSB report finds the probable cause for this incident to be pilot error.
“The captain’s excessive left rudder pedal input during the takeoff ground roll, which caused a large heading deviation and a left roll upon rotation that resulted in the left wingtip striking the ground,” the report says.
As the nose of the plane lifted off the ground, the plane began to roll to the left, reaching a maximum 37 degrees left wing down, the report found.
According to a transcript of the cockpit voice recorder included in the report, both pilots were shaken by the take-off.
“I don’t know what’s goin’ on,” one of the flight crew was recorded saying as the captain struggled to regain control of the plane during takeoff. “It just [expletive] rolled on me.”
The copilot responded “I thought we were gone. That scared the [expletive] outta me. I thought we were gone.”
A few minutes later, as the pilots discussed whether to return to JFK, the first officer told the captain, “I’ve never been so scared in an airplane … I thought it was over. I thought we were goin’ down.” The flight returned to the airport 28 minutes after takeoff with no injuries reported.
“The safety of our customers and team members comes above all else at American,” the airline said in a statement to CBS News thanking the Board for its investigation. “We are reviewing the NTSB’s report and recommendations and will closely examine if any changes are needed in training or procedures.”
Both pilots remain American Airlines pilots. The plane has not returned to service.