Following B-17 crash at Bradley, NTSB calling for stricter safety standards

Connecticut

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. (WWLP) – The National Transportation Safety Board is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to improve safety standards on certain types of passenger-carrying flights, in large part in response to the deadly 2019 crash of a World War II-era B-17 bomber at Bradley International Airport.

Seven people were killed and several other people were injured on October 2, 2019, when the vintage aircraft, which was flying as part of the “Wings of Freedom Tour” sponsored by the Collings Foundation, crashed minutes after takeoff.

The NTSB says that the FAA allows some special categories of passenger-carrying flights to operate under general aviation guidelines, rather than the more stringent ones that govern commercial aviation, and that this can lead to problems.

“The NTSB remains concerned with the inadequate safety standards the FAA allows for some revenue passenger-carrying general aviation operations,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said. “When someone pays for an air tour, a parachute jump flight, or an extreme aerobatic experience flight, they have a right to expect effective safety standards for such operations. Currently that is not the case, and this exposes customers to unnecessary risks.”

In the case of the B-17 crash, the NTSB says “the operator’s ineffective safety management system and the FAA’s inadequate oversight of it, contributed to the probable cause of the accident that killed seven and seriously injured five others.”

Other examples that were cited Tuesday by the NTSB included a 2016 hot air balloon crash near Lockhart, Texas that killed 16 people and a 2018 aerial photography tour helicopter crash in New York City that killed five people.

The agency is recommending that the FAA develop national safety standards or regulations for revenue passenger-carrying flights, identify shortcomings and loopholes in current regulations, and require safety management systems for all revenue passenger-carrying flights.

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