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Newspaper: NTSB Report Cites Delta, Crew in 1988 Crash

September 20, 1989

DALLAS (AP) _ The government’s final report on a Delta airline disaster that killed 14 people found that the crew didn’t set the flaps for takeoff but still might have averted the crash if it had followed emergency procedures, a newspaper reported today.

The National Transportation Safety Board report on the crash last year at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport put the blame on Delta Air Lines, the flight crew and the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the Dallas Times Herald, which said it obtained a copy of the report.

The Boeing 727 bound for Salt Lake City crashed on takeoff Aug. 31, 1988. Fourteen of the 108 people aboard were killed.

The 174-page report will be formally presented to the NTSB for approval on Tuesday. Although the NTSB can alter the report, it usually makes few changes in its staff reports.

The report concludes that the crew’s failure to follow preflight checklist procedures and ″complacent″ cockpit behavior led to its neglecting to set the wing flaps, which provide lift for takeoff, the Times Herald reported.

Delta’s management policies ″with respect to crew guidance and training were deficient and directly causal to this accident,″ the report says.

It also also accuses the FAA of contributing to the accident by failing to correct ″known deficiencies″ in Delta operations.

Earlier this year, Delta said an internal investigation showed the crew had caused the crash by failing to set the flaps. The Atlanta-based carrier accepted responsibility for the accident and fired three crew members.

Jackie Pate, an Atlanta-based Delta representative, Tuesday night would not comment on the report. Neither would the captain, Larry Lon Davis.

At an October 1988 NTSB hearing, crew members said they performed their jobs properly, although none could specifically remember moving the flap handle or checking the flap gauges.

A cockpit recording, which indicates the crew and a flight attendant talked about non-business topics in violation of federal rules, ″clearly indicated a relaxed, almost complacent attitude in the cockpit of Flight 1141,″ the report says.

The tape indicated that at the point where the co-pilot customarily lowered the flaps, he was interrupted by ground controllers and later conversations with the captain and a flight attendant.

″The flight attendant’s lengthy presence in the cockpit possibly contributed to the flight crew’s failure to visually″ check the flap gauges, the report says.

Had Davis ″exercised his responsiblity″ and asked the attendant to leave, ″the flap position discrepancy might have been discovered,″ it says.

The report also says the ″accident may not have been inevitable.″ It says the accident might have been avoided had Davis advanced the throttles to full power and lowered the nose of the plane shortly after encountering trouble.

A few months after the crash, Delta tightened its preflight checklist procedures and began new training methods.

The report recommends that the FAA ensure that the roles of flight crew members be clearly delineated in all carriers’ operations manuals.

It also recommends that the agency require that verifying the flap position and proper procedures to save a faltering airplane be included in manuals.

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