Tuesday, January 23, 1996


An Editorial Point of View

Why hasn't the NTSB yet reported its findings on the tail of USAir 427? It was one of the largest single components of the airplane that was found and examined, but NTSB spokesperson Carl Vogt has yet to make it a subject of any news conference.

Could it be that the FAA and NTSB would be embarrassed by their previous knowledge of rudder control problems of Boeing 737s?

After a 1991 United 585 crash in Colorado Springs, under strikingly similar circumstances as the USAir 427, the NTSB recommended to the FAA that Boeing 737s be regularly inspected for the possibility of a rudder reversal problem resulting from defects in the power control unit design. The FAA established such a program requiring an inspection every 750 flight hours until the rudder power control unit is redesigned. The USAir Flight 427 aircraft had been examined four times under this inspection program.

Isn't it curious that the NTSB hasn't made this previous rudder control concern now public? Why isn't it focusing more attention on the component that might have caused a previous and similar crash rather than focusing on irrelevant items such as the thrust reverser on the engine?

Obviously, both the NTSB and the FAA would be called to task if it turned out that their recommended and approved rudder power control unit inspection program wasn't sufficient to protect the lives of 132 additional victims.

While it is still too early to draw ironclad conclusions about the cause of the USAir crash, given the obvious similarities to the Colorado Springs crash and the history of the Boeing 737 rudder control, I suggest that some immediate steps be taken to limit the rudder authority on Boeing 737s until a new rudder control can be installed. It would be better to take such a precaution in an attempt to prevent a possible rudder hard-over in light of the fact that it could have been a contributing factor to the USAir 427 crash. Isn't it time that our governmental authorities worry more about insuring public safety than they do about minimizing the economic impact of their actions on the airline industry and those who manufacture aircraft?