NTSB holds first investigative hearing since Exxon Valdez
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has scheduled an investigative hearing for Aug. 17, 2017, in Anchorage, Alaska, as part of its ongoing investigation of the Oct. 2, 2016, fatal crash of flight 3153 near Togiak, Alaska.
Why a hearing?
The NTSB conducts investigative hearings as part of a major transportation accident investigation to gather sworn testimony from subpoenaed witnesses on issues identified by the NTSB during the investigation and to allow the public to observe the investigation’s progress. An investigative hearing differs from a board meeting in that no analysis is conducted or discussed at the investigative hearing – it is for fact finding only. Like a board meeting, an investigative hearing is open to the public.
This is the first investigative hearing held in Alaska since the Exxon Valdez accident. This is also the first investigative hearing held outside of Washington in nearly 20 years.
Flight 3153 was a scheduled commuter flight operated by Hageland Aviation Services, Inc., dba Ravn Connect, under the provisions of Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 135. The turbine-powered Cessna 208 B departed Quinhagak, Alaska, at 11:33 a.m., Oct. 2, 2016, destined for Togiak. The airplane, carrying two pilots and one passenger, impacted steep mountainous, rocky terrain at about 11:54 a.m., approximately 12 miles northwest of Togiak. There were no survivors.
“The NTSB is conducting this investigative hearing in Alaska because the majority of witnesses we want to hear from are in Alaska,” said board member Earl F. Weener. “We also believe that holding the hearing in Alaska will help increase awareness within the Alaskan aviation community of the issues surrounding controlled flight into terrain accidents and flight into instrument meteorological conditions. There have been 36 accidents involving controlled flight into terrain in Alaska between 2008-2016, resulting in the loss of 40 lives. We know aviation in Alaska is central to sustaining communities, economies and the enjoyment of the wilderness of our nation’s last frontier. The safety issues being addressed in this hearing will bolster the efforts already underway within the Alaskan aviation community.”
What will be covered during hearing
Among the safety issues to be discussed at the investigative hearing are:
- Operational control at Hageland Aviation, including its FAA oversight, organizational structure, policies and procedures, and training and guidance for operational control agents.
- Pilot training and guidance related to deteriorating weather conditions to mitigate controlled flight into terrain risk, including the incorporation of lessons learned from previous controlled flight into terrain accidents.
- Safety management, training and oversight resources available to the Alaskan aviation community.
Company has history of accidents
An NTSB review of accident data revealed Hageland Aviation Services aircraft were involved in six accidents since 2013. Four of those accidents involved controlled flight into terrain and one involved flight into instrument meteorological conditions. The NTSB issued two safety recommendations in 2014 asking the FAA to conduct audits of operators owned by the holding company HoTH, Inc., which included Hageland Aviation Services.
Hageland Aviation Services is a participant in the Medallion Foundation’s Shield Program. The Medallion Foundation, Inc., is a non-profit partnership between the FAA and industry, created in 2001 by the Alaska Air Carriers Association, with the goal of improving aviation safety in Alaska while reducing insurance rates for commercial air carriers.
The NTSB has issued 32 safety recommendations to Alaska general aviation operators and organizations in the past decade, of which, more than two-thirds were acted upon favorably.
About the hearing
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. (Alaska Daylight Time), Aug. 17, in the Mid-Deck Ballroom of the Captain Cook Hotel, 939 W. 5th Ave., Anchorage, Alaska. Media planning to cover the investigative hearing are asked to contact the NTSB’s chief of media relations, Chris O’Neil at 202-314-6133 or Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The investigative hearing will be transmitted live via the NTSB’s website at http://www.capitolconnection.net/capcon/ntsb/ntsb.htm. A link for webcast will be available shortly before the start of the hearing. An archival video of the hearing will be available via the website for 30 days after the hearing.