The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating a near miss incident on the JFK runway last month, has issued a subpoena for the testimony of the American Airlines pilots involved.
“American Airlines cleared the flight crew’s schedule to ensure their availability; however, the flight crew refused to be interviewed on the basis that their statements would be audio recorded for transcription,” the NTSB preliminary report says. “As a result of the flight crew’s repeated unwillingness to proceed with a recorded interview, subpoenas for their testimony have been issued.”
The NTSB report says the American Airlines 777 crossed an active runway without clearance from air traffic control, causing a Delta 737 to abort its takeoff.
The report says the two aircraft came within 1,400 feet of each other.
Following the report, the NTSB issued a statement saying investigators “frequently use recording devices in interviews, particularly with those who had roles in operating the equipment involved in the accident or incident.”
The agency says it attempted to interview the American crew on three separate occasions and issued a subpoena Friday to the three crew members involved in the incident. They have seven days to respond, the NTSB says.
The statement notes that the airline itself has cooperated with the investigation.
Investigators have accepted written statements from the Delta crew and determined that they contain “sufficient information.”
As CNN has previously reported, the American Airlines flight continued on to London’s Heathrow airport. The flight voice recorders on both aircraft were overwritten, meaning investigators can’t hear what was said in the cockpit at the time of the incident.
The NTSB says the American crew, through their union, the Allied Pilots Association, would not consent to the interview.
“NTSB has determined that this investigation requires that the flight crew interviews be audio recorded and transcribed by a court reporter to ensure the highest degree of accuracy, completeness, and efficiency,” the report says.
The APA said in a statement that historically these interviews have not been recorded.
“We join in the goal of creating an accurate record of all interviews conducted in the course of an investigation,” the statement said. “However, we firmly believe the introduction of electronic recording devices into witness interviews is more likely to hinder the investigation process than it is to improve it. Not only may the recording of interviews lead to less candid responses from those witnesses who may choose to proceed under such requirements, but the existence and potential availability of interview recordings upon conclusion of an investigation will tend to lead many otherwise willing crew members to elect not to participate in interviews at all. Either outcome would not serve to advance the goal of conducting effective investigations in order to promote aviation safety.”
The union says the interviews should be “fact-finding” and not adversarial.
“We are confident that an acceptable solution to this issue exists that would satisfy the needs and concerns of all parties involved in these investigatory interviews,” the union wrote.