On July 31, 1997, about 0132 eastern daylight time, a McDonnell Douglas MD-11, N611FE, operated by Federal Express, Inc., (FedEx) as flight 14, crashed while landing on runway 22R at Newark International Airport, Newark, New Jersey (EWR). The regularly scheduled cargo flight originated in Singapore on July 30 with intermediate stops in Penang, Malaysia; Taipei, Taiwan; and Anchorage, Alaska. The flight from Anchorage International Airport to EWR was conducted on an instrument flight rules flight plan and operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121. On board were the captain and first officer, who had taken over the flight in Anchorage for the final leg to EWR, one jumpseat passenger, and two cabin passengers. All five occupants received minor injuries in the crash and during subsequent egress through a cockpit window. The airplane was destroyed by impact and a postcrash fire.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the captain's overcontrol of the airplane during the landing and his failure to execute a go-around from a destabilized flare. Contributing to the accident was the captain's concern with touching down early to ensure adequate stopping distance.
Safety issues discussed in this report focus on landing techniques, bounced landing recovery, and training tools and policies that promote proactive decision-making to go around if an approach is unstabilized. Safety issues also include the use of on board computers to determine the required runway length for landing, MD-11 handling characteristics and structural integrity requirements, and hard landing inspection requirements. Tracking hazardous materials continues to be a safety issue and is also discussed in the report.
Safety recommendations concerning these issues are addressed to the Federal Aviation Administration.
As a result of the investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following recommendations:
To the Federal Aviation Administration:
Convene a joint government-industry task force composed, at a minimum, of representatives of manufacturers, operators, pilot labor organizations, and the Federal Aviation Administration to develop, within 1 year, a pilot training tool to do the following:
Include information about factors that can contribute to structural failures involving the landing gear, wings, and fuselage, such as design sink rate limits; roll angle limits; control inputs' roll rate; pitch rate; single-gear landings; the effect of decreased lift; and structural loading consequences of bottoming landing gear struts and tires; (A-00-92)
Provide a syllabus for simulator training on the execution of stabilized approaches to the landing flare, the identification of unstabilized landing flares, and recovery from these situations, including proper high sink rate recovery techniques during flare to landing, techniques for avoiding and recovering from overcontrol in pitch before touchdown, and techniques for avoiding overcontrol and premature derotation during a bounced landing; (A-00-93) and
Promote an orientation toward a proactive go-around. (A-00-94) Require principal operations inspectors assigned to Part 121 carriers that use auxiliary performance computers to review and ensure the adequacy of training and procedures regarding the use of this equipment and the interpretation of the data generated, including landing distance data. (A-00-95)
Require the installation, within 1 year, of the MD-11 flight control computer-908 software upgrade on all MD-11 airplanes. (A-00-96)
Require, on all MD-11s equipped with the flight control computer-908 software, the retrofit of digital flight data recorder systems with all additional parameters required to precisely identify and differentiate between pilot and longitudinal stability augmentation system (LSAS) elevator control activity, including control column force, inertial reference unit pitch rate, LSAS command signals, elevator positions, and automatic ground spoiler command signals. (A-00-97)
Review and, if appropriate, revise the DC-10 and MD-11 throttle resolver angle (TRA)-driven ground spoiler knockdown feature to ensure that it does not prevent ground spoiler deployment at moderate TRAs that could be associated with sink rate and airspeed corrections during the landing phase. (A-00-98)
Require DC-10 and MD-11 operators to provide their pilots with information and training regarding the ground spoiler knockdown feature and its effects on landing characteristics and performance. (A-00-99)
Sponsor a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) study of the stability and control characteristics of widely used, large transportcategory airplanes to
Identify undesirable characteristics that may develop during the landing phase in the presence of adverse combinations of pilot control inputs, airplane center of gravity position, atmospheric conditions, and other factors; and
Compare overall qualitative and quantitative stability and control characteristics on an objective basis. The study should include analyses of DC-10 and MD-11 landing accidents and any other landing incidents and accidents deemed pertinent by NASA. (A-00-100)
Based on the results of the study recommended in Safety Recommendation A-00-100, implement improved certification criteria for transport-category airplane designs that will reduce the incidence of landing accidents. (A-00-101)
Conduct a study to determine if landing gear vertical overload fusing offers a higher level of safety than when the gear is overdesigned. If fusing offers a higher level of safety, revise 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 25 to require vertical overload fusing of landing gear. (A-00-102)
Require manufacturers of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 23 and Part 25 airplanes and Part 121 operators to revise their hard landing inspection and reporting criteria to account for all factors that can contribute to structural damage; instruct principal maintenance and operations inspectors assigned to Part 121 operators to ensure that these changes have been made to operator maintenance manuals and Flight Operations Quality Assurance exceedence monitoring programs. (A-00-103)
Previously Issued Recommendations Classified in This Report
Safety Recommendation A-98-80, previously classified "Open-Acceptable Response," is classified "Open-Unacceptable Response" in section 2.6 of this report.