WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal accident investigators determined that jammed parts on the tail caused a plane to run off a runway and plow through a fence and into a pasture.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that the pilot who conducted a pre-flight inspection should have spotted the jammed elevators, but he failed to follow proper procedures because the company operating the plane had not updated the flight manual.
The accident happened during an aborted takeoff in October 2021 at Houston Executive Airport in Brookshire, Texas. Two of the 19 passengers were seriously injured, but all passengers and the four crew members were able to escape before fire destroyed the plane.
The plane, which had not flown in six months, was taking passengers from Texas to a baseball playoff game in Boston.
The NTSB said both elevators – movable panels on the horizontal section of the tail that are used to point the nose up or down – were jammed in a way that prevented the plane from becoming airborne.
Investigators believe the parts became stuck because the plane was exposed to high wind while parked for an extended period. A similar jamming occurred with another MD-80-series plane in 2017 in Michigan, leading the NTSB to prompt Boeing to issue new instructions in 2020 for inspecting similar planes before flights.
The Texas plane was operated by Everts Air Cargo. Everts' director of operations said he didn't know about the Boeing bulletin until after the accident. The company later updated its manuals and made photos and videos showing pilots how to examine elevators from the ground.