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NTSB: American Airlines mishandled plane data
Mark Jewell, AP Business Writer, On Sunday January 2, 2011, 7:55 pm EST

Federal officials investigating an incident in which an American Airlines jet went off the end of a runway say the airline improperly downloaded information from the plane's flight recorder before turning it over to the government.

The National Transportation Safety Board called the download a violation of its standards, and barred American Airlines from further participation in the inquiry into Wednesday's incident at Wyoming's Jackson Hole Airport.

A Boeing 757 carrying 181 passengers and crew members landed on a runway and came to rest in hard-packed snow about 350 feet beyond the runway overrun area, the NTSB said. No one aboard Flight 2253 from Chicago was injured, and the plane was not damaged.

The NTSB said on Friday that it learned that the plane's digital flight data recorder was flown to Tulsa, Okla., where American Airlines technicians downloaded information from the instrument before turning it over to the agency in Washington, D.C., the evening after the runway incident. American Airlines did not access the plane's cockpit voice recorder, the NTSB said.

The NTSB requires in such instances that airlines transport recorders to NTSB labs without accessing the information, the agency said.

Agency investigators determined no information from the American Airlines jet was missing or altered.

But NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in a statement that the data download was a "breach of protocol" that violates standards for any organization that is allowed to participate in an agency investigation.

Adherence to standards "is vital to the integrity of our investigative processes," she said.

She said her agency has barred American Airlines "from further participation in this incident investigation."

American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan said in a prepared statement that the airline downloaded information from the flight recorder "as part of its normal safety investigation of the incident."

The data from the recorder was never compromised, she said, and there "was no attempt to circumvent any collaborative process with the NTSB" or the Federal Aviation Administration.

She said American has begun an internal review of its procedures to ensure they comply with NTSB procedures.

American is a unit of Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR Corp.
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