March 7, 2019 / 7:01 PM / a month ago

'Undetected mechanical malfunction' blamed for 2017 airplane incident

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The National Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday a March 2017 incident in which an MD-83 airplane carrying the University of Michigan men’s basketball team ran off the end of a runway was due to an undetected mechanical malfunction.

The pilot of the Ameristar Charters Boeing MD-83 decided to abort the takeoff at about 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) down a 7,500-foot runway in Ypsilanti, Michigan, but was travelling too fast to stop the plane on the remaining runway.

The plane departed the runway at about 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour), travelled 950 feet across a runway safety area, struck an airport fence and came to a rest after crossing a paved road, the NTSB said.

Investigators praised the flight crew’s quick actions and said there was no way they could have known of the issue before takeoff. The NTSB determined a component of the elevator flight control system jammed in the days before the accident while the aircraft was parked at Ypsilanti Airport during a major windstorm.

The pilot’s decision to abort the takeoff and the “other crew member’s coordinated efforts to assist him had likely contributed to the survivability of an accident in which there were no serious injuries among the 110 passengers and six crew members,” the NTSB said.

The plane was taking the basketball team and others to Washington, D.C., for a Big Ten tournament game.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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