Minister Mike Henry on Wednesday, January 6, 2009, gave an update on the American Airlines Flight 331 accident which occurred on December 22, 2009.

Speaking at a Press Briefing held at the Office of the Prime Minister, Minister Henry noted that investigations were still ongoing and as such, that would have to be awaited before any conclusive assessment could be arrived at. The investigations which are being carried out by the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is expected to take some time and may continue for up to a year.

According to the Norman Manley Tower Controller, as the aircraft was approaching Jamaica, the Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) which relays recorded airport and weather information, was broadcasting Runway 12 as the runway designated for arrivals.

The Minister disclosed that the crew reported that after descending through the cloud cover, they made visual contact with runway at between 1,000ft and 700ft above ground level. According the Flight Data Recorder (FDR), the aircraft was travelling at the airspeed of 148 knots with a groundspeed of 162 knots. The wheels made initial contact at about 4,000ft. down the 8,900 foot runway. The FDR also indicated that the aircraft bounced once, then settled onto the runway; the autobrakes then engaged, and reverse thrust and the spoilers were deployed.

Continuing, the crew reported that at that point they felt that the aircraft did not decelerate normally, and they subsequently applied maximum manual (pedal) braking. The crew also noted that the aircraft decelerated normally for an autobrake 3 setting.

Information from the FDR indicates that during the landing rollout, the aircraft veered to the left of centreline and departed the end of the runway at groundspeed of 63 knots. Examination of the crash site revealed that the aircraft then exited the runway, went through the perimeter fence, crossed a road, and came to rest on a rock-strewn beach about 175 feet beyond the departure end of Runway 12 and about 40 feet from the water line.

The resultant mishap caused the aircraft’s fuselage was broken into three major places. The right engine, right inboard aft trailing edge flap and the right main landing gear separated from the aircraft during the accident sequence. The left winglet was almost broken off the wing. Investigations so far have not revealed any anomalies or malfunctions with the operation of the brakes, spoilers or thrust reversers and the rate of deceleration appears normal for a wet runway.

The wreckage of the aircraft remains under the control of the JCAA through the NTSB, and will be shipped to the USA. While there it will be kept in a secure facility and be available for further examination until such time as it is no longer required for the investigation.

American Airlines Flight 331 was a Boeing 737-823 aircraft which originated at the Miami International Airport and ran off the eastern end of runway 12 while landing at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston on December 22, 2009.