NTSB Releases an Initial CVR Review of Atlas Air 3591

Crew communications consistent with a loss of control

NTSB Atlas Air 3591
NTSB Investigators recovering parts of Atlas Air 3591.NTSB photos

The NTSB said the muddy marshland of Trinity Bay, about 40 miles south of Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), where Atlas Air 3591 crashed on February 23 made recovering the voice and data recorders from the airplane a challenge. The Boeing 767, carrying cargo for both Amazon and the U.S. Postal service, was approaching IAH when it went down, killing the three people aboard.

NTSB Atlas Air 3591 Boards
An NTSB engineer inspects memory boards from Atlas Air Flight 3591’s CVR for signs of physical and water damage.NTSB photos

The Board said Directors from the Office of Research and Engineering and the Office of Aviation Safety conducted an audition of the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) as part of the NTSB's ongoing accident investigation that revealed the following preliminary information. The recording runs for approximately two hours and includes the final portion of the flight. Crew communications consistent with a loss control of the aircraft began approximately 18 seconds prior to the end of the recording although the overall quality of the audio is considered poor, except when using advanced audio filtering. The crew was being provided radar vectors for the runway 26L approach into George Bush Intercontinental Airport at the time of the accident.

The Boeing’s flight data recorder (FDR) was delivered to the NTSB Recorder Laboratory last Saturday night and was determined to contain about 54 hours of data from 17 flights. The FDR listened to approximately 350 parameters detailing the movement of the aircraft and operation of its engines, flight controls and other systems.

NTSB recorder investigators are currently verifying and validating the FDR data, and the NTSB plans to provide a summary in an investigative update in a few days. Technical experts in the CVR group will convene in the coming week for a time-consuming review of the entire recording in order to produce a transcript of the accident recording. The CVR group is one of the seven investigative groups established by the Investigator-in-Charge.