By David Shepardson

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cited cockpit mistakes by the first officer and pilot in a February 2019 fatal crash of an Atlas Air cargo plane.

The Atlas Air Boeing 767 jet transporting cargo for Inc. and the U.S. Postal Service crashed into a marshy bay about 40 miles from Houston after departing Miami, killing the pilot, first officer and a traveling pilot sitting in a jumpseat.

The NTSB cited the first officer’s inappropriate response to an inadvertent activation of the airplane’s go-around mode at 6,000 feet that resulted in his spatial disorientation and led him to place the airplane in a steep dive from which it did not recover.

Board members said the crash could have been prevented if the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had finalized a pilot records database.

“The FAA has been dragging their feet through quicksand and not making sufficient progress,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at a hearing Tuesday.

The NTSB said the first officer had a long history of training difficulties at several employers and cited “deliberate attempts” to hide employment history deficiencies. The board also cited the captain’s failure to assume control of the plane and to adequately monitor the airplane’s flightpath. The NTSB also called Atlas’ reliance on agents to review pilot background records and flag significant concerns “inappropriate.”

Atlas Air Worldwide Chief Executive John Dietrich, in a statement, cited the importance of “an improved federal pilot records database to provide airlines with full visibility of pilot history in the hiring process.” Since the crash, he said, Atlas has “made several important enhancements to our own hiring, training, and pilot review procedures.”

In March, the FAA published proposed rules to establish a new database to provide potential employers with rapid access to information about pilot performance and employment records. Congress ordered the creation of this database in 2010.

The FAA said Tuesday it plans to publish the final rule in January. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler)