By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday faulted a Delta Air Lines pilot for a March 2015 incident in which a Boeing MD-88 veered off the runway at New York's LaGuardia Airport, resulting in minor injuries to 29 passengers.
The report said the pilot's use of excessive reverse thrust during landing led to a loss of directional control and the jet’s departure from the snow-covered runway.
The report also said the flight and cabin crews did not conduct a timely or effective evacuation for a number of reasons, including the fact that damage to the aircraft resulted in the loss of the interphone and public address system, which delayed an announcement to evacuate the aircraft.
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The evacuation of the plane with 127 passengers and crew took 17 minutes and did not start until six minutes after landing, the NTSB said.
The plane struck a chain-link fence before coming to rest on a snow-covered embankment just feet from Flushing Bay with its left wing tank leaking fuel.
"Make no mistake: This was a very close call," NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said on Tuesday.
LaGuardia, the smallest of the New York area's three major airports, was temporarily closed after the mishap.
The report said the captain faced situational stress at the time of landing, which prevented him from immediately recognizing the use of excessive reverse thrust.
Delta said in a statement it had cooperated in the probe and "we respect their findings, conclusions and recommendations. Delta leaders will use this NTSB guidance to further enhance the safety of our global operation."
The NTSB report also raised concerns about the initial uncertainty about the number of passengers aboard the plane, which didn't include two lap-held children. The report also faulted the Federal Aviation Administration's airport winter safety guidance as "not sufficiently clear about the timing and need for updated runway condition reports."
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by James Dalgleish)