PSA CRJ9 near Charlotte on Jul 24th 2020, the blazing checklist

Last Update: May 26, 2022 / 21:00:57 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jul 24, 2020


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ICAO Type Designator

A PSA Airlines Canadair CRJ-900 on behalf of American Airlines, registration N561NN performing flight AA-5097 from Westchester County,NY to Charlotte,NC (USA), was climbing through about FL200 out of Westchester County when the flight crew noticed an unusual odour on the flight deck and believed the odour might come from food in the passenger cabin, however, the flight attendants had not noticed anything. There had been observations of strange odour in the tech log before, all of which could not have been reproduced and were signed off by maintenance. The crew thus suspected the odour was related to the left hand pack and intended to write the odour up again after landing. Descending towards Charlotte while at 9000 feet the captain's windshield heating system emitted visible sparks and crackling noises and set a paper checklist, stored on the glareshield, alight. The captain, pilot monitoring, immediately turned the switches for his windshield heating off, grabbed the checklist by its corner, threw it towards the cockpit door and doused the checklist with a bottle of water, which extinguished the flames. The sparking stopped as soon as the switches were turned off. The crew donned their oxygen masks, declared emergency and performed the related checklists. The aircraft continued for a safe landing on Charlotte's runway 18L and taxied the aircraft to the gate with emergency services in trail. After arrival at the gate the fire fighters entered the cockpit, found no heat signatures and left the aircraft.

On Mar 12th 2021 the NTSB announced they were opening an investigation into the occurrence.

In Oct 2021 The NTSB released their preliminary report summarizing the sequence of events:

The captain side windshield heating element sparked during flight, igniting a paper checklist being that was stored on glare shield. The first abnormal indication began when the airplane reached altitudes above 20000 feet on climb out from HPN. The captain and first officer both noticed an odd odor, they first believed it to be food from the passenger cabin. The flight crew asked the flight attendants if there was anyone eating or if they detected any odor but said they did not notice anything abnormal. The smell was intermittent and not strong enough to suspect anything other than an odd smell coming from the L PACK. The flight crew reviewed the previous logbook and found the same issue documented in the weeks prior with maintenance performing PACK and engine runs on the ground but not finding any abnormalities and signed it off with ops check good. The flight crew suspected this to be the same recurring issue previously written up and had no idea it could be electrically related as the odor did not seem strong or acrid in nature. The PACK and ECS system appeared to be operating normally and they continued the flight. At cruise the flight crew sent an ACARS to dispatch and maintenance and informed them that they would be writing up the aircraft for an odor suspected to be coming from the L PACK.

The flight crew continued the flight to CLT normally until about 15NM southeast of CLT on the MLLET2(re-routed from CHSLY4 due to weather), at 9000 ft visible sparks and a crackling noise were observed from the windshield heating element. The captain immediately turned off the windshield heat switches as he was the pilot monitoring. The sparking stopped as soon as the switches were turned off but the checklist had ignited with a small flame and the captain grabbed it on the corner and threw it by the cockpit door and doused it with his water bottle to extinguish the paper. The flight crew then donned oxygen and performed the immediate action item list.

The captain declared an emergency with ATC stating they had experienced sparks and a small flame in the cockpit that was now out and under control but that they had donned oxygen and requested immediate vectors to 18L to land as soon as possible. The flight crew then read the QRC, finished the follow on QRH items and gave the TEST items to the flight attendants. The flight attendants reported no smoke or abnormalities in the cabin. With the approach coming up quickly the captain elected to not make a PA and to just focused on landing safely. The aircraft landed and taxied via C6 and C. They told the tower no assistance was needed. The tower then informed the Blaze team that no assistance was needed and cancelled the emergency. The Blaze team acknowledged and informed the tower they would follow the airplane to the gate E11. No sparks or smoke were ever observed after the switches were turned off but they stayed oxygen on until parked. Upon opening the door the Blaze team inspected the cockpit, found no heat signature in the affected area and left the airplane. The captain then made a PA and informed the passengers that they had a small electrical issue in the cockpit and that the fire team had inspected the cockpit as a precaution and that the jet bridge would be connected soon so they could deplane. The passengers deplaned and they radioed maintenance control with the write up.

On May 26th 2022 the NTSB released their final report concluding the probable cause of the incident was:

The windshield failed due to arcing from an inadequate solder connection at the anti-ice power terminal block.

The NTSB analysed:

The arcing/overheating of the braid wire caused the fire event in the cockpit. Removal of the terminal block and sealant revealed an arcing hot spot where the failure occurred at power braid wire position A. There was no visible solder at the connection point of braid wire A, which led to the arcing of the power braid wire and the fire event in the cockpit.
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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Jul 24, 2020


Flight number

Aircraft Registration

ICAO Type Designator

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