Release #10.031
August 31, 2010

American Eagle Pilots Receive ALPA’s Superior Airmanship Award
Crew Recognized for Superior Airmanship After Structural Failure Limited Vertical Movement of Aircraft During Flight

WASHINGTON – The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), will recognize American Eagle Capt. Mark Davis of Wylie, Texas, and First Officer Andres Rubio of Tampa, Florida, at its 2010 Air Safety Forum held on August 31 in Washington, D.C. for their outstanding performance in preventing the catastrophic loss of American Eagle Flight 4756 after a malfunction of the aircraft’s flight controls during a flight over Texas.

“Captain Davis and F/O Rubio’s methodical and skillful handling of a flight control system malfunction that made their airliner only marginally controllable is a testament to their skill, training, and professionalism,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president. “Their response to this near-catastrophe highlights the need to have a trained, experienced flight crew in the cockpit, ready to act decisively at a moment’s notice.”

On the evening of December 25, 2009, Capt. Davis and F/O Rubio were piloting American Eagle Flight 4756, an ATR 72 turboprop aircraft, from Midland, Texas, to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. While in level flight with the autopilot on, the pilots noticed a warning message in the cockpit that alerted them to a problem with the aircraft’s pitch (nose up/down) control. Following checklist procedures, they disconnected the autopilot and discovered that the fore-and-aft movement of both control columns, which control the elevator (the movable part of the airliner’s horizontal tail), and thus its pitch, was restricted in each direction.

Capt. Davis and F/O Rubio twice conducted the “jammed elevator” procedure outlined in their manual, but were unable to free the elevator. While coordinating with American Eagle’s mechanics via radio, they slowed the airplane to about 200 mph and regained better control of the elevator.

As the pilots slowed the aircraft further for their final approach for landing, the elevators seemed to jam again. They conducted a “go-around” (discontinued their first attempt to land and climbed away from the airport).

During their second landing attempt, the pilots still had both control columns partially jammed. They made a shallow approach to a smooth landing, and the two flight attendants and 41 passengers also aboard deplaned normally at the terminal.

Maintenance personnel who inspected the aircraft found that part of the structure associated with the elevator had cracked and separated from the elevator, restricting the elevator movement. This finding led the aircraft manufacturer to issue two service bulletins requiring inspections of the affected area on ATR 42 and ATR 72 airliners to prevent a recurrence of this narrow escape from catastrophe.

“American Eagle Airlines pilots commend our colleagues and recognize that the safe outcome of Flight 4756 is a direct result of teamwork, training, and experience,” said Capt. Tony Gutierrez, chairman of the American Eagle unit of ALPA. “American Eagle pilots share their commitment to the highest standards of safety, and the heroic actions of Capt. Davis and F/O Rubio during this dangerous situation were truly exceptional and serve as a model for all airline pilots to follow.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing nearly 53,000 pilots at 38 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at


CONTACT: ALPA Communications, 703/481-4440 or