Stephen Carbone is a former aircraft accident investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB); his specialty was aircraft maintenance, though he did assist and consult on structures, systems, and powerplant issues. Stephen was the first – and at the time, only – airframe and powerplant certificated staff accident investigator at the NTSB.
Stephen began his aircraft maintenance career at FedEx, where he worked for nineteen years. Before becoming an aircraft mechanic, he worked as a load master/ramp agent for 727 and DC-10 aircraft in JFK airport. After moving to Memphis he spent seven years working in the heavy maintenance hangar. Later he moved to Omaha, NE, working line maintenance. He capped off his FedEx career by taking a supervisor position in Newark airport in New Jersey at FedEx’s Metroplex; he was part of a management team for the maintenance line.
His education qualifications include his A&P certification and Associates degree in Aeronautical Science in 1986. While in Omaha, he pursued his Bachelors of Arts degree in Professional Aeronautics. After moving to New Jersey, Stephen sought a Masters degree, receiving a degree in Safety Systems in 2001.
Stephen joined the NTSB in 2001. He had the humbling experience of working the three 9/11 crash sites, trying to locate victims while assisting in the gathering of evidence for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Stephen acted as a consultant for the NTSB field offices wherever aircraft maintenance or inspection questions came up. He worked with the Human Factors division at the NTSB to develop interview protocols, which brought to light several concerns with air operators in later accidents.
During this time he wrote and taught a presentation on aircraft maintenance issues in aircraft accident investigation. This was taught as part of the Investigators’ course at the NTSB Academy in Ashburn, VA, a unique course drawing aviation specialists from around the world: airline personnel, law enforcement, international government representatives, and other NTSB accident investigators. He also taught Aircraft System Safety courses at the Embry-Riddle/Patuxent River Naval Base education center.
Other duties included working foreign accidents as an NTSB liaison. He went to Colombia to investigate a DC-9 accident outside Mitu, assisting the Colombian authorities in the gathering of evidence and the writing of the report. Stephen also joined accident investigators in Taiwan to look into the crash of China Airlines flight 611, a 747 that crashed into the South China Sea. Before the airliner could be raised from the ocean floor, he aided the Taiwanese investigators in locating the paper trail that pointed to a fatal engineering oversight.
Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) was killed in a Part 135 accident.
Air Midwest operating as US Air Express
Stephen transferred to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) where he spent several years in Washington, DC, as the Air Carrier Air Cargo Specialist; his job included crafting policy and overseeing inspector training for the ever changing air cargo industry.
It was in these years that Stephen began writing for two aircraft maintenance trade publications; some samples are below. Over the next few years he would provide an “open door” with industry, writing from an FAA perspective that explained new policies, clarified terminology, and allowed readers to ask questions. It was a successful venue that cleared up some of both the FAA’s and the aviation industry’s more ambiguous concepts.
Stephen transferred to the FAA’s Eastern Regional office in Boston working as an airworthiness technical specialist for the Air Carrier division. His job was to provide assistance to air carrier certification teams, conduct audits in the various FAA offices, and investigate issues found in the region. During this time he appeared in National Geographic’s Mayday/Air Emergency series, Season 5, Episode 4: Dead Weight; it was the recreation of the Air Midwest 5481 Charlotte, NC accident. Stephen appeared in the episode describing his part in the investigation. Stephen is also a member of International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI).
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