Flight Was Normal Until 26 Seconds Before Crash

By | February 16, 2009

NYTimes: Jazz guitarist Coleman Mellet, 33, was a touring member of trumpeter Chuck Mangione’s band for the last several years and was on his way to perform with Mr. Mangione and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Closer examination of the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder from the plane shows that 26 seconds before the recordings were stopped by the impact, a warning alerted the crew that the plane might lose lift and fall out of the sky. An automatic system tried to push the nose down to gain airspeed, and yet the nose climbed to 31 degrees, far steeper than the steepest normal climb. Suddenly, the nose plunged to a down angle of 45 degrees, almost like a fighter plane breaking off to dive. Then it rolled right, beyond 90 degrees, all the way to 106 degrees.

Steven Chealander, the member of the Safety Board assigned to the scene and speaking at the news conference here, also said that the crew had turned on the plane’s sophisticated de-icing system shortly after leaving Newark airport on the flight to Buffalo, long before the crash. Such systems can sometimes be ineffective if they are turned on too late.

And the weather conditions, as they were described to the crew before take-off and as the captain and first officer discussed en route, do not appear atypical.

“We don’t know that it was severe icing,” Mr. Chealander said. “They didn’t say that it was severe icing,” he said, referring to the cockpit crew, and “the weatherman didn’t say that it was severe icing.”

If the “upset” began with a huge upward jump of the nose, then a buildup of ice on the tail, another potential hazard of turboprop aircraft, was probably not involved. Sometimes ice limits the ability of the tail to perform its main function — which is to control the nose up/nose down attitude — but in that situation, the nose drops rather than climbs.

Asked why the nose rose, Mr. Chealander said, “there’s a lot of possibilities.” The Safety Board usually takes a year to 18 months to reach a conclusion…

via Flight Was Normal Until 26 Seconds Before Crash – NYTimes.com.


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