Information Changes As Investigators Continue Probe Into Charlotte Crash
Posted January 10, 2003 2:06 a.m. EST
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Federal investigators continued Friday to look at the roles that weight and tail controls may have played in Wednesday's fatal plane crash here.
Though the search for answers to what caused the crash will take months, if not years, investigators have said they will finish their work at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport by Saturday.
The National Transportation Safety Board has reported that the plane was not overweight. But the weight may not have been properly balanced, and if it was tail-heavy, that could have contributed to the plane tilting up sharply before crashing 37 seconds after takeoff.
The information has changed in the last couple of days as the NTSB continues to get information from the flight's data recorders. According to investigator John Goglia, the NTSB has very good information to go on.
One change in information came when Goglia reported that the flight data recorder included data for 84 flights prior to Wednesday but did not include Wednesday's. It was originally believed that the information on the recorder included Wednesday's flight.
By Friday morning, all of the debris had been removed and catalogued. The NTSB said it found all the parts to both engines and 90 percent of the propellors.
Goglia said the instrument panel on the cockpit was badly damaged but that investigators may be able to get some readings from that.
The equipment was taken to Huntington, W. Va. Investigators there on Friday were looking into maintenance that was done on the plane Monday. Wednesday's fatal flight was the plane's ninth since the maintenance had been done - not the eighth, as was previously reported.
There had been speculation that the plane's elevator may have malfunctioned. But officials from Air Midwest, which owned the plane, said they don't believe there were any defects or problems with the elevator.
Air Midwest said it inspected nine Beechcraft 1900s - the type of plane that crashed - at their facility in Wichita. All nine elevator controls reportedly were functioning properly.
Air Midwest said it would inspect elevator controls on its entire fleet of 43 Beech 1900 aircraft by Sunday.
Several airline employees interviewed by the NTSB said the turboprop "looked heavy" as it began its flight. Goglia said the weight of the plane was an estimated 100 pounds below the maximum.
The plane crashed in flames Wednesday morning after leaving the Charlotte airport for a short hop to Greer, S.C. All 19 passengers and the two crew members aboard were killed.
The pilot reported an emergency to the tower, but the FAA said the transmission was cut off.
Investigators said the plane climbed sharply into the air, rolled to the right and dropped rapidly, clipping a corner of a hangar before it hit the ground and exploded in flames.
Goglia said there was confusion among workers loading the plane over whether too many bags had been put in the luggage compartment near the tail of the plane. After consulting with the captain, however, they agreed the plane could handle the load.
The FAA has issued nearly two dozen airworthiness directives on the Beech 1900-D since 1994, warning of problems that must be repaired if found in an aircraft. A directive issued in November warned that screws in the elevator balance weight attachment could come loose and interfere with the horizontal stabilizer.
Goglia said the final victims were removed from the wreckage Thursday and that family members were expected to visit the site Friday.