Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jet Crash Remains Mystery to Officials Investigators Will Listen Closely to Voice Recorder

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jet Crash Remains Mystery to Officials Investigators Will Listen Closely to Voice Recorder

Article excerpt

A blackened hillside crater yielded shattered body parts and shards of twisted metal but no answer Friday to the mystery of a USAir jetliner that abruptly fell from the sky on a clear, still evening.

"We're all very much at a loss to explain this accident," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena.

The crew of USAir Flight 427 radioed from six miles away on final approach for landing at the Pittsburgh airport Thursday evening and gave no indication anything was wrong, the airline said.

Then the plane rolled sharply to its left and fell 6,000 feet, investigators said Friday.

"Oh, God . . . Traffic emergency . . . Oh, (expletive)," said one of the pilots, according to a transcript made public by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The control tower told the flight to maintain its altitude at 6,000 feet.

Two seconds later, the crew said, "Traffic emergency. (Unintelligible.) Oh (expletive)."

"USAir 427 Pittsburgh. USAir 427 Pittsburgh. USAir 427 Pittsburgh. USAir 427 Pittsburgh," the control tower radioed to the plane 8 seconds later.

There was no further communication from Flight 427, according to the transcript. The plane flew nose-first into the hill, killing all 132 people on board.

A review of the recordings from the air tower and those contained in the cockpit voice recorder shed little light on the cause of the crash, Carl Vogt, a member of the safety board, said late Friday. Investigators may be able to piece together more information from listening to background noises picked up on the recorder, he said.

An examination of the plane's left engine indicated it was operating when the plane hit the ground, Vogt said. It wasn't clear if the right engine was operating.

There were no immediate indications of explosives or a bird caught in the engine, he said.

USAir Chairman Seth Schofield said the airline had received no threats toward Flight 427 and had "no reason to believe there was sabotage."

The five-member crew was on the last day of a three-day flight, Vogt said.

Witnesses reported seeing the jetliner bank to the right, roll a few times and crash nose-first into a ravine. Some witnesses reported hearing an explosion before the crash; others said they heard the engine sputter, then go silent. Hundreds saw the plane go down, including children and parents at a soccer game about a half-mile away and people outside a shopping center.

"The engines sputtered," said 10-year-old Jason Moka, who was on the soccer field with his younger brother. "Then there was fire and smoke coming out of it. Then it turned upside down, and it spun."

The Boeing 737-300 gouged out a crater in a stand of trees and shattered into countless small pieces. Only the plane's tail remained intact. All 132 people aboard - 127 passengers and five crew members - were killed in the deadliest U. …

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