Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Plane's Black Box Yields Fire Report Talk of Blaze Recorded Only 6 Minutes into Flight

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Plane's Black Box Yields Fire Report Talk of Blaze Recorded Only 6 Minutes into Flight

Article excerpt

Six minutes into the doomed ValuJet Flight 592, the cockpit door opened and a conversation took place about fire in the passenger cabin, the plane's voice recorder indicated Monday.

Robert Francis, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the passengers also had problems getting oxygen before the plane crashed May 11 in Florida, killing all 110 people aboard.

"It appears that the cockpit door opened," Francis said in a news conference Monday. "There were verbal indications from the cockpit there was fire in the passenger cabin. There was also an indication from the cabin that there were problems obtaining oxygen.

"Now that is the limit of what we have at the moment."

Francis said the tape contained 30 minutes of recorded material, the normal capacity. He said that the tape was in good condition, but that the sound quality was poor and "very very difficult to decipher."

Francis said a group of experts was listening to the tape. But he added, "At this stage, we have not had the opportunity to do enough work on the tape to say how much help it's going to be.

"It's not going to be a question of hours but of days" before the experts know whether more can be learned from the tape, he said.

But, he said, experts found "some indication" that gaps may occur in the audio tape, just as they did in the data recorder.

Earlier, in Miami, Mike Benson, a spokesman for the safety board, said of the voice recorder: "It takes time to handle and get information out of it, and experts need to sit down and listen to it very carefully. We want to make sure we know what we have."

Benson said the black box was in good condition. But he could not say whether it might have gaps because of loss of power on the DC-9.

The data recorder, found two days after the crash, stopped 50 seconds before the flight ended.

A police diver found the elusive voice recorder Sunday, just before the search was to be suspended because of an approaching thunderstorm. The outer case of the recorder was damaged by the impact but was intact. The tape could provide details on what happened in the cockpit as the plane nose-dived into the swampy Everglades, as well as other sounds that could indicate what went wrong with the DC-9. …

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