Feds: Nothing ruled out in crash


Investigators continue their work at the sight of Wednesday's plane crash of US Airways Express Flight 5481 that killed 21 people at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport Friday. Federal investigators are looking at the flights weight, estimated to be about 100 pounds below its maximum, and at recent work on its tail assembly, National Transportation Safety Board member John Goglia said Thursday.

(AP Photo/Erik Perel)
Published: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 12:10 a.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Federal investigators wrapped up work at a commuter plane crash site Friday and said nothing had been ruled out as a potential cause of the accident that killed 21 people this week.
National Transportation Safety Board member John Goglia said crews had recovered cables connecting cockpit controls to the elevators, key pieces of tail equipment that determine the plane's pitch. He said the only damage found was caused by Wednesday's crash.
However, Goglia said that doesn't rule out the possibility that the cables may have had improper tension or even become detached before the accident.
"Almost every accident has multiple causes," Goglia said. " 'The stars line up,' is what people call it."
A final report on the cause of the crash is expected to take months.
Routine maintenance was done on the tail assembly Monday night at a Raytheon Aerospace facility in West Virginia. The plane's flight data recorder shows an unusual up-and-down motion of the elevator on all nine flights after the work was done - including the doomed flight from Charlotte.
Elevators are flaps that swing from the rear of a plane's horizontal tail stabilizer, increasing or decreasing lift.
A team of NTSB investigators has been sent to the facility in Ceredo, W.Va., where the maintenance was done. Company officials have confirmed only that Raytheon Aerospace does maintenance work on the Beech 1900 fleet of Mesa Air, parent of the commuter company, Air Midwest, that was operating the US Airways Express flight.
Investigators are also looking at whether the plane's cargo and the distribution of weight within the plane played a role in the crash.
Pilots, mechanics, gate agents and baggage handlers told investigators the plane "looked heavy" as it set out, Goglia said.
Flight 5481 was about 100 pounds below its maximum when it left the Charlotte airport, Goglia said. But he said the maximum weight isn't an absolute figure: "If it goes 1,000 pounds over, it doesn't mean you're going to crash."
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, investigators said. After consulting with the captain, however, it was agreed the plane could handle the load.
The Federal Aviation Administration has told Air Midwest officials to check more than 40 planes that may have been serviced at the Ceredo facility. Mesa Group said no problems had been found on the elevator assemblies of nine Beech 1900s inspected so far. It said the rest of the 43-plane fleet would be inspected by Sunday.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top