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Plane landed flat, didn’t dive into house
Question of the Day
It was the nation’s first deadly crash of a commercial airliner in 2 1/2 years.
One of the survivors from the house, Karen Wielinski, 57, told WBEN-AM that she was watching TV in the family room when she heard a noise. She said her daughter, 22-year-old Jill, who also survived, was watching TV in another part of the house.
“Planes do go over our house, but this one just sounded really different, louder, and I thought to myself, ‘If that’s a plane, it’s going to hit something,’” she told the station. “The next thing I knew the ceiling was on me.”
She said she hadn’t been told the fate of her husband, Doug. “He was a good person, loved his family,” she said.
Among the passengers killed was a woman whose husband died in the World Trade Center attacks of Sept. 11.
Chealander said Friday that the crew of the twin-engine turboprop discussed “significant ice buildup” on the windshield and the leading edge of the wings at an altitude of around 11,000 feet as the plane was descending for a landing.
The flight data recorder indicated the plane’s de-icing equipment was in the “on” position, but Chealander would not say whether the equipment was functioning.
The landing gear was lowered one minute before the end of the flight at an altitude of more than 2,000 feet, and 20 seconds later the wing flaps were set to slow the plane down, after which the aircraft went through “severe pitch and roll,” Chealander said.
The crew raised the landing gear at the last moment, just before the recording ran out. No mayday call came from the pilot.
“Icing, if a significant buildup, is an aerodynamic impediment, if you will,” Chealander said. “Airplanes are built with wings that are shaped a certain way. If you have too much ice, the shape of the wing can change requiring different airspeeds.”
But he refused to draw any conclusions from the data, and cautioned: “We are not ruling anything in or anything out at this time.”
Witnesses heard the plane sputtering before it plunged through the roof of the house.
“It was like you were on the runway. It wasn’t just different. It was like it was going to hit your house,” said Michelle Winer, 46, who ran to look out her front window to see what was happening. “I saw a glow in the sky and I ran to get my husband. He thought I was crazy and then there was a huge explosion. You heard it and felt it.”
William Voss, a former official of the Federal Aviation Administration and current president of the Flight Safety Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group, said the plane’s near vertical drop suggests that ice or a mechanical failure, such as wing flaps deploying asymmetrically or the two engines putting out unequal thrust.
After the crash, at least two pilots were heard on air traffic control circuits saying they had been picking up ice on their wings.
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