- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 10 (UPI) — Federal investigators said Friday there were no problems with the cables leading to the tail section of a commuter plane that crashed Wednesday, killing 21.

The elevator in the tail has been targeted as a possible cause of the crash on takeoff of USAir Express Flight 5481 from Charlotte to Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.

"There's no cable breaks, there's no bolts missing — that type of event," National Transportation Safety Board member John Goglia said.

He said the cables were "connected all the way, from front to back, but there's other things that could have caused them not to work as designed."

The elevator had been worked on at a Huntington, W.Va., facility Monday and the Beech 1900D turboprop had made eight flights since the repairs. The mechanics at Huntington have been interviewed, Goglia said.

"I don't have the details of those interviews, but Air Midwest themselves have taken to inspect their entire fleet, including airplanes that these guys have worked on," Goglia said. "I believe there was nothing found, but that's nice proactive activity of the airline to make sure there are no other problems out there."

The plane was operated by AirMidwest under the name US Airways Express.

The elevator is the device that determines whether the 19-seat passenger plane goes up or down. The plane, carrying 19 passengers and two crewmembers, took off at a normal 7-degree angle and then began climbing at 52 degrees before coming down and clipping a USAir maintenance hangar.

There is also speculation the plane might have been overloaded or improperly loaded. Goglia said the weight came in 100 pounds under the safety limit.

"If we went over the maximum gross weight by 100 pounds, is the airplane going to crash? No, it's not," Goglia said. "This is not a drop-dead number. It's just the maximum gross weight to get the performance of the airplane they want out of it."

The on-site investigation was being completed Friday, and the operation was set to move to Washington and elsewhere.

"This has been very demanding on all of us," Goglia said. But he added, "It's one of the smoothest investigations I've ever been on."

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