- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003


Two minutes before US Airways Express Flight 5481 crashed on takeoff, killing all 21 persons aboard, Capt. Katie Leslie and co-pilot Jonathan Gibbs joked about giving Krispy Kreme doughnuts as a wedding gift. But the talk turned serious as the plane took off from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport with its nose pointed too far up, according to cockpit voice recorder transcripts released yesterday.

“Help me,” Capt. Leslie said. Mr. Gibbs swore. He swore again as Capt. Leslie apparently pushed the control column that moves the tail flap, which was supposed to push the nose down to the correct angle.

But the tail flap did not respond, according to Lorenda Ward, investigator in charge for the National Transportation Safety Board.

“Oh, my God,” said Capt. Leslie, who then radioed the control tower. “We have an emergency.”

A child yelled, “Daddy.”

Warning horns sounded.

“Pull the power back,” Capt. Leslie said. “Oh my God.”

The plane plunged to earth 37 seconds into the Jan. 8 flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Greer, S.C.

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