Investigators open hearing on Alaska Airlines crash

Posted: Wednesday, December 13, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The pilots of Alaska Airlines doomed flight 261 struggled vainly to save their plane before it crashed into the Pacific Ocean last January, a transcript of the cockpit voice recorder shows.

Promising to pursue every lead, government investigators opened a four-day hearing Wednesday to collect information on the deadly crash.

The airliner bound from Mexico to San Francisco went out of control and plunged into the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles on Jan. 31, killing all 88 aboard, including five Alaskans.

Controls in the MD-80's tail have become suspect in the disaster, but the safety board will not determine the cause of the accident until it completes the hearing and studies the information gathered.

Noting the presence of families of some crash victims in the audience, board member John Hammerschmidt opened the session by saying: ''I want to assure them that the safety board will pursue every lead toward an ultimate solution.''

The board released a series of reports from its investigators including a transcript of the plane's cockpit voice recorder. The actual sound tape from such recorders is never made public.

The transcript shows that the pilot, Ted Thompson, and first officer William Tansky were battling to regain control of their plane as it began twisting and diving in the sky.

At one point the jet went ''full nose down'' according to lead investigator Richard G. Rodriguez.

''Ah, here we go,'' were the last words on the transcript, coming from Thompson seconds before the plane struck the water.

The cockpit voice transcript of the plane's last minutes includes:

--4:11 p.m. and 31 seconds, Tansky: You have the airplane, let me just try it.

--4:11:33, Thompson: I don't know, my adrenaline's goin' ... it was really tough there for a while.

--4:11:43, Tansky: Whatever we did, it's no good, don't do that again.

--4:11:44, Thompson: Yea, no, it went down, it went to full nose down.

--4:11:48, Tansky: It's a lot worse than it was.

--4:11:50, Thompson: Yea, yea, we're in much worse shape now.

--4:11:59, Thompson: ... I'm thinking, can it go any worse, but it probably can.

--4:14:12: On the plane's public address system: Folks, we've had a flight control problem up front here. We're workin' it.

--4:17:09 Flight attendant visiting cockpit: OK, we had like a big bang back there.

--4:19:36, sound of extremely loud noise in the cockpit, increase in background noise, sound of loose articles moving around in cockpit.

--4:19:43, Tansky: Mayday.

--4:19:49, Thompson: Push and roll, push and roll.

--4:19:54, Thompson: OK, we are inverted and now we gotta get it.

--4:20:03, Thompson: Kick. (Probably referring to the rudder)

--4:20:04, Thompson: Push, push, push, push (probably referring to the control stick).

--4:20:16, Thompson: OK, now let's kick rudder, left rudder, left rudder.

--4:20:18, Tansky: I can't reach it.

--4:20:20, Thompson: OK, right rudder.

-4:20:25, Thompson: Are we flyin? No G's (no feel of gravity). We're flyin, were flyin'.

--4:20:38, Thompson: Got to get it over again. At least upside down we were flyin'.

--4:20:54, Thompson: Speed brakes.

--4:20:55, Tansky: Got it.

--4:20:56, Thompson: Ah, here we go.

--4:20:57, end of recording.


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