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Tapes from crash of Flight 587 released

The plane slammed into a Queens, New York, neighborhood on November 12.
The plane slammed into a Queens, New York, neighborhood on November 12.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pilots in the air when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed and slammed into a Queens neighborhood on November 12 alerted the control tower that they had seen the crash and fireball that followed, according to air traffic control tapes released Wednesday by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"There's an aircraft crashing," reported one pilot.

"Say again?" responds the control tower.

One of the pilots said the jet crashed and described a huge fire. Ground controllers immediately began trying to figure out which plane had gone down.

The FAA released audio tapes of the conversation between the control tower and pilots who saw American Airlines Flight 587 crash. CNN's Kathleen Koch reports (February 21)

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Video of the crash

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Crash area 
Airbus A300 
A pilot radios the control tower to describe crash scene.
158k / 15 seconds
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Soon, other pilots radioed in, describing huge plumes of black smoke rising from the ground.

"It's a big, intense fire down there," said one.

Flight 587 departed from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and, within minutes, crashed in Queens, killing 260 people on the plane and five on the ground. The tapes, released without comment by the FAA, contain no transmission or conversations between Flight 587 and the tower at the time of the crash.

Within minutes, ground controllers tried in vain to raise the pilot of Flight 587. "American 587 heavy, I'm not receiving your transponder," one controller says.

The National Transportation Safety Board says there is no evidence of sabotage. The agency is focusing on two rudder components and the electronic controls as possible causes of the crash.

Earlier this month, the board recommended that pilots get special training about rudder use and vertical stabilizers. Investigators say they learned during the probe that pilots often are unaware of the impact that even slight rudder movements can have on a plane's vertical stabilizer.

Most of the conversations on the tapes were routine transmissions between various pilots and ground controllers as planes taxied onto runways and were cleared for takeoff.




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