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CNN Today

NTSB Prepares For Hearings on Little Rock Crash of American Flight 1420

Aired January 26, 2000 - 1:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The National Transportation Safety Board holds hearings this week in Little Rock on the crash last June of American Airlines Flight 1420. The twin-engine jet with 145 people aboard landed in in a thunderstorm, then slid off the runway and broke apart. Eleven people were killed. Seven months later, investigators have questions that go beyond the decision not to divert to another airport.

CNN's Carl Rochelle has our latest report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the wreckage of American Airlines Flight 1420 -- earlier, a routine flight from Dallas to Little Rock with 139 passengers and a crew of six. The pilots were warned of bad weather as the plane approached the airport.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FLIGHT CONTROLLER: American 1420, approach Little Rock, roger. We have a thunderstorm just northwest of the airport, moving through the area now. The wind is 280 at 28, gust 44.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ROCHELLE: Forty-four knots, 51 miles an hour, a lot of wind, even for an MD-82 jetliner. Controllers expressed concern to other airplanes heading for Little Rock.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FLIGHT CONTROLLER: It's kind of rocking and rolling here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROCHELLE: One of American's most senior captains was at the controls of Flight 1420. He and the co-pilot had been working for 13 hours. This was the last stop of the day. Winds continued to batter the plane as it touched down, skidded off the end of the runway and crashed into a light tower. Eleven people, including the captain, died when the plane broke apart and caught fire.

The National Transportation Safety Board will focus on the crew's decision to continue its approach in the face of what appeared to be extremely severe weather and whether that decision was clouded by fatigue.

And there are other questions: why didn't the spoilers, mechanical devices to slow the plane, deploy? And why did the airport emergency crews initially go to the wrong end of the runway? It took them nearly 10 minutes to reach the crash site.

The hearing is expected to run through Friday. Information gathered there will be used to issue the final report and a determination of probable cause in about six months.

Carl Rochelle, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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