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CNN Today

Transcripts of American Airlines 1420 Crash in Little Rock, Arkansas, Need Not Have Happened, Says Expert

Aired January 28, 2000 - 1:33 p.m. ET

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

ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: Weather was not only a factor in the crash of an American Airlines jet in Arkansas, last year. At least one expert said overconfidence and pilot error also played a part. Transcripts from the cockpit shed new light on the events leading up to the crash.

CNN's Ed Garsten reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED GARSTEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice-over): After examining transcripts from the cockpit voice recorder, a leading aviation expert believes the crash of American Airlines 1420 in Little Rock was avoidable.

WILLIAM KAUFFMAN, AVIATION PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: It was controllable, it was foreseeable and things just got out of control.

GARSTEN: William Kauffman says a combination of pilot fatigue...

KAUFFMAN: They were working 14 hours, OK? They'd probably been up for more like 18, 20 hours.

GARSTEN: ... bravado...

KAUFFMAN: There were some indications there that, hey, the co- pilot knew we're getting into a serious situation and the pilot was perhaps overly confident. OK, and continued.

GARSTEN: ... and simply bad decision-making in rain, low visibility and high winds all contributed to the crash.

KAUFFMAN: It's clear that they should have, long before they did, decided, OK, we're going to go around and hang out, or we're going to go divert.

GARSTEN: Kauffman says the pilots put the plane on a collision course when they failed to line up correctly with a runway barely visible in the story weather.

KAUFFMAN: And they're basically going down the runway sideways, OK, and they're hydroplaning, OK, skidding, and they can't control the airplane.

GARSTEN: Another factor: the wing spoilers designed to slow the plane down did not deploy on the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 jet.

KAUFFMAN: It could have been, he didn't have any spoilers, he hit the runway and bounced, he went back airborne again because he didn't have any spoilers, because he had lift, and here the poor guy is zipping down the runway like an air puck or a hockey puck.

GARSTEN: Kauffman says a simple decision by the pilot to remain in a holding pattern until the weather passed or to divert to Memphis, Tennessee, would have prevented the accident.

KAUFFMAN: This was an accident that did not have to happen.

GARSTEN: The pilot and 10 others died in the crash.

Ed Garsten, CNN, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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