Flight 261 Crash Probe: Radar Data Indicates Piece May Have Broken Off in MidairAired February 8, 2000 - 12:01 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: There is new information about the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261. Radar data indicates that something fell off the airliner four miles from the crash site. The National Transportation Safety Board is scheduled to hold its next briefing in an hour. We should get more information then.
But we have CNN's Carl Rochelle close to the story. He joins us now live.
Carl, what's happening?
CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, there's a possibility that a piece broke off of that airplane in midair. Investigators are looking at tapes of radar, you know, they have radar tracking the airplane from a number of different stations as it goes through the air. And all of that information is taped and they can look back at it, and they have. And there appears to be a primary target about four miles from the airplane: a piece of something that is drifting down with the wind. And officials believe that could be something that broke off of the airplane.
A little explanation of primary target: normally when you speak of airplanes, they're looking at what's known as secondary radar, which is the transponder. A primary target means the actual radar signal is hitting the object and returning it to primary radar. And they believe there was something out there that went down.
Of course, it makes it very much more important now to recover the debris from the ocean floor. We do know that part of the vertical stabilizer and horizontal stabilizer were on the floor of the ocean in that area. It was picked up by officials as they looked through the cameras that were mapping out the bottom.
They will look at that to see whether something did break off, if they could tell from there. And, of course, a look at trying to find whatever it was that was floating through there. That may be very difficult. It is quite a large area out in that particular region.
More on Alaska Airlines today: at around 2:00, Jim Hall, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, has a briefing planned for about an hour from now. We expect to hear the read-out on the flight data recorder, which has been back in the NTSB offices for several days, and is being looked at. Perhaps, even a look at some of the other airplanes that have been involved in different incidents with the horizontal stabilizer since then. You remember there was an American Airlines plane that returned to Phoenix. There was a Alaska Airlines plane that went to Reno, and then, of course, there was a problem last evening with an MD-83 out in San Francisco -- Lou.
WATERS: All right, Carl Rochelle. We'll hear more later on this story.
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