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21 Killed in Commuter Plane Crash in Charlotte, North Carolina

Aired January 8, 2003 - 11:53   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And we continue our developing coverage of this plane crash and the -- in Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, that plane we understand was a Beech 1900D, or also known as a Raytheon 1900D, flight number 5481 USAirways express, also operators of Midwest Airways plane.
Our Patty Davis is standing by in Washington. She's been chipping into the coverage there, checking with her sources with the NTSB.

Let's go to her now and see what she's learned -- Patty.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, NTSB taking off any moment, heading down to the scene. They will certainly be about a dozen investigators hitting the ground, and indeed, holding a press conference at some point this afternoon to say what they know so far. We look up the records for this aircraft. It was manufactured in 1996, owned and operated by Mesa Airlines, but used as a USAirways flight, but the maintenance for this aircraft is not done by USAirways; it is done By mesa.

The FAA says this airplane is required to have a flight data recorder which indicates speed, flaps, all those things and it will have a voice recorder, as well. So investigators will have those to look up.

Now, USAirways telling me no flight attendant on board this flight, only a very short flight. It only had a capital and copilot.

And I'm also told as far as the flight data record is concerned, it is an L-3 digital flight data recorder with about 11 parameters, meaning it can monitor 11 different flight functions.

One other thing we've been getting is reports the families were having trouble getting through on this 800 number to USAirways to find out if any of their loved ones were victims in this crash.

And indeed, that 800 number, there you see it right now, and USAirways saying that it is working to get lines up as fast as it can -- Leon.

HARRIS: Good deal. Thank you, Patty. and we'll keep that number up for a little bit longer so people can record that number for their own purposes there, 1-800-679-8215, if you absolutely need to have information about someone who may have been on flight 5481. Unless you're a family member, do not call this number. DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Greenville news conference are reporting there might be people who have loved ones on USAir flights later in the day, do not call their numbers to check on their whereabouts, because that's not going to help out the families who really want to get that information.

KAGAN: In the final moment or so we have left, we want to bring Peter Goelz back in, the former board member for the NTSB.

And keeping on this topic, Peter, of family assistance. This is a topic and a process that has changed over the years.

PETER GOELZ, FMR. NTSB BOARD MEMBER: It has indeed. It changed dramatically after the tragic accident of TWA flight 800. The Congress passed a Family Assistance act, and now all of the air carriers, the regionals and the majors, must submit family assistance plans to the NTSB and to the Department of Transportation.

They have to test these plans to make sure they work, and the whole handling of family members has improved dramatically in the past five years. You can see from the airport director that they have a family room set up already. The Red Cross, which works very closely with the NTSB, with the air carriers. They have trained teams across the country that are dispatched when a tragedy like this occurs. This is a tremendous improvement that the industry and the government have worked together on over the past five years so that the pain of these terrible events is not magnified by problems in the post-accident situation.

KAGAN: And we're getting word that NTSB investigators on the scene. We could see a news conference as early as the next hour, Peter. What else would you expect for us to see over the next 24 hours?

GOELZ: Well, generally, what happens in this case is the NTSB is a regional office in Atlanta that has an aviation division. The regional investigators would be dispatched immediately to Charlotte. They would be assigned to secure the site, tie it down, to make sure that none of the evidence is moved, that the debris field remains untouched, and that they would line up eyewitnesses, anyone who had something to say for the main investigative team, which will probably be arriving in Charlotte somewhere between 2:00 and 3:00.

They will then break into teams, based on their specialties -- human factors, survivallability, weather, flight operations, engine -- and they would reach out to people from the manufacturer and from the airline, and they would get to work today.

KAGAN: All right, Peter Goelz, thank you for your expertise on this morning, not the conditions on which we'd like to meet, but you've been very helpful nonetheless. Appreciate it.

GOELZ: Thank you.



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