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THE SITUATION ROOM

Continuing Coverage of The Crash of Flight 3407; Passenger Jet Crash Lands at London City Airport

Aired February 13, 2009 - 16:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Now one minute, the plane was in the air. Soon after, it slammed into a house, exploded in flames and 50 people were dead. This hour, pictures of the disaster.

And the president's economic stimulus package clears the House and it's going ahead to the Senate, which is now set to happen during this show. But there are some lawmakers, they're complaining that they're being rushed to pass this massive bill without even time to read it.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

MALVEAUX: Right now, we're getting breaking news. This is from the Associated Press. We have been reporting -- they are reporting that a passenger jet has crashed at the London City Airport, closest -- that is the airport that is closest to London. The Associated Press reporting that passengers and crew have been evacuated safely. I'm also being told as well that CNN has confirmed the Associated Press's report here. We're now getting information, I think, 67 passengers were on board.

This is a crash that happened in London City Airport. It was a crash landing that happened there. We have been told that the passengers and the crew have been evacuated safely. I'm now learning that two have been taken to the hospital. So, so far, we know of at least two passengers taken to the hospital, that all of the passengers escaped safely and we're actually going to bring you much, much more as we get more information.

We are now standing by to get new information about the plane that slammed into a house near Buffalo, New York. That happened last night. The National Transportation Safety Board is about to begin a news conference. We're going to get to that live but in a minute.

Right now let's check in with CNN's Deborah Feyerick.

You're near the crash site. What can you tell us?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know that investigators have been there all day, coming through whatever evidence is left on the ground. FBI agents there, too. Somebody who lives in the area said that he needed a police escort to get his home. And he describes it as very, very quiet. There's a heavy police presence. Sheriff's deputies, as well as state troopers and police officers from this area, making sure that the crime scene -- not the crime scene, but the crash scene, excuse me, is secure.

Now we spoke to a lot of witnesses all day today and the one thing they all say, Suzanne, is that they heard this engine, that there was something wrong with the engine. One girl saying that it sounded as if something got stuck and the engine was trying to right itself and couldn't as if it was jammed. But here's what one lady told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAIMEE LYNN TRUJILLO, CRASH WITNESS: We didn't know what was going on until our neighbors told us because we heard everything from the moment we were in the house. Our house shook and at that point, we ran outside because we heard this low buzzing sound and when we ran to the scene -- what we saw from our kitchen window, we saw all these flames, everything just engulfed in flames and they were getting higher.

So we ran out there and just some of the neighbors were out at that point. Everybody was trying to call 911. My neighbors, we were trying to see if could help pull anybody out, but there was no way. We couldn't even get close to the plane because it kept going higher and higher.

We did see the wing of the plane standing straight up, and -- then I could see the front part of the plane. It was at such a crazy angle, the whole part of the plane, that it was just -- you could see some parts to it then it was engulfed in flames. And at that point, I heard a woman screaming, I turned behind me, because I heard a woman screaming, that's my house, that's my house.

I turned around and she was barefoot and this couple behind her was holding her up because she fell to the ground. And at that point, I was going to ask if she needed anything, but what happened was I turned around because there was another explosion within the fire and -- so I turned around and the fire kept growing bigger and bigger.

The house was already demolished. There was no house there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: And witnesses say they simply could not get close enough to help anyone. But many also told us that, in fact, it didn't seem there was anyone to help. Again, this community really traumatized.

The NTSB now is in possession of both the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, of all the pieces that somehow survived, the tail section, where those two recorders are located. And that's why investigators were able to get it and bring it down to Washington so quickly. So they're hoping that if those are not damaged, they'll be able to get some vital information as far as what's going on there.

I did speak to the lead NTSB investigator earlier today. He said the one thing about this investigation in this crash scene is that it is so contained. There are some crashed where evidence is spread all over the place, but in fact, this one is really almost confined to a pretty tight area and that certainly will help things go more quickly.

The medical examiner, of course, sadly also there on the scene. So all of this just -- people trying to make sense of how a plane could simply appear to fall from the sky. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Deb. Thanks, Deborah. We'll be getting back to you when the NTSB has that press conference to learn more.

We are learning more also about the passengers on board that Flight 3407. From the people really who knew them best.

Chris Kausner says that 24-year-old sister, Elise, was on the plane.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS KAUSNER, SISTER ON PLANE: I was driving right through town because I was on my way home from a soccer game. And they announced on the radio that they had set up a command station here, so...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Chris, what has been going through your mind the last few minutes?

KAUSNER: Like I said, I really am just thinking about my mother. I -- my parents are on vacation in Florida and I had to call down there and tell my father what was going on and I'm -- just thinking about my mom.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How are they taking it?

KAUSNER: To tell you the truth, I heard my mother make a noise on the phone that I've never heard before. So not good. Not good. My sister was on the plane as far as we know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: She was due to come in on that flight?

KAUSNER: Yes. My other sister Laura was waiting at the airport. I heard on the radio that there had been a crash, so I called immediately to see if the plane had landed at the airport or not and, initially, she thought that it had but it turns out that that is not the case.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was it Continental?

KAUSNER: Yes. She was on a Continental flight coming in from Newark.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were you able to get close to the scene at all or not?

KAUSNER: No closer than anybody else. I tried but they told me to come over here but any information would be coming out of here so.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What have you heard?

KAUSNER: Nothing. Nothing. They just said they are gathering information together right now and they really don't know anything.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What are you thinking?

KAUSNER: I'm -- right now, I'm thinking the worse and I'm thinking about the fact that my mother has to fly home from Florida and what I'm going to tell my two sons. That's what I'm thinking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: And President Obama spoke briefly today about the plane crash. He was offering his condolences and his perspective on the disaster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends who lost loved ones and as always, our thanks go out to the brave first responders who arrived immediately to try and to save lives, who are still on the scene keeping people safe.

Now tragic events such as these remind us of the fragility of life and the value of every single day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: The president specifically mentioned Beverly Eckert. She's a prominent 9/11 widow who was killed in the crash. He said he saw her just last week and found her to be an inspiration.

Well, the plane crashed into a house in a residential neighborhood of Clarence Center, it's just outside of buffalo. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton looking into the area on Google Earth.

And Abbi, tell us exactly where this happened.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: We're going to take you right there, Suzanne. Show you where this plane went down at 10:17 p.m. last night. We're about seven miles away from Buffalo Airport here, in Clarence Center, to the northeast.

And eyewitnesses that saw the plane go down said it seemed to be heading towards the northeast, away from the airport when it crashed. Heading towards Long Street, this is in Clarence Center, an area that backs on to open land, but the plane made a direct hit on to one of the houses there. And we can show you that house there on Google Street View.

This is the road that we're talking about. That house on the right, it's a house that took the direct hit. That's the house that was destroyed. But look, the houses either side of this single-family home, less than 50 feet away. But take a look at this iReport that was recorded last night at the scene from that exact place right there.

You can see that house on the right still standing. Just the one house that was destroyed there. One person was killed, two taken to the hospital with minor injuries. And the iReporter also recording the weather last night. Freezing rain drops, he said last night when he recorded that.

MALVEAUX: Those are incredible pictures. And you can tell it took -- one house took the impact, not a whole neighborhood, really.

TATTON: Just superficial damages to the house on either side.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Abbi.

Colgan Air operates commuter flights for three big airlines, under the names Continental Connection, United Express and U.S. Airways Express. It offers daily service to 65 cities across the United States and two in Canada. The company has a fleet of more than 50 commuter aircraft including 15 of the kind of plane that went down near Buffalo. It's a 74-seat Bombardier turboprop.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

MALVEAUX: We're now going to go to Fredricka Whitfield.

Fred, you can tell us a little bit more about that London jet crash that happened that we learned just moments ago. Fred?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Just moments ago is exactly right. We learned that at London City Airport, this is separate from what people mostly know as London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports. This taking place at a smaller airport which usually services London, England and other parts of Europe.

We understand that a passenger jet crash landed there on one of the runways and miraculously all 67 passengers on board this passenger jet were evacuated to safety. We do understand that two people have been taken to a nearby hospital and at this time, London City Airport, the Web site, is indicating that it is closed while the investigation is underway. And of course, this is a crash scene site, we don't know the circumstances as to what took place with this passenger jet just before it made this emergency landing and thus, end up crash landing as well.

But we understand that this took place on the southeast section of London. This is a small airport that's usually used for domestic and European flights. When we get any more information about the crash scene there and the circumstances that brought this passenger jet to this emergency landing, we'll be able to bring that to you -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Fred.

We're now going to go to the NTSB briefing that has just begun that, obviously, about the other plane crash that happening out of Buffalo, New York. Let's take a listen. STEVE CHEALANDER, NTSB: Those facts, after I pass them to you. That's all we're doing today is gathering evidence and for the next several days, that's the phase of investigation that we're in. So I would like to remind you of what I said this morning about the protocol of our investigation.

The first thing I'd like to do is update some information that many of you have already gotten. We reported or it has been reported that there were 49 fatalities involved with this accident. The number is actually 50. That difference in one is that the way the flight was manifested, the pilot revenue count or the passenger revenue count was 44.

There was one off-duty pilot that was flying as a jump-seat rider, and there were four crew member -- members assigned to the flight. That's a total of 49 on the plane and one fatality on the ground. So I'd just like to clarify that at this point.

The next thing I'd like to update is I told you this morning we were looking for the data recorders and the CVR, the cockpit voice recorder. And I told you that we thought we'd find them and send them to Washington this morning. I know a lot of you have already gotten that information that we did find them but I will report that yes, we did.

We recovered those from the aircraft and they were put on an FAA airplane and flown back to Washington this morning, and we've already done some initial analysis and auditions of those recordings and I'm going to report to you today some of the things that we've heard already from our Washington laboratories.

The next thing we did today as the NTSB is conduct an organizational briefing and an organizational meeting. The investigator in charge, Lorenda Ward, I told you about her this morning, conducted this meeting and in this meeting, we designated the parties to the investigation, the people that are going to -- the groups that are going to help us determine the cause of this accident.

Those parties and party system that we'd use is a very successful one -- use at the NTSB for a long time. It helps us gain the expertise we need to conduct the investigation, but the parties to the investigation have been designated the FAA, ALPA, which is the Airline Pilots Association, the pilot union in this accident, Colgan Airlines or Colgan Airlines and NADCA. NADCA is the labor union that represents the air traffic controllers.

Those are the four parties to the investigation that will assist the NTSB. Now the party system can expand. We can bring more parties in as we progress. Transportation Safety Board of Canada has been -- is the accredited representative from Canada. And the airplane manufacturer Bombardier who manufactured the airplane is a technical advisers to transports safety board.

Now, cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorder. We recovered both boxes. Both had been determined to be of good quality, excellent qualities, as a matter of fact. The cockpit voice recorder recorded two hours of cockpit conversations and the flight data recorder -- we found 250 flight parameters on the flight data recorder. And as I said, we've done an initial analysis and audition of those tapes and recordings in Washington.

And I will report to you now, the -- don't have a lot of room up here. I'll report to you now some of the findings, facts only, and again, please don't ask me to analyze any of these. The facts that came off the cockpit voice recorder and what we heard the crew talking about in the last 30 minutes of this accident of the aircraft.

The crew briefed -- and I'm going refer to my notes quite a bit here because there's quite a bit of information. The crew briefed an ILS approach, which is an instrument landing system approach, to runway 23 at Buffalo. The crew briefed the weather to themselves in the cockpit and they reported that visibility was three miles with snow and mist in the vicinity.

The crew commented at 16,000 feet that they noticed that it was rather hazy and had requested air traffic control to allow them to descend to 12,000 feet. Shortly after that request, they were cleared to 11,000 feet. The crew discussed significant ice buildup, ice on the windshield and leading edge of the wings.

The flight data recorder indicated airframe the ice, which a system in the plane that helps de-ice those wings and windshield and surfaces on that aircraft, that the airframe de-ice was selected in the on position before those comments were made about the significant ice on the windshields and leading edge of the wings.

The landing gear were placed down one minute before the end of the recording. 20 seconds later, the flaps were selected to 15. And I can get into a discussion on what flaps are and so forth for those who would like to ask about that, but suffice it to say, it's changing the shape of the wings so that you can slow down to a landing airspeed and land the airplane.

Flight director shows a series of severe pitch and roll excursions within seconds of the 15 flaps command. Pitch and roll being pitch, up and down of the airplane, and roll being this way. And then shortly after that, the crew attempted to raise the gear and flaps just before the end of the recording.

And that's it from the recording that we have thus far. But we wanted to report that to you because it's factual information. It's what we have determined at our laboratories in Washington, D.C. and so now you have that information.

The NTSB is working to recover the remains of the victims of this tragedy. They are working with the FBI, the medical examiners office and local authorities from the area around Buffalo, with the assistance, of course, of the Red Cross.

I would like to pass out a FBI witness number. If you could take this down and please broadcast this. The FBI would welcome your calls. Anybody that witnessed anything at all that they think is significant, please call this number. It's area code 716-856-7800. And I think I've gotten through about everything I wanted to present to you and I would like to open it up to questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: Let me call on her first and look for there first thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: We don't have that information yet, but we will get that in subsequent auditions of the flight data recorder and we'll be able to determine that more closely, but suffice it to say, the accident was six miles from the runway and, you know, they put the gear down one minute before the end of the recording, which could be construed at the same time as the accident, so they were probably in the vicinity of 2,000 feet plus. That's just a guess. That's not based on anything that we've found scientifically. Tom?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you elaborate on the fact that (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: I just got the bullet but I didn't hear the recording. I just got this from Washington via e-mail and they just said that they noticed significant icing on the windshield and on the leading edge of the wings. That's about all we've got. I don't have the exact wordage that they used.

Yes? Selected on.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: I don't think that's one of the parameters -- all we know is that it was selected on. It's not going to tell you whether it was functioning or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: I'm just reporting what we saw. Again, that would get into analysis phase and saying that -- you would expect this if they have icing problems, we're not going to do that. So all we can tell you is that they saw icing on the windshield and the leading edge of the wings, leading edge of the wings because you can look out and look back at your wings. That's how they saw that. Right after that, significant pitch and roll. Severe pitch and roll is what -- is the words that were used.

Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: That's something the crew does. Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On 9/11, the (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: Well, let me just start with -- let me start with your first question. We're not ruling anything in or anything out at this time. And that's one of the reasons that the FBI has joined us. They're with us on all these types of accidents to look at those issues, so nothing's been ruled in, nothing's been ruled out. We just recently got control of the scene because the fire has been knocked down or the hot spots are knocked down so we have primacy on the accident scene.

And second part of your question?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: And I won't speculate on what we will or will not find.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did they talk about anything that (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: Well, as I said, they were given three miles visibility with snow and mist. That's icing conditions. So that's the information that they had. We are in the process -- we have a weather investigative group that came with us as part of the NTSB. And they're in the process right now of downloading all the weather service data to determine exactly what existed at the time of the accident, to determine whether or not there was freezing rain, whatever it was, so we're still a little premature on that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: On the Dash 8, you mentioned that they have a de-icing technology or equipment hooked on specifically on the Dash 8, and this was only your old plane. What specifically would that had it been working properly, would have...

CHEALANDER: It's my understanding, and we just talked about this a little bit ago, and we don't have total information on the performance of this airplane, but as the pneumatic icing boots and pneumatic icing boots, when you select them on, you can -- they have three different settings and they basically break ice loose that has developed on the leading edges of the wing. So as you put them on, these boots expand. It breaks ice free.

Yes? I don't think they have it on the tail, but don't quote me on that. I...

(LAUGHTER)

I'm not sure about the tail on it. I do know that the boots are on the wing. But they had a pneumatic ice boots on this aircraft. Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: The fire crews are still there because there's still smoke and so forth and we want to make sure that nothing comes back up, but our folks on, as I just pointed out, the NTSB, medical examiner and local authorities are there trying to sift through the wreckage and find the remains of those victims. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Could you tell us what the last transmission was between the crew and tower and among themselves.

CHEALANDER: Well, I think the ATC tapes are already out there. It's been all over the news, the broadcast from the controllers to the aircraft and I haven't really sat down and listened to it myself, so I don't want to talk about that at this time because we don't have that and our data yet. Maybe in a subsequent briefing I can tell you that. But that's about all we've got. Again.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sorry, I just want to make clear, at what altitude did you say that the icing (INAUDIBLE)...

CHEALANDER: It was prior to them making the comments about the significant icing, so it was, you know, back up the trail there again. As I answered to someone over here just a minute ago, I think it was Lisa who asked the question, when did all this happen, we don't know that specifically yet. We will once we examine closer the FDR and the CVR and put the chronology together and we'll get that information to you as soon as we can.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you taking more questions?

CHEALANDER: Sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said the (INAUDIBLE) is set to 15 degrees, would that be a normal setting for a plane as it approached (INAUDIBLE) to land?

CHEALANDER: Yes. When you're con figuring to land, its gear down and flashed to a setting, and as you get slower, then flaps more and more flaps and more flaps until you get your final landing setting, and then you land the airplane. So...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: Exactly. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: At any point indicate any trauma at all to the tower?

CHEALANDER: Not to my knowledge. Now again, it's out on the air waves already, what was said on the -- with approach control and the tower and so forth so I haven't heard anything like that, nor have I been told by our people in Washington whether or not that was said so.

Somebody yell me over, Lisa?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I just want to make sure I got (INAUDIBLE) right. (INAUDIBLE) were put down the gear.

CHEALANDER: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How many seconds later they (INAUDIBLE) the flap.

CHEALANDER: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And then you said within seconds...

CHEALANDER: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: ... the fire started?

CHEALANDER: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you know when they (INAUDIBLE) where that was prior to putting it down to the (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: No. Very careful how I read this to you so -- shortly after the request to go from 16,000 to 12,000, they were cleared to 11,000 feet. The crew, somewhere in that vicinity and on down was discussing ice buildup on the windshield and leading edge of the wings.

And all I can tell you is somewhere in there. And I -- and we will get more of that information and be more specific as time goes on, but this -- keep in mind, this was a real quick audition in Washington and we're -- we're giving it to you as quickly as we can. Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was there any clear update on the manifesto (INAUDIBLE) contacted yet?

CHEALANDER: Families are already here. The governor of New York spoke with the families, several of the families, others are still inbound and I don't know what the -- matter of fact, I'm going speak to them at 6:00 today. So that's about all I can really tell you on that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sir?

CHEALANDER: Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What were the -- you know that besides (INAUDIBLE) setting...

CHEALANDER: No, not yet. You know that will be subsequent to today.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: No, I don't want to talk about that. That gets into speculation, gets into analysis and so forth.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) visibility, is that...

CHEALANDER: Well, icing -- icing, well, I will talk about it just a little bit. But if a significant ice buildup is an aerodynamic impediment, if you will. Airplanes are built with wings that are shaped to certain way and if you've got too much ice, the shape of ice -- or the shape of the wing can change requiring different air speeds and so forth. So that's about all I'll say with that. The aerodynamics of it changes as ice is significantly built up.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE). Is there any way to assess how (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: This time of year, it's prevalent in this part of the country. So that's about all I can say there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: I haven't even looked at the manifest nor have been told who the names are so the airlines will handle all of that and the release of the passengers on the airplane.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sir, can you tell us all about (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: I don't have that information with me. We can probably report on that subsequent to this.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What does (INAUDIBLE)

CHEALANDER: As I pointed out this morning and as the incident commander reported to you this morning, it's a very confined location.

One house was completely destroyed. And not of other -- there was not a lot of other damage around. So, it was pretty much confined to that one house and that one house's yard, small area.

QUESTION: Have you been able to establish anything about the crew's experience with sort of weather?

CHEALANDER: No. We're not -- not going to go there yet.

I will tell you what, folks. I think we're going to call it now. Please pass out the witness phone number that we just passed out to you. And also...

MALVEAUX: Let's take a closer look at one of the possible causes of the crash. That is ice buildup. This is what we heard from the press conference from the NTSB.

A Delta crew landing around the same time as the Colgan flight reported what is called rime icing. It is a condition in which the ice quickly builds up on the wings. Now, this can dramatically reduce the plane's lift and thrust and increase its weight and drag.

And turboprop planes, like the one that went down, are equipped with what is knows as a de-icing boot. It is a thick rubber strip on the front edge of the wings. And these boots, they're inflated to break up the ice, allowing it to blow away.

Now, I want to bring in two guests here, obviously, folks who are aviation experts, our own Richard Quest, who is in London, who is following two crashes here, and then John Cox, a veteran pilot, former U.S. Airways captain, now CEO of an airline safety consulting firm.

Richard, I would like to start with you, first. Can you give us an update on the crash out of London?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, let me bring you up to date.

British Airways 146, a small commuter plane, four engines, did a hard landing at London City Airport. The nose wheel collapsed. Everybody was evacuated from the aircraft, one person one minor injury. London City is one of those classic inner-city airports, very small runway, very narrow.

It's -- but what seems to have happened is the plane basically did a hard landing nose wheel collapse, passengers evacuated down the chutes, one on the way to hospital, airport closed at the moment.

So, that's really -- in the scheme of aviation stories tonight, this is way at the lower end -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Well, Richard, you were listening to the press conference with all of us? What were your impressions? What stood out in terms of the information he gave us?

QUEST: The first thing that stood out is, less than 24 hours after this accident, and they have got the cockpit voice recorder. They have got the FDR, the flight data recorder, and they have listened to it, and they have started to release some of the cockpit voice details. This is pretty sensational, within such a short period of time.

And it accentuates the seriousness of what took place. Now, your other guest will be able to talk more about it, but what struck me was, we have got a very good idea of what took place, significant -- to quote the NTSB -- significant icing on the windshield and on the leading edge of the wing. That's the front of the wing.

They deploy the flaps to 15 degrees, slowing the plane down, and, all of a sudden, you get the pitch and the roll and what are -- I -- I'm -- this is my speculation now. Even though they put the gear back up again, tried to smooth -- to clean the wing up, couldn't do it in time, and that's the point where I suspect they lost control of the aircraft.

MALVEAUX: And I want to bring in our other guest, John Cox.

You were listening as well.

What -- what sense did you get, in terms of how the crew and the pilots behaved? Did they do the right thing? Did it sound like they were responding appropriately to the weather conditions, the ice buildup on the wings?

JOHN COX, FORMER U.S. AIRWAYS PILOT: Well, earlier this morning, I had opportunity to listen to some of the tapes that were being broadcast around the Internet.

And I was struck with the routineness and professionalism of the crew. This was a routine flight. And to -- to encounter icing going into Buffalo, New York, in February would not be an unusual condition. It's something that any of us that have flown in there have experienced many, many times.

And everything that I heard between the air traffic controllers and the crew was very routine. And in listening to member Chealander explain what happened, I think that, once they got near the outer marker, which is the navigational fix which helps them align with the runway, in this case, 23, that's where you begin to configure the airplane for landing, to slow it down, to reshape the wing, as member Chealander noted, to extend the wheels.

And when they started configuring the airplane to land, it -- apparently, the event began to unfold with them very rapidly. And, unfortunately, an awful lot of the -- what we're seeing, the high- impact angle, the lack of damage on the ground to other surrounding structures, the relatively small debris field, all of this are consistent with this loss-of-control event.

MALVEAUX: John, and what is -- what is a pilot trained to do when the ice forms on the wing?

COX: Well, the first thing is, before you get into the icing, is you activate anti and de-icing systems in the airplane -- and from what member Chealander said, that was done -- so that the engine inlets are provided with heat.

And on this type of aircraft, the Bombardier Q400, pneumatic boots begin to expand. Ice is very brittle. And that characteristic allows for a rubber boot to be pneumatically expanded, which will crack the ice. And it's then swept away by the airflow.

Now, they comment that there's a good bit of ice. Exactly what the shape of the wing is, that's going to be the real crux of the next day or two in understanding what happened on that wing, because, when the -- the roll oscillations and pitch oscillations, that's consistent with a disruption in the airflow across the wing and resultant loss of control.

MALVEAUX: And, Richard, you cover the industry, obviously, and crashes. How common is this problem?

QUEST: Well, de-icing of -- of aircraft is an extremely -- is well-known.

The icing problem, you go back to the Washington '77 crash many years ago, when the plane was de-iced and then still took off. Time and again, there have been cases where planes have come out of the sky because of ice.

What will be -- what the investigators will want to know here -- and, remember, these little planes, these -- these Bombardier planes, are in and out, in and out of these cold, ice-ridden, snowbound airports all the time.

But what they will want to look at closely is why the cockpit didn't, if you like, register the severity of ice on the aircraft. And did they let it get to the stage where they could never recover once, as John says -- once you put the aircraft into its landing config, flaps down, wheels down, suddenly, you have got that oscillation, but it was simply -- you remember, the plane was only 2,000 or so feet off the ground, so error, the maneuvering ability, was very, very small to put it right.

MALVEAUX: Richard, I want to interrupt you just for a moment.

We're just some getting pictures now of that British Airways plane that was involved in that crash landing, the collapsed nose. We're just beginning to see there the pictures out of the London City Airport.

And, Richard, give us a sense. Again, I understand that all of the passengers escaped safely. And what -- do you know why this -- why this happened?

QUEST: No.

I mean, I -- you know, this is a classic hard landing. The plane came down. The nose wheel is the weakest part of the structure. That's why you -- I mean, that's planes always land on their back wheels, so to speak, with a -- when they flare up as they come over the threshold, because the back wheels can take the weight. The front wheels can't.

What will be interesting is whether or not London City, which has -- it's unique in the world. London City has a five-degree glide slope to the runway. So, you come in very steeply at London City, basically, and you stop very fast, because the runway isn't very long. And this is the sort of thing that can happen.

I suspect that's going to be part of the cause here. It looks like hard landing. And, thank God tonight, no one hurt in that -- or seriously hurt in that incident.

MALVEAUX: OK.

I want to thank you, Richard, as well as John Cox, for bringing us the perspective. We're going to get back to you later in the show.

Also want to bring in some other guests as well.

The commuter plane went down last night.

David Sherman and Michael Measer, they heard the call. They rushed to the scene. And they're journalists with a local newspaper group. And they're also volunteer firefighters as well.

They are now joining us to share their stories and some exclusive pictures that you guys took.

I understand that you found out about this crash, and that you rushed over, and that you were able to get much, much closer than other journalists, because you're volunteer firefighters, and able to really capture the -- what that looked like about 15 feet away.

I want to start with you, Mike. What did you see?

MICHAEL MEASER, CIRCULATION MANAGER, BEE NEWSPAPERS: Well, it was -- it was surreal coming into it.

It almost reminded me of a really bad car accident and a house fire combined. It didn't look like an airplane crash, until you got up close and you saw that there was a wing coming out of the ground. There was nothing left of the house. And it was -- it was just surreal. It -- I just didn't believe that we were there, witnessing what we saw.

MALVEAUX: And, David, we're -- we're now showing our viewers these exclusive photos that -- that you took here that we see of the crash site.

What was your instinct? Did you want to respond as a firefighter, and get in there to help, or were you acting more as a journalist? What was going on through your mind?

DAVID SHERMAN, MANAGING EDITOR, BEE NEWSPAPERS: Well, of course, I had the -- I was monitoring the fire frequency.

And I knew that they had a lot of companies coming in there quick, which is typical of something of this size, although we still didn't know exactly what we were going to encounter.

But I -- there's been many a times over 30 years when I have been in a similar situation, where, you know, you have got to put the camera down and -- and be a firefighter or just judge the scene.

And, again, as Mike said, we had no idea what we were going to encounter. And it was just a -- a massive fire and a huge debris field. It looked like a -- a car bombing. And the debris, most of it, was no bigger than a checkbook.

MALVEAUX: And -- and...

SHERMAN: So, we knew that they had the situation in hand.

MALVEAUX: And, David, just looking at these pictures, this huge blast, this fire, was it -- was it hot? Can you describe what -- what that heat was like, to be so close to this site?

SHERMAN: Well, in the beginning, some of those early shots, we were back a ways.

And it wasn't so much -- it wasn't awfully hot, because -- it sounds strange, but it was burning straight up, I presume because of the jet fuel. It was not a -- like a house fire, where it might be like a -- almost like a mushroom cloud. But, as we got closer, you could experience that. But the -- the smoke was so heavy and so dense, that I think that was sort of a buffer zone.

MALVEAUX: Mike, we heard a lot of reports about how, amazingly, a woman and her daughter were able to escape the house. Did you -- did you happen to see that or do you know anything about how that happened, being there?

MEASER: That was pretty -- we heard reports of that as we were there throughout the night.

And when I got home, I talked to a friend of mine who's a paramedic. And he was actually the one who transported the two. So, it was...

MALVEAUX: What did he tell you?

MEASER: It was interesting -- it was interesting talking to him. Obviously, we didn't talk too much. It was late at night. I was ready to -- to go to bed.

But, you know, he said that they were obviously very nervous about their loved one in the house that didn't make it out. But they -- they were doing well and had relatively minor injuries from -- from that accident that could have been much worse for them.

MALVEAUX: I want to thank both of you, Mike Measer and David Sherman, for -- for your work and, obviously, for your bravery. Thank you very much.

More breaking news this hour -- we are standing by for a vote in the Senate on President Obama's economic plan. That is going to be live on Capitol Hill. President Obama is trying to stay on message, promoting the stimulus plan now heading for a vote in the Senate.

But new slip-ups by team Obama are creating some distractions. The House approves the stimulus, but Republicans refuse to go down without a fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Not one member's read this. What happened to the promise that we're going to let the American people see what's in this bill for 48 hours?

But, nope, we don't have time to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: President Obama is on the verge of scoring a huge victory.

Just a short while ago, the economic plan he urgently wants was approved in the House. But the $787 billion plan did not get a single Republican vote. Next up, the Senate expected to vote soon. The plan could be on the president's desk by Monday.

Let's go straight to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. Dana, you have been watching all the developments. And we expect a vote fairly soon?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

We expect the Senate to start their vote very soon. And we expect, in the Senate, that it is going to get by with just a squeaker. In the House, as you mentioned, it was just Democrats that approved the president's economic stimulus plan. And this is a massive bill that these lawmakers got at 11:00 last night to just begin reading.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Democrats are delivering President Obama's economic plan with the wrap speed that he demanded, but that meant little time for lawmakers to actually review it.

BOEHNER: I don't know how you could read 1,100 pages between midnight and now. Not one member has read this.

BASH: Across the Capitol, lawmakers and staff pored through pounds of paper, trying to determine exactly what's in the bill before approving an unprecedented $787 billion.

What's at the heart of those 1,000-plus pages are some $280 billion in tax cuts and more than $500 billion in government spending. Supporters insist, the goal of this economic plan is simple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jobs, jobs, jobs.

BASH: First, for people who don't have jobs, here's what's in it: $24.7 billion to subsidize health insurance for nine months for most laid-off workers, up to 33 weeks of extended unemployment benefits, and an additional $25 a week.

But creating jobs is what Democrats insist the hundreds of billions in spending will do, by investing in infrastructure projects, like energy-efficient building, roads, bridges, and mass transit, for example, $27.5 billion for highways, $1.1 billion for airports that prove they can start construction work now, $8 billion for high-speed rail, a big funding boost thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is pushing for a grant to build a train from Las Vegas to Southern California.

But there are also programs like $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, which critics argue will not stimulate the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bill is loaded with wasteful deficit spending on the majority's favorite government programs. We need jobs, not mountains of debt to be paid by our children.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, the Senate is debating the stimulus package now. And Democratic leaders believe that they have just enough votes, 60, to pass it, not even one to spare.

And, Suzanne, because of that, we're going to see something extremely unusual. At 5:30, the Senate is going to begin to vote, but they're probably not going to finish it until 10:30 tonight. And here's the reason why.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown is back at his home state of Ohio at his mother's wake. And that ends at 8:00 tonight. And because they need that vote to pass this, they are flying him back on a government plane. And he -- we will expect -- he's expected to arrive here at 10:00 or 10:30. And he will then, probably in a very dramatic fashion, cast what we expect to be the deciding vote to pass the president's stimulus package tonight.

MALVEAUX: Dana, that really is kind of an extraordinary development there, that they're -- that they're going to actually fly him back after his mother's wake.

Obviously, you will be there throughout the evening and perhaps well into Saturday.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Maybe.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you so much, Dana.

The $787 billion economic stimulus package heads to the Senate, after being passed by the House today. The measure consists of all 1,100 pages.

And that is raising questions about how much we really know about this.

Well, joining me in today's "Strategy Session," Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile, and conservative commentator Terry Jeffrey, editor in chief of the Cybercast News Service.

OK. I have to do this, guys. We printed this out. Obviously, it's five inches think. And I can't -- it's hard to actually lift, 1,100 pages.

Donna, how on earth is anybody supposed to get through this and really ask the questions that needed to be asked about what is in this thing?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of...

MALVEAUX: How many people read this?

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I think every lawmaker should put that on their Web site, so that ordinary taxpayers can go and see exactly how their money will be spent.

I got the CliffsNotes version from "USA Today" because I... (LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: ... this is a little bit easier for me to read.

This is a very important piece of legislation. It will provide millions of dollars to people who need -- billions of dollars to people who need it most, especially those who are he unemployed, those who are without work, those who need the resources, in terms of the state governors and mayors and so forth. So, this is a good piece of legislation.

We could cherry-pick it. We can find areas of the bill that we don't like, but this is an investment in terms of the future.

MALVEAUX: Terry?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE: Suzanne, she says that lawmakers should put this on their Web site, so voters can read it. When? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, next week, a month from now?

The fact of the matter is, they're going to vote on this today. This is going to be law by Monday, probably, when President Obama signs this. The lawmakers who are voting on this don't even know what's in there. And the American people are going to be surprised.

Let me tell you about one element. This is Title 30 that is in this bill. On the face of it, it says it's going to create a national government database that has everybody's medical records in it.

Now, it seems to me, if we're going to have the government get our medical records and put it in a database, that we ought to have a long national debate. There ought to be serious deliberation. We ought to know exactly what the government is planning to do with it. And then there ought to be a serious debate about that alone.

Yet, that is buried in that bill. It is not...

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: So, Donna, let me ask you this. Does Terry have a point, when, obviously, people are not really going to have a lot of time before the president actually signs this into law?

What would be the harm in actually delaying this for a week or so and allowing members of Congress to go back to their districts and to get -- you know, to -- to go through this and to ask those questions?

BRAZILE: Suzanne, the Republicans would like us to delay that, because they don't want to help people who are struggling.

Nineteen thousand people are losing their jobs every day. And the price of delaying that piece of legislation really hurts the people out there who needs it the most. Terry understands the legislative process. This bill has been on Capitol Hill now for weeks, not hours, not days. JEFFREY: This particular bill actually was put on the Web site of the House Appropriations Committee late last night. And it is not exactly the same as any other bill.

BRAZILE: Because it has -- it's been through the -- it's -- it's been through the legislative process. They have amended it.

And, Terry, I'm sure, because I'm a former congressional staffer, that those staffers spent the night amending it after careful deliberations.

JEFFREY: So, some staffers who may know some of the things in that bill.

Let's talk about jobs, though. The president, everybody has heard, he said, three to four million jobs are going to be created or saved by that. Now, what is the basis for President Obama saying it?

The basis is a report that his -- a couple of his top economic advisers produced back on January 10. It is not related to this bill. If you read that report, what it says is, they're basing their -- they say they admit there's a great deal of uncertainty in that claim. And they say, Suzanne, it's based on a rule of thumb that, if you spend 1 percent of GDP, you will create one million jobs.

It's not an analysis of where this particular $800 billion goes, nor has any member of Congress explained how this particular...

BRAZILE: Terry, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that this -- this legislation...

JEFFREY: They have not studied this bill.

BRAZILE: ... this legislation could create as -- by the fourth quarter of this year, upwards of two million jobs, and by the fourth quarter of next year, another two million jobs.

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY: The CBO has not studied that bill. That bill arrived at 11:00 last night.

BRAZILE: This bill is not new. This bill is...

JEFFREY: Yes, it is.

BRAZILE: This bill is not new.

JEFFREY: Do you know -- do you know what's in that bill, Donna? Do you know what is in that bill?

MALVEAUX: You know what? I know we're not -- we're not going to answer that question at this moment, I know.

But, Donna, I do want to turn the corner, because I know that you flew into Buffalo, New York, last night. Can you give us a sense of what happened? You were on another plane, obviously, but what -- what did you see when you landed there in the airport?

BRAZILE: Hardly anything, which was -- it was a very interesting flight.

I showed Terry some of the e-mails that I -- and text messages I sent to my friends. I fly a lot, Suzanne. And I do believe it's the safest mode of transportation. But there was no visibility. It was -- there was a wind gust, and there was sleet and rain and snow.

And I must tell you, in -- even in coming down, it was -- it was probably one of the scariest flights I have had in a long, long time. And it was just mind-boggling, you know, because the weather conditions continued to worsen.

But, you know, many people made it in safely. My thoughts and prayers are clearly with the family and friends of those who lost their lives yesterday and the person on ground as well. But the weather conditions were very, very horrible.

MALVEAUX: When -- when you -- when you actually landed and you were outside, what did you see?

BRAZILE: Nothing. It was blowing.

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: ... pelting and...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: It was just, you know, sleet, ice, snow.

It was blowing. The visibility was just hardly -- you couldn't see anything. And, in fact, when we were approaching the airport, all you -- you couldn't see anything until you actually physically hit the ground.

So, the ceiling was very, very low. But I flew out of JFK, because I could not fly out of -- all of the flights from La Guardia to Buffalo were canceled. And I had two options, to fly to Newark or JFK. And I determined that JFK was not only closer, but I had heard some of the problems that they were having on some of the bridges in New York. So, I decided to fly out of JFK.

But, again, my thoughts and prayers are with the people there in Buffalo.

MALVEAUX: And, thank you, Donna, as well. Thank you for sharing your story.

BRAZILE: It was scary.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you.

JEFFREY: We're glad you made it.

BRAZILE: Me, too.

MALVEAUX: Yes. We're glad to have you here.

BRAZILE: Thank God.

MALVEAUX: President Obama is calling her an inspiration. We will tell you more about the 9/11 widow killed in last night's plane crash. She died about to honor her husband's memory.

Also ahead, disgusting conditions revealed at a Texas peanut plant -- a shocking new development in the investigation of tainted peanut products.

And the Republican Party says it is trying to prove it has a heart, just in time for Valentine's Day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: new details emerging about the final moments of a doomed flight -- significant ice problems, the plane pitching and rolling. We have the latest on the crash of Continental Flight 3407.

Also, the stage is set for the final showdown on President Obama's massive stimulus plan. The Senate is expected to vote at this hour. And Democrats are without a single vote to spare.

And Lance Armstrong lets loose on a reporter -- the angry exchange caught on tape. But there's more to it than meets the eye. What set off the legendary cycler?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

MALVEAUX: I want to take you right now -- this is the first time that we are seeing live aerials.

These are the -- this -- correct -- I stand corrected. This is not live. This is on tape. These are aerials over the crash site of the -- the Buffalo crash there.