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Flight 787 Data Recorder Recovered

Aired November 12, 2001 - 16:24   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Beginning to collect information about what happened today. Of course, it's very early. We are only about seven hours into this air crash in Queens, in New York. But Kathleen Koch, who is joining me now and has been looking at the investigation at this point.

Kathleen, the best news, I gather, for investigators, is that they did locate the flight data recorder. If fact, I'm told, it is on its way back to Washington and should be arriving here any minute, if it is not already back.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly. The National Transportation Safety Board investigators will be very interested in getting their hands on it to see what is on it. They will also take into account some of these very riveting eyewitness stories we have been hearing on the seen as contradictory as they may be, because everything that they are hearing will help them piece together what might have happened.

Kind of run through what we know of what happened at this point. It was about 9:14 a.m., that Flight 587 took off from JFK airport, crashing roughly about four minutes later. The National Transportation Safety Board, the lead investigators, already have personnel on the scene. They did send as well a "go-team" of experts from Washington, D.C., from Regan National Airport.

The investigators, as I said, will be getting numerous clues from the flight data recorder about how the plane was operating, its speed, its altitude, such things. They will be very interested in finding the cockpit voice recorder which will let them know if the pilot was experiencing trouble.

A clue that he or she may have known something was amiss, a report that the plane possibly dumped its fuel before crashing. That, according to New York governor George Pataki. Now, we have been told, however, by aviation experts, that that is unlikely because it would be their expectation that in the short period of time that the pilot had, that he or she would have been wrestling to handle control of the aircraft, so dumping the fuel might have been unlikely.

The NTSB chairman is obviously going to be heading to the scene. She is heading there. What you just saw was the aircraft which was carrying the flight data recorder to Washington. So already on scene here. The NTSB chairman who is, again, on the scene, now in New York, says the agency will be checking everything to find out what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARION NTSB CHAIRMAN: One of the things that we are very committed to doing is to have a full investigation from a system standpoint, from a mechanical standpoint, looking at the history of this flight, the crew, the human factors that may have been involved. So we will be tracing all of this down very shortly and we should have good information for you from New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: The aircraft that crashed this morning is an Airbus A300, 13 years old. It had had a minor mechanical checkup just yesterday. This model of plane has had problems before. A China Airlines aircraft crashing on approach to Taipei, Taiwan in a rain storm in 1998. A Guruda Airlines jet striking a mountain on approach to Medan, Indonesia in 1997.

In 1994 a China Airlines jet crashed on approach to Negoya, Japan. And in 1992 a Pakistan international flight crashed on approach to Catmandu, Nepal. Also, an Iran A-300 crashed in 1988 near the straight of Hormuz.

Judy, American Airlines has some 35 Airbus A-300s in its fleet in addition to this particular aircraft. And you can be certain they are taking a very, very close look at each and every one right now.

WOODRUFF: Kathleen, couple of quick things: No. 1, the engine that by all accounts, or at least by a number of accounts of eyewitnesses, that either broke apart or exploded, there are varying accounts and we don't know exactly what happened of course, the engine is what we are told the investigators are going to be focusing very much on. Does the Airbus always have this type of engine, this General Electric, whatever the number was? Or is that -- can it be changeable?

KOCH: As far as we know it is a specific type of engine. And engines are very carefully and specifically designed. If the blades inside come apart, the turbine, there is a Kevlar shield that encircles it. And that Kevlar shield should keep the blades from spewing out and having what is called an "uncontained engine failure," the blades cutting into the body of the plane. And some aviation experts say that some engines are designed so that if there is some sort or failure, for them to drop off of the plane so they do not pierce the hull, and that the aircraft can, in some cases, continue flying as long as, say, the hydraulic system isn't impacted and the pilot is still able to maintain control of that aircraft.

WOODRUFF: Although there is speculation in this instance that the hydraulic lines may have been severed, but again, speculation.

KOCH: That is all it is at this point.

WOODRUFF: All right, Kathleen Koch.

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