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On The Scene

Patty Davis: Pilot made emergency call

Patty Davis
Patty Davis

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A commuter plane crashes upon takeoff into an airport hangar in Charlotte, North Carolina. (January 8)
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Airport director Jerry Orr says all 21 people on a commuter plane died when it crashed into a hangar on takeoff at North Carolina's Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. (January 8)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A US Airways Express/Air Midwest commuter plane clipped a hangar and burst into flames Wednesday after taking off from the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, killing 19 passengers and two crew members.

CNN Correspondent Patty Davis was in Washington D.C. and discussed the investigation into what went wrong with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Tell us what the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] -- what are they planning on doing in the immediate term?

DAVIS: There are about 12 investigators, we heard from the NTSB, who will be heading down to this crash shortly, if they have not already left. They will be looking at, as soon as they get there, specifically at the crash site, they'll be looking at the position of that aircraft: Is it intact? Is there anything on the runway that may have fallen off this plane, that may give them indication of what happened?

The Federal Aviation Administration said there was a cockpit call to the air traffic control tower before the crash reporting some kind of emergency but that it was cutoff before controllers were able to get any details. This makes retrieval of the cockpit voice recorder all the more crucial, officials said.

US Airways is telling me that Mesa Airlines, which owns this Beech 1900, in fact, does the maintenance on it. It operates for US Airways Express but US Airways does not perform the maintenance.

There was no flight attendant on board this flight, US Airways was telling me, just a captain and co-pilot and then passengers ... because the flight is so short, just 45 minutes.

We have had reports this morning of a families having trouble getting through to that 800 number to US Airways to find out whether or not their loved ones are on board that plane or not. I guess the message here is if you don't need to call the 800 number, don't call the 800 number.

BLITZER: The whole notion of these commuter planes, they may have, fairly or unfairly, a bad reputation as being much more dangerous to fly in than the major jet liners?

DAVIS: As far as this particular aircraft is concerned, since about 1987 -- according to Airsafe.com, -- this will be the sixth fatal accident. So the airlines would not keep using them if they were unsafe and so they would maintain, certainly, that these aircraft are as safe as their larger aircraft. For the longer-haul flights, they're moving to regional operations much more and moving to these regional jets and those are the new airplanes for the longer haul segments.



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