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More Aspen Plane Crash Evidence Surfaces


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Washington, DC, April 4, 200–(AP by Robert Gehrke) An alarm warning the pilot that his plane was descending too fast sounded shortly before the private jet crashed during an approach to the Aspen, Colo., airport, investigators revealed Friday.

All 18 people on board the chartered Gulfstream III were killed when the plane smashed into a hillside near the Colorado resort community on March 29.

About 12 seconds before the crash, an electronic “sink rate” alarm sounded, according to a summary of a transcript from the cockpit voice record provided by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Moments before the crash another alarm sounded indicating the plane was turning too steeply, the NTSB said.

The NTSB said the recording “did not appear to contain evidence of aircraft malfunction.”

Shelly Simi, spokeswoman for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, said the first alarm indicates the plane is descending at a rate exceeding preset parameters.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. It’s just unusual,” Simi said.

As the plane descended below 200 feet, the pilot apparently tried to turn sharply, causing the plane’s “bank angle” alarm to sound just before the recording ended, according to the NTSB.

The agency’s Cockpit Voice Recorder Group met Tuesday and Wednesday to screen the tape, which lasted just under 32 minutes. It released a summary on Friday. A complete transcript will be released later.

The plane had been chartered to carry passengers from Los Angeles to Aspen for a birthday party when it slammed into the snowy hillside and erupted in flames at about 7 p.m. Visibility was poor at the time, with light snow falling.

On the plane’s final approach, the crew asked the control tower if the runway lights were turned all the way up, according to the NTSB.

The tower replied the lights were on high power and later asked if the crew could see the runway. The crew said the runway was in sight and began the descent.

On Thursday, officials at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport said the plane’s engines were set at full power and the landing gear was up, indicating the pilot may have been trying to abort the landing.

Two days before the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning saying planes should be banned from making night instrument landings at the Aspen airport, where pilots must make a steep descent to a single runway surrounded by mountains.

The FAA is investigating why the warning apparently never reached the Aspen control tower.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press