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Expert: Air From Another Jet Hit Fatal Flight

January 24, 1995

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ As experts testified about rudders and cables at a hearing today, relatives of people who died in the crash of USAir Flight 427 pleaded for officials to remember their needs.

About 10 members of the Flight 427 Air Disaster Support League, a group formed after the Sept. 8 accident, said at a news conference that they want the National Transportation Safety Board or the Federal Aviation Administration to appoint a family representative to act as a liaison between relatives, airlines and agencies following crashes.

``It’s an attempt to give purpose and meaning to the death of a loved one,″ said Janine Katonah, whose husband, Joel Thompson, died in the crash.

A few relatives said a USAir telephone number they were given to call on the night of the crash was busy for hours. They said they didn’t receive confirmation that family members were on the flight until about 3 a.m., eight hours after the accident that killed all 132 people aboard near Pittsburgh International Airport.

They also complained that they weren’t given access to their relatives’ belongings and weren’t told how much unidentified remains were buried in a cemetery near the crash site. A family advocate would help survivors obtain vital information early, they said.

Katonah said the relatives had spoken to NTSB chairman James Hall about their request and that he said he would consider it.

The NTSB began hearings Monday on the possible cause of the crash, which the agency doesn’t expect to solve this week.

As the hearing resumed this morning, David Rusho, a Boeing Commercial Airplane Group system specialist, testified there was no evidence that the plane’s rudder cables were faulty.

The rudder, the large, vertical tail piece that helps move a plane left or right, has been a focus of the investigation for months. USAir has warned pilots of its Boeing 737 planes to watch out for spontaneous rudder movements during flight.

The first day of the hearing included release of a dramatic transcript of the cockpit voice recording and testimony about 4-foot-wide rotating columns of air near Flight 427. Jets leave two columns of spiraling air or vortices behind them as they fly; the ones near Flight 427 were created by a Delta jet that was in the area.

Researchers found that the Delta flight’s vortices would have contacted Flight 427 at around the time the plane began to fall, said James Kerrigan, a senior aerodynamics engineer at Seattle-based Boeing.

Both Kerrigan and a veteran pilot discounted the vortices’ role in the crash, saying pilots routinely handle such turbulence.

``By no means did it roll the plane over. It was some catastrophic event that did it,″ said Tom Kreamer, a senior executive with the Air Line Pilots Association and a USAir pilot.

The safety board on Monday released hundreds of documents, including a 23-page transcript of cockpit noises in the plane’s last half hour. A record of pilots’ conversation with air-traffic controllers was released last month.

Two thumps and some electrical clicking is heard moments before the crash, along with the increasingly frantic voices of pilot Capt. Peter Germano and First Officer Charles Emmett. The thumps and clicks are as yet unexplained.

In the ensuing seconds, Germano said ``hang on″ three times as Emmett swore and exclaimed ``Oh.″

Eighteen seconds after the first clicks, Germano blurted to the airport control tower, ``427 emergency.″ Then he urged, ``Pull ... pull ... pull.″

In the final two seconds, Emmett cried ``God ... no!″ and Germano screamed.

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