'Get Out 3/8' Tapes Show Boy at Controls Before Airbus Crash With AM-Russia-Crash Transcript
Sep. 27, 1994
MOSCOW (AP) _ ''Daddy, can I turn this?''
The cockpit tapes record a chilling scene: the pilot's children getting a flying lesson just before the Aeroflot jet crashed in Siberia, killing all 75 people aboard.
The transcript of the desperate final minutes before the March crash, published this week in the magazine Obozrevatel, reveals that the Russian crew almost succeeded in saving the plane.
But the presence of the children and the crew's unfamiliarity with the foreign-built Airbus helped doom the flight, according to the tapes and an aviation official's analysis.
''Get out 3/8 Get out 3/8'' Capt. Yaroslav Kudrinsky shouts more than a dozen times to his 16-year-old son, Eldar, who was in the captain's seat when the plane began to plunge.
The Moscow magazine would not identify its source for the black box transcript. Aeroflot and Airbus officials said they could not comment until investigation of the March 22 crash is complete.
A source close to the probe, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the transcript appears accurate, though not complete or official.
The tapes show that in the half-hour before the crash, Kudrinsky gave up his seat to his 12-year-old daughter, Yana, and then his son.
Russian International Airlines, Aeroflot's international arm, has disputed that children were in the cockpit during the flight from Moscow to Hong Kong.
''Daddy, can I turn this?'' Yana asks as she sits at the controls.
''Daddy, raise me up,'' she asks, apparently trying to see better. Her father points out stars and city lights, and warns her not to push any buttons.
The scene quickly turns terrifying, however, when the captain's son takes the wheel.
''Turn it 3/8 Watch the ground as you turn,'' the captain says. ''Let's go left. Turn left 3/8 (pause) Is the plane turning?''
''Great 3/8'' says Eldar.
But four minutes later, he asks, ''Why is it turning?''
''It's turning by itself?'' his father asks.
Then the copilot shouts, ''Guys 3/8'' as the plane begins to dive.
There is a low whistling sound and a roar. For the next two and a half minutes, the tapes record the crew's frantic efforts to regain control of the plane.
State air-safety investigator Vsevolod Ovcharov was quoted in the Rossiiskiye Vesti newspaper Tuesday as saying the children were just one factor in ''a chain of events and fateful circumstances.''
Turning the wheel apparently shut off the automatic pilot, Ovcharov said. He said that would not have happened in a Russian-made plane, and that the crew apparently didn't notice it immediately.
He also said the controls were hard for the Russian pilots to read and that they lost their bearings when the plane began to dive.
The transcript shows the copilot finally shouting, ''There's the ground 3/8''
The final straw, Ovcharov said, came when the boy's foot ''accidentally pushed the right pedal, sending the aircraft into a spin. ... The situation became irreversible.''
The crew pulled the plane out of the spin, but too late - they were just 1,300 feet off the ground.
The pilots apparently thought they had averted an accident.
The last words are the captain's.
''Giving you more speed,'' he says. ''Easy, we'll get out of it now. (pause) Everything's fine. (pause) Pull backwards a little ... take it easy ... take it easy, I tell you.''
The crash was one of the most dramatic in a string of Russian air disasters in the past year. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there has been less money for maintenance and salaries and safety has suffered. Just Monday, 27 people died when a passenger plane crashed in Siberia.
Aeroflot spokeswoman Lyudmila Fedyatina said Aeroflot has tightened cockpit discipline since the crash.
''One of the indirect reasons for the tragedy was our years-long isolation from international flying,'' Ovcharov said. ''It was bound to tell in learning to fly foreign aircraft and training crews.''
But Obozrevatel said the problem was kids in the cockpit.
''Cases where unauthorized people pop into cockpits have become almost the rule on our flights,'' the magazine said. Russia's ''customary disregard for the law on the ground ... has moved skywards.''