FAA Releases Tapes of Tampa Crash
JONATHAN D. SALANT
Apr. 22, 2002
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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The wails of a high-pitched emergency beacon gave air traffic controllers their first word that a student pilot had smashed a stolen plane into a Tampa office building, newly released tapes show.
Until then, Tampa controllers knew only that a student had taken off without permission and that the Coast Guard was tracking the plane, trying to get the pilot to land, according to air traffic control tapes released Monday by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The student pilot, Charles Bishop, 15, stole a Cessna from a flight school at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport on Jan. 5 and crashed the plane into the 28th floor of a downtown Tampa office building.
The crash raised fears of another terrorist attack, since hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center and struck the Pentagon on Sept. 11, but authorities later said the pilot committed suicide.
Though Bishop left a note expressing sympathy for Osama bin Laden and supporting the Sept. 11 attacks, police said it was a suicide but not a terrorist attack.
The first indication that something was amiss came at 4:52 p.m. EST when controllers at St. Petersburg called their Tampa colleagues.
``That's a Cessna departed here unauthorized. We don't know what he's doing. He just took off,'' a St. Petersburg controller said.
At 5:02 p.m., a Coast Guard helicopter told Tampa controllers that it was chasing the plane.
``We're trying to give him hand signals to maybe get him to land,'' the Coast Guard told the controller. ``However, he doesn't seem to be responding.''
A minute later, the transmitter sounded, signaling the crash.
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