Co-Pilot Questioned in Toronto Crash
TORONTO (AP) _ With the pilot still hospitalized and unable to answer questions, investigators sought answers Thursday from the co-pilot who apparently was at the controls of the Air France jet that crashed earlier this week without killing any of the 309 people aboard.
Real Levasseur, leading the investigation of by Canada’s Transportation Safety Board, said he was waiting for doctors to give the OK to question the captain of Flight 358, who suffered back injuries.
``We don’t want to cause any more psychological damage to that individual until ... we have been assured that he is capable of talking to us,″ Levasseur said at a news conference.
The co-pilot was questioned but Levasseur declined to provide details.
Air France has said the co-pilot was at the controls when the Airbus 340 skidded off runway 24L at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport during a heavy downpour Tuesday afternoon. Air France said the co-pilot had 10,700 hours of flying time, and the 57-year-old pilot had 15,000 hours. Neither has been identified.
The flight attendants _ widely praised for getting the passengers off the burning aircraft within two minutes _ were to be interviewed in the coming days, he said.
Investigators trying to piece together why the Air France jetliner crashed and burned at Canada’s busiest airport released more details Thursday.
Levasseur said the air crew did not declare an emergency to air traffic controllers as the Airbus A340 approached the runway at 160 mph in heavy rains and lightning at about 4 p.m. It then skidded some 200 yards off the east-west runway at 95 mph, he said.
He said preliminary evidence suggests nothing was wrong with the aircraft, but that still needed to be confirmed.
``The initial landing appeared very normal,″ he said. ``There was no emergency declared on the part of the air crew.″
The flight data and voice recorders _ the so-called ``black boxes″ _ were recovered Wednesday and sent to TSB headquarters in Quebec.
The information they hold will reveal conversations between the pilots and Pearson’s control tower in the moments before the passenger jet skidded off the 1.6-mile runway.
They also may indicate whether the passenger jet had brake failure and hydraulic pressure problems during the landing.
All 297 passengers and 12 crew members escaped alive in an evacuation that took less than two minutes. Air France said 22 people were injured, while airport officials put that toll at 43. The airline said 10 people remained hospitalized.
The wreckage of the jetliner remained off the side of Highway 401, where many of the passengers had wandered after escaping the wreckage.
Passenger Mohammed Abou-Hantash said Thursday he was having trouble sleeping.
``I think it’s just being overwhelmed,″ he told The Associated Press by telephone from his home in Mississauga. ``You have to repeat the story over and over again and it just gets depressing. You think about what could have happened.″
He, like many other passengers, praised the crew’s efforts for getting them off the burning airliner so quickly.
``Obviously there’s going to be some chaos,″ said Abou-Hantash, a 26-year-old engineer. ``As far as I’m concerned, they did an excellent job. They got everybody out safely, which is what they’re supposed to do.″
A husband and wife remained hospitalized Thursday at nearby Trillium Health Center, according to emergency room physician Dr. Randy Knipping.
He said the couple was sitting in first class; the wife had three fractured vertebrae and the husband had broken his nose.
Brian Lackey, vice president of operations for the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, said Wednesday the jetliner had enough fuel to divert to Montreal or another airport where the weather was better, but ``that’s the pilot’s decision.″
The airport was under a ``red alert,″ which indicates potential for lightning and forces ground staff to remain indoors, but does not prevent planes from landing or taking off. Levasseur said the decision to land during a ``red alert″ would be investigated.
He emphasized that wind shear likely wasn’t a factor in the crash _ as has been speculated _ because that usually would only affect aircraft in flight. He also doubted lightning played a role.