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Crash Tapes Show Wind-Shear Warning Not Heard By Pilots in Fatal Flight

August 29, 1994

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ A USAir crew did not receive a wind-shear warning issued for the entire airport in the seconds before the jet crashed last month, tapes released today show.

Flight 1016′s pilots, Capt. Michael Greenlee and First Officer James Hayes, had switched to another frequency when the warning was issued, said Phil Loftin, a Federal Aviation Administration employee who is manager of the air traffic control tower at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. Hayes was piloting the jet.

The FAA released tapes today between the cockpit crew and air traffic controllers before the July 2 crash, which killed 37 of the 57 people on board. Pilots routinely switch to different radar frequencies as they approach the airport, he said. There was no explanation of why the wind-shear alert was not mentioned on the frequency that Flight 1016 was using.

Wind shear is a sudden, dangerous shift in wind speed and direction caused by a downward rush of cooled air.

Instead of the airportwide warning, the plane received a wind-shear warning for the airport’s northeast quadrant of the airport. The plane was in the northwest quadrant at the time, about a mile away.

The warning for the northeast quadrant was issued at 6:41.05 p.m and the warning for the entire airport at 6:42.02 p.m.

At 6:42.13, the crew says it is ″on the go,″ meaning it is aborting a landing. The tower tells the crew to ″fly runway heading, climb to 3,000 feet.″

Loftin said that means the crew was told to continue the jet in the direction of the runway, north to south, and climb to 3,000 feet.

The last transmission from Flight 1016 was received at 6:42.22 p.m., when the pilots indicated they were following the tower’s instructions to climb to 3,000 feet but they also said they were taking a right turn.

Three seconds later, the tower asks ″USAir 1016, understand you’re turning right?″ There was no response.

″The controller told him to go straight. He turned right. And he told him he was going to turn,″ Loftin said. He did not explain the significance of the difference between the tower’s order and the pilots’ decision to turn.

At 6:42.54, the flight was asked to give its position. No response. The same request was made 18 seconds later.

At 6:43.18, the tower informs all other aircraft to stand by. Another alert is issued.

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