Flight Recorder Details Heard

Monday, October 1, 2007
By George Hatcher

Just before TAM Airlines Flight 3054 skidded off a runway and exploded as it slammed into a building, pilots screamed, “Slow down!” and “Turn, turn, turn!” as recorded by flight recorder transcripts disclosed Wednesday.

If the congressional commission investigating air safety find that mechanical failure or pilot error contributed to the accident in São Paulo, that conclusion would take some heat off a government widely blamed for failing to improve the challenging runway. Pilots worldwide liken landing on it to landing on an aircraft carrier.

According to the tapes, pilots were unable to activate the spoilers, aerodynamic brakes on the Airbus A320’s wings, as they touched down on the short, rain-slicked runway at Congonhas airport, according to the transcripts.

The pilot, Kleyber Lima, 54, said “Only one reverser — spoiler nothing,” in the transcript, the first indication that something was wrong. The co-pilot, Henrique Stephanini Di Sacco, 54, says: “Look at that. Slow down, slow down.” Mr. Lima replies: “I can’t. I can’t. Oh my God! Oh my God!” Mr. Di Sacco’s last words are: “Go! Go! Turn! Turn! Turn!”

The recording ends with screams and a woman’s voice, followed by an explosion.

The July 17 crash killed all 187 people aboard the jetliner and 12 people on the ground.

One of the two thrust reversers used to slow planes during landings, was inoperative. The airport’s runway is so short that pilots are warned to abort landings if they make any errors while touching down. TAM’s press office declined comment until the investigation is finished.

Airbus spokeswoman, Barbara Kracht, said the aircraft manufacturer could not comment on the investigation, citing international aviation rules.

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