Pilots of a Delta jet violated federal regulations and chatted with a flight attendant for 13 minutes just before crashing on takeoff in an accident that killed 14 people, a government report said today.
The preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board on the Aug. 31 crash of Delta Flight 1141 at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport also said the pilots experienced what they believed was engine failure in the last seconds of the flight, although investigators have said they found no evidence of mechanical malfunctions.
The report underscored questions about possible lack of cockpit discipline as the pilots spent about 13 of the last 20 minutes before the crash chatting with a flight attendant.
Wing Flaps Studied
In determining the cause of the crash, investigators are focusing on the possibility that the plane's wing flaps--which provide lift needed for takeoff--were not in the proper position.
The transcript in today's report confirmed that co-pilot Cary Kirkland announced during a preflight checklist that the plane's wing flaps were in the proper position.
But investigators have said that the plane's flaps were found in the improper retracted position when they inspected the plane's wreckage, suggesting that perhaps the plane stalled and crashed because it did not have the aerodynamic lift provided by the flaps.
Engine Failure Cited
In interviews with investigators after the crash, the pilots have pointed to engine failure as the probable cause.
"Engine failure," Kirkland said seconds after a snapping noise and the sound of a compressor stall on one of the plane's engines. The aircraft's stall warning system, the so-called "stick shaker," also had activated.
An unidentified crew member then said, "We got an engine failure," followed by pilot Larry Davis saying, "We're not going to make it."
Seven seconds later, Davis called for full power just as the plane hit the ground. In a later interview with investigators, Davis said he heard two explosions shortly after takeoff and then something "pulling us backwards."
"In retrospect, I should have pushed up full power immediately," he told investigators.