Crew Gave No Sign Of Trouble Before Fatal Plane Crash
PASCO, Wash. (AP) _ The crew of a commuter plane didn’t indicate any trouble in communications with the airport control tower just minutes before the plane crashed, killing all six people aboard, a federal investigator said.
United Express Flight 2415 made a normal request to land, and the tower operator at the Tri-Cities Airport acknowledged, said Barry Trotter, the National Transportation Safety Board official leading the investigation.
″There were no distress signals. All conversations were normal two to three minutes before final impact,″ Trotter said of late Tuesday night’s crash.
The British Aerospace Jetstream 31 slammed into a sagebrush field short of a runway and burst into flames. The two crew members and four passengers were killed.
Trotter said investigators would try to determine whether ice found at the wreckage site came from a wing of the airplane, a 19-passenger turboprop.
Craig Belmondo, president of the United Express regional airline, said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash.
The flight was en route from Seattle to Pasco via Yakima.
United Express - one of several similarly named commuter airlines around the country - serves as a feeder to United Airlines and uses the United logo, but is separately owned.
Federal investigators arrived in Pasco Wednesday and began sifting through the wreckage. They planned to interview a tower official who may have seen the crash, and appealed for any other witnesses to come forward.
The plane was built in Prestwick, Scotland in October 1987 and delivered to United Express in December of that year, Belmondo said. It had 5,000 hours of flight time when the crash occurred and was in for its last maintenance inspection on Dec. 20, he said.
The pilot, Capt. Barry Roberts, 38, had more than 11 years of regional flying experience, including more than 660 hours in Jetstream aircraft, Belmondo said.
Co-pilot Doug McInroe, 25, joined United Express in August with more than two years flying experience, Belmondo said.
The plane wasn’t equipped with the voice and flight-data recorders that larger commercial airlines use to tape cockpit conversations.
United Express, owned by NPA Inc., is based in Pasco and serves 15 cities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.