Source: Madrid crash probe focuses on wing flaps

4th September 2008, Comments 0 comments

A person familiar with the investigation says the pilots of the Spanair plane had failed to extend wing flags that are needed to provide lift for takeoff.

4 September 2008

DALLAS -- The pilots of a Spanair SA plane that crashed in Madrid in August failed to extend wing flaps that are needed to give the aircraft enough lift for takeoff, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

Investigators believe that both engines on the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 jet were working properly, according to the person, who spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because Spanish authorities have not discussed the cause of the crash.

Spanish investigators have declined to comment on the investigation into the 20 August crash which killed 154 people.

Officials for Boeing Co, which bought McDonnell Douglas in 1997, and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney declined to comment and referred inquiries to Spanish officials.

Flaps are moveable panels on the trailing edge of a plane's wings and provide extra lift during takeoff. The Spanair pilots should have received a warning - a loud horn in the cockpit - alerting them that the flaps were not extended before takeoff.

The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the investigation, reported on its website Wednesday that investigators have focused on the theory that an electrical problem prevented the horn from sounding.

Investigations like the one in Spain often rely heavily on data recorded by so-called black boxes. A flight data recorder can reconstruct what was happening to the plane's mechanical systems, while a voice recorder captures cockpit conversations and other sounds that sometimes point toward the cause of an accident.

The Journal said the data recorder confirmed the flaps were not extended.

Spanair Flight JK5022 was bound for the Canary Islands when it crashed during takeoff at the Madrid airport. The plane rose slightly off the runway before dropping and skidding off the runway, then breaking up and catching fire.

The source familiar with the investigation said the flight-data recorder indicated that the plane continued at full throttle for some time after the plane hit the runway.

Last week, Spain's Interior Ministry said all 154 bodies, many of them badly burned, were identified and returned to relatives. Eighteen passengers survived.

[AP / Expatica]

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