Newly obtained audio recordings from the moments a US Airways jet crash landed at Philadelphia International Airport earlier this year are providing insight of the ordeal from the cockpit.
The radio conversations between US Airways flight 1702’s pilots and air traffic controllers were obtained by NBC10.com through a Freedom of Information request via the Federal Aviation Administration. The tapes were released on Thursday, but the request for their release was made immediately after the March 13 incident.
It was a windy Thursday evening when the Airbus A320 sped down Runway 27 Left heading for Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. But seconds after climbing into the sky, the plane came crashing back down to the ground.
In the recordings, one pilot tells the control tower they were aborting take off. Seconds later, the tower calls for emergency crews after seeing smoke rising from the plane.
"This is Cactus 1702. How do you read," an unidentified male pilot calls over the radio. Cactus is the call sign for US Airways flights.
"Yeah. I hear you loud and clear. We’re just dispatching the emergency vehicles," says the air traffic controller.
“OK. Alright. It seems to be everything’s OK," the pilot responds.
But moments later, the conversation gets more tense as the crew tries to assess the severity of the hard landing.
"Left engine. Left engine," the pilot quickly squawks over the radio. When the control tower asks the pilot for more information, his voice cracks during the reply: "Showing smoke coming out of the left engine."
“Is it bad? Is it bad,” he quickly asks.
"Yes," two tower staffers reply -- almost simultaneously.
The flight, carrying 149 passengers and five crew, was hit by wind shear as it lifted off, a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board found. The weather event, officials said, caused the airplane to lose lift, bounce off the runway and then crash hard. The nose gear collapsed as the 134 ton plane skidded off the paved runway and across the brown-hued airfield.
The engines continued to sputter and smoke spewed from the left turbine as the crew evacuated the plane. Passengers, some screaming, could be seen scrambling down the emergency chutes and over the wing. One woman sparked controversy after taking a selfie outside the jet. Fire crews quickly arrived and doused the engine in fire-retardant foam. Only one person suffered a minor injury in the crash.
Officials had first thought a blown tire contributed to the crash, but later turned to the wind as a potential cause. The NTSB is continuing to investigate the crash and has yet to release additional information about exactly what happened. There is no timeline yet as to when a final report will be issued.