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"It's over, it's over'/Recorder details cockpit panic aboard doomed plane

PETER LANDERS Associated Press

SUN 05/01/1994 HOUSTON CHRONICLE, Section A, Page 30, 3 STAR Edition

TOKYO -- Moments before a China Airlines plane crashed while landing in Japan last week, one of the pilots called out, "Oh, it's over, it's over."

A transcript of the cockpit voice recorder, released Saturday by the Transport Ministry, dramatically shows the panic that overtook the pilot and co-pilot as they lost control of the Airbus A300-600R.

It crashed at Nagoya Airport in central Japan on Tuesday night, killing 263 of 271 people aboard in Japan's second-worst air disaster.

The voice recorder does not provide the final word on what caused the accident. But it does lend support to suspicions that the pilot and co-pilot, after abandoning a landing attempt, pulled the plane up too sharply, causing it to stall and plunge to the ground.

The jetliner was being flown by the less experienced co-pilot, who had trouble carrying out the pilot's commands to abandon the landing.

The transcript shows the pilot, Wang Lo-chi, giving orders in Chinese to co-pilot Chuang Meng-jung, who had 1,629 hours of flying experience compared with 8,410 for Wang.

About two minutes before the crash, one of the two -- the transcript does not make clear which -- says "Too high, too high." Wang then orders Chuang to abandon the landing attempt and try again, an indication the jet may have been unable to land properly because excessive altitude put it in danger of overshooting the runway.

Wang then repeatedly ordered the co-pilot to "push" or "connect" something, but the transcript does not make clear what. The co-pilot says at one point, "I can't push it."

On the tapes, the noise of the engine can be heard getting louder. An automatic warning system says, "Terrain, terrain." One of the pilots calls out, "Oh, it's over, it's over."

The last words before the crash were, "Power, power."

Isao Kuroda, professor of aeronautics at Waseda University, said that to abandon a landing with the Airbus A300, a pilot presses a lever that automatically puts the jet into what is called "go-around mode."

That quickly increases the engines' thrust and causes the plane to begin climbing. If the plane is also in autopilot mode, the rate of climb is automatically controlled. If not, it can rise too sharply and stall.

It was the fifth China Airlines' plane to crash since 1986.

More than 300 family members of Taiwanese killed in the crash returned home to Taipei on Saturday, many carrying the ashes of their loved ones.

At a ceremony at Taipei's airport, airline officials displayed banners with the words, "We beg apologies from the victims."

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