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Ill-fated US plane was on autopilot before crash

The ill-fated commercial airliner that crashed into a home in Buffalo killing 50 people was on autopilot seconds before the fatal accident.

Written by Agencies | New York | Published: February 16, 2009 2:18 pm

The ill-fated commercial airliner that crashed into a home in Buffalo killing 50 people was on autopilot seconds before the fatal accident,indicating that the pilot may have violated federal safety recommendations.

Under US flying laws,the pilot has to take manual control of the plane during icy condition as investigators were still trying to determine the exact cause of the crash of the flight which originated from Newark.

As officials scanned through the list of passengers,so far only 42 of the 49 passengers,who were killed in the crash,have been identified including John Roberts III who was living in India.

The passengers was identified as living in India by local newspaper ‘Buffalo New’ though an official list is yet to be released by the airlines.

According to the investigators,the plane was on autopilot until 26 second before the crash which could be in violation of guidelines that in icing conditions,the pilot should take over manual control as he could feel the flying conditions and take corrective measures.

ut the Federal Aviation Administration’s guidelines to

disengage the autopilot when icing occurs are only recommendatory and not mandatory.

“You may be able in a manual mode to sense something sooner than the autopilot can sense it,” said Steve Chealander of the National Transportation Safety Board,which also recommends that pilots disengage the autopilot in icy conditions.

Automatic safety devices returned the aircraft to manual control just before it fell from the sky,Chealander said.

Officials said it could take two or three days to recover all bodies and investigators were trying to gather as much as evidence before the next snow storm hits the areas sometime in the middle of the week.

The investigators now believe that the plane went into horizontal spin and as a result only one house caught fire.

Had it crashed with nose down,it could have affected the neighbouring houses too and could have led to a greater tragedy.

Briefing reporters,Chealander said the crew had turned on the de-icing system 11 minutes into the flight and it was on throughout the flight.

Radar data shows plane fell from an altitude of 1,800 feet to 1,000 feet in five seconds,he said. Passengers and crew would have experienced G-forces up to twice as strong as on the ground.

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