A 30-year-old SkyWest Airlines station manager who worked for several years as a customer-service supervisor at the Salt Lake International Airport is among the 18 people confirmed dead after a USAir 737 jetliner collided with a SkyWest Metroliner at Los Angeles International Airport Friday night.
SkyWest spokeswoman Kristan Norton told the Deseret News Saturday that Palmdale station manager Michael Fuller was one of three SkyWest employees aboard Flight 5569, which was apparently leaving the airport on a flight to Palmdale. Norton said the twin-engine Fairchild Metroliner III had two pilots and 10 passengers - including Fuller - aboard at the time of the crash."At this point, it doesn't appear there were any survivors on the (SkyWest) plane," Norton said. "We're waiting to release the names of the passengers until we're given clearance by the Los Angeles coroner's office. They can't give them to us until they've made positive identifications."
Norton said identifying those killed could take up to three days because of the fire and the impact involved in the crash.
SkyWest also released the names of the two crew members aboard Flight 5569: the pilot, Capt. Andrew Lucas, 32, and First Officer Frank Charles Prentice III, 45, both based in San Luis Obispo. Both were experienced pilots, with more than 8,000 flight hours each, Norton said.
Myron Nelson, domicile manager for SkyWest pilots at the Salt Lake International Airport, said Lucas was "a proficient pilot who did an exceptional job" during a recent flight simulator exercise that Nelson supervised.
USAir officials said Saturday that their pilot was killed and 20 other crew members or passengers were missing. Of the 89 people aboard the jetliner, 69 had been accounted for. Twenty-seven of those went to hospitals in the area, and of those, 12 were treated and released, according to Associated Press reports.
Norton said a team of SkyWest officials was dispatched from company headquarters in St. George Friday night, and that they are cooperating with investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration, air traffic control and USAir officials.
Nelson said he believes initial reports that the 737 landed on top of the SkyWest plane are incorrect.
"I wouldn't say it landed on top - I would say it touched down and slid into them - but since the 737 is taller on its landing gear, even if they were both on the ground, it would be natural for the 737 to go over the SkyWest plane. I'm just basing that on what I'm hearing from news reports. But it would be like the main body of the 737 would be so much higher than the main body of the Metroliner that it would just normally go right over the top of it."
Reports early Saturday indicated the Metroliner was several minutes late leaving the gate. Norton confirmed the flight was late leaving, "but that would not cause any miscommunication. They have to receive clearance before they can leave the gate. The USAir flight was late leaving also, but the crews involved don't necessarily work on the time they're scheduled - they deal with things on an `I'm here now' call-in basis."
Nelson, a SkyWest pilot himself, said he doesn't believe there was any communication between the two planes. "I don't know the specifics in this case - normally I would say before an aircraft can enter the runway, it needs a clearance to enter it. SkyWest normally parks on the southern part of terminal and takes off either on the northern or the southern system, depending on which direction the flight is going. They (Flight 5569) were going from the southern system - there's five different frequencies they would have to talk on just to get to the runway. So yes, there was communication with the SkyWest flight."
Officials told reporter in Los Angeles Saturday that the 737's cockpit recorder and flight data recorder or "black box" had been recovered, along with tapes from the control tower.
Nelson said because of the size of SkyWest planes, "cockpit voice recorders have not been required and consequently were not available with the aircraft.
However, a law has been enacted that requires a cockpit voice recorder, effective Oct. 31, 1991. By the effective date, all of our aircraft will have an operating cockpit voice recorder."
Sources who saw the wreckage said some pieces of the Metroliner were scattered 200 yards apart, and reported there was "no way that the accident was survivable for anyone on the Metroliner - the 737 was sitting on top of the Metroliner. There wasn't a single piece of the fuselage structure that was recognizable."
While investigators at the scene worked to piece together what happened in the minutes and seconds before the accident, several SkyWest crew members were dispatched Saturday to work with relatives "so each passenger's family has a personal liason to assist them with travel arrangements, working with the coroner and other details," Norton said.
Though passenger names were not available at press time, Norton confirmed speculation that a majority of passengers were from the Palmdale area. "Most of them would be connecting in from some inbound flight from an East coast city. Ours is just a connector flight to take them to their final location. Generally speaking, they were all Southern California residents," Norton said.
The crash was the third for SkyWest in the past four years. A Jan. 15, 1990, mountainside crash of SkyWest plane near Elko, Nev., happened on the third anniversary of the Jan. 15, 1987, mid-air collision of a SkyWest aircraft with a single-engine Mooney. Ten people were killed in the midair collision, but all of the passengers involved in the Elko crash survived.
2 planes cleared
An air traffic controller allowed a Skywest commuter plane onto a runway and then cleared a USAir jetliner to land on the same runway before the planes collided, federal officials said Saturday. The controller was also having trouble with an Aeromexico flight.