An air traffic controller on duty when a Delta Air Lines jet crashed in August at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport said Thursday her first indication of trouble came from the controller who had cleared the plane for takeoff.
Delta Flight 1141, a Boeing 727-200, was departing for Salt Lake City when it crashed Aug. 31 in a fireball at the end of a runway, killing 14 of the 108 people aboard.Recordings of control tower communications released Thursday revealed no abnormal operations prior to the crash, federal aviation officials said.
Ground controller Barbara House said she was standing next to west runway controller Mike Styer and knew something was wrong by the tone of his voice.
"Suddenly . . . he looked at him (the jet) and said `Jesus Christ' in a very low tone and I could tell automatically (something was wrong)," House said.
She said she looked immediately and saw that the jet was rolling down the runway as if it were heavily loaded.
"I thought he must really have a lot of weight on him to be rotating like that until the nose had come up too sharp and I knew it wasn't right," said House, an air traffic controller for 11 years, seven of them at DFW.
Rotation is the aviation term for the nose wheel lifting off the pavement, House said. "The nose gear appeared to be coming up off the runway too high and too fast."
House said the jet seemed off-balance as it climbed "not very far up off the runway," then quit climbing and just pushed forward. House also saw flames coming from the Boeing 727-200's left rear engine before the plane cleared the end of the runway.
"When I saw the first shot of flames, that's when I started hollering for the crash crew to come," she said.
The voice of Styer clearing Flight 1141 for takeoff was heard on the tape that was played for reporters Thursday. Just over one minute later, an unknown voice can be heard: "Fire at the end of the runway."
Styers' voice is heard immediately afterward directing incoming flights to circle.