Voice transcript shows crew of Bombardier CRJ200 decided to climb to 41,000ft on repositioning flight ‘for fun'
An apparent partial transcript of cockpit voice recorder data from the 14 October 2004 Pinnacle Airlines Bombardier CRJ200 fatal crash indicates the crew decided to climb to the regional jet's 41,000ft (12,500m) operational ceiling "to have a little fun" on the repositioning flight.
The recording was obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act by an ABC news affiliate in Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota, which reported a partial transcript that cannot be confirmed. Operated by Pinnacle, a Northwest Airlink affiliate, the CRJ was en route to Northwest's Minneapolis/St Paul hub from Little Rock, Arkansas when it crashed, killing the two pilots on board. Pinnacle restricted its CRJ fleet to a 37,000ft ceiling after the flight data recorder revealed the accident aircraft suffered an aerodynamic stall at 41,000ft.
The partial transcript of the final moments of repositioning flight 3701 appears to verify information already found on the FDR, but gives apparent insight into the crew's decision to fly at the aircraft's operational ceiling. The transcript begins with the pilot informing air traffic control that flight 3701 is operating at 41,000ft and, upon request from the controller, verifying the aircraft is "an RJ200". When the controller remarks: "I have never seen you guys up at 41 there," the pilot responds: "Yeah, we don't have any passengers on board so we decided to have a little fun up here." The pilot then indicates to the controller that 41,000ft can no longer be sustained and "we need 39 or 37", to which the controller says: "He doesn't like 41. I don't think he has enough gas up there he's so slow." The pilot then declares an emergency and, after several seconds of silence, says: "We had an engine failure up at that altitude. The aircraft went into a stall. One of our engines failed; we are going to descend now." As the aircraft descends, the pilot says: "We need direct to any airport; we have a double engine failure. Closest airport, we are descending at 1,500ft/m [7.62m/s]; we have 9,500ft left."
The aircraft crashed shortly afterwards. The NTSB has reported that the FDR shows the General Electric CF34-B1 engines stopped 2-3min after reaching 41,000ft.
MARY KIRBY PHILADELPHIA
Source: Flight International