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Pilot Yelled 'Oh . . . Flaps' Just Before Crash, Suit Says

September 16, 1987|Associated Press

PHOENIX — The pilot of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 screamed a reference to his plane's wing flaps just before the plane crashed last month, according to a lawsuit citing previously unreported data from the jet's cockpit voice recorder.

The pilot screamed "Oh (expletive) flaps!" while the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 headed nose first toward the ground shortly after takeoff from Detroit on Aug. 16, according to the suit filed Friday in federal court.

Investigators have determined that the flaps on the trailing edges of the wings of the two-engine airplane and the slats on the leading edges were not set in the proper position to provide extra lift during takeoff.

The crash killed 156 people. Only one person aboard the plane, 4-year-old Cecilia Cichan, survived.

Some information about the crew's preflight procedures has been released by investigators, but the suit was the first indication of the pilots' final words or that they were ever aware of the flaps problem.

Phoenix attorney Charles M. Brewer, who filed the suit against Northwest, declined to say how he learned about the pilot's words, as picked up on the cockpit voice recorder. The recorder survived the crash and is being studied by federal investigators.

"I'm a jet pilot myself, and we have our sources," he said.

The suit was filed on behalf of the two children of Linda Grigg, a passenger aboard the plane. The suit, filed by Grigg's parents, seeks $13.85 million in damages for each child while Grigg's parents are asking for an unspecified amount.

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