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Tue, Jun 14, 2005

A Case Of Fatal Joyriding?

Crew Aboard Pinnacle Flight Wanted To Join The 4-1-0 Club

How high is too high?

In the case of a Pinnacle Airlines Canadair CRJ-2, the answer is 41,000 feet. Finding that out cost two Pinnacle pilots their lives. That's what NTSB investigators derived from the cockpit voice recorder aboard the CRJ.

It was the end of a flight full of pilot hijinks, according to the NTSB, which is holding three days of hearings into the October 14 mishap in Jefferson City, MO.

Flying deadhead from Little Rock, AR, to Minneapolis, MN, the crew was positioning the aircraft for the next morning's flight, according to investigators. The flight data recorder shows the pilot, 31-year old Jesse Rhodes and the copilot, 23-year old Richard Cesarz, starting having fun shortly after take-off. While still on ascent, they pulled 1.8 G's in a pitch-up maneuver that activated an automatic system designed to keep the engines from stalling.

They pulled up again shortly after that, as the data recorder registered 2.3 positive G's.

Then, according to the NTSB, they decided to join the "4-1-0" Club by taking the aircraft to its maximum altitude.

"There's my four one oh oh my man," said Cesarz, according to the transcript. "Yeah. . . . [sound of laughing] this is [unintelligible] great."

"You'll get the, you'll do the next one to say four one oh," Rhodes said. "[Unintelligible] Yeah baby."

"[Sound of laughing] Four one oh [expletive] Four one oh."

An air traffic controller then asked what in the world Rhodes and Diaz were doing at 41,000 feet.

"We don't, we don't have any passengers on board so we decided to have a little fun and come on up here," Rhodes said, according to the transcript.

 But the laughter was suddenly quiet as the engines died. The following is an abridged transcript of what followed:

9:48:44 p.m.
Cesarz: "Man we can do it. Forty-one it.''

9:48:46
Rhodes: "(Unintelligible) baby.''

9:48:57
Cesarz: "Hundred and eighty knots, still cruising at Mach point six four.''

9:51:51
Cesarz: "There's four-one-oh, my man.''

9:51:53
Cesarz: "Made it, man.''

At that point, the engines apparently spooled down in a double-flameout.

9:54:19
Rhodes: "Yeah, that's funny, we got up here, it won't stay up here.''

9:54:22
Cesarz: "Dude, it's (expletive) losing it.'' (Sound of laughing)

10:14:36
Cesarz: "We're not gonna make it, man, we're not gonna make it.''

10:14:38
Rhodes: "Is there a road? Tell her we're not gonna make this runway.''

10:14:46
Rhodes: "Let's keep the gear up. (Expletive) I don't want to go into houses here.''

10:14:51
Cesarz: (Expletive) "road right there.''

10:14:52
Rhodes: "Where?''

10:14:52
Cesarz: "Turn, turn...''

10:14:53
Rhodes: "Turn where?''

10:14:53
Cesarz: "Turn to your left, turn to your left.''

10:14:56
Rhodes: Either: "I see it'' or ``I can't.''

10:14:58
Warning signal in cockpit: "Too low, terrain, terrain.''

10:14:59
Rhodes: "Can't make it.''

10:15:03
Rhodes: "Aw (expletive). We're gonna hit houses, dude.''

FMI: www.ntsb.gov/events/2005/Pinnacle/exhibits/CVR_Factual.pdf

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