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Cockpit Recording Suggests Amazon Air Crew Lost Control Before Deadly Crash

The crew of a doomed Amazon Air cargo jet may have lost control of the aircraft just before it crashed outside Houston, Texas, late last month.

Atlas Air Flight Crashed into Trinity Bay, Tragically Killing All Aboard

Atlas Air flight 3591 was preparing to land at George Bush International Airport on February 23rd, when it disappeared from radar at approximately 12:45 p.m. Witnesses later reported that the Boeing 767 had nose-dived into Trinity Bay, about 35 miles southeast of Houston.

The Amazon Air crash killed all three people aboard:

  • The flight’s Captain, a 60-year-old man from Indiana
  • The First Officer, a 44-year-old resident of Antigua
  • A 35-year-old Mesa Airlines pilot deadheading home in the jump seat

Emergency crews have since recovered the remains of the First Officer and the jump seat passenger. Over the weekend, the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office also confirmed that partial remains recovered last week from Trinity Bay are those of the Captain.

Audio “Consistent with Loss of Control” Before Amazon Air Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recovered the cockpit voice recorder from the Amazon Air crash last week.

An initial review of the audio revealed “crew communications consistent with a loss of control of the aircraft” beginning 18-seconds before the recording ends.

Investigators haven’t determined what caused the crew to lose control. The NTSB is still reviewing the audio and cautioned that its early conclusions could change.

Two Atlas Air Flights Involved in Incidents Last Year

Atlas Air is one of two airlines that operate Amazon Air, the online retailing giant’s branded air freight service.

According to Business Insider, two other flights operated by the carrier were involved in questionable incidents last year. The most recent occurred in October, when a Boeing 747 cargo plane operated by Atlas’s Polar Air subsidiary veered off a runway in Kentucky.

The previous July, another Atlas Air Boeing 767 cargo jet had a “hard landing” at the Portsmouth, New Hampshire airport. A subsequent inspection revealed “substantial damage” to the aircraft and creases around the fuselage.

Fortunately, there were no injuries in either of those incidents.

Captain Robert Kirchner, an Atlas pilot and union official, also accused the airline of overworking its pilots.

“They don’t recognize pilot fatigue,” he told Business Insider just weeks before the Amazon Air crash. “They think it’s people goofing off. We have to constantly show them some of these schedules. Ninety-nine percent of the time, we’re able to prove to them that this is a fatiguing schedule.”

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