Bodies removed from plane wreckage
January 6, 2010 (WLS) -- Just as the day's last light was being lost, salvage crews pulled the two pilots and key components of the plane from the Des Plaines River Wednesday.
Crews were racing against time to recover debris from a plane crash in a heavily wooded are of the Cook County Forest Preserve before a winter storm that's expected to hit Wednesday evening.
"We have the nose section, we have the tail section and we have the outboard section of both wings," said Aaron Sauer, NTSB.
Throughout the day, crews cut down trees and waded through icy water, working to hoist pieces of the plane onto solid ground so it can be hauled off to an airplane hanger for inspection.
"It slopes down to the river so there is some back wash area that has been flooded and frozen and that's caused some problems with ice cracking so we've tried to get back into the river," said Richard Waszak, Cook County Forest Preserve Police.p> Federal investigators said the pilot made no call for help to air traffic control at the Chicago Executive Airport, formerly the Paulwaukee Airport, before the plane went down Tuesday afternoon. They believe they have found the plane's cockpit voice recorder- but have not determined what caused the crash.
Three-quarters of the jet's wreckage is underwater and the plane's pilots are so far unreachable.
"Due to the way the wreckage is in the water, I cannot definitely say we have located the occupants within the wreckage," said Aaron Sauer, National Transportation Safety Board.
The pilots' own words - in the final seconds of flight - may help investigators determine a cause. While the Lear 35 did not have a flight data recorder cataloging instrument positions and mechanical conditions, the plane did have a cockpit voice recorder. It was stored in the rear of the aircraft. Salvage crews continue to search for it.
"Whether that was operational at the time remains to be determined. Certainly it's useful from our perspective," said Sauer.
"The fact there is such a little debris field is probably indicative that the airplane went in almost nose first, meaning loss of control of the airplane for some reason," said Rob Mark, pilot, editor Jetwhine.com
Rob Mark is a pilot and former air traffic controller at the Palwaukee Airport. He said a stall in the final turn of the landing approach could have quickly caused the plane to drop from its altitude of 500 feet. Mark says those who live along River Road south of the airport can be thankful Tuesday's winds dictated a slightly different approach pattern.
"If you try to make the turn it can increase the loss of lift and sometimes that wing closest to the ground will stop flying and it just drops and turns over," said Mark. "They would have had almost no opportunity to recover at that altitude.
FAA records reviewed by ABC 7 reveal the Lear 35 was built and first flown in 1977. The current owner, Royal Air Cargo, purchased it three months ago. Six days ago, on New Year's Eve a problem forced the crew piloting the plane to return to the airport shortly after take-off .
In 2004, another Royal Air cargo flight went down in Massachusetts. The family of the pilot who died in that crash sued the company, claiming poor maintenance led to a cargo door opening in mid-air. The suit was settled just before it went to trial.
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