Why Continental Flight 1404 Went Down

July 20 2009, 11:54 AM

The pilots of Continental Airlines Flight 1404 noticed strong winds as they prepared for takeoff at Denver International Airport last December. "Oh yeah, look at those clouds moving," Captain David Butler said, according to a transcript of the jet's cockpit voice recorder (via USA Today). But the Boeing 737 nonetheless accelerated down a runway at roughly 130 miles per hour before a strong crosswind caused it to veer into a ravine, injuring 37 people, including Butler, National Transportation Safety Board investigators found. Co-pilot Chad Levang told investigators that the plane had "zero directional control," according to The Wall Street Journal, reporting on documents released Friday that suggest the crew should have been alerted to the crosswinds and that better training methods may be necessary for pilots across the nation. A Continental spokeswoman declined to comment on Saturday.

Aviation safety expert Greg Feith, a former NTSB investigator, says there might have been miscommunication between the plane's crew and air-traffic controllers, noting the plane had specific limits for certain winds. "The question is did the crew know about it, and if not, why not?" he asks (via The Denver Post).

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