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Published: Tuesday, 4/1/2008

Transcript: Pilots struggled to stabilize plane before crash into Lake Michigan


ANN ARBOR Conversation between two pilots grew increasingly frantic as they struggled to stabilize their aircraft minutes before a crash that killed six members of a University of Michigan organ transplant team, according to a transcript.

The transcript was released to the Detroit Free Press and excerpted in a story published Tuesday as a National Transportation Safety Board panel tries to determine a cause for the crash of the Cessna June 4 into Lake Michigan shortly after takeoff from Milwaukee. The four university employees had just procured organs for transplant into a patient in Ann Arbor.

"I'm fighting the controls, Dennis," Marlin Air pilot Bill Serra tells his co-pilot, Dennis Hoyes. After alerts begin to sound and a few more exchanges, Serra says, "Dennis, she's rolling on me. Help me. Help me."

"I am," is the reply.

The records about half of those that could be turned over to the five-member NTSB panel that will review the accident later this year examine airplane maintenance records and weather reports.

An NTSB report released in July did not indicate a cause for the crash.

"There's a lot of things still in the works on this," lead investigator John Brannen told the Free Press. "We have some more to do, particularly the performance" of the plane.

The university terminated its contract with Marlin Air after the crash, and the flight services company is suing the school for more than $1 million. Marlin Air argues it's not to blame for the accident.

Marlin Air attorney Scott Erskine cautioned against drawing conclusions from bits and pieces of the reports.

"Based on our review of the records we do not believe the NTSB has found any wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Serra," he said.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

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