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FBI transcribing crash recording

Thursday, September 20, 2001

By Jonathan D. Silver, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The FBI is in the process of transcribing the contents of the cockpit voice recorder recovered Friday from the United Airlines plane that crashed in Somerset County, the agency confirmed today.

Investigators hope to learn from the recorder what went on during the final minutes of Flight 93.

There is heavy speculation that passengers tried to wrest control of the Boeing 757 away from hijackers, sending it crashing Sept. 11 into a reclaimed strip mine outside Shanksville and possibly diverting it from a high-profile target in Washington, D.C.

Sounds in the cockpit and possibly the jetliner's cabin would be picked up by microphones and recorded in the cockpit voice recorder, one of two black boxes carried by every commercial airplane.

The other black box, the flight data recorder, contains information about the plane's path and movement.

Flight 93's flight data recorder has also been recovered and is being deciphered by the FBI.

It was not known what condition either recorder is in or how much information can be gleaned from them.

An FBI spokesman in Washington said he did not know where the cockpit voice recorder was being transcribed, how long it might take or whether officials from the National Transportation Safety Board were helping.

"We have had some of our flight recorder people travel to other locations to assist the FBI in their investigation," safety board spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said.

The recorders were taken Friday to Honeywell, their Seattle-area manufacturer.

"They were brought here by the FBI because the FBI had some difficulty retrieving the data," said Ron Crotty, a spokesman for Honeywell's avionics division. "Our folks worked on it all weekend long -- a couple of very long days over the weekend."

Crotty said data was salvaged from both black boxes, which are actually orange. He said he did not know what was retrieved or how much.

"I don't know what was on there. None of our guys knows anything about the data. We just provide technical assistance. Our guys aren't trained in analyzing the data," Crotty said. "They would not actually hear the data. They put it on some sort of medium. I'm not sure if it's some sort of tape or disc."

The FBI took the boxes back Monday morning.

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