COLUMBIA, South Carolina – The pilots of a Learjet that hurtled off a runway heard a noise and warned controllers they were going to crash just seconds before the fiery accident last year that killed them and two others and injured two celebrities, according to transcripts released Friday.
The plane shot off the end of the runway, ripped through a fence and crossed a highway before coming to rest in flames. Former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and DJ AM, whose real name is Adam Goldstein, were injured.
What appeared to be a routine departure from Columbia Metropolitan Airport just before midnight Sept. 19 quickly became a disaster as the Learjet 60 emitted a series of metal clicks that drew the attention of pilot Sarah Lemmon and her co-pilot, James Bland, according to the transcripts released by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.
"What was that?" Bland asks.
"I don't know," Lemmon says. "We're not going though."
Moments later, using an expletive, Lemmon slams on the plane's brakes, in an attempt to avoid takeoff. "What is going on here?" one of the pilots asks.
Just seconds before impact, Bland tells air traffic control officials to prepare for a crash.
"Roll the equipment, we're going off the end," he says.
The federal investigators have not released their final report on what caused the crash. But investigators have said there was little rubber left on the jet's wheels and the brakes were badly damaged.
Officials have said the plane was traveling at a speed of 156 mph (250 kph) just before the pilots tried to abort the takeoff.
Barker and Goldstein had performed together under the name TRVSDJ-AM at a free concert in the South Carolina capital Columbia the night of the crash.
Minutes before the crash, Lemmon and Bland discussed what they would do if something went wrong.
"We've got plenty of runway," Lemmon said. But, she said, if a major problem develops, she would take the plane up and burn off some fuel before landing elsewhere.
It was unclear why the plane didn't try to take off, because the transcript indicates they were going fast enough.
The jet's owner, Inter Travel & Services Inc. of Irvine, California, and its operator, Global Exec Aviation Inc. of Long Beach, California, have sued the airport, arguing that the design of the area beyond the runway contributed to the seriousness of the crash. The companies claim there was not enough room for the plane to stop, that a fence damaged the jet's fuel tanks, and that the roadway around the airport caused the plane to crash nose first into a raised embankment.
The companies have also sued Learjet Inc., Bombardier Aerospace Corp. and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., for more than $12 million in damages, saying those manufacturers' designs were also to blame.
At least four other lawsuits have been filed.