Inquiry into doomed Airbus hears crew's last words

TOKYO (Reuter) - The Taiwanese airliner that crashed at Japan's Nagoya airport last Tuesday was apparently being flown by its 26-year- old co-pilot until just before impact, and its landing approach may have been too high.

As air safety experts continued their inquiry into the second-worst crash in Japanese history, a 21-year- old Filipina survivor died in hospital, bringing the death toll to 264; there are now seven survivors.

Japanese Transport Ministry investigators said analysis of the cockpit voice-recorder showed Chuang Meng-jung was flying the China Airlines Airbus A300-600R as it approached Nagoya, 160 miles west of Tokyo. The Airbus, on a flight from Taipei, appeared to have come in too high, prompting the pilot to tell the co-pilot to abort the landing by activating the electronic go-around mode.

The co-pilot could be heard saying he could not push the button, at which point pilot Wang Lo-chi took over but failed to bring the aircraft under control. It then lost speed and at least one engine appeared to stall, just as Wang lifted the nose to gain altitude.

Investigators have speculated the plane was pulled up too steeply, depriving engines of sufficient intake of air. Witnesses said both engines caught fire before the aircraft veered sideways, hitting the ground and exploding into pieces.

The Transport Ministry's Aircraft Accident Investigation Committee released a translation of the final minutes of the crew's conversation:

Wang: 'You, (switch on) go-around mode. It's okay, let's begin slowly, slowly . . . Support it firmly with your hand. Push . . . Push it.'

Either pilot or co-pilot (calmly): 'Now on go-around mode, I can't press it.'

Wang: 'It'll be okay, just do it slowly . . . Okay, I'll do it.'

Chuang: 'I'll connect it, I'll connect it.

Either pilot or co-pilot: 'What's going on?

Wang (desperately): 'Damn it. Why's this happening?

Wang: 'The plane'll stall if this situation goes on . . . This is the end, it's over.

The engine roar becomes louder.

Wang: 'Set. Set. Set it . . . Don't worry, don't worry. Don't panic, don't panic.'

Shrill alarm sound from the plane's ground proximity system, a continual warning of 'terrain, terrain'.

Chuang (in despair): 'Power, power.'

Captain Wang: 'Oh no, it's over, it's over.'

Either pilot or co-pilot: 'Power, power . . . Oh . . . Power, power.' The recording ends.