Oct 23, 2009 5:01 PM by Associated Press

Flight recorder only contains last 30 minutes

As investigators try to figure out why a Northwest Airlines plane flew 150 miles past its destination, the flight and cockpit recorders have arrived in Washington. But they might not be much help to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The voice recorder aboard the plane that overshot Minneapolis on Wednesday night was an older model that records only 30 minutes at a time. Flight 188 was out of contact with air traffic controllers for more than an hour before the pilots realized their mistake and turned back.

During that time, controllers tried desperately to raise them and asked other pilots in the area to try as well. A controllers union spokesman says pilots from two other planes were finally able to get through. A source close to the investigation says a flight attendant in the cabin also contacted the cockpit by intercom. Meanwhile, police and FBI agents on the ground were preparing for the worst, and the Air National Guard put fighter jets on alert.

The plane was carrying 144 passengers and a crew of five from San Diego. The pilots have been suspended.


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