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How Gunfire May Help Solve Aircraft Crash

by John M. White |

When I think of Palo Alto, CA, I think of Silicon Valley, computer whizzes, young businessmen and lots of money, but apparently that isn't true. At least not in East Palo Alto where gunfire detectors cover the entire area of East Palo Alto, and has since January 2009. As it turns out the sensors picked up the sound of the Cessna 310R with three Tesla employees on board departing the Palo Alto airport which crashed shortly after takeoff in fog. According to Police Chief Ron Davis the recording "is a very clear, and quite frankly, powerful tape of the events." Experts for the manufacturer of the devices believe it can be a significant aid in re-creating the time line of the accident.
On Thursday the recordings were played for reporters who noted the aircraft's engines could be heard clearly, along with the sound of two "bangs" which were apparently when parts of the aircraft hit buildings and vehicles on the ground. Palo Alto Crash Tesla Employees Josh Cawthrea, an investigator with the NTSB, said the audio will allow analysts to listen to engine and propeller sounds and re-create the sequence of events leading to this accident. He said that the tape would be analyzed at the safety board's lab in Washington, DC. James Beltdock, President of ShotSpotter, manufacturer of this technology, said this would be the first time his company's technology was being used in a plane crash. The devices are normally used by police to detect gunfire. Authorities from the NTSB said it would be about one year before they determine the probable cause of this accident. One curious item was the path of the aircraft after takeoff. The normal traffic pattern calls for a right hand turn after departure, but the Cessna 310 veered left crashing into some power lines and then falling on buildings and vehicles on the ground. A local pilot opined that at one mile from the airport the Cessna 310 should have had enough altitude to clear any obstacles on the ground, indicating that something went wrong with the aircraft. Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 There are two critical points in every aerial flight—its beginning and its end. — Alexander Graham Bell, 1906.

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