updated 10/12/2006 5:21:18 PM ET 2006-10-12T21:21:18

Guests: Bernard Kerik, Robert Hager, Peter King, Charles Slepian, Alan Diehl

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  Thanks, Allison.  We‘re continuing our breaking news coverage of the crash of a small, apparently fixed wing aircraft into a building of condominiums on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  It happened at about 2:45 p.m.  The White House is aware of it.  NORAD jets have been scrambled.  Apparently there are two dead, one in the wreckage, another on the street below.  More to come, that‘s the expectation.

We go now to Joe Scarborough of MSNBC.  He is live on the scene at 72nd Street and York.  Joe, are you there?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST:  Yes, sure am, Tucker.

CARLSON:  What do you see.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, the rain has started to fall so now you have this absolute swarm of cameramen and reporters who are rushing back.  But it is still a chaotic scene but it appears that about 30 minutes ago when I first arrived you had a flood of healthcare workers going in.  You had a lot of stretchers being pulled in.  Firearm marching in single line with blue helmets, moving toward the crash sight and right now in the past five minutes we started to see stretchers being taken back into ambulances and some of these ambulances starting drive away.

When I first arrived, 30, 45 minutes ago now, they had blocked off the street on 72nd and 3rd Street.  You have an entire—a long city block of geez, I can‘t even count all of the ambulances and police cars.  But absolute Bedlam down here.

I spoke with a doctor that was in the emergency room, and he told me that there was one woman that has been to the emergency room from what he saw and appeared to have some cuts and bruises.  And looked dazed and his best guess was, and it was only a best guess that she was probably inside the apartment building at the time the plane came in.

But this looks an awful like - actually a bit more extensive of the scene - - remember when someone flew a Cessna into a skyscraper in Tampa back in probably - two, three years ago.  I don‘t remember exactly.

CARLSON:  I remember it well, and in fact, Joe, just for our viewers here, we are getting confirmation from the federal government that it was in fact a small fixed wing aircraft like a Cessna, we don‘t know if it was a Cessna but something like that.

SCARBOROUGH:  That is what that kid crashed the plane into a Tampa skyscraper, I think it was on a weekend.  But obviously, Tucker, as you know, even though we are not creatures of Manhattan, the Upper East Side is obviously one of the most exclusively areas in this town.  I lived here for about six months, had an apartment up here and it is a very quite place where you have leaders in the publishing world and a lot of money managers living down here.

But it really has - it hasn‘t been turned into a war zone, it‘s at least been turned into a crime scene.  Police tape is encircling this place.  Absolute mob scene.  Helicopters flying around.  Some of them law enforcement, obviously some of them with the media.

But the only resident that we have seen since we got here was a guy that tried to cross police line screamed that he had a right to get back to his F-ing home.  I‘ll let you fill in the blanks there.  And five or six of New York‘s finest disagreed with him and picked him up and carried him screaming about a block or two away.

CARLSON:  That sounds like a losing battle.  Joe, will you stay right where you are for us if you don‘t mind?


CARLSON:  We‘re going to go quickly to NBC‘s Tom Costello who is at NBC headquarters.  Tom?

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I am in Washington but let‘s tell you what we have been hearing from the FAA and from the law enforcement authorities here in Washington.

Now, to begin with, this was, in fact a small plane.  That seems to be the consensus now.  We have checked with the local airports, JFK, LaGuardia and Newark.  None of them reports having lost any sort of a commuter plane.  They are unaware with any plane mussing.  We have also checked with the two busiest local general aviation airports, those being Teterboro and also Westchester Airport and neither one of them is not talking about either planes coming or going.  They are simply not commenting at all.

This does appear to be, as we mentioned, a general aviation plane and it was flying in class B airspace.  Manhattan is a very business air space as you might expect with all of the aircraft, specifically the helicopters but also commercial aircraft over-flying Manhattan.

And you should be—you should be in touch with the air traffic control if you are flying over Manhattan.  So what‘s interesting here is that so far the authorities are not sure, still, an hour or two into this, aren‘t sure whose plane this is and where it originated.  So that is clearly a bit of a mystery here.  If it was general aviation aircraft that was flying under visual flight rules and was not plugged into the air traffic control system, that begs the question of why.

A remind not only of course that we have we have the tragedy of 9/11 but this has happened before in 1945 when a B-25 flew into the Empire State Building.  Tucker?

CARLSON:  Tom, our viewers may be surprised to hear that a small aircraft can fly over the center of Manhattan.  Is that legal?

COSTELLO:  Well, that‘s a good question.  Let‘s try to get that pinned down over the next hour or so.  I will tell you everybody that we have talked to has absolutely been holding three phones up to their ears.

However, of course you can fly over with a helicopter if you are plugged into air traffic control.  But the issue is why was this particular plane apparently not communicating to air traffic control?

It appears, and this is preliminary.  But it appear there was no transponder working on this plane so the air traffic control was not following them.  So this is a bit of a mystery right now.

By the way, we have also, as I mentioned about 20 minutes ago we checked because there were rumors that this may be a seaplane.  We have checked with both the local seaports that handle the seaplanes along the Hudson River and neither one of them says they are missing or are aware of a missing plane.

CARLSON:  Would it be possible for someone flying a small aircraft say out of Pennsylvania or New Jersey or a neighboring state to just decide to buzz Manhattan, just to fly over the middle of the island and see what it looks like?  Is that .

COSTELLO:  Would it be possible?  Absolutely.

CARLSON:  Does it happen?

COSTELLO:  And people have done awfully dumb things.  And one hopes they are qualified when they do something like that.  But as to who was flying this plane and what are the circumstances, we don‘t know.  At this point we don‘t even know - this is quite unusual.  Normally we would have a tail number.  But we still don‘t know what kind of an aircraft this was.

CARLSON:  Are officials from Washington, NTSB officials, FAA officials, on the scene in New York now?

COSTELLO:  NTSB is en route.  The go team leaves at 6:00 with NTSB board member Debbie Hersman.  It would be standard of course for any type of aviation accident to be investigated by the NTSB.  However, for a board member to go, that tells you they take this very seriously.  And questions remain as to how this all happened.

CARLSON:  And we are certain at this point it is not terrorism?  What is the status of that?

COSTELLO:  All the law enforcement authorities tell NBC that there is no reason to believe it is terrorism.  And that is an important point to make.  There is no reason to believe it is terrorism.  We will leave it at the.

As you know the early indications on these things are often wrong both in terms of the type of aircraft and what happened, what transpired, but law enforcement tells us and law enforcement has been telling New York State officials that they do not believe this was an act of terrorism, they believe it was a tragedy.

CARLSON:  All right.  NBC‘s Tom Costello in Washington.  Thanks a lot, Tom.


CARLSON:  We go now NBC‘s Sara James who is on the scene.  Sara, what do you see?

SARA JAMES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  I am standing right below the building, Tucker, on the corner of 72nd and York Avenue looking up and you can see the blackened facade of the building where the aircraft struck.

You can see that both slightly below and also above the point of impact that the facade is blackened and charred.  Meantime, a steady rain is starting to fall here on the rescue workers.  There are dozens of fire trucks and police vehicles, probably several hundred people here in the area of one sort of another including NYPD uniformed patrol officers.  Some of whom are wearing the signature (inaudible) and also the oxygen to go inside those locations.  And deal with all the situations there.

So here on the scene what you find is, of course there this a residential area and also a business section.  It is right next to a major medical center as you know positioned between the East River and York which is a busy, busy avenue of apartment complexes.  Many families live here.  There are a few schools in the neighborhood and so many of the people who live in those residences are clusters around front doors looking up at the building and trying to determine exactly what happened.

It is, though, Tucker, a scene that is much calmer now.  There are still several helicopters flying overhead.  You are probably able hear those above me.  But the scene here on the ground is one of controlled calm and the situation appears to be under control.

CARLSON:  Sara, what can you tell us about the fire?  We‘re seeing pictures now of it burning pretty brightly not long ago.  It appears to be out now.  Is there still smoke rising?  Is there any indication?

JAMES:  It is interesting because I was able see this from several blocks away.  Probably about 45 minutes ago I could see the planes and also the smoke and now there are no signs of smoke or fire from the building.  What you see is the blackened front of the building but no smoke or fire emanating at this moment.

CARLSON:  Can you see fireman inside?

JAMES:  Not from where I am.  Because it is quite high.  Some from this vantage point where I am looking across at it, you cannot see if there is anybody inside the building right now.  You see dozens on the ground and of course the area is cordoned off as you would anticipate.  But it is impossible to tell what is inside at this point from this vantage point.

CARLSON:  Interesting.  NBC‘s Sara James on the scene.  Will you standby for us if you don‘t mind, Sara?

JAMES:  Certainly, no problem, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Going to go now to Charles Slepian, an aviation expert who is standing by, I believe, at MSNBC.  Charles, can you tell us, is it in your understanding against the law or is it legal the fly a small aircraft down the center of Manhattan?

CHARLES SLEPIAN, AVIATION EXPERT:  As far as I know, there is no prohibition against doing that.  IF you are flying on visual flight rules you do not have to be tied into a tower anywhere.  And I am here almost everyday and I see it all the time.

CALRSON:  So if you are a licensed private pilot you can take off from any private airport and just fly up the center of Manhattan without telling anyone?

SLEPIAN:  Unfortunately it happens all the time.  We have, as you know, general aviation airports strewn across this country.  There are almost 18,000 pilots of them and we have about 400,000 Americans who have pilots‘ licenses.  So you have people doing all kinds of things in private aircraft which are not well maintained or as well controlled, I should say, as commercial airlines are.

CARLSON:  Interesting.  After 9/11, large parts of Washington DC were declared off limits to private aircraft.  You can‘t fly over them or you risk getting shot down.  The Pentagon, for instance and the White House.  Is that not the case in New York?  Is there no place you can‘t fly?

SLEPIAN:  As far as I know you can fly across Manhattan Island in a small airplane and if you can‘t, there are people doing it on a regular basis without consequences.

CARLSON:  Interesting.  How low can you fly?

SLEPIAN:  That I don‘t know.

CARLSON:  How low is it safe to fly, would you say?

SLEPIAN:  If you are flying over Manhattan and the Empire State Building is 100 stories that is about so you are talking about 1,000 feet.  So you should be 1,500 to 2,000 feet flying over Manhattan if you‘re flying over Manhattan.  But unfortunately people fly up and down the coast of Manhattan, along the Hudson River, along the East River, and they are not actually coming on to the part of the island where you have those tall obstructions so they‘re flying at all altitudes.  I would think if this were some kind of an emergency and the pilot was still in control, he would have tried for landing in the river as opposed to trying to bring it across Manhattan Island but this is all sheer speculation at this point.  We don‘t know who he was or what the circumstances were.  The only thing I would say that it that it raises the question once again the question of how carefully you control general aviation airports, who takes off from them and what kind of security we have in place in those facilities.

CARLSON:  Interesting.  And finally Mr. Slepian, we are hearing a report a minute ago from an eyewitness that apparently the plane banked sharply before it struck the building.  And if we were hearing that if a small aircraft, a small fixed wing aircraft makes an exceptionally sharp turn it can lose lift and crash?  How does that work?

SLEPIAN:  Well, an airplane stays in the air because of the vacuum which is created above the wing through the rushing air coming underneath the wing, it‘s the flow through the wing that creates a vacuum which allows the plane to lift and that is rather simple explanation for a complex activity.

But that‘s true If the plane slows down to a point where it is not getting enough space above the wing to lift, it is going drop.  Now there have been a couple of comments that I heard about this plane.  One said it did indeed bank one wing and then corrected itself and it was flying level again.  So until all of this is kind of worked out by the experts we really don‘t know and won‘t know what happened.

CARLSON:  Mr. Slepian, it is now being reported that the aircraft is a Cirrus 20, a four passenger fixed wing aircraft.  Do you know anything about that kind of plane?

SLEPIAN:  I do not.

CARLSON:  All right.  Charles Slepian on the phone with - joining us.  Thank you very much.  If you could stay there for a moment, we would appreciate it.

We want to go now on the phone to Alan Diehl, formerly of the NTSB.  Mr.

Deal, can you hear me?

ALAN DIEHL, AVIATION PSYCHOLOGIST:  I can hear you loud and clear, Tucker.

CARLSON:  A Cirrus 20, four passenger?  What do you know about that?

DIEHL:  That‘s one of the - it‘s the newest - one of the newest types of general aviation aircraft.  They cost about a half million dollars.  This is certainly a high ticket item.  If in fact it turns out to be a Cirrus 20.  But they have modern navigational equipment and I guess I may have to disagree with your previous witness.  In class B air space as I understand this was, this pilot should have been talking to the controllers.  I don‘t believe there is any way they can just fly without any interaction with the air traffic controllers.

Now if he is having an onboard emergency, Tucker, that might well explain why he was not talking to them.  Say a cockpit fire or even carbon monoxide in the cockpit.  Again, all speculation at this point but I can envision a situation where he might not be communicating but legally he should have been talking to the controller.

CARLSON:  Class B air space?  Can you define that for us?

DIEHL:  Class B air space is the air space around very busy airports, that is kind of a simple layman‘s explanation.  And it runs out like 30 miles from the center of the various airports.  Obviously you have got three major airports there, at least two major airports.  JFK and LaGuardia.  I have not flown, I should say, in this air space for a number of years so I am not familiar with the exact arrangement of control zone but I don‘t believe it would be legal for general aviation pilot to be flying without talking to a controller over ...

CARLSON:  You would think—there are an awful lot of aircraft flying around Manhattan, a lot of aircraft for one thing and you would think someone would need to coordinate them all to keep them from crashing into one another, no?

DIEHL:  If they are under what is called the visual flight rules, Tucker, that means they have to see and avoid each other, OK.  So they would be talking to the controllers but the controllers may not be literally providing separation from other aircraft.  And obviously they are not going provide separation from the ground or tall buildings.  It is the pie responsibility of the individual pilots.

Now they could have been flying under visual flight rules but still talking to the controllers.  That is what I would think would be the most likely scenario.  Again, this is for the NTSB, the FAA and I guess the FBI to sort out once more of the facts are known.

CARLSON:  How difficult would it be to fly a small fixed wing aircraft, a four seater, say at a very low altitude around Manhattan?  Are there air currents that would make it hard?  Is it easy?

DIEHL:  Of course, the prevailing winds, if you are downwind of a major structure that could cause this so called wing dipping that we have heard witnesses describe, that right before the accident one of the wings of the aircraft dipped or whatever.

But, this was—there are other laws and procedures about separation from objects on the ground and over a built up area like this you should be at least 2,000 feet above the highest object.  So again, this does not sound like—either there is something mechanically wrong in the airplane that the pilot is coping with or conceivably it could be some kind of deliberate act.  But I just don‘t think it would be legal or proper for this individual be flying around in this air space, so called class b air space without talking to controllers.  They may not be giving him vectors or headings or altitudes but they certainly want to know he is out there, as you said, because of all of the other traffic, the helicopters and other fixed wing traffic that is out in the area.

CARLSON:  Are you surprised that within minutes of this accident or this event we were hearing people in authority Washington say it is most likely not an act of terrorism?  Why would they say that?

DIEHL:  Well, Tucker, I am not in the homeland security arena, but, you know, I guess because if it was an act of terrorism, there are a lot better targets than this particular building.  People have pointed out there is the UN nearby and there is the Empire State Building which of course you probably remember was struck by an army aircraft in 1945 in bad weather.

So it does not seem that it was an act of terrorism that they would pick this particular building.  We did—you talked a little while ago about the student pilot down in Tampa that flew into the bank building a few years back.  As you know he was on some medications and so on.

We do occasionally, and I stress very rarely there are suicides and there are people that do deliberate things with general aviation aircraft and it is extremely rare.  Let me - I‘ve got to stress that over and over again.  Pilots are strained when they get their medical to fly.  FAA approved medical.  They are screened for psychiatric disorders.  It‘s not quite like the military or airlines but they are monitored.  And again, I‘ll stress that suicide or deliberate acts are extremely rare.

I used to work in the FAA medical office.  I am a research psychologist, not a psychiatrist and I do know that there are people that kept track of any kind of untoward acts on the people that held medical certificates.  And it is rare extremely.  I‘ll say that a fourth time, I guess.

But that, of course, is another possibility that the NTSB will have to sort this out.  But I have—I am aware this has happened not just with the student pilot in the bank down in Tampa but it has happened on several occasions.  I remember back, I guess it was the ‘60s.  I was not with the NTSB, FAA at that time but an individual took a light aircraft and flew it into a bar where his ex-wife worked.  So that is another possibility that the NTSB will be looking at very carefully.

But it is interesting that this is such a modern aircraft.  The Cirrus has only been out for a few years and it is very top of the line light aircraft.

CARLSON:  So you were saying, Alan, it is very unusual for people to fly aircraft into buildings as a means of committing suicide.  How unusual is it for people to fly into buildings in cities accidentally?  Can you think of other examples of this happening.

DIEHL:  Well, we just talked about the suicide down in Tampa and of course the deliberate acts - extremely rare is the short answer, Tucker.  Again, you know, we have this image of pilots, people with silk scarves.  The typical pilot is a bank vice president, he is somebody who is highly represented.  A physician or lawyer.

We do have young people taking flying lessons but for the most part somebody flying a Cirrus aircraft, this thing probably rented for about $150 an hour without the instructor.  And again, as far as we know this is a solo fight, I understand they have found two victims, one presumably in the wreckage and somebody else in the apartment.

But what I am saying this has the earmarks of a top of the line operation, not some individual that is, you know, got a homemade aircraft that is likely to do things that - irresponsible things.

CARLSON:  How irresponsible, how reckless, put this into context for those of us who aren‘t pilots.  Would it be considered extremely reckless to fly a small aircraft, a Cirrus 20, say, very close to a condominium?

DIEHL:  Absolutely.  Like I said, you have to be - over a so called built up area, you have to be 2,000 feet above the highest object.  I think it‘s within a half mile if I remember my federal air regulations.  So this would be an extremely reckless act if it is a deliberate act.  Again, Tucker, we are doing a lot of speculating here.

But like I said .

CARLSON:  Well, there are not too many options.  It was either intentional, it was an act of terror or a suicide, or it was an accident.  I mean .

DIEHL:  What if when the NTSB does the autopsy, they find there is carbon monoxide—the muffler was leaking.  Even though it‘s a newest airplane.  We have seen carbon monoxide incapacitate pilots.  He could have had an onboard fire.  These Cirrus 20, a lot of—they are called glass cockpits.  These are computer like displays.

And I am not suggest this happened but what if we find out there was an onboard fire.  Again, the NTSB, when they examine the wreckage will be able tell whether the fire occurred before or after impact.

So these are the things, Tucker, we can kind of speculate about.  We do not want to condemn this guy too quickly.  If he did it deliberately, there is no CO2, there is no onboard fire or some other incapacitation, he could have had a heart attack for that matter.  You want to talk about speculation here.  This would be an extremely reckless behavior if in fact this was deliberate.

CARLSON:  What are the penalties?  Let‘s say you decided to buzz an apartment building in Manhattan and you got caught buzzing it.  What happens to you?

DIEHL:  I can guarantee you would lose your license probably permanently if not for a very long period of time.

And there are huge civil penalties he could receive.  Again, I didn‘t work for the FAA legal section but there could be multi-thousand dollar fines.  Even if he didn‘t have an accident, if somebody got the tail number off the side of the aircraft that flew by this guy would be on the ground.

And obviously if you cause any injury to anybody then you fall under the jurisdiction of the civil law system so you could go to jail for manslaughter or whatever.  But the FAA takes—there are a few things they take very seriously.  One is so called buzzing, flying too closely objects or aircrafts or whatever.  And the other is any kind of alcohol or drug use.  That will get you out of the air immediately and permanently if you‘re known to do either of those kind of things.  Again, we can speculate here, but I don‘t think that—we will just have to wait.

CARLSON:  We will find out soon.  Alan Diehl, thank you very much.  Former NTSB investigator Alan Diehl joining us by phone.  Thanks very much.

DIEHL:  You‘re welcome.

CARLSON:  We are going to go now to NBC‘s Tom Costello who has got an update on the situation.  Tom?

COSTELLO:  Well, Tucker, we have been perplexed how is it possible that a general aviation would not be in touch with the air traffic control system.

If you‘ll come out live to this shot for just one minute, this is a map of the airspace in Manhattan and there are no general aviation corridors in Manhattan.  So the bottom line is if you are flying a general aviation plane in Manhattan you should be in touch with air traffic control.  There is not an opportunity, according to the map, for you to fly in a corridor of general aviation.

So this question becomes why was this individual apparently was not in touch with air traffic control and apparently was flying visual flight rules without checking in filing a flight plan.

Incidentally, this plane, the CR 20, the Cirrus 20, is one of the first ever to be fitted with a ballistic recovery system parachute.  This is a small aircraft and it‘s a parachute that quite literally would pop out of the top of the fuselage.  There out of the top of the plane should they have trouble.  You could kill the propeller and you could quite literally just float gently down to earth.  It gives you a sense of how light this aircraft is.

Obviously that is not what happened here but this plane which originally was designed to come out of a kit and now has become a rather popular plane for about a half a million dollars is a general aviation plane, no doubt about it.  The question is why was this pilot clearly flying in airspace that he should have been checking in to air traffic control with.  Tucker?

CARLSON:  Tom, how are we going to find out who this was?  Who is the pilot of this.  Is there a federal agency that is going to track that down?  Is that the FAA or the NTSB?

COSTELLO:  Well, the FAA will track down if they can determine the tail number and determine the registration, the FAA should have that quicker than anybody else will.  And you can bet they are working on that.  And then of course trying to determine the time line here what did this individual do, how did he or she end up in this plane.  What did they do during the day, all of that will be determined by the NTSB.

That is an extensive process.  And you can imagine that especially if there is anybody dead on the ground they will investigate this thoroughly to try to come up with a determination of what happened.  Did this individual pilot, had they been drinking.  Were they under the influence of any drugs whatsoever?  Were they experienced?  How many hours in the cockpit?

Why did they make this apparent mistake?  Did the plane malfunction?  There are so many issues to be addressed.  But clearly when a general aviation plane flies into an apartment building in Manhattan and they are not supposed to be there without checking in to air traffic control, one of the first questions has to be, did they know where they were, did they get lost?

CARLSON:  All right.  Tom Costello, NBC News standing by.  Thank you, Tom, for that update, I appreciate it.

We have got Bernard Kerik, I believe on the phone now.  He is in, I believe, New York City.  Bernard Kerik, are you there?


CARLSON:  I am great.  What do you know about this?

KERIK:  It appears to be an accident.  According to the FAA and according to some of the police personnel I‘ve talked, from what I understand the upper floors of the building will be evacuated.  There will be some casualties.  But I think that is as much as we can talk about actually at this point.

CARLSON:  It looks from this vantage point that the firearm put the fires out pretty quickly.

KERIK:  Listen, the New York City Fire Department is probably the best in the world when it comes to high-rise incidents like this.  There are plans and protocols in place for them to respond, to evacuate, to get up in the buildings.  The impact point and above would be your most dangerous zones and evidently they were up in the building within minutes and evacuated the upper floors so I think they did a phenomenal job.  And it just shows the professionalism that they work by and we‘re better off as a result.

CARLSON:  It is just remarkable to me the courage of these guys.  After 9/11 to see a plane strike a high-rise building in New York and here they are suited up again in their helmets and heavy coats charging up the stairs again.  That takes guts, I think.

KERIK:  Tucker, you could see it, you saw it on September 11, even knowing the perils inherit with the buildings that were attacked.  You will witness it again and many, many times in the future where these guys put their lives at risk do what has to be done and in this circumstance, before they knew exactly what had happened, before they knew whether it was terrorism.  Before they knew whether there were bio, chemical, or nuclear devices attached to a plane or a helicopter, whatever, their first and foremost job was to get into the buildings and evacuate and them and that‘s what they did. 

CARLSON:  Are you satisfied that this is not an act of terrorism? 

KERIK:  I think at this point, based on what I‘ve heard, yes.  We would hope that to be the case and I think it‘s premature to create or do a final analysis until the FBI goes through all the information.  But I think based on the FAA accounts and what‘s being hashed out on the ground, I think we can pretty much conclude it‘s not terrorism.  

CARLSON:  What are the indicators of terrorism and why exactly are we certain that it is not?

KERIK:  Well the FAA appears to know whose plane it is.  They‘re pretty confident based on whose plane it is that—and I‘m sure they‘ll make that announcement.  You know they can sort of rule out terrorism.  But I think—I think that will be the case in the end.  

CARLSON:  All right.  Interesting.  Are you getting—have you heard any reports at all of casualties in the building?  That fire looked pretty intense.  Do we know if the people got out?

KERIK:  Haven‘t heard anything about casualties in the building.  There were two casualties on the outside that I understand that could have been from the plane itself.   I can‘t say.  If there were no casualties in the building, I‘d really be kind of surprised. 

CARLSON:  Even as I ask that question, amazingly enough, we are just getting confirmation now from New York City officials that there are four confirmed casualties as of right now.  Two on the ground, the pilot and someone else, presumably a passenger in the Sirus 20 and at least two in the building, so four total.  If the casualty number stayed that low Bernard Kerik will you will be surprised that that does seem kind of miraculous?

KERIK:  I would be surprised.  You know you have the impact zone at the 20th floor, that‘s a 32 or 39 floor building.  The smoke that was created or would be created from a fire like that would be unbelievable on the upper floors.  For them to get into the building and get people out of there safely, only to lose two people in the building, it is miraculous but it shows the dedication, the courage, the professionalism, the planning, the preparedness that the fire department and the police department work with and I think that would be, you know, although a tragedy, it‘s an enormous success story for the New York City Fire Department and Police Department. 

CARLSON:  It‘s amazing.  Bernard Kerik, former police commissioner of New York City, thanks very much, I appreciate your calling in. 

KERIK:  Thanks Tucker.  

CARLSON:  We want to go now to NBC‘s Bob Hager who‘s on the line, really one of the great experts on all things aviation.  Bob, what do you make of this? Would there be a plane like this buzzing around Manhattan on an ordinary day?

ROBERT HAGER, AVIATION EXPERT:  Certainly ought not to be, yes. And especially what Tom Costello said about there is no general aviation corridor through there.  So the plane is clearly not where it was supposed to be.  And I‘m wondering if with air traffic control tapes, even though this plane was apparently not flying under the control of controllers that they could go back and they could look at the tapes and they could trace the root of the plane.  And to see where it was coming from and what sort of turns and things like that it made, which might go to the issue of was there something mechanical on board, did the pilot pass out and the plane was just in effect flying itself or was this intentional. 

Was it—if not terrorism could it have been someone deranged.  The path of the plane might help you decide that.  There is another point that‘s often made when they talk about terrorism.  That for a terrorist, the ideal weapon is a bigger plane.  You would not think this would be the choice of a terrorist to fly a small plane into a building like that because as you can see, the damage is not widespread over the building.  For a long time the general aviation industry has tried to make that argument in the questions of how strict the security should be around general aviation airports.  And one point that they have made is that a small plane going into a building causes some casualties, some deaths, but it‘s nothing like a big plane going into a building like we had on 9/11.  

CARLSON:  What can you tell us about this specific aircraft, the Sirus 20, is it a difficult aircraft to operate, to maneuver?

HAGER:  No, as far as I know it is a very easy plane to maneuver. And the key thing is this package where if you did have a mechanical problem such as an engine out, it has this parachute that amazingly—I mean the parachute pops out of the top of the plane and the plane floats down in a parachute.  That seems to be just in the irrelevant bit of information here because there was no parachute deployed but that still doesn‘t rule out that there could have been a mechanical problem and that that‘s what this was about.  And that the pilot couldn‘t control the plane.  Although again if the pilot had a lot of time, if it were a mechanical problem and the pilot had a fair amount of time, he would have gotten off an emergency call on the emergency frequency, even though he wasn‘t flying under the control of air traffic controllers you always know what the emergency frequency is.   And the pilot if he had time would have gone there and declared a may day, especially knowing he‘s over a populated area like Manhattan.  

CARLSON:  Interesting.  Bob Hager, if you wouldn‘t mind just standing by for one moment, we‘re going to go now to NBC‘s Tom Costello who has an update on the situation.  Tom, are you there? 

COSTELLO:  Yeah I sure am.  Let me just—and keep Bob on the line there.  Let me read for you what the FAA says in its requirements for pilots.  If you are in a class B air space, which is what this was over Manhattan, very busy airspace, quote, “Arriving aircraft must obtain an ATC, air traffic control clearance, prior to entering class B airspace and must contact ATC on the appropriate frequency.”  And in relation to geographical fixes shown on local charts, well as we have indicated to you, it appears thus far that this plane was not in touch with air traffic control.  However, to pick up on Bob‘s point about this plane, it has a very sophisticated electronics package on board the Cirrus 20, and it is a constant transmission of the transponder.  So air traffic control should have been aware that it existed even if they didn‘t check in with air traffic control.  And one would think that it should be relatively easy to replay the FAA tower tapes and get a sense of what happened and when it happened.  Of course it doesn‘t explain why it happened.  And the question is, did this individual perhaps fly up the East River and suddenly make a bad turn right into the side of a building.  And that has yet to be determined. Tucker? 

CARLSON:  Interesting.  Bob Hager, can authorities go back and track the movements precisely of any aircraft or an aircraft this small? 

HAGER:  Yes, should be able to with relative ease as long as the transponder is turned on.  But the pilots—if they wanted to fly surreptitiously, could turn the transponder off.  I think that it could be done on this Cirrus aircraft, it could on most general aviation planes so that if you were trying to fly surreptitiously you could make yourself difficult to spot in what they call a clutter.  That means around a big city on the radar, there is just an awful lot of extraneous blips and so forth.  So you can—you could get lost in that if you were trying to. 

CARLSON:  We are getting word Bob that WNBC in New York City, our affiliate there, is reporting that New York Yankees‘ pitcher Cory Lidle attempted to purchase this aircraft, I think this specific aircraft, the actual plane that went down today, the Cirrus 20.  Bob Hager, what would that cost do you think? 

HAGER:  Well, I take a pass on that.  I have no idea.  That is going to be an expensive plane.  As you could see it is not an elaborate kind of plane but with that parachute system and all, amongst the single engine planes, that‘s one of the more expensive models and also a fairly new generation of aircrafts.  So it will be expensive.  But you know I just don‘t know on how much.  

CARLSON:  Tom Costello?  

COSTELLO:  Well, I must tell you we‘ve been working that angle for the last few minutes here.  We too had heard that Cory Lidle had attempted to purchase this plane, we were trying to confirm it.  So our colleagues at WNBC clearly have done so.  That does not mean that New York Yankee‘s pitcher Cory Lidle was on that plane. 

CARLSON:  But it does suggest that the tail number of this specific plane is known, clearly it would have to be.  

COSTELLO:  That‘s correct.  They now have a tail number, that‘s correct.  And so now the question is who was on board, who was flying it and we‘re working that very rapidly. 

CARLSON:  Interesting.  We have New York Congressman Peter King, Republican chairman of the Homeland Security Department on the phone - committee rather.  He has called in.  Mr. Chairman, are you there?

PETER KING, ® NEW YORK:  Yes I am, Tucker.  How are you?

CARLSON:  I‘m fine thanks.  So you‘re satisfied this is not an act of terrorism?

KING:  I‘m satisfied there‘s no evidence of terrorism yet, it can‘t be ruled out.  I mean everything has to be explored and examined.  In the post 9/11 world we can never rule out terrorism up front.  Having said that, you know there is no evidence at all up until now that there is terrorism.  

CARLSON:  Are you dismayed by the simplicity with which a person can fly a small aircraft into the center of Manhattan in the Upper East Side? 

KING:  Yeah this is obviously something that has to be looked at very carefully.  You know we always have to balance since 9/11 security with going on with the normal life.  But this could well have been a terrorist attack and it shows how easy it would have been for them.  So it‘s a tragedy that any one was killed, that anyone was injured in any way.  If anything positive can come out of it, it‘s a wake up call as to what has to be done to provide better security.  

CARLSON:  What could be done? How exactly could you prevent small planes like this from flying over airspace in Manhattan?

KING:  Again, this has to be discussed—explored with the TSA, with the FAA.  But again, it could mean restricting airspace, restricting planes from airspace within a certain radius of Manhattan Island or largely populated areas.  It‘s something which is going to have to be looked at very carefully.  

CARLSON:  So tell us once something like this happens, an incident like this happens, tell us how federal officials react.  You‘re the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee,  how did you hear about this?  Did you get a call from some federal official or did you see it on television? 

KING:  No I got a call from staff—my staff at the committee called me immediately.  I guess they heard either simultaneously with the media or slightly before.  But I got contacted by my committee staff that this accident had occurred—this incident had occurred.  Then I found out soon after that the FBI and joint terrorism task force were going to be on the scene.  I know from my experience in New York that the NYPD and its counterterrorism bureau would be actively engaged from the start. And that‘s basically—that‘s a level of federal participation.  Also I know that for instance at the federal level you have Homeland Security would be coordinating with the other intelligence agencies to see if there is any terrorist chatter out there to see if there‘s—anything being picked up indicating that terrorists are responding to this.  Or anything from terrorists indicating that they knew this might be happening.  Again, none of which I expect to happen but all of that is going to be looked at.  

CARLSON:  How important is it to tell the public what‘s going on?  And do you expect that we‘re going to hear details about what happened today, who this man is?  We‘re going to hear more about this today from officials, do you think?

KING:  Oh I would expect that all the details will be coming out. 

Obviously the families will be contacted first as far as any of the deaths.  But having said that, you know all the facts have to be out.  It‘s especially important - again, you know there are two sides to this.  It‘s especially important that we explore and look for any possibility of terrorism.  It‘s also important that as soon as we know terrorism is being ruled out, that we lay out the details as to exactly what happened so there‘s no conspiracy theories going around or people think that somehow we‘re hiding something that really did happen. 

CARLSON:  You have lived in New York all your life in and around the city.  Can you think back and remember any other example of someone accidentally flying an aircraft into a building in the city?

KING:  The only other incident I recall at all other than the World Trade Center of course, which was not an accident, was actually I guess just before I was born, was the Empire State Building, where a plane did hit the Empire State Building in the middle of the night or late at night after dark.  That‘s the only time I‘m aware - or actually there was, you know there was a helicopter that crashed at the Pan Am building.  But actually flying into a building, the only other one I‘m aware of is the Empire State Building.  

CARLSON:  That‘s just remarkable if you think about how many planes, I mean there are, correct me if I‘m wrong, a great number of small aircraft buzzing around Manhattan every day?

KING:  Oh yeah there are.  And again, accidents can always happen.  But I think this shows that from an accident though, how we could be susceptible to an attack this way.  And if the terrorists haven‘t thought of it before they may think about it after today. 

CARLSON: How difficult is it do you know Mr. Chairman to rent a small aircraft.   Can you go to any general aviation field and just rent a plane? 

KING:  It‘s not that difficult.  I couldn‘t get into exact details but it‘s not that difficult. I mean if you have credentials, if you are duly licensed and you would go through some sort of background check, but no, you can rent one—people—we have weekend fliers, people that, you know private pilots who fly on weekends.  

CARLSON:  Interesting.  Have you heard any indication that there has been an increase in terrorist chatter in the last week or two?

KING:  No, I‘m not aware of that at all and I would be.  There is no indication that I‘m aware of and I get briefings that there is anything out of the ordinary being contemplated as far as New York is concerned. 

CARLSON:  If there was something out of the ordinary, would we hear about it? How often do we hear about it? 

KING:  Generally you don‘t hear about it until it‘s over.  For instance the threatened attack on the subways wasn‘t released until that plot was virtually finished.  No, because the authorities are monitoring a plot, they‘re looking at it, they‘re investigating it.  They try to keep it under control and they want to ensnare as many people as possible or they want to try to make sense out of it.  Because often you have evidence that something could be being planned but you don‘t have the details.  And if you made it public, that would tip the enemy off as to what we know. 

CARLSON:  How often do you hear about threats?

KING:  I get briefed on either a weekly or biweekly basis if there‘s any number of threats or possible threats ongoing at all times.  Some of them turn out just to be harmless chatter, some of them are wannabes, but some of them are real.  I mean again the (INAUDIBLE) subway is one that I was following, I was aware of.  Two students who were from Georgia Tech who were arrested back in May, I was certainly aware of that as it was ongoing.  And so there are others out there that we get briefed on, on a regular basis. 

CARLSON:  How often are you scared by the threats you hear about?

KING:  You have to be scared all the time.  I mean you realize this is a dangerous, dangerous world, we have a vicious enemy, which is plotting day in and day out to get us.

CARLSON:  Have you ever changed your personal behavior based on a threat you‘ve been briefed on? 

KING:  No I haven‘t.  That‘s one of those instances where—and you also shouldn‘t be advising your family.  And that can be a very tough call, especially for federal employees, the people in law enforcement who are tipped off that something might be happening.  Or not tipped off but they‘re following it and they realize something might be happening.  But if they started changing their families travel plans that could be noticed by the enemy and that could be a cause for them to change their plans or it could compromise an informant that we have.  So that is probably—and I really have not been faced with this to be honest with you.  I do know people that have and that is a very tough situation to be in.  But basically you cannot be doing anything to indicate any knowledge of what‘s happening. 

CARLSON:  That‘s a tough moral position.  I mean if you think you‘re in possession of knowledge that could save other people but you can‘t pass that knowledge on for fear of jeopardizing an investigation, awful.  

KING:  That situation a year ago October when there was a possibility of a terrorist attack into the New York City subway system and people in the Department of Homeland Security in Washington notified their family members in New York not to take the subways.  And that‘s still a subject of internal investigation in the department. 

CARLSON:  Interesting.  What happens now?  Will this incident today come up before your committee?  What‘s the federal role in all of this?

KING:  Yeah this will definitely come up before my committee, also before the transportation committee, the aviation subcommittee under John Micah on the transportation committee.  Under my committee, the Homeland Security.  Dan Lungren of California is chairman of the subcommittee who would deal with it directly.  IS chairman will certainly deal with it.  I‘ll be talking to Kip Hawley who is head of the Transportation Security Administration, the TSA.  I‘ll be talking to Secretary Chertoff.  And obviously I‘ll be talking to Commissioner Kelly at the NYPD and also the NCTC, the National Counterterrorism Center.

CARLSON:  All right.  Congressman Peter King of New York, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.  Thanks a lot for calling in, I appreciate it.  

KING:  Tucker, thank you.  

CARLSON:  Want to go back now to NBC‘s Tom Costello who‘s standing by with updates.  Tom?

COSTELLO:  Well here is what we know thus far and we have been talking to the New York Yankees to find out if they know whether Cory Lidle was on this plane, the picture for the Yankees. And they‘re saying to us any information will come from the FAA.  The Yankees are saying any information will come from the FAA.  We do know that Cory Lidle had applied to own this -- to have a license on this plane, he already owned it we‘re told.  So he had applied to actually have a license on the plane.  We do not know if Cory Lidle, the picture for the Yankees, was on board the plane.  

CARLSON:  I‘m sorry, let me stop you.  Tom let me stop you there.  You said he owned the plane? Because we were hearing a moment ago that he was hoping to buy it. You are saying he had purchased this plane already?

COSTELLO:  Our indication is registration was pending in his name and that it appears at this point that he was in a process of buying it or had bought it pending the final license registration on the plane.  Let me ask one of my consultants just off camera very quickly.  Does that make sense Mike that you buy a plane, after you buy it you then apply for the license?  He tells me that‘s the way it goes.  It takes the FAA time to process the application through Oklahoma City.  So again, as we work to find out who was on this plane, the Yankees are saying that any information will come from the FAA.  We don‘t know if he was on board the plane or who the other people on board the plane might have been.  Again, we are told this is a Cirrus 20 plane, with sophisticated avionics on board, electronics on board.  It should have been transmitting a transponder so that the tower could tell where they were, but it appears that this plane or whoever was piloting the plane had not checked in with air traffic control as they were required to do over this very busy stretch of airspace over Manhattan.  That would have been in violation of FAA rules and regulations.  And we are continuing to work the story. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Thank you.  Tom Costello, NBC‘s Tom Costello reporting that Cory Lidle, 34 year old right handed picture for the New York Yankees may have been in some way connected to this plane.  It looks like he was attempting to buy it or may have bought it.  It‘s not clear whether he was on board.  The New York Yankees organization is neither confirming nor denying that, but instead we are now going back to Tom Costello.  Tom?  

COSTELLO:  Well, Tucker, according to law enforcement officials on the ground, they say Cory Lidle was on the aircraft.  His passport was found on the street below.  We are pending more information on this.

CARLSON:  I‘m sorry, that is sad news. 

COSTELLO:  Let‘s qualify that.  Let‘s continue to try to get confirmation.  

CARLSON:  I‘m sorry, Cory Fulton Lidle, 34 years old.  Born in Hollywood, California, the picture for the New York Yankees.  Oh, that is sad news.  Tom Costello reporting.  We want to go now to Mary Ann Bahari, she is an eyewitness to the events of today.  She lives a half block away from the scene of the crash.  Can you hear me Mary Ann Bahari?


CARLSON:  What did you see this afternoon?

BAHARI:  I live on 73, 74th and my windows face east and I was at my apartment building, in my apartment on the 32nd floor and I saw a plane coming from east going west looking as if it was going to come through my window.  It was about a block away.  You know I face the East River and it was just about over the East River. 

CARLSON:  Mary Ann I‘m sorry to interrupt you.  Would you just hold on for one second, we have to go back to Tom Costello, we have breaking news.  Tom? 

COSTELLO:  Well actually I was only trying to get hold of the producer because I want to make sure that we attribute this to the AP at this moment.  As we continue to verify the story, this is the AP reporting this, not NBC News.  I want to be very clear on this, the AP reporting that law enforcement officials telling the AP that the Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle was on board.   

CARLSON:  I don‘t know if that‘s going out over the air.  Those are producers talking about the record of Cory Lidle who apparently was on the plane.  We‘re going to go back to Mary Ann Bahari, she is as we said an eyewitness to the incident today.  She lives a half block away.  I‘m sorry for the interruption there Mary Ann.  You were saying that you saw what happened.  Can you repeat what you were saying?

BAHARI:  The plane was flying directly towards my window and I was on the telephone with somebody and in the middle of my phone conversation I said you know it‘s very strange it looks like a plane is doing acrobatics in the air and it looks like it‘s heading towards my building.  And the next thing I knew, he lost altitude.  It was coming east to west, directly into my window.  And I said, it looks to me like it is going hit—it is going to come—continue coming and then it dropped altitude, lost altitude.  It dipped to the right.  The wing, and it almost did a 90 degree angle.  That‘s where I thought they were doing acrobatics and thought what a weird place.  I even mentioned to the person I was on the phone with that I couldn‘t even imagine that they would be doing acrobatics in the middle of New York City.  And then moments later it disappeared behind a building at 520 E. 72nd Street, which is a tall building and that‘s where I lost view and then moments later, the impact, I heard the impact from my apartment.  I did not see it go into the building but I knew immediately that that was not an airplane acrobatics exercise, it was in fact a plane crash. 

CARLSON:  Could you see the pilot of the plane? 

BAHARI:  No, I just saw that it was—it looked like a small aircraft, it wasn‘t a helicopter, that‘s why I took notice of it.  Because helicopters have a tendency to fly that low in the neighborhood when they‘re doing their investigation or they‘re doing a report on traffic or whatever.  But in fact it was very clear that it was an airplane.  It was a white—looked like a small four-seater airplane coming towards my building, towards my apartment. 

CARLSON:  And finally Mary Ann, you said it was doing acrobatic maneuvers.  Can you just describe what you mean? 

BAHARI:  Well of course it wasn‘t acrobatic maneuvers, but what happened was that it dipped to the right, the right wing went at a 90 degree angle to horizontal.  So it actually went on the vertical and then he—he brought it back—the pilot obviously brought the plane back to horizontal and then it dropped as if it lost altitude.  And I saw this and I said to the person there is something going on because this just doesn‘t, I mean why would they be doing acrobatics this close to a building.  And it was heading towards my window.  It was on level with me at 32. 

CARLSON:  Frightening.  And those of course were the final moments in the lives of the occupants.  Right, and they died.  Mary Ann Bahari, an eyewitness to what happened today.  Thank you for telling us.  I appreciate it.

BAHARI:  I‘m so sorry, God bless.  

CARLSON:  Want to go back now to NBC‘s Tom Costello.  Tom?  

COSTELLO:  Ok Tucker NBC News is now confirming that in fact Cory Lidle was on that plane.  This was registered to Cory Lidle.  The Yankees have told NBC News that any information about him will have to come out of the FAA. But through our own reporting we are confirming what the AP is reporting.  That he was on board the plane, that he had in fact applied for a license with that plane for the FAA license because he purchased the plane this summer.  And in fact, he earned his pilot‘s license the last off season and bought a four seat airplane for $187,000.00, a Cirrus SR20 built in 2002, with at the time fewer than 400 hours in the air.  And so that is the reporting that we can give you.  That this 34-year-old pitcher for the Yankees who was a relatively new pilot, apparently was on board this plane having just purchased the plane in the last few months and that apparently for some reason this plane has gone down in Manhattan as you can tell.  It‘s also worth noting that he should have been reporting to air traffic control not just over Manhattan but as he approached Manhattan and that for some reason that did not happen. 

CARLSON:  We are sure, Tom that that aircraft did not make contact with air traffic control?

COSTELLO:  That is the information we have at this moment.  That, as you know these things change, but at the moment that is what we are told.  And also because of the electronics on board the Cirrus 20, he should have had a working transponder that would have told air traffic control where he was any way.  But as Bob Hager reinforced to you a short time ago, the FAA can certainly back up those tapes and get a very good sense of what happened after the fact. 

CARLSON:  Do we know --  

COSTELLO:  Let me reiterate, I‘m sorry, I was just going to reiterate Cory Lidle was a new pilot, a young pilot, he just purchased this plane. 

CARLSON:  But he did have his pilot‘s license? 

COSTELLO:  He did have his pilots license, just having earned it during last year‘s off season.  

CARLSON:  Do we know if he was at the controls of the aircraft today? 

COSTELLO:  We do not know that.  He‘s 34 years old of course, but we do not know who was at the controls.  There is a recent New York Times story actually that was written back in September about how this pitcher who makes about $3.3 million a year had bought this plane, was proud of it, was excited about it.  And now it appears that this may have ended tragically.  

CARLSON:  It sure sounds that way.  Cory Lidle, he‘s 34 years old, he has one son who just turned 6 years old, he‘s from California.  We have got -- we want to go now to the former Mayor of New York City Ed Koch who is on the phone.  Mr. Mayor, what do you make of this, Cory Lidle on the plane apparently? 

ED KOCH, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR:  Well, I didn‘t know him and the tragedy is the same whether it is he or an occupant of the apartment, because I think there are several who were killed there too as well.  Thank God it‘s a terrorist act, it‘s an act of God, it‘s an accident.  It could have been far worse.  

CARLSON:  Is this the sort of thing that city officials worry about?  It seems like the kind of accident you would expect to happen at some point. 

KOCH:  Well it happens but not often.  There will be more a helicopter incident rather than a fixed wing plane incident.  But it does happen even with large planes an accident way.  You worry about it, it‘s always in the back of your mind but there is nothing you can do about it, so you have to just live your life and do what you normally do. 

CARLSON:  Yes, former mayor Ed Koch.  Thank you very much. For that we want to go now for continuing coverage of this event, this tragic event, apparently the death of Cory Lidle in an aircraft crash in Manhattan today, we want to go now to Chris Matthews for another hour of coverage.

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