Almost eight years after John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a plane crash off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, federal officials have released an audio clip of an airport intern and a Federal Aviation Administration dispatcher discussing the missing plane.
A transcript of the conversation between Adam Budd, a 21-year-old college student employed at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, and the call center at the FAA’s Automated Flight Service Station in Bridgeport, Conn., was made public four days after the July 16, 1999, crash.
The audio clip released Tuesday by the Department of Transportation was the result of a federal Freedom of Information Act request filed by broadcasters after the crash. A portion of it was aired on Boston’s WFXT-TV.
Budd, who generally performed clerical tasks, is heard speaking in a hushed tone, his voice slightly quaking as he asks whether the FAA can track Kennedy’s plane.
“Well, who are you?” an unidentified FAA dispatcher asks.
“I’m with airport operations,” Budd says, failing to identify which airport until the dispatcher asks.
Budd then says: “Actually, Kennedy Jr.’s on board. He’s, uh, they want to know, uh, where he is.”
'Not a big deal'
When the operator told Budd he wouldn’t give the information over the phone, Budd backed off.
“OK, well, if it’s too much trouble, it’s ... I’ll just have ’em wait. ... It’s not a big deal,” he says, according to the transcript.
Budd’s call came in at 10:05 p.m., four hours before a search and rescue mission was assembled after a family friend called the Coast Guard.
Kennedy, the 38-year-old son and namesake of America’s 35th president, was flying with his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, 33, and his sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, 34, when his six-seat, single-engine Piper Saratoga crashed seven miles south of his Martha’s Vineyard home. All three were killed.
A report by the National Transportation Safety Board blamed pilot error for the crash, saying Kennedy, who had been flying for 15 months, was not skilled enough for low-visibility nighttime flying and became disoriented in the hazy sky.