Just before an American Airlines plane ran off a Wyoming runway last December, the pilots struggled to engage the brakes and thrust reversers that help slow speed, according to documents released Friday.
None of the 181 people aboard Flight 2253 from Chicago was injured in the incident at the Jackson Hole airport.
The pilots of the Boeing 757 anticipated a rough landing as they approached the airport, the transcript of a cockpit voice recorder released by the National Transportation Safety Board shows.
Light snow was falling and conditions were icy. On top of that, the airport's runway is short. The pilot of a smaller plane that had just landed told air traffic controllers that the first two-thirds of the runway were fine, but braking was "poor" on the final third.
A few minutes before landing, the American captain told passengers: "We don't try and make a smooth landing here at Jackson Hole. We just put the aircraft on the runway very quickly and firmly and go into full reverse and then use a heavy amount of braking (to) make sure we stop in the first part of the runway. So just be aware of that that's normal procedure for a mountain airport."
As the plane touched down, the pilots struggled to engage the thrust reversers. "No reverse ... I can't get it," the first officer said.
The captain's call for the brakes to be used was followed by sounds of physical exertion, mechanical clicks and thumps. "All right, I got max brake," he said.
But four seconds later the first officer swore, and then said: "I don't know what the (expletive deleted) is wrong. ... We're screwed."
The plane is then heard thundering off the runway. It came to rest in deep snow 730 feet past the end of the runway.
The safety board is continuing to investigate the Dec. 29 incident. The transcript was released along with more than 300 pages of evidence gathered by investigators, who will try to now figure out what caused to the overrun and make safety recommendations.
Runway overruns are the most common type of airline accident worldwide, according to the Flight Safety Foundation of Alexandria, Va., which promotes global aviation safety. Of the 1,508 aviation accidents between 1995 and 2009, 442, or nearly a third, were runway excursions, the foundation said.