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Transcripts detail conversations in cockpit of Flight 232

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Transcripts of conversations between air traffic controllers and the cockpit crew aboard United Airlines Flight 232 show the low-key tension of pilots struggling to control the crippled plane that crash-landed in an Iowa cornfieldlast month.

The Des Moines Register obtained the transcripts that detail conversations between flight controllers in Minneapolis, Chicago and Sioux City, Iowa, and the cockpit crew of the ill-fated DC-10.

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The July 19 crash-landing in Sioux City killed 111 people but 185 aboard survived, including the three-man cockpit crew.

At 3:16 p.m. July 19, one of the pilots of the plane en route from Denver to Chicago radioed to controllers: 'We just lost No. 2 engine, we'd like a lower altitude please.'

Four minutes later, a pilot told the Minneapolis tower, 'We're declaring an emergency here.'

Controllers considered directing the plane to Chicago, then Dubuque, but finally told the crew to turn around and try for Sioux City in northwest Iowa. The jetliner crashed at 3:57 p.m. while attempting an emergency landing at the airport in Sioux City.

The transcript contains conversations up to three minutes before the crash-landing. Taped conservations of the final minutes of the plane's flight will be released Friday.

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The transcripts do not reveal whether the pilot talking is Al Haynes, who was credited with steering the jetliner to Sioux City.

The uncontained explosion of the DC-10's tail engine severed hydraulic lines, causing the plane to lose control. The plane could make only right turns. Pilots were forced to maneuver the jetliner using only engine thrust.

The plane told Minneapolis controllers the plane was 'marginally controllable here,' minutes after the engine explosion, but one of the pilots said, 'We had no control in the aircraft or very little -- ah, we don't have much yet.'

At 3:21 p.m., a pilot was asked whether the plane needed assistance on the ground and he responded. 'Sure, we need the works,' he said. 'We're just, ah, having trouble controlling the airplane right now.'

Federal Aviation Administration personnel began to realize the gravity of the DC-10's trouble. An air traffic control manager asking about the status of Flight 232 was simply told the plane had lost control.

'Oh, I see,' the central controller said.

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