Experts doubt turbulence caused crash of cargo jet in Texas

DALLAS (AP) — Aviation experts say they doubt turbulence could have brought down a cargo jet that crashed into a Texas bay in February, speculating that human error or a massive malfunction are more likely culprits.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating why Atlas Air Flight 3591 suddenly dropped as it approached a Houston airport.

Flight safety specialists see the details already released as too little to solve the mysteries of the flight's final moments, but enough to rule out choppy air as a likely cause.

"Airplanes operate in situations like that all the time," says John Cox, an accident investigator and retired pilot.

Cox says investigators are probably focused on three events in the Boeing 767's last minutes: an engine surge, a small drift up and the plummet toward Trinity Bay.

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Air Force One, a heavily modified Boeing 747, is seen prior to US President Barack Obama departure from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, December 6, 2016, as he travels to Tampa, Florida, to speak about counterterrorism and visit with troops. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Old airplanes, including Boeing 747-400s, are stored in the desert in Victorville, California March 13, 2015. Last year, there were zero orders placed by commercial airlines for new Boeing 747s or Airbus A380s, reflecting a fundamental shift in the industry toward smaller, twin-engine planes. Smaller planes cost less to fly than the stately, four-engine jumbos, which can carry as many as 525 passengers. Picture taken March 13, 2015. To match Insight AEROSPACE-JUMBO REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Old airplanes, including Boeing 747-400s, are stored in the desert in Victorville, California March 13, 2015. Last year, there were zero orders placed by commercial airlines for new Boeing 747s or Airbus A380s, reflecting a fundamental shift in the industry toward smaller, twin-engine planes. Smaller planes cost less to fly than the stately, four-engine jumbos, which can carry as many as 525 passengers. Picture taken March 13, 2015. To match Insight AEROSPACE-JUMBO REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Boeing 747 also known as a jumbo jet lines up on a runway in preparation for takeoff.
Old airplanes, including British Airways Boeing 747-400s and FedEx planes, are stored in the desert in Victorville, California March 13, 2015. Last year, there were zero orders placed by commercial airlines for new Boeing 747s or Airbus A380s, reflecting a fundamental shift in the industry toward smaller, twin-engine planes. Smaller planes cost less to fly than the stately, four-engine jumbos, which can carry as many as 525 passengers. Picture taken March 13, 2015. To match Insight AEROSPACE-JUMBO REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Old airplanes, including British Airways and Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400s, are stored in the desert in Victorville, California March 13, 2015. Last year, there were zero orders placed by commercial airlines for new Boeing 747s or Airbus A380s, reflecting a fundamental shift in the industry toward smaller, twin-engine planes. Smaller planes cost less to fly than the stately, four-engine jumbos, which can carry as many as 525 passengers. Picture taken March 13, 2015. To match Insight AEROSPACE-JUMBO REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA - JUNE 10, 2016: Deicing Rossiya Airlines' Boeing 747-400 EI-XLJ Vladivostok aircraft at a city airport. Rossiya Airlines launched Moscow-Vladivostok-Moscow services on May 31, 2016. Yuri Smityuk/TASS (Photo by Yuri Smityuk\TASS via Getty Images)
Space Shuttle Discovery rides piggyback atop a specially modified Boeing 747 as it departs runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base in California on its ferry flight back to Kennedy Space Center in Florida August 19, 2005. Discovery began the return journey to its Florida home port from its landing site in California on Friday after having to land at Edwards Air Force base because of thunderstorms at Cape Canaveral. REUTERS/Tom Rogers TR/HK/KS
The interior of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's private Boeing 747 airplane in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, April 27, 2010. Alwaleed said he will continue working with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. after the U.S. regulator sued the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history for misleading its investors. Photographer: Waseem Obaidi/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 18: Interior of the business class section of the life-size display of the new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental in Renton, Washington, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007. The plane is a stretched version of the current 747-400 and incorporates interior featured from the 777 and the upcoming 787. (Photo by Kevin P. Casey/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Wide angle view of the modern flight deck of a Boeing 747 aircraft.
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