WASHINGTON, DC—The Federal Aviation Administration announced today that United Airlines Flight 43, which crashed outside Parkersburg, WV last Thursday, was in fact brought down by passengers who voluntarily sacrificed their lives in order to prevent the screening of the in-flight movie selection, Big Momma's House 2.
All 105 people onboard died in the crash.
"As we examine the passengers' cell-phone calls and flight recordings, we get a sense of the incredible courage displayed by these ordinary men and women," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey at a press conference Monday, during which excerpts from the recordings were played. "They acted in the only way they could to stop this unspeakable horror starring Martin Lawrence as an FBI agent who goes undercover as a nanny for a sexy murder suspect."
"These people are true American heroes," Blakey added.
Flight 43 left New York's LaGuardia Airport on schedule last Thursday at 10:17 a.m. en route to Los Angeles with no indication of any suspiciously bad entertainment activity aboard. Black-box evidence indicates that, 40 minutes after takeoff, the crew walked through the cabin and asked passengers to close their window screens. The audio recording goes eerily quiet after a flight attendant can be heard announcing that Big Momma's House 2 would be shown.
"It will be days, months perhaps, before we have a complete picture of exactly what happened," said FAA crash investigator Matthew Roberts, whose team was given the unpleasant job of analyzing Flight 43's last moments. "But we know that the passengers somehow assembled toward the rear of the cabin without attracting attention to themselves—which couldn't have been easy, considering the tense silence that typically accompanies a Big Momma's House film—and decided that they would rather die than let anyone do this to them."
Around 11:00, business-class passenger Charles Rice left an emotional message on the cell-phone voicemail of his fiancée, Kathi Kearney.
"Honey, it's me," Rice said in one of the excerpts. "I God. Listen, they've darkened the cabin, and they've started showing Big Momma's House 2. The second one, I mean, and it it's pretty bad. This might not go well, honey. A bunch of us are going to try to stop them. I have to go, we're going to go now. God, I am so sorry. You know I love you."
Although Roberts said they may never determine who acted first or how the passengers organized their resistance to the brutally awful comedy, it is believed that all onboard were united in their need to stop the movie from being shown. In an amazing coincidence, at least one other person aboard Flight 43 had actually survived a screening of the original Big Momma's House on an international flight in 2001, which may have given them impetus to act.
"It seems clear that, from the opening moments of the film, they knew exactly how it had to end—either 99 minutes later as Martin Lawrence's excruciating mugging brought it all to a heinous conclusion, or with the deaths of everyone aboard," Roberts said. "We can only hope that we would act with the same bravery and conscientiousness if presented with the same situation."
Cabin recordings seem to indicate that a refreshment cart was used to charge the attendant station at the front of the aircraft at a decisive moment in the film in which a sexy potential villain asks Lawrence's character for help removing her bra. Much of the recording is incoherent, but Blakey played a 15-second segment in which some of the flight attendants can be heard exhorting passengers to remain seated while others seemed to be voicing second thoughts.
"Clearly, the passengers were facing well-trained hard-liners intent on doing as much damage as they could," said Blakey, gesturing to the charred, partially melted Big Momma's House 2 DVD case found in the wreckage as evidence. "When they found the hospitality station locked down and secured as per airline policy, the only choice they had left was to infiltrate the cockpit."
One last garbled transmission was made from Flight 43 just before it disappeared from air-traffic control's monitors. Though the FAA has not released it publicly, Blakey confirmed that the passengers can be clearly heard reciting the Lord's Prayer over the scream of the engines and the high falsetto shriek of a female-impersonating Martin Lawrence.
Plans are already underway to honor the victims by presenting them with the Presidential Medal Of Freedom, a $4 million memorial in the West Virginia field where Flight 43 crashed, and a proposed Spring 2007 release of Flight 43, a big-budget action comedy-drama starring Chris Tucker as Martin Lawrence.