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OWNER SAYS JET CRASHED AFTER ENGINE REVERSED

The owner of a passenger jet that tore apart in a fireball over Thailand says he believes the crash was caused by an engine that suddenly reversed thrust - and is urging examination of all similar planes.

Niki Lauda said the last words of the crew audible on a cockpit recording was "it deployed" - apparently referring to the mechanism that he thinks sent an engine of the Boeing 767-300 into a reverse thrust normally used for braking.Seconds later, the two-engine Lauda Air jetliner ripped apart and plunged into hilly jungle, killing all 223 people aboard. It had been approaching cruising altitude and had been in the air for 16 minutes after leaving Bangkok.

"No pilot in the world could have gotten the situation under control. It's as if you were driving 300 kph (180 mph) and suddenly braked on one side, only an airplane has much more power," said Lauda, a pilot and former three-time world Formula One race car champion.

At a Sunday news conference in Vienna, Lauda said he was not certain why the reverser deployed in the May 26 crash, but hoped the nearly 350 767-300s in service around with world will be inspected.

In Seattle, the Boeing Co. said it knew of no plans to ground the aircraft, which have been in operation since September 1982 and have never been involved in a crash.

A Boeing spokesman, Randy Harrison, also disputed that a reverse thrust would cause the plane to crash, and said other problems may be responsibe for the 12th worst commercial airline disaster.

He said the Federal Aviation Administration had required proof that the 767 could fly with a thrust reverser deployed.