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Delta Air Lines Flight 191

CG render of N726DA
Occurrence summary
Date August 2, 1985
Type Pilot error/wind shear/Microburst
Site Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Texas
Passengers 152
Crew 11
Injuries 28 (1 on the ground)
Fatalities 135 (1 on the ground)
Survivors 29
Aircraft type Lockheed L-1011-385-1 TriStar
Operator Delta Air Lines
Tail number N726DA
Flight origin Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
Stopover Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
Destination Los Angeles International Airport

Delta Air Lines Flight 191 was an airline service from Fort Lauderdale, Florida's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, bound for Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, by way of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. On the afternoon of August 2, 1985, Delta Air Lines flight 191 crashed while on a routine approach to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, killing 8 of 11 crew members and 126 of the 152 passengers on board and one person on the ground: a total of 135 deaths. This accident is one of the few commercial air crashes in which the meteorological phenomenon known as microburst-induced wind shear was a direct contributing factor.

Contents

Aircraft

The airplane used on that day was N726DA, a Lockheed L-1011-385-1 TriStar, a workhorse in Delta's fleet at the time. The flight was piloted by Captain Edward "Ted" Conners, First Officer Rudolph Price and Second Officer Nick Nassick.[1]

Crash

NTSB map indicating locations of passengers according to lack of injury, types of injuries, and deaths

As the aircraft flew over Louisiana, a thunderstorm formed directly in its path. The aircraft began its descent procedures over Louisiana, heading over the planned descent route. Captain Conners then recognized the forming thunderstorm and took action to change the plane's heading to avoid the turbulent weather.

At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, weather was also poor and an isolated thunderstorm developed near DFW. The Captain and copilot noticed the isolated storm ahead, but decided to proceed through it anyway, which resulted in the aircraft getting caught up in a microburst.

At about 1500 feet above ground level (460 m), First Officer Price (as heard in the cockpit voice recorder) reported seeing lightning in one of the clouds ahead.

At 800 feet (240 m) above ground level, the airspeed increased without crew intervention. Although the aircraft was supposed to land at 149 knots IAS (276 km/h), its airspeed instead increased to 173 knots IAS (320 km/h). Price tried to stabilize the aircraft's speed, but Conners had recognized the aircraft's speed increase as a sign of wind shear, and he warned Price to watch the speed. Conners told Price, "you're going to lose it all of a sudden, there it is." Suddenly, the airspeed dropped from 173 to 133 knots IAS (320 to 246 km/h), and Price pushed the throttles forward, giving temporary lift. The airspeed then suddenly dropped to 119 knots IAS (220 km/h); on the cockpit voice recording Conners can be heard saying "Hang on to the son of a bitch!" In addition to the sudden tailwind, the aircraft also experienced a downdraft of more than 30 feet per second. This downdraft would reverse itself several times over the final moments of the flight.

As Price struggled to maintain control of the aircraft through rapidly changing wind conditions, it was hit by a sudden sideward gust, causing a rapid roll to the right and an increase in the aircraft's angle of attack. Price attempted to regain control by pushing the aircraft's nose down to avoid a stall, but the severe wind conditions continued to force the airplane towards the ground. Its descent rate reached 5,000 feet per minute at 280 feet above ground level. Price pulled the aircraft's nose up forcefully just before impact as the captain called "TOGA" ("Take Off/Go Around"), reducing the airplane's descent rate to 10 feet per second at the initial touchdown.

Delta Flight 191 first struck the ground on a field about 6,300 feet north of the approach end of runway 17L and bounced back into the air. Then, while crossing State Highway 114, it came down again, with an engine striking a black 1971 Toyota Celica vehicle, killing its occupant, William Hodge Mayberry. The aircraft also struck a highway light pole near its wing root, igniting the wing fuel tank, before skidding onto the airfield in Irving, colliding with two 4-million US gallon (15,000 m³) water tanks at a speed of 220 knots, and exploding into flames. Most of the survivors of Flight 191 were located in the rear section of the aircraft, which broke free from the main fuselage before the aircraft hit the water tanks.

Most of the survivors sat in the smoking section. Authorities took most of the survivors to Parkland Memorial Hospital[1].

Two of the passengers who initially survived the impact died more than 30 days after the accident. On the ground, an airline employee who assisted the rescue of the passengers became hospitalized overnight after feeling chest and arm pains.[2]

Delta Air Lines Flight 191 has the second highest death toll of any aviation accident involving a Lockheed L-1011 anywhere in the world after Saudia Flight 163.

Investigation

After a lengthy investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board deemed the cause of the crash to be attributable to pilot error, combined with extreme weather phenomena associated with microburst-induced wind shear.[3][2]

The NTSB attributed the accident to lack of the ability to detect microbursts aboard aircraft; the radar equipment aboard aircraft at the time was unable to detect wind changes, only thunderstorms. After the investigation, NASA researchers at Langley Research Center modified a Boeing 737 as a testbed for an on-board Doppler weather radar. The resultant airborne wind shear detection and alert system was installed on many commercial airliners in the United States after the FAA mandated that all commercial aircraft must have on-board windshear detection systems[4].

Legacy

The crash of Delta Flight 191 was later the subject of a television movie called Fire and Rain.

The crash of Delta Flight 191 was also shown on an episode of When Weather Changed History on The Weather Channel and in a British air accident series known as Black Box (Deadly Weather) from Channel 4.

"Slammed to the Ground" of Mayday (Air Crash Investigation or Air Emergency) on Discovery Channel Canada and National Geographic dramatized the disaster.

The flight number "191" has been associated with numerous crashes and incidents over the years, including the deadliest crash in United States History. It has even prompted some airlines to stop the use of this number. See flight 191 for more information.

Passengers

  • Don Estridge, known to the world as the father of the IBM PC, died aboard this flight along with his wife, Mary Ann[5], two IBM summer interns, and six additional family members of IBM employees.[6]

See also

References

External links

Coordinates: 32°55′06″N 97°01′25″W / 32.91833°N 97.02361°W / 32.91833; -97.02361

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