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Sat May 25, 2019, 10:42 AM

40 Years Ago Today; American Airlines Flight 191

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Airlines_Flight_191


Flight 191 just after takeoff and before hitting the ground, with its left engine missing and leaking hydraulic fluid.

American Airlines Flight 191 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight operated by American Airlines from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California. On May 25, 1979, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 operating this flight was taking off from runway 32R when it crashed into the ground. All 258 passengers and 13 crew on board were killed, along with two people on the ground. With 273 fatalities, it is the deadliest aviation accident to have occurred in the United States.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that as the aircraft was beginning its takeoff rotation, engine number one (the left engine) separated from the left wing, flipping over the top of the wing and landing on the runway. As the engine separated from the aircraft, it severed hydraulic fluid lines that locked the wing's leading-edge slats in place and damaged a 3 feet (1 m) section of the left wing's leading edge. Aerodynamic forces acting on the wing resulted in an uncommanded retraction of the outboard slats. As the aircraft began to climb, the damaged left wing — with no engine — produced far less lift (stalled) than the right wing, with its slats still deployed and its engine providing full takeoff thrust. The disrupted and unbalanced aerodynamics of the aircraft caused it to roll abruptly to the left until it was partially inverted, reaching a bank angle of 112 degrees, before crashing in an open field by a trailer park near the end of the runway. The engine separation was attributed to damage to the pylon structure holding the engine to the wing, caused by improper maintenance procedures used at American Airlines.

Accident

N110AA, the aircraft involved in the accident, photographed in 1974 at Chicago O'Hare Int'l Airport

On the accident flight, just as the aircraft reached takeoff speed, the No.1 Engine and its pylon assembly separated from the left wing, ripping away a 3-foot (1 m) section of the leading edge with it. The combined unit flipped over the top of the wing and landed on the runway. Robert Graham, supervisor of maintenance for American Airlines, stated, "As the aircraft got closer, I noticed what appeared to be vapor or smoke of some type coming from the leading edge of the wing and the No. 1 engine pylon. I noticed that the No. 1 engine was bouncing up and down quite a bit and just about the time the aircraft got opposite my position and started rotation, the engine came off, went up over the top of the wing, and rolled back down onto the runway... Before going over the wing, the engine went forward and up just as if it had lift and was actually climbing. It didn't strike the top of the wing on its way, rather it followed the clear path of the airflow of the wing, up and over the top of it, then down below the tail. The aircraft continued a fairly normal climb until it started a turn to the left. And at that point, I thought he was going to come back to the airport."

It is not known what was said in the cockpit in the 50 seconds leading up to the final impact, as the cockpit voice recorder lost power when the engine detached. The only crash-related audio collected by the recorder is a thumping noise (likely the sound of the engine separating), followed by the first officer exclaiming "Damn!", at which point the recording ends. This may also explain why Air Traffic Control was unsuccessful in their attempts to radio the crew and inform them that they had lost an engine. This loss of power did, however, prove useful in the investigation, serving as a marker of exactly what circuit in the DC-10's extensive electrical system had failed.

In addition to the engine's failure, several related systems failed. The number one hydraulic system, powered by the number one engine, also failed but continued to operate through motor pumps that mechanically connected it to hydraulic system three. Hydraulic system three was also damaged and began leaking fluid but maintained pressure and operation up until impact. Hydraulic system two was undamaged. The number one electrical bus, whose generator was attached to the number one engine, failed as well, causing several electrical systems to go offline, most notably the captain's instruments, his stick shaker, and the slat disagreement sensors. A switch in the overhead panel would have allowed the captain to restore power to his instruments, but it was not used. It might have been possible for the flight engineer to reach the backup power switch (as part of an abnormal situation checklist—not as part of their take-off emergency procedure) in an effort to restore electrical power to the number one electrical bus. That would have worked only if electrical faults were no longer present in the number one electrical system. In order to reach that backup power switch, the flight engineer would have had to rotate his seat, release his safety belt, and stand up. Since the aircraft did not get any higher than 350 feet (110 m) above the ground and was only in the air for 50 seconds between the time the engine separated and the moment it crashed, there was not sufficient time to perform such an action. In any event, the first officer was flying the airplane and his instruments continued to function normally.

The aircraft climbed to about 325 feet (99 m) above ground level while spewing a white mist trail of fuel and hydraulic fluid from the left wing. The first officer had followed the flight director and raised the nose to 14 degrees, which reduced the airspeed from 165 knots (190 mph; 306 km/h) to the takeoff safety airspeed (V2) of 153 knots (176 mph; 283 km/h), the speed at which the aircraft could safely climb after sustaining an engine failure. However, the engine separation had severed the hydraulic fluid lines that controlled the leading edge slats on the left wing and locked them in place, causing the outboard slats (immediately left of the No. 1 engine) to retract under air load. The retraction of the slats raised the stall speed of the left wing to approximately 159 knots (183 mph; 294 km/h), 6 knots (6.9 mph; 11 km/h) higher than the prescribed takeoff safety airspeed (V2) of 153 knots (176 mph; 283 km/h). As a result, the left wing entered a full aerodynamic stall.

With the left wing stalled, the aircraft began banking to the left, rolling over onto its side until it was partially inverted at a 112-degree bank angle (as seen in the Laughlin photograph) with its right wing over its left wing. As the cockpit had been equipped with a closed-circuit television camera positioned behind the captain's shoulder and connected to view screens in the passenger cabin, it is possible that the passengers were able to witness these events from the viewpoint of the cockpit as the aircraft dove towards the ground. Whether the camera's view was interrupted by the power loss from the number one electrical bus is not known. The aircraft eventually slammed into a field approximately 4,600 feet (1,400 m) from the end of the runway. Large sections of aircraft debris were hurled by the force of the impact into an adjacent trailer park, destroying five trailers and several cars. The DC-10 had also crashed into an old aircraft hangar located at the edge of the airport at the former site of Ravenswood Airport, which was used for storage.

In addition to the 271 people onboard the aircraft, two employees at a nearby repair garage were killed and two more were severely burned. The crash site is a field located northwest of the intersection of Touhy Avenue (Illinois Route 72) and Mount Prospect Road on the border of the suburbs of Des Plaines and Mount Prospect, Illinois.


Crash site of American Airlines Flight 191

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Arrow 20 replies Author Time Post
Reply 40 Years Ago Today; American Airlines Flight 191 (Original post)
Dennis Donovan May 2019 OP
smirkymonkey May 2019 #1
malaise May 2019 #2
TheBlackAdder May 2019 #5
NutmegYankee May 2019 #7
The Velveteen Ocelot May 2019 #9
Chin music May 2019 #3
TheBlackAdder May 2019 #4
Efilroft Sul May 2019 #6
3catwoman3 May 2019 #8
TheBlackAdder May 2019 #11
3catwoman3 May 2019 #18
The Velveteen Ocelot May 2019 #10
TheBlackAdder May 2019 #12
redwitch May 2019 #13
Chipper Chat May 2019 #14
Dennis Donovan May 2019 #16
Chipper Chat May 2019 #17
book_worm May 2019 #15
DFW May 2019 #19
mahatmakanejeeves May 2019 #20

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sat May 25, 2019, 10:48 AM

1. I knew someone on that flight.

She was a beautiful young girl who was the girlfriend of my next door neighbor on her way to a job to work at Disneyland with a friend. She lived down the street from my grandmother. I was a young girl at the time, but it had a huge impact on me. I was horrified by it. I couldn't stop thinking about what her last terrifying moments would have been like. She was just about to begin her life and it was over in minutes.

That was the beginning of my horrible fear of flying and it has never gone away.

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Response to smirkymonkey (Reply #1)

Sat May 25, 2019, 10:53 AM

2. Wow!

I can't believe this happened 40 years ago. Time sure flies

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Response to malaise (Reply #2)

Sat May 25, 2019, 11:16 AM

5. If I remember from my 1983 Aircraft Powerplants college course, there were only 3 engine bolts.

.


This was back in my prior life, when I wanted to be a pilot since being a young child, got my first discovery flight at 13 and went to aeronautics school, getting my license, and subsequently running out of money over half way through. As I worked at an airport, I became disillusioned at the life of a pilot, excessive alcohol, living out of a suitcase, and the struggles to obtain hours and get hired by a major carrier. Luckily I didn't, because now the job is a glorified cab driver, working all kinds of crazy hours and massive pay and benefits cuts--if you were sill able to keep your job in a surviving carrier. Then, I moved to computers.

Two held the weight of the engine, while one was to handle the thrust. The thrust bolt failed causing the other two load-bearing bolts to shear off, and the engine rolled over the front leading edge wing.

.

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Response to TheBlackAdder (Reply #5)

Sat May 25, 2019, 11:30 AM

7. The bolt didn't fail, it was the bracket that failed.

AA along with most other airlines was not following the correct engine removal/installation procedure. The procedure called for removing 200 or so bolts to remove the engine from the pylon. Instead, most airlines removed the pylon bolts but had to use a forklift to reinstall the engine. During this procedure the bracket hit the frame from misalignment and cracked. This crack allowed the bracket to rupture resulting in the engine separating. This however wasn't the complete cause of the accident. The pylon damaged the wing slat (like flaps, but forward) hydraulics causing them to retract. This reduced the lift on the wing causing stall, but the pilot seat lost power from the engine loss, and therefore didn't get a stall warning and the stall warning system wasn't installed on the co-pilot seat (was a factory add-on). To make matters worse, the pilots followed the engine out procedure which had them reduce airspeed since they didn't realize they had lost flaps/slats on the left wing.

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Response to TheBlackAdder (Reply #5)

Sat May 25, 2019, 11:44 AM

9. The pylon bracket itself failed because when the engine had been removed for maintenance

and replaced, they used a forklift to hold it, a procedure that the manufacturer hadn't approved. After a shift change the forklift was repositioned, causing excess stress on the pylon attachment points, and that eventually caused a fatigue crack in the pylon itself, which failed a few weeks after the engine change. When the engine came off, all of the hydraulic lines in the wing were severed and the pilots couldn't control the airplane. The loss of the engine generator also caused the failure of the stick-shaker so they didn't know it was stalling.

Another really interesting thing about this accident is that the airline's internal report about the accident mysteriously disappeared during the nine years (!) of litigation, and a maintenance supervisor committed suicide just before his deposition was to be taken. Here's a good video about the causes of the accident and the investigation.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)


Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sat May 25, 2019, 11:05 AM

4. My sister was a flight attendant on that route, by strange events, she was not on that flight.

Last edited Sat May 25, 2019, 04:57 PM - Edit history (1)

.

She was a flight attendant for that route, and was routinely groped on the aircraft. She was not allowed to speak up.

One flight, one man groped her and propositioned her to sleep with him, she turned him down. That man filed a formal complaint with American, and my sister was called down to Dallas to meet with HR about the incident. When they started to give her a hard time, she pretty much said, "Fuck this!" and quit. The next week, Flight 191 crashed and all of her co-workers were lost with the rest of the passengers.

In retrospect, she was grateful that the perv reported her, else she would have been on that plane too.

.

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Response to TheBlackAdder (Reply #4)

Sat May 25, 2019, 11:29 AM

6. Wow. Amazing story all around.

Glad your sister told American to take their job and shove it.

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Response to TheBlackAdder (Reply #4)

Sat May 25, 2019, 11:34 AM

8. Talk about a weird twist of fate.

Did your sister have any problems with survivor guilt?

And how nervy to the perv to report her? On what grounds?

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Response to 3catwoman3 (Reply #8)

Sat May 25, 2019, 01:15 PM

11. Yes. She's struggled for a while. Incensed at the man who unknowingly set of a chain that saved her.

Last edited Sat May 25, 2019, 04:58 PM - Edit history (1)

.

I'd have to ask her, but I think it was that she was unprofessional and rude.

It was her first complaint in a year or two, since taking the job, and AA were apparently real a-holes about it.


If you knew my sister back then and now, she's very professional and follows the rules. They must have really pushed her buttons. Now, she doesn't take shit from anybody--of course she's in her 60s now and had worked in various fields as an audio engineer, sound technician and sold and installed high-end audio. She's come across a lot of entitled assholes who try to move on her. She shuts them down.

.

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Response to TheBlackAdder (Reply #11)

Sat May 25, 2019, 02:22 PM

18. "Now, she doesn't take shit from anybody."

Good for her. I'm still working on learning to stand up for myself. If you don't learn that early, "it don't come easy."

I am 68. Girls were definitely raised to think we should always be "nice" and not hurt anyone's feelings, especially those of the opposite gender. It certainly felt as if the opinions of others mattered much more than our own.

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Response to TheBlackAdder (Reply #4)

Sat May 25, 2019, 11:45 AM

10. What a strange twist of fate.

Those were definitely the bad old days for flight attendants.

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Response to The Velveteen Ocelot (Reply #10)

Sat May 25, 2019, 01:17 PM

12. She would tell me how she would get written up if she told someone to keep their hands off.

.

She was told, along with the others, to just laugh it off so as to not offend the man.

Yes. It was all men who did it--mostly business travelers.

.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sat May 25, 2019, 01:20 PM

13. I was on one of the last DC 10s to take off before they were grounded.

Flying from Newark, NJ to Amsterdam. When the plane landed at Schipol there was dead silence and then a huge round of applause. My return flight was cancelled as the planes were still grounded two weeks later so they put me on a KLM flight. Pretty sure I flew People Express on theDC 10.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sat May 25, 2019, 01:30 PM

14. I had a ticket on that flight.

I was a teacher going to Honolulu to do graduate work at UofH. My principal let me go 2 days early so he saved my life by letting me change flights.

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Response to Chipper Chat (Reply #14)

Sat May 25, 2019, 01:42 PM

16. Holy shit! Like Seth MacFarlane...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seth_MacFarlane#September_11,_2001_experience

September 11, 2001 experience
On the morning of September 11, 2001, MacFarlane was scheduled to return to Los Angeles on American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston. Suffering from a hangover after the previous night's celebrations that followed his speech at his alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design,[189] and with an incorrect departure time (8:15 a.m. instead of 7:45 a.m.) from his travel agent, he arrived at Logan International Airport about ten minutes too late to board the flight, as the gates had been closed. Fifteen minutes after departure, American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked, and at 8:46 a.m. it was flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board. MacFarlane said:

"The only reason it hasn't really affected me as it maybe could have is I didn't really know that I was in any danger until after it was over, so I never had that panic moment. After the fact, it was sobering, but people have a lot of close calls; you're crossing the street and you almost get hit by a car . . . this one just happened to be related to something massive. I really can't let it affect me because I'm a comedy writer. I have to put that in the back of my head."

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #16)

Sat May 25, 2019, 01:51 PM

17. I was in a drug store on King street that morning when I heard on the radio about a plane crash in

Chicago. I KNEW instantly that it was my original flight. Spooky experience.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sat May 25, 2019, 01:32 PM

15. I was 14 then but remember it well. Horrible.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sat May 25, 2019, 02:47 PM

19. I remember it well, too

I had friends visiting from Germany, and they were terrified that their return flight would be on a DC-10 (it wasn't).

I've had some "saved by fate" experiences like some of the others recounted here. Once, I blew off a trip to Brussels to accompany my wife and daughters (then aged 13 and 11) and two of their friends to an amusement park in Holland because it was a German holiday, and my wife felt swamped having agreed to take care of all four girls that day. At the time my flight would have returned me to the Düsseldorf airport, a careless repair crew set off a fire that spread deadly dioxin gas right through the terminal, right where I would have been, and at just the same time. Seventeen dead, dozens injured, and the airport terminal so contaminated, the whole thing had o be torn down.

Because I agreed to take an unscheduled day off from work and help my wife out, I was rewarded with escaping injury or death. Who said there's no karma payback?

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sat May 25, 2019, 04:38 PM

20. Remembering Flight 191

Remembering Flight 191

American Airlines Flight 191 crashed after takeoff from O'Hare International Airport on May 25, 1979, killing 273 people. The DC-10, carrying 13 crew members and 258 passengers, crashed 31 seconds after takeoff. All those aboard the jet and two people on the ground died.

Chicago Tribune
Copyright © 2019, Chicago Tribune

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