Air Midwest Flight 5481
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2012)|
An Air Midwest Beechcraft 1900D operating for USAir Express, similar to the aircraft involved in the accident.
|Date||January 8, 2003|
|Summary||Overweight, maintenance error|
|Site||Charlotte, North Carolina, United States|
|Injuries (non-fatal)||1 (on ground)|
|Fatalities||21 (all on board aircraft)|
|Aircraft type||Beechcraft 1900D|
|Operator||Air Midwest as US Airways Express (The Beechcraft 1900D involved, N233YV, still wore the USAir Express livery)|
|Flight origin||Charlotte/Douglas Int'l Airport|
|Destination||Greenville-Spartanburg Int'l Airport|
Air Midwest Flight 5481, operating as US Airways Express Flight 5481, was a flight from Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, United States to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport near the cities of Greenville, South Carolina and Spartanburg, South Carolina; on January 8, 2003 a Beechcraft 1900D operated by Air Midwest as US Airways Express (under a franchise agreement used for the route) stalled after take-off, crashed into a US Airways hangar and burst into flames 37 seconds after leaving Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.
All nineteen passengers and two pilots aboard died in the accident, and one person on the ground received minor injuries. None of the US Airways employees working in the hangar received injuries.
Crew and passengers
This is a list by residence:
One of the victims was Mark E. Congdon, CIO of US Foodservice. He was a young father of four.
The victims also included two Clemson University graduate students from India and a first-year student from Bob Jones University. The Bob Jones student, Christiana Grace Shepherd, aged 18 was a resident of the Azores, Portugal and a U.S. citizen.
The crew consisted of Captain Katie Leslie, aged 25, who was the youngest captain flying for the airline (for just over 3 years); and First Officer Jonathan Gibbs, aged 27. Captain Leslie had accrued 1,865 hours total company flying time, and First Officer Gibbs had 706 hours total company flying time. Both were based in Charlotte.
Cause of the crash
The investigators determined the crash to have been the result of two separate issues. After take-off, the plane climbed steeply as a result of higher than expected weight on the aircraft. Even though both pilots pushed on the control column forward, the plane did not respond to their input, and this lead to the stalling of the aircraft.
The aircraft's most recent service involved adjusting the elevator control cable, and was performed two nights before the crash at a repair facility located at Tri-State Airport in Huntington, West Virginia. During the investigation, it emerged that the mechanic who worked on the elevator cables had never worked on this type of aircraft. Investigation revealed that turnbuckles controlling tension on the cables to the elevators had been set incorrectly, resulting in insufficient elevator travel, leading to the pilots not having sufficient pitch control. Although normally a post-adjustment control test would be conducted to ensure that the maintenance had been carried out correctly, and that the surface was operating properly, the maintenance supervisor who was instructing the mechanic decided to skip this step. The NTSB noted that the FAA was aware of "serious deficiencies" in the training procedures at the facility, but had done nothing to correct them.
Although the pilots had totaled up the take-off weight of the aircraft before the flight and determined it to be within limits, the plane was actually overloaded and out of balance, due to the use of incorrect but Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved passenger weight estimates. When checked, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the actual weight of an average passenger was more than 20 pounds (9 kg) greater than estimated. After checking the actual weight of baggage retrieved from the crash site, and passengers (based on information from next-of-kin and the medical examiner), it was found that the aircraft was actually 580 pounds (264 kg) above its maximum allowable take-off weight, with its center of gravity 5% to the rear of the allowable limit.
It was determined that neither problem alone would have caused the loss of control, which explains why it departed Huntington, West Virginia safely.
As a result of the weight issues discovered, the FAA planned to investigate and potentially revise estimated weight values, something that had not been done since 1936. Air Midwest used an average weight of 200 pounds (90.7 kg) per passenger after the accident, but the NTSB suggests that airlines use actual weights instead of average. 70% of small air carriers still use average. Air Midwest publicly apologized for the incident after the family of crash victim Christiana Grace Shepherd pressured the airline to do so. Air Midwest ceased operations in 2008.
The crash was featured in a Mayday (Air Crash Investigation, Air Emergency) episode entitled "Dead Weight," first broadcast in the United Kingdom on the National Geographic Channel in early 2008. This episode suggested that Captain Katie Leslie's actions in the final moments of the flight may have saved lives: the plane had been diverted away from a harmful direct collision with the maintenance hangar.
On the other hand, this episode incorrectly identifies the location of where the faulty elevator maintenance occurred as "Huntington, Virginia". The maintenance actually took place at Huntington, West Virginia's Tri-State Airport. In addition, it incorrectly identified the location of the flight's destination airfield of Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport as being located in Greer, North Carolina when it is actually in Greer, South Carolina.
- "AIR MIDWEST FLIGHT 5481 NOTIFICATION #2", US Airways
- "AIR MIDWEST 5481 CREW AND PASSENGER NAME LIST AMPLIFICATION," US Airways
- "Flight 5481 declared emergency before crash." CNN. January 8, 2003. Retrieved on March 25, 2012.
- "More families sue airlines, maintenance companies and plane maker in Charlotte US Airways / Air Midwest crash", Baum Hedlund
- "Dead Weight", Mayday
- "AIR MIDWEST FLIGHT 5481 CREW AND PARTIAL PASSENGER NAME LIST NOTIFICATION #4", US Airways
- "AIR MIDWEST FLIGHT 5481 CREW AND PASSENGER NAME LIST UPDATE NOTIFICATION #5", US Airways
- "LOSS OF PITCH CONTROL CAUSED FATAL AIRLINER CRASH IN CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA LAST YEAR", NTSB SB-04-03, 26 February 2004
- Hedlund, Paul J. and Ronald L. M. Goldman. "Another Level of Justice: The Public Apology." Andrews Litigation Reporter (at Baum Hedlund Law). 25 April 2006. Volume 24, Issue 5.
- "Companies Accept Responsibility and Publicly Apologize to the Families of the 8 January 2003 Air Midwest Flight 5481 Crash in Charlotte, North Carolina." Baum Hedlund Law. Accessed 27 October 2008.
- Air Midwest (d.b.a. US Airways Express) Flight 5481; Charlotte, North Carolina; January 8, 2003 (DCA03MA022) - National Transportation Safety Board Accident report
- STATEMENT BY US AIRWAYS PRESIDENT AND CEO DAVID SIEGEL ON AIR MIDWEST ACCIDENT US Airways
- Incident Involving US Airways Express Flight 5481 Operated by Air Midwest, Inc. Mesa Airlines
- Investigation from National Transportation Safety Board
- Investigators check black boxes from N.C. plane crash
- More About Flight 5481 Passengers, Crew
- Flight 5481 Memorial website
- NTSB Animation: Air Midwest Flight 5481; Beechcraft 1900 Accident Investigation; Charlotte, NC