American Airlines Flight 625
An American Airlines Boeing 727-100 (N1929, S/N 19387), similar to the aircraft involved in the accident. The 100 model has a vertically oblong air inlet to the center engine (dorsal inlet), the 200 model inlet is round. Additionally, the Model 200 is 20 ft. longer than the Model 100, 10ft. in front and 10ft. aft of the wing.
|Date||April 27, 1976|
|Site||St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands|
|Injuries (non-fatal)||39 (1 on the ground)|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 727-23|
|Flight origin||T. F. Green Airport, Providence, Rhode Island|
|Stopover||John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, New York|
|Destination||Harry S. Truman Airport, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands|
American Airlines Flight 625, a Boeing 727-100, crashed at St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands on April 27, 1976 while on a domestic scheduled passenger flight originating at T. F. Green Airport in Rhode Island and ending at Saint Thomas, United States Virgin Islands with an intermediate stop at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The American Airlines Boeing 727-23 (Registration N1963) overran the departure end of Runway 9 when landing at the Harry S Truman airport. The aircraft struck an Instrument Landing System antenna, crashed through a chain link fence, and traveled another 1,040 feet (320 m) until stopped by a gas station. The aircraft was destroyed.
The airport at St. Thomas was notorious among pilots for its short (4,658 ft) runway. In fact, the Boeing 727 was the heaviest aircraft type authorized to use it, and even then it was only authorized in one direction.
Ultimately, the NTSB attributed this crash to pilot error on the approach – for example the maximum flap setting of 40 degrees was never applied, which meant that the aircraft's speed was 10 knots (19 km/h) higher than VREF as it crossed the runway threshold. This, combined with the fact that the aircraft 'floated' from the turbulent winds in the area, meant that it was already 2,300 feet (700 m) down the runway at the point of touchdown. The pilots did not act quickly enough on the brakes and proceeded to go full-throttle three seconds after touchdown, however they were unable to reach take-off speed because the 727's engines are slow-responding, taking about 6.6 seconds to power up. After five seconds of waiting for power, and with only 700 feet (210 m) of runway left, the pilot panicked, according to the report, and applied full brakes. Further, the pilot forgot to apply reverse engine thrust until immediately before impact. Ultimately, the aircraft ran off the end of the runway and into a Shell gas station, killing 37 (35 passengers and two flight attendants) of the 88 on board. 38 other passengers and crew were injured and one person on the ground was seriously injured. The probable cause was the captain's actions and his judgment in not being aware that when he touched down 2,300 feet (700 m) into the 4,658-foot (1,420 m) runway, he did not have enough distance to perform a go-around.
As a result of the crash, American Airlines ended all jet flights to St. Thomas, flying instead to St. Croix (where the runway is much longer) from which passengers could fly to St. Thomas using propeller-driven aircraft. Jet flights resumed when the runway was lengthened to 7,000 feet (2,100 m).
In popular culture
American Airlines Flight 625 was specifically mentioned in the movie Rain Man.
- United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority, CAP479 World Airline Accident Summary Volume 2, ISBN 0-903083-44-2