Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 529
An Embraer 120ER Brasilia, similar to the aircraft involved in the accident
|Date||August 21, 1995|
|Summary||Mechanical failure due to design flaw|
|Site||Carroll County, near Carrollton, Georgia, USA
|Fatalities||9 (1 died 4 months after the NTSB tally; the tally states 8 fatalities)|
|Aircraft type||Embraer 120RT Brasilia|
|Operator||Atlantic Southeast Airlines|
Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 529 was an Embraer Brasilia aircraft that crashed near Carrollton, Georgia in the United States on August 21, 1995 while on a flight from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Gulfport, Mississippi. Nine of the 29 passengers and crew on board were killed as a result of the accident. The accident had similarities with Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 2311, which had occurred four years earlier resulting in the deaths of everyone on board. The investigations of both accidents produced the same verdict: a design flaw in the aircraft's propellers.
Business travelers, ranging from 18 to 69 years of age, comprised most of the aircraft's passengers. Six engineers, two deputy sheriffs, two air force personnel, a minister, and a New Orleans woman planning to become a flight attendant were also on the aircraft.
Flight 529 left the ramp area at Atlanta at 12:10, and took off at 12:23. The Captain of the flight was Ed Gannaway, age 45, and the First Officer was Matt Warmerdam, age 28. Gannaway was a skilled pilot with almost 10,000 flight hours under his belt. Warmerdam was new to the airline and relatively inexperienced compared to the captain - he had logged approximately 1,200 flight hours. At 12:43:25, while climbing through 18,100 feet, the occupants of the aircraft heard a thud which First Officer Warmerdam later described as sounding like "a baseball bat striking an aluminum trash can." One of the blades of the Hamilton Standard propeller on the left engine had failed and the entire assembly had become dislodged, deforming the engine nacelle and distorting the wing's profile.
Although the EMB 120, like all transport-category multi-engine airplanes, is designed to fly with one engine inoperative, the distortion of the engine resulted in excessive drag and loss of lift on the left side of the aircraft, causing it to rapidly lose altitude.
The flight crew initially tried to return to Atlanta for an emergency landing but the rapid descent resulted in them being diverted to West Georgia Regional Airport. The airplane was unable to stay in the air long enough and the pilots began searching for an open space to make a crash landing on the aircraft's belly. At 12:52:45 the airplane struck the tops of the trees and crashed into a field in Carroll County, Georgia near the farming community of Burwell and the city of Carrollton.
The fire started approximately one minute after impact. An oxygen bottle behind the First Officer's seat ignited, contributing to the strength of the fire. Despite a dislocated shoulder, First Officer Warmerdam used the cockpit fire axe to cut through the thick cockpit glass. David McCorkell, a surviving passenger, later assisted by pulling the axe out of the cockpit through the hole Warmerdam had created and struck the glass from the outside in order to increase the size of the hole and help Warmerdam escape. While he was being rescued, Warmerdam said to fire chief Steve Chadwick, "Tell my wife, Amy, that I love her." Chadwick replied, "No sir, you tell her that you love her, because I'm getting you out of here." The emergency crews successfully pulled Warmerdam out of the aircraft, but Captain Gannaway was knocked unconscious in the crash landing and never regained consciousness, eventually succumbing in the fire. In an ambulance, Warmerdam consoled paramedic Joan Crawford, who believed Warmerdam would soon die. Crawford had undressed him to cool him down and pinned his badge to his underwear, to help with identification later. Despite his injuries, Warmerdam survived the plane crash.
In addition to Captain Gannaway, seven passengers died as a result of the crash and subsequent fire, including three who died within thirty days of the crash; bringing the official death toll to eight. A ninth victim died four months after the crash from severe burn injuries. None of the passengers or crew escaped uninjured; eight had minor injuries.
Mary Jean Adair, one of the survivors, died of a heart attack eight weeks after the crash. She was included in a dedication to the people killed by the crash in a memorial service at an elementary school gymnasium some years later.
The probable cause of the accident was determined to be the failure of the propeller due to undiscovered metal fatigue in one blade resulting from corrosion from chlorine. There had been two previous failures of the same type of propeller, but those aircraft had been able to land safely. The failed propeller blade had undergone scheduled ultrasonic testing on May 19, 1994, which resulted in its rejection and removal from the propeller. The blade was sent to a Hamilton Standard facility, where it was subject to refurbishing work that was incorrectly performed. The propeller blade was then installed on the propeller fitted to the aircraft on September 30, 1994.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) criticized Hamilton Standard, who had maintained the propellers, for "inadequate and ineffective corporate inspection and repair techniques, training, documentation and communication", and both Hamilton and the Federal Aviation Administration for "failure to require recurrent on-wing ultrasonic inspections for the affected propellers". The overcast skies and low cloud ceiling at the crash site also contributed to the severity of the crash.
The Military Fraternal Organization of Pilots awarded Warmerdam its medallion for his role in the disaster after treatment for burns. In 2002, after an estimated 50 surgeries and lengthy therapy, he was able to resume flying for ASA. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons honored his positive attitude during the long recovery with one of their “Patients of Courage: Triumph Over Adversity” awards in 2005.
The area residents built a memorial to the crash at the Shiloh United Methodist Church, near Burwell.
Many surviving passengers credited Robin Fech, the flight attendant, with saving their lives. Tanner Medical Center treated Fech's broken wrist and other lacerations before releasing her. The Georgia State Senate passed a resolution honoring Fech. The NTSB accident report commended "the exemplary manner in which the flight attendant briefed the passengers and handled the emergency." However, Dawn Dumm cried futilely out to Fech, who was with other passengers in the hayfield, to help her and her mother Adair. Dumm initially criticized Fech; later she reasoned that Fech could not hear her screams and/or did not see her through the thick smoke. In addition, Fech was proven to have been assisting passengers at that moment. Fech stated that Dumm's criticism upset her. Fech never worked as a flight attendant again after the ASA 529 disaster.
Books and documentaries
- The disaster was featured on Mayday (Air Crash Investigation, Air Emergency) in the episode "Wounded Bird" (also known in some countries as "A Wounded Bird" and "One Wing Flight").
- A book on the disaster, Nine Minutes, Twenty Seconds: The Tragedy & Triumph of ASA Flight 529 by Gary M. Pomerantz, was written in 2001.
- NTSB report, p.5
- Accident description ASA Flight 529, Aviation Safety Network by Flight Safety Foundation
- Definition of "cycles" Aviation-terms.com
- "Wounded Bird," Mayday
- Pomerantz, Gary. "9 Minutes 20 Seconds." Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- NTSB report, p.8
- "Three dead in Georgia commuter crash", IASA - International Aviation Safety Association
- "Engine Failure During Flight (12-21)", Airplane Flying Handbook Federal Aviation Administration
- NTSB report Executive Summary, page v
- Harrison, Eric. "Crash of commuter plane kills three and injures 26." Houston Chronicle. Tuesday August 22, 1995. A4. Retrieved on July 23, 2010.
- Under 49 CFR 830.2 a fatal injury is one which results in death within 30 days of the accident.
- "Wings" Newsletter, Issue 7 Fall 2002, Wings of Light
- NTSB report, pp.26-27
- NTSB report, p.37
- NTSB report, p.39
- "Back in the sky", TheCitizen.com[dead link]
- "Heroic flight attendant returns to Georgia crash site," CNN
- "SR 407 - Robin Fech - honoring," Senate of Georgia
- "NTSB Report No. AAR96/06: In-flight loss of propeller blade; forced landing, and collision with terrain; Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Inc., Flight 529; Embraer EMB-120RT, N256AS; Carrollton, Georgia; August 21, 1995". NTSB. 1996. Retrieved 1 October 2010 and 8 August 2011.
- Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network. Includes CVR transcript.
- Article describing the crash and aftermath
- Nine Minutes, Twenty Seconds excerpt
- The Power of Emergency Training - An article about Robin Fech's role
- Three dead in Georgia commuter crash CNN
- Heroic flight attendant returns to Georgia crash site CNN
- "Fear of flying" - book review in Forbes
- Photos of the ASA 529 Memorial in Burwell