Delta Air Lines Flight 1141
A Delta Air Lines Boeing 727 similar to the aircraft involved in the accident.
|Date||31 August 1988|
|Summary||Pilot error – failure to set flaps and slats for takeoff. Maintenance – takeoff configuration warning horn failure.|
|Site||Dallas/Fort Worth Int'l Airport
Euless, Tarrant County, Texas, United States
|Injuries (non-fatal)||76 (26 serious)|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 727-232 Advanced|
|Operator||Delta Air Lines|
|Flight origin||Dallas/Fort Worth Int'l Airport|
|Destination||Salt Lake City Int'l Airport|
Delta Air Lines Flight 1141 was a scheduled domestic passenger flight between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport, Salt Lake City, Utah. On August 31, 1988, the flight, operated by a Boeing 727, crashed upon takeoff from Dallas-Fort Worth, killing 14 of the 108 passengers and crew on board, and injuring 76 others.
Aircraft and crew
The flight crew consisted of Captain Larry Davis, 48; First Officer Gary Kirkland, 37; and Flight Engineer Steven Judd, 31. The cabin crew consisted of four flight attendants: Dixie Dunn, 56, Diana George, 40, Rosilyn Marr, 43, and Mary O'Neill, 57.
Flight 1141 departed the gate at 8:30am CDT and was cleared to taxi to runway 18L. The aircraft was instructed to line up on the runway and hold for one minute due to the possibility of wake turbulence from a departing American DC-10. The crew requested to extend the hold to two minutes which was granted. In a sad coincidence, the crew talked to the flight attendants for a while about the crash of Continental Airlines Flight 1713 and what they would say on the cockpit recorder in case they crashed. Eventually this chat ceased as the crew was eventually cleared for takeoff. The takeoff was normal until the main wheels left the ground, at which point the aircraft commenced a violent rolling motion which resulted in the right wingtip contacting the runway. The aircraft developed compressor surges (due to breakdown of the airflow through the engine) and was unable to obtain altitude or stabilized flight. The aircraft then hit the ILS localizer antenna 1000 feet from the end of runway 18L, remained airborne for a further 400 feet until it struck the ground, and came to rest 3200 feet from the end of the runway. Fire erupted in the right wing area and quickly spread and engulfed the rear of the aircraft. The total flight time was 22 seconds, from liftoff to the first ground impact.
Two out of four cabin crew members and 12 of the 101 passengers on board lost their lives. One passenger, who sat in 29C and had exited the aircraft through the aft break in the left side of the fuselage,:37 attempted to re-enter the aircraft, received burn wounds, and died 11 days later.:11 Among the passengers who lost their lives were Millar H. Browne (age 55); Thelma Vogel (age 67) and Philip Vogel (age 69) who were the founders of the Dallas Jewish Coalition for the Homeless in 1987, which was later renamed the Vogel Alcove.
Captain Davis, First Officer Kirkland, two cabin crew members, and 22 passengers were seriously injured. Flight Engineer Judd and 49 passengers received minor injuries. 18 passengers received no injuries. Many of the passengers reported that impact forces were not severe and mostly concentrated towards the back of the aircraft. Captain Davis was pinned between his seat and the instrument panel and had to be extricated by rescue crews (due to this, he was the last person to exit the aircraft, approximately 45 minutes after the crash). He suffered severe fractures to the rib cage and spine that required surgery. First Officer Kirkland was badly bruised and sustained a concussion.
The following November, the crew members testified before a NTSB committee that they had taken a few liberties regarding FAA rules about keeping non-essential conversation in the cockpit at a minimum, but otherwise not made any serious errors in flight protocol. However, CVR tapes showed that prior to takeoff, they were distracted by chatting with a flight attendant about the upcoming presidential election, drink mixes and various other topics unrelated to the operation of the aircraft. Shortly after the hearing, all three crew members were fired from Delta.
On September 26, 1989 the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) published the accident report. Two causes were primarily blamed for the accident: (1) The crew's failure to extend the aircraft's flaps and slats to proper take-off configuration which was attributed to inadequate cockpit discipline, and (2) the plane's Take-off warning system (TOWS), designed to alert the crew if the engines are throttled to take-off power without the flaps and slats being correctly set, was not operating correctly. The airplane did not gain sufficient speed to climb in a flaps-and-slats-retracted condition, causing a loss of lift. The continued high angle of attack combined with a lack of lift resulted in a configuration where disturbed air flowing over the wings disrupted the air flow into the engines causing compressor stall. Subsequent collision with the instrument landing system (ILS) localizer antenna array approximately 1,000 feet (300 m) beyond the departure end of the runway 18L led to the breakup of the aircraft. Leaking jet fuel started a fire which quickly engulfed the fuselage. Engine #3 had separated from the empennage and passengers reported that the plane appeared to shake violently on takeoff. Witnesses on the ground claimed that one of the engines was on fire, but although the engine was badly crushed from ground impact, there was no sign of fire or heat damage. Delta officials quickly reacted to questions about the 727's operating and maintenance condition by pointing out that the original factory engines from 1973 (when the plane was initially purchased by the airline) had been replaced in the last few years by a newer model that ran more quietly and used less fuel. They also stated that there were no known mechanical or maintenance problems with the plane prior to the flight (the vibration reported by passengers was the compressor surging mentioned above).
FAA regulations require a sterile cockpit before takeoff, which means there is to be no conversation unrelated to the aircraft and pending flight. The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) tapes recorded extensive talk about the CVR itself and how on Continental Airlines Flight 1713 crew discussions were recorded about the dating habits of the flight attendants. Media broadcast of the CVR tapes, which demonstrated why the crew failed to extend the airplane's flaps or slats for takeoff, provoked such an outcry by pilots that subsequent releases of CVR data have been restricted by law and carefully vetted by the NTSB. 
Similar accidents caused by misconfiguration of flaps or slats, and failure of the takeoff configuration warning horn include British European Airways Flight 548, LAPA Flight 3142, Lufthansa Flight 540, Mandala Airlines Flight 091, Northwest Airlines Flight 255 and Spanair Flight 5022.
- "Aircraft Accident Report: Delta Air Lines, Inc.; Boeing 727-232, N473DA; Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Texas; August 31, 1988". United States National Transportation Safety Board. 1989. AAR-89/04.
- "ASN Accident Description". Aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- "Special Reports: Delta Air Lines Flight 1141". Airdisaster.com. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- "NTSB Aviation Image Recording Public Hearing July 27–28, 2004". NTSB. Retrieved 2010-02-02.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Delta Air Lines Flight 1141.|
- NTSB report
- Air Disaster page on Flight 1141
- Cockpit Voice Recording from 1141
- The crash of Flight 1141/Crash resurrects memories of 1985