Pan Am Flight 759
|Date||July 9, 1982|
|Summary||Microburst-induced wind shear|
|Injuries (non-fatal)||4 (ground)|
|Fatalities||153 (including 8 on ground)|
|Aircraft type||Boeing 727-235|
|Aircraft name||Clipper Defiance|
|Flight origin||Miami International Airport|
|Stopover||New Orleans Int'l Airport|
|Destination||McCarran Int'l Airport|
Pan Am Flight 759, operated by a Boeing 727-235, N4737 Clipper Defiance, was a regularly scheduled passenger flight from Miami to San Diego, with en route stops in New Orleans and Las Vegas. On July 9, 1982, the plane that made this route was forced down by a microburst and crashed into the New Orleans suburb of Kenner. All 145 people on board, as well as 8 more on the ground, were killed. The crash had the highest number of aviation fatalities in 1982, and as of 2013 remains the fifth-deadliest air disaster to occur in United States territory.
Aircraft and occupants
The aircraft, a Boeing 727–200, construction number 19457/518, built in 1967, was delivered to National Airlines on January 31, 1968. The aircraft name was 37 Susan/Erica and was registered as N4737, and remained part of the National fleet until the merger with Pan Am where it was renamed as Clipper Defiance. On afternoon of the accident, the aircraft was carrying 137 passengers and one non-revenue passenger in the cockpit jumpseat, along with a crew of seven. The captain was Kenneth McCullers.
Flight 759 began its takeoff from Runway 10 at the New Orleans International Airport (now Louis Armstrong New Orleans International), in Kenner, Louisiana at 4:07:57 PM central daylight time, bound for Las Vegas, Nevada. At the time of Flight 759's takeoff, there were thunderstorms over the east end of the airport. The winds were gusty and swirling. Flight 759 lifted off the runway, climbed to an altitude of between 95 and 150 feet (29 and 46 m), and then began to descend. About 2,376 feet (724 m) from the end of runway, the aircraft struck a line of trees at an altitude of about 50 feet (15 m). The aircraft continued descending for another 2,234 feet (681 m), hitting trees and houses before crashing in the residential area of Kenner, La., about 4,610 feet (1405 m) from the end of the runway.
The aircraft was destroyed during the impact, explosion, and subsequent ground fire. A total of 153 people were killed (all 145 passengers and crew on board and 8 on the ground). Another 4 people on the ground sustained injuries. In one of the destroyed houses, a baby was discovered in a crib covered with debris that protected her from the flames. Six houses were destroyed; five houses were damaged substantially.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the accident was the aircraft's encounter with a microburst-induced wind shear during the liftoff, which imposed a downdraft and a decreasing headwind, the effects of which the pilot would have had difficulty recognizing and reacting to in time for the aircraft's descent to be stopped before its impact with trees. Contributing to the accident was the limited capability of then-current wind shear detection technology; this, along with the similar crash of Delta Air Lines Flight 191 three years later led to the development of the airborne wind shear detection and alert system and the mandate by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration have on-board windshear detection systems installed by 1993.
A memorial to the crash victims is located at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Kenner, Louisiana.
Royd Anderson wrote and produced a documentary on the crash in 2012.
- Dennis Woltering (photojournalist) (July 5, 2012). "Pan Am crash's 'Miracle Baby' made best of second chance" (Television production). WWL-TV. Retrieved 2012-07-05.
- Sparacello, Mary; Colley Charpentier (July 9, 2007). "Crash anniversary draws little attention". The Times-Picayune. New Orleans: Advance Publications. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
- "NTSB Aircraft Accident Report NTSB/AAR-83/02" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. March 21, 1983. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
- Wallace, Lane E. "The Best That We Can Do: Taming the Microburst Windshear". Airborne Trailblazer. NASA. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
- New Orleans "Times-Picayune" Pan Am jet crash in Kenner is remembered in new documentary
- New Orleans "Times-Picayune" Remembering Flight 759's victims: Editorial
- New Orleans "Times-Picayune" Pan Am Flight 759 crash remembered in memorial, documentary 30 years later
- "WGNO Good Morning New Orleans" Pan Am Flight 759 documentary
- "St. Charles Herald Guide" Former HHS teacher makes movie about Kenner tragedy
- The Times-Picayune in 175 years - 1982: Pan Am Flight 759 crashes in Kenner
- Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church