1986 Cerritos mid-air collision
The DC-9 missing its horizontal stabilizer as a result of the collision, plummeting into Cerritos
|Date||August 31, 1986|
|Site||Cerritos, California, United States|
|Total fatalities||82 (including 15 on ground)|
|Total injuries||8 (on ground)|
An Aeroméxico DC-9,
similar to the aircraft involved in the accident
|Type||McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32|
Mexico City International Airport|
Mexico City, Mexico
Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla International Airport|
Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Loreto International Airport|
Loreto, Loreto Municipality, Baja California Sur
General Abelardo L. Rodríguez International Airport|
Tijuana, Baja California
Los Angeles International Airport|
Los Angeles, California, United States
A Piper PA-28-181 Archer,
similar to the aircraft involved in the accident
|Type||Piper PA-28-181 Archer|
Torrance, California, United States
Big Bear City Airport|
Big Bear Lake, California
The 1986 Cerritos midair collision was a plane crash that occurred over the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos, California, on Sunday, August 31, 1986. It occurred when Aeroméxico Flight 498, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9, was clipped by N4891F, a Piper PA-28-181 Archer owned by the Kramer family, while descending into Los Angeles International Airport, killing all 67 people on both aircraft and an additional fifteen people on the ground. Eight people on the ground also sustained minor injuries from the crash.
Blame was allocated equally between the Federal Aviation Administration and the pilot of the Piper. No fault was found with the DC-9 or the actions of its crew.
The larger aircraft involved, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 with tail number XA-JED named Hermosillo, was delivered in April 1969 to Delta Air Lines as N1277L before entering into service with Aeroméxico in November 1979. It was en route from Mexico City to Los Angeles International Airport (with intermediate stops in Guadalajara, Loreto, and Tijuana). N4891F was a privately operated Piper PA-28-181 Archer owned by the Kramer family, which was en route from Torrance to Big Bear City, California. The Piper aircraft, with pilot William Kramer (age 53) and two passengers aboard (wife Kathleen, 51, and daughter Caroline, 26), had departed Torrance around 11:40 PDT. Kramer had 231 flight hours.
The cockpit crew of Flight 498 consisted of Captain Arturo Valdes Prom, age 46, and First Officer Jose Hector Valencia, age 26. The captain had 4,632 hours of flying experience in the DC-9 (technically referred to in an accident report as "in-type") and a total of 10,641 flight hours. The first officer had flown 1,463 hours in total, of which 1,245 hours had been accumulated in-type.
On Sunday, August 31, 1986, at approximately 11:46 am, Flight 498 began its initial descent into Los Angeles with 58 passengers and six crew members on board. At 11:52 am, the Piper's engine collided with the left horizontal stabilizer of the DC-9, shearing off the top of the Piper's cockpit and decapitating Kramer and both of his passengers. The heavily damaged Piper fell onto an empty playground at Cerritos Elementary School.
The DC-9, with all of its horizontal stabilizer and most of its vertical stabilizer torn off, inverted and immediately entered into a dive. It slammed into a residential neighborhood at Holmes Avenue and Reva Circle in Cerritos, crashing into a house at what is today 17915 Holmes Avenue, exploding on impact. The explosion scattered the DC-9's wreckage across Holmes Avenue and onto Carmenita Road, destroying four other houses and damaging seven more. All 64 passengers and crew on board the jetliner were killed, as well as fifteen people on the ground. A fire sparked by the crash contributed significantly to the damage.
Passengers and crew
Thirty-six of the passengers were citizens of the United States. Of the twenty Mexican citizens, eleven lived in the United States and nine lived in Mexico. The Salvadoran citizen lived in the Bay Shore area of the town of Islip, in Suffolk County, New York. Ten of the passengers were children.
Of the passengers and crew on the Tijuana–Los Angeles leg of the flight:
- Two passengers and six crew members boarded in Mexico City.
- Six boarded in Guadalajara.
- Thirty-one boarded at Loreto Airport.
- Nineteen boarded in Tijuana.
Investigation and aftermath
The National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that the Piper had entered the Los Angeles Terminal Control Area airspace without the required clearance. The TCA included a triangular slab of airspace from 6000 ft to 7000 ft altitude reaching south to 33.714N 118.007W, across the Piper's intended flight path; the Piper could legally fly beneath this airspace without contacting air traffic controllers, but instead climbed into the TCA. The air traffic controller had been distracted by another unauthorized private flight – a Grumman AA-5 Tiger – entering the TCA directly north of the airfield, that also did not have clearance.
The Piper was not (and was not then required to be) equipped with a Mode C transponder, which would have indicated its altitude, and LAX had not been equipped with automatic warning systems. Apparently, neither attempted any evasive maneuvers because neither pilot sighted the other aircraft, though they were in visual range. When an autopsy revealed significant arterial blockage in the heart of the Piper's pilot, public speculation existed that Kramer had suffered a heart attack, causing incapacitation and contributing to the collision; further forensic evidence discounted this, and error on Kramer's part was determined to be the main contributing factor to the collision.
As a result of this accident and other near midair collisions (NMAC) in terminal control areas, the Federal Aviation Administration required that all jets in US airspace be equipped with a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS), and required that light aircraft operating in dense airspaces be equipped with Mode C transponders, which can report their altitude.
A jury ruled that the DC-9 bore no fault, instead deciding that Kramer and the FAA each acted equally negligently and had equal responsibility. U.S. District Judge David Kenyon agreed with the notion that the FAA shared responsibility. Federal Air Regulations 14 CFR 91.113 (b) require pilots of all aircraft to maintain vigilance to "see and avoid" other aircraft that might be on conflicting flight paths. The relative positions of both aircraft at the moment of collision showed no sign of any attempt at avoidance maneuvering by either aircraft.
One of the lawsuits involving victims on the ground had the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit apply the Supreme Court of California's ruling in Thing v. La Chusa to extend recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress to Theresa Estrada, whose husband and two of four children were among the 15 on the ground killed in the crash. Although she did not witness the crash (which was a major requirement for recovery under Thing), she returned minutes after to witness the home consumed by fire and surrounded by burning homes, cars, and aircraft debris. In a separate trial on damages, the Estrada family was awarded a total of $868,263 in economic damages and $4.7 million in noneconomic damages, including $1 million for the negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The flight number has been put back into service. Flight number 498 is now the flight from Mexico City International Airport to McCarran International Airport via Monterrey International Airport using an Embraer 190 operated by Aeromexico’s subsidiary Aeromexico Connect.
In popular culture
The Discovery Channel Canada/National Geographic television series Mayday featured the accident in a season 4 episode titled Out of Sight. The accident was featured again during Mayday season 8, in an episode titled System Breakdown.
The accident was featured on UK television channel "Quest" on July 16, 2014.
The program Plane Crashes That Changed Flying linked the advance of automatic collision warning and avoidance systems to various aircraft disasters, including the Cerritos collision.
A similar accident is seen in the Breaking Bad episode "ABQ". Coincidentally, the air-traffic controller in the real-life accident was named Walter White, the same name as the main character of Breaking Bad.
On March 11, 2006, the City of Cerritos dedicated a new sculpture garden featuring a memorial to the victims of the accident. The sculpture, designed by Kathleen Caricof, consists of three pieces. One piece, which resembles a wing, commemorates all the victims who perished aboard the Aeroméxico jet and the Piper. A similar, but smaller and darker wing, commemorates all the victims who perished on the ground. Each wing rests on a pedestal that lists the respective victims in alphabetical order. In front of the memorial lies a bench, which commemorates all victims and allows visitors to sit and reflect on the disaster.
NTSB drawing portraying approximate point of impact
- TWA Flight 553, a similar crash that occurred near Urbana, Ohio, involved a new DC-9 and a small plane, which occurred in 1967.
- Piedmont Airlines Flight 22, a similar crash that occurred with a 727 involved in Hendersonville, North Carolina, in 1967
- Allegheny Airlines Flight 853, a similar crash that occurred also with a DC-9 involved in Fairland, Indiana, in 1969
- PSA Flight 182, a similar midair collision that occurred with a Boeing 727 and a Cessna 172 in San Diego, California, in 1978
- Proteus Airlines Flight 706, a similar midair collision that occurred with a Beechcraft King Air and a Cessna 177 Cardinal over Quiberon Bay, Brittany, France in 1998
- "XA-JED Aeroméxico McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30". planespotters.net. January 22, 2012. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
- "FAA Registry (N4891F)". Federal Aviation Administration.
- Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 XA-JED Cerritos, CA". Retrieved August 31, 2016.
- "Airliners.net - Aviation Photography, Discussion Forums & News". Retrieved August 31, 2016.
- Collision in the "Birdcage", TIME
- NTSB Report-87/07 Archived December 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- located at these coordinates:
- "The Story of Cerritos: Chapter 8 1976–1986 -Growth, Development and an Unnatural Disaster". City of Cerritos.
- "Aircraft Collision Over Los Angeles Suburb", (diagram) Daily Herald (Chicago), September 2, 1986, p6
- "Collison Victims on DC-9." The New York Times. September 2, 1986. Tuesday, Late City Final Edition. Section D, Page 17, Column 5. National Desk.
- "List of Casualties on DC-9." The New York Times. September 1, 1986. Monday, Late City Final Edition. Section 1, Page 7, Column 1. National Desk.
- Larry Gerber, AP, "1986 Cerritos crash changed the way we fly," The Intelligencer Record (Doylestown, Pa.), September 1, 1996, p A-13
- ReutersPublished: April 15, 1989 (1989-04-15). "Jury Fixes Blame for Crash That Killed 82 – New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-11-13.
- In Re Air Crash Disaster Near Cerritos, 967 F.2d 1421 (9th Cir.1992)
- "AeroMéxico (AM) #498 ✈ FlightAware". Retrieved August 31, 2016.
- "Falling From the Sky". Mayday. Season 4. 2007. Discovery Channel Canada / National Geographic Channel.
- "System Breakdown". Mayday. Season 8. 2009. Discovery Channel Canada / National Geographic Channel.
- "Sculpture Garden dedication press release". City of Cerritos. March 3, 2006.
- CARICOPsculpture ()
- "Cerritos Air Disaster Memorial". City of Cerritos.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aeroméxico Flight 498.|
This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. (August 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- NTSB.gov, Brief of Accident, NTSB, adopted March 7, 1988
- AOPA.org, Collision Over Cerritos, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
- NYtimes.com, California Jet Crash Led to Sweeping Changes The New York Times
- Story Of Cerritos – Chapter 8 (Aeroméxico Flight 498)
- Collision in the "Birdcage"
- DC 9 Crashes in Cerritos Residential Area.
- Landmark Accidents: Collision Over Cerritos
- Out of Sight – Aeromexico Flight 498[permanent dead link]
- Accident details at airdisaster.com
- Pre-crash photo of the airliner at airliners.net
- Aircraft details at Aviation Safety Network
- Microfiche Details at AirFlightDisaster
- NTSB Safety Recommendation Letter