Continental Airlines Flight 1713

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Continental Airlines Flight 1713
Continental Airlines Douglas DC-9-14 Silagi-1.jpg
A Continental Airlines Douglas DC-9-14 similar to the aircraft involved in the accident.
Accident summary
Date 15 November 1987
Summary Loss of control due to atmospheric icing
Site Stapleton Int'l Airport, Denver, United States
Passengers 77
Crew 5
Injuries (non-fatal) 28
Fatalities 28 (25 passengers, 3 crew)
Survivors 54
Aircraft type Douglas DC-9-14
Operator Continental Airlines
Registration N626TX
Flight origin Denver–Stapleton Int'l Airport (DEN/KDEN)
Destination Boise, Idaho

Continental Airlines Flight 1713 crashed while taking off in a snowstorm from Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado on 15 November 1987. The Douglas DC-9-14 was operated by Continental Airlines and was a scheduled flight to Boise, Idaho.[1] Twenty-five passengers and three crew members died in the crash.


Continental Airlines Flight 1713 was scheduled to leave Denver at 12:25 PM MST, but many flights out of Denver that day were delayed by inclement weather.[2] The flight was cleared for takeoff at 2:14 PM Mountain Time.

As the plane was taking off, it over-rotated; the aircraft descended and the left wing struck the ground, causing the wing to separate. The left side of the plane and cockpit struck the ground next and the plane continued rolling, inverted. Of the 82 occupants on board (77 passengers and 5 crew), 28 were killed while 54 survived. The majority of the passengers who died were in the front and left side of the aircraft. As the plane skidded, the left side was tilted over and the tail was inverted; this action caused the middle part of the plane to squeeze and crush many of the passengers on board.[3] Fitzsimmons Army Medical Facility sent its personnel to assist in the triage of passengers.

Of the passengers who died, 16 died of blunt trauma and 12 died of mechanical asphyxia.[4]

Of the passengers who survived, 24 received minor injuries and 27 received serious injuries.[4]


Four days of hearings regarding the crash were held in Golden, Colorado in March 1988.[5][6] During the investigation, it was revealed that the captain, Frank Zvonek, had 166 hours of experience in this particular type of aircraft, and the copilot, Lee Bruecher, had only 26 hours.[7] Moreover, it was also discovered, as reported in "Miracle In The Blizzard," a feature article Henry Hurt had written for, and published in, the February 1990 issue of the Reader's Digest, that Zvonek had placed Bruecher in charge of actually flying the aircraft and that, before Continental had hired him, Bruecher had been dismissed by another airline (Able Aviation)[8] for his incompetence as a pilot.

In July 1988, Continental Airlines filed a report with the National Transportation Safety Board positing the causes of the crash as wake turbulence, poor snow plowing on the runway and errors by air traffic controllers.[9]

Seating chart of Continental Airlines Flight 1713 provided by the NTSB; the chart illustrates locations of passengers, lack of injury, severity of injuries, and cause of death

According to the FAA report, NTSB Number AAR-88/09 and NTIS Number PB88-910411:

"The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the captain's failure to have the airplane deiced a second time after a delay before takeoff that led to upper wing surface contamination and a loss of control during rapid takeoff rotation by the first officer. Contributing to the accident were the absence of regulatory or management controls governing operations by newly qualified flight crew members and the confusion that existed between the flightcrew members and air traffic controllers that led to the delay in departure."


After the crash, Continental Airlines reiterated its procedures for handling de-icing and developed a computerized assignment program that would keep pilots with less than 100 hours flying time in type from being assigned to the same flight.[7] The cockpit voice recorder from this crash was discussed in the cockpit of another flight that crashed the following year - Delta Air Lines Flight 1141.[10] The fact that "three minutes of non-pertinent social conversation" had occurred before take-off was mentioned in the official NTSB report.[11]

In popular culture[edit]

Continental Airlines Flight 1713 was mentioned in the film Rain Man.[12]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Knudson, Thomas J. (1987-11-16). "Plane Crashes in Snow at Denver; 26 of the 82 Aboard Are Killed". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  3. ^ Associated Press (1987-11-27). "Rear Passengers Survived Air Crash". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  4. ^ a b NTSB report AAR88-09 (Page 28 of 99).
  5. ^ Associated Press (1988-03-09). "Inquiry Into Denver Jet Crash Looks at Possible Ice Buildup". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  6. ^ Associated Press (1988-03-10). "Rescue Coordinator Testifies In Continental Crash Hearing". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  7. ^ a b Associated Press (1988-09-28). "U.S. Panel Lays Denver Air Crash To Failure to De-ice Second Time". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  8. ^ Ott, James (1988-10-03). "NTSB Finds Inadequate Oversight Of New Pilots' Flight Operations". Aviation Week & Space Technology. 
  9. ^ Associated Press (1988-08-18). "Airline Says Several Errors Caused Crash Fatal to 28". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  10. ^ Cockpit Voice Recording from Delta Air Lines Flight 1141
  11. ^ NTSB Accident Report, Ibid, p.39
  12. ^ Quiroga, Rodrigo (2012). "Chapter 7". Borges and Memory: Encounters with the Human Brain. MIT Press. pp. 101–102. ISBN 9780262304955. 

External links[edit]