Emery Worldwide Flight 17

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Emery Worldwide Flight 17
LAP Douglas DC-8 JetPix-3.jpg
The aircraft involved in the crash pictured in 1992, then operated by Líneas Aéreas Paraguayas
DateFebruary 16, 2000
SummaryRight elevator control tab detached during take off due to faulty maintenance resulting in loss of pitch control
SiteSacramento Mather Airport, Rancho Cordova, California
Aircraft typeMcDonnell Douglas DC-8-71F
OperatorEmery Worldwide
Flight originReno–Tahoe International Airport,Reno, Nevada
StopoverSacramento Mather Airport, Rancho Cordova, California
DestinationJames M. Cox Dayton International Airport, Dayton, Ohio

Emery Worldwide Flight 17 was a regularly scheduled domestic cargo flight, flying from Reno to Dayton with an intermediate stopover at Rancho Cordova. On February 16, 2000, the DC-8 crashed onto a salvage yard shortly after taking off from Sacramento Mather Airport, killing all three crew members on board. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed that during the aircraft's rotation, a control rod to the right elevator control tab detached, causing a loss of pitch control. The crew attempted unsuccessfully to return to Mather airport. The NTSB further found that an incorrect maintenance procedure, which was implemented by Emery Worldwide, introduced an incorrect torque-loading on the bolts which were supposed to connect the control rod.[1]

Fifteen recommendations were issued by the NTSB. One of the recommendations was to evaluate every DC-8 on U.S soil to prevent further crashes that could be caused by the disconnection of the right elevator tab. The Federal Aviation Administration subsequently found more than 100 maintenance violations in the airline including one that caused another accident on April 26, 2001. Emery Worldwide later grounded its entire fleet for good on August 13, 2001.[1]


The flight was a regular domestic cargo flight from Reno–Tahoe International Airport (RNO) to James M. Cox Dayton International Airport (DAY) with an intermediate stopover at Sacramento Mather Airport in Rancho Cordova, California. The flight was operated by Emery Worldwide - then a major cargo airline in the U.S - using a McDonnell Douglas DC-8-71F with 3 crew members on board.[1]

After completing the taxi checklist, the crew members initiated the before take-off checklist at around 19:47 local time. They then advised Mather Tower that they were going to initiate the take off from runway 22L. The crew members were later cleared for take off. The crew applied a continuous nose down input during the take-off roll.[1]

As the aircraft reached its V1 speed, the captain called "rotate". The pitch then increased from 0.2 to 5.3 degrees. According to the data from the control column, the crew at the time were still applying forward movement to the control column (nose down input), but somehow the nose raised upwards. Data from the aircraft indicated that the crew added more force to the control column, from 14.5 to 17.4 degrees. The aircraft reached V2 and began to lift off.[1]

Immediately after the aircraft lifted off from the runway, the aircraft entered a left turn and the first officer quickly stated that Flight 17 would like to return to Sacramento. The engine's rpm began to decrease and the stick shaker activated for the first time. The Captain declared emergency on Flight 17, believing a load shift had occurred. The aircraft began to move erratically, with the elevator deflection and the bank angle began to decrease and increase. The aircraft began to descend.[1]

The captain repeated the emergency declaration as the engine's rpm began to increase. At the time, the aircraft was descending with a steepening bank of 11 degrees. The crew then added power and the aircraft began to climb again. As the aircraft continued to climb, the bank angle began to increase to the left. The captain then contacted Mather Tower, stating that Flight 17 "has an extreme problem."[1][2]

The aircraft then continued to fly in a northwesterly heading. The crew were trying to stabilise the aircraft as it began to sway to the left and to the right. The Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) then started to sound. At 19:51, the aircraft's left wing contacted a concrete and steel support column for an overhang attached to a two-story building, located adjacent to the southeast edge of the salvage yard. The DC-8 then crashed onto the salvage yard, striking hundreds of cars and subsequently burst into flames. All three crew members on board were killed.[3][1]

Aircraft and crew[edit]

The aircraft involved in the accident was a 1968-built Douglas DC-8-71, registration N8079U. Operated by United Airlines (1968–1990) and Líneas Aéreas Paraguayas (1990–1994), later modified for service as a freighter before being sold. On March 1994 N8079U was operated by Emery Worldwide and had accumulated approximately 84,447 flight hours in 33,395 flight cycles. In July 1983, the Pratt & Whitney JT3D engines were replaced with CFM International CFM56 engines to upgrade the aircraft from a 60 series to a 70 series aircraft.[4]

The flight crew consisted of Captain Kevin Stables (43) who had logged 13,329 flight hours and 2,128 hours in type; First Officer George Land (35) who had logged 4,511 flight hours and 2,080 in type; and Flight Engineer Russell Hicks (38) who had logged 9,775 flight hours and 675 in type.


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its final report in 2003, three years after the accident. The report stated that the crash of Flight 17 was caused by the detachment of the right elevator control tab. The disconnection was caused by the failure to properly secure and inspect the attachment bolt.[5]

The NTSB then added: "The safety issues discussed in this report include DC-8 elevator position indicator installation and usage, adequacy of DC-8 maintenance work cards (required inspection items), and DC-8 elevator control tab design. Safety recommendations are addressed to the Federal Aviation Administration".[5]


The crash of Emery Worldwide Flight 17 was featured in the first episode of the eighteenth season in the Canadian documentary show Mayday, also known as Air Disasters in the United States and as Air Crash Investigation in Europe and the rest of the world. The episode was titled "Nuts and Bolts".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Aircraft Accident Report: Loss of Pitch Control on Takeoff, Emery Worldwide Airlines, Flight 17, McDonnell Douglas DC-8-71F, N8079U, Rancho Cordova, California, February 16, 2000 (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. August 5, 2003. NTSB/AAR-03/02.
  2. ^ Miles Corwin, Jennifer Warren. "Cargo Plane Crashes Outside Sacramento, Killing 3". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  3. ^ "Fiery Cargo Jet Crash Ignites Huge Fire / Crew of 3 killed as DC-8 feared hits auto yard near Sacramento". SF Gate. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  4. ^ "N8079U Emery Worldwide Airlines Douglas DC-8-60/70". www.planespotters.net. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Board Meeting : Emery Worldwide Airlines, Inc., McDonnell Douglas DC-8-71F, N8079U, Rancho Cordova, California, on February 16, 2000". NTSB.

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Transportation Safety Board.