1990 Wayne County Airport runway collision

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Northwest Airlines Flight 1482
Accident summary
Date December 3, 1990 (1990-12-03)
Summary Ground collision in low visibility
Site Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Michigan
42°12′45″N 083°21′12″W / 42.21250°N 83.35333°W / 42.21250; -83.35333Coordinates: 42°12′45″N 083°21′12″W / 42.21250°N 83.35333°W / 42.21250; -83.35333
Total injuries (non-fatal) 10
Total fatalities 8
Total survivors 190
First aircraft

A Northwest Airlines Douglas DC-9-14, similar to the one involved.
Type McDonnell Douglas DC-9-14
Operator Northwest Airlines
Registration N3313L
Flight origin Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Michigan
Destination Pittsburgh International Airport
Passengers 40
Crew 4
Injuries (non-fatal) 10
Fatalities 8
Survivors 36
Second aircraft

The accident aircraft at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Florida on 4 December 1993 after repair and return to service
Type Boeing 727-251-Adv
Operator Northwest Airlines
Registration N278US
Flight origin Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Michigan
Destination Memphis International Airport, Tennessee
Passengers 146
Crew 8
Injuries (non-fatal) 0
Fatalities 0
Survivors 154

The Wayne County Airport runway collision was the name of a runway collision between two Northwest Airlines planes in dense fog at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on December 3, 1990. It occurred when Flight 1482, a scheduled Douglas DC-9-14 service from Detroit to Pittsburgh International Airport, taxied onto an active runway by mistake in dense fog and was hit by a departing Boeing 727 operating as Flight 299 to Memphis International Airport. One crew and seven occupants of the DC-9 were killed.


Northwest 1482 was cleared from the gate towards Runway 03C, but it missed turning onto taxiway Oscar 6 and instead entered the Outer taxiway. To correct the error they were instructed to turn right onto Taxiway Xray but they turned onto the active runway 03C. They realised the mistake and contacted air traffic for instructions who told them to leave the runway immediately, five seconds later (at 13:45 EST) the crew saw a Boeing 727 heading towards them. The Boeing 727 was operating the Northwest 299 flight to Memphis and had just been cleared for take-off. The 727 wing hit the right-hand side of the DC-9 and cut through the fuselage just below the windows until it cut off the DC-9's #2 engine. The DC-9 caught fire and was destroyed; the 727 just had a damaged wing and was later repaired.[1][2]

The captain escaped from the aircraft through the left sliding window. 18 people escaped from the aircraft from the left overwing exit. 13 persons got out through the left main boarding door. 4 people jumped from the right service door. The rear jumpseat flight attendant and a passenger died from smoke inhalation; the flight attendant was found on the catwalk inside the tailcone below the release handle, and the passenger was found partially lying on the tailcone release slide. The tailcone had not been jettisoned.[3]

Of the surviving passengers, the NTSB stated that 10 received serious injuries and 23 received minor or no injuries. The three surviving crew members received minor or no injuries. The NTSB added that it did not receive medical records for three passengers who were admitted to a burn center; for the purposes of the report, the NTSB labeled their injuries as serious. The NTSB did not receive medical records for the copilot and 6 passengers who were treated and released from area hospitals; for the purposes of the report the NTSB assumed that they received minor injuries.[4]


The Douglas DC-9 was registered N3313L and had been built in 1966 with 62,253 airframe hours.[1] The Boeing 727 was registered N278US and had been built in 1975 with 37,310 airframe hours.[2]


The accident was investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, which determined the probable cause of the accident to be:[1]

A lack of proper crew coordination, including a virtual reversal of roles by the DC-9 pilots, which led to their failure to stop taxiing their airplane and alert the ground controller of their positional uncertainty in a timely manner before and after intruding onto the active runway.

Contributing to the cause of the accident were (1) deficiencies in the air traffic control services provided by the Detroit tower, including failure of the ground controller to take timely action to alert the local controller to the possible runway incursion, inadequate visibility observations, failure to use progressive taxi instructions in low-visibility conditions, and issuance of inappropriate and confusing taxi instructions compounded by inadequate backup supervision for the level of experience of the staff on duty; (2) deficiencies in the surface markings, signage, and lighting at the airport and the failure of Federal Aviation Administration surveillance to detect or correct any of these deficiencies; and (3) failure of Northwest Airlines, Inc., to provide adequate cockpit resource management training to their line aircrews. Contributing to the fatalities in the accident was the inoperability of the DC-9 internal tail cone release mechanism. Contributing to the number and severity of injuries was the failure of the crew of the DC-9 to properly execute the passenger evacuation.

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