Pan Am Flight 759
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|Date||July 9, 1982|
|Summary||Microburst-induced wind shear|
|Injuries (non-fatal)||4 (on the ground)|
|Fatalities||153 (all, including 8 on the 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 was a regularly scheduled domestic passenger flight from Miami to San Diego, with en route stops in New Orleans and Las Vegas, United States. On July 9, 1982, the Boeing 727 flying this route was forced down by a microburst shortly after takeoff, crashed into the New Orleans suburb of Kenner. All 145 on board and 8 people on the ground were killed. The crash had the highest number of aviation fatalities in 1982.
The aircraft involved, a 14-year-old Boeing 727-235, registration N4737, construction number 19457/518, was delivered to National Airlines on January 31, 1968. The aircraft was powered by three Pratt & Whitney JT8D-7B turbofan engines, and was renamed from 37 Susan/Erica to Clipper Defiance after National was merged with Pan Am.
At the time of 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. He was described by others as an "above average" pilot, who was "comfortable" to fly with because of his excellent judgement and ability to exercise command. The First Officer was described by other captains as a conscientious pilot with excellent knowledge of aircraft systems and company flight procedures and techniques. All three flight crew, including the captain, the first officer and the second officer, were reported having no sleep or health problems, and had passed all proficiency checks without issues.:1.5
The weather report issued at 0740 on July 9 by New Orleans National Meteorological Center contained thunderstorm forecast, possible severe turbulence, icing and wind shear. The weather chart at 1800 local time revealed the New Orleans area was influenced by the high pressure condition located 60 nm off the Louisiana coast. No fronts or low pressure areas were within 100 nm of the airport. The forecast between 1200 and 2200 indicated “scattered clouds, variable to broken clouds at 3,000 ft; thunderstorms and moderate rain showers."
Flight 759 began its takeoff from Runway 10 at the New Orleans International Airport (now Louis Armstrong New Orleans International), in Kenner, Louisiana at 16:07:57 central daylight time, bound for Las Vegas, Nevada. At the time of Flight 759's takeoff, there were thunderstorms over the east of the airport and east-northeast of the departure end of runway 10. The winds were gusty and swirling.:2.2.2 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. At 16:09:01, the aircraft crashed into the residential area of Kenner, about 4,610 feet (1405 m) from the end of the runway.
The aircraft was destroyed by 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).:1.1 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.
Flight 759, along with Delta Air Lines Flight 191 which crashed because of similar reason three years later, led to the development of the airborne wind shear detection and alert system and the mandate of installing windshear detection systems on board by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration by 1993.
A memorial to the accident is located at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Kenner, Louisiana.
- Delta Airlines Flight 191
- List of accidents and incidents involving commercial aircraft
- Martinair Flight 495
- "NTSB Aircraft Accident Report NTSB/AAR-83/02" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. March 21, 1983. Retrieved 2016-05-13.
- "Accident description". Flight Safety Foundation. Retrieved 2016-05-13.
- 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.
- Wallace, Lane E. "The Best That We Can Do: Taming the Microburst Windshear". Airborne Trailblazer. NASA. Archived from the original on April 11, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
- "St. Charles Herald Guide" Former HHS teacher featured in reincarnation documentary on Lifetime
- New Orleans "Times-Picayune" Love of film started in Cuba for Pan Am documentary maker
- 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
- "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