USAir Flight 1016
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A USAir McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31, similar to the one involved
|Date||July 2, 1994|
|Summary||Wind shear, microburst, Pilot error, spatial disorientation|
|Site||Charlotte, North Carolina, United States
|Aircraft type||McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31|
|Flight origin||Columbia Metropolitan Airport|
In July 1994 USAir Flight 1016 was a regularly scheduled flight between Columbia, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina.:1 The flight encountered heavy thunderstorms and microburst-induced windshear while attempting to land, and crashed into heavy trees and a private residence near the airport. The crash and ensuing fire killed 37 people and seriously injured 16 others.:1
History of the flight
On Saturday, July 2, 1994, the plane, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 registered N954VJ, departed Columbia Metropolitan Airport at 18:15 EST for the 35-minute flight to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport with Captain Mike Greenlee (38), First Officer Phil Hayes (41), three flight attendants, and 52 passengers (including two infants) on board.:1
The flight was uneventful until the approach to Charlotte, where several heavy thunderstorms were in the vicinity of the airport. At 18:38, Flight 1016 was cleared by the tower for an instrument landing system (ILS) approach to Douglas Airport's runway 18R (now 18C).:3 The plane, flown by the first officer, approached the runway in heavy rain conditions. The flight switched over to the local tower controller handling landings for runway 18R, and at 18:39, the tower controller gave Flight 1016 clearance to land. The captain asked the tower controller for a weather report from the plane ahead of Flight 1016, a Fokker 100 that had just landed on runway 18R.:4 The tower told Flight 1016 that the Fokker pilot reported "smooth sailing.":4 In post-crash interviews, multiple passengers and flight attendants told the NTSB that the flight seemed normal until the plane entered a storm with heavy rain while on final approach.:7
At 18:40, a tower controller issued a windshear warning to all aircraft, but on a different radio frequency than that used by Flight 1016.:5 About a minute later, as Flight 1016 was on final approach, the captain, realizing that his aircraft was in a serious predicament, attempted to abort the landing by instructing the first officer to "take it around, go to the right".:6 The captain then radioed the control tower and stated "USAir ten sixteen's on the go"; the tower acknowledged the missed approach and cleared Flight 1016 to climb to 3,000 feet (910 m).:6 The plane struggled to climb due to the severe weather conditions, veered to the right and rapidly descended.:6 The flight crew desperately tried to control the airplane as it plummeted toward the ground.:6 It was later determined that the wind shear alert system did not alert them with a red indicator and aural warning because of a software discrepancy which lowered the sensitivity while the flaps were in transit from 40 degrees to 15 degrees during the go around procedure. A Honeywell engineer stated that the pilots should have received a warning 8–9 seconds before impact.:12
At 18:42 EST, the DC-9 touched down in a field within the airport boundary, about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) from the threshold of runway 18R.:33 It then crashed through the airport fence and impacted several trees, breaking apart while skidding down a residential street that was on the airport boundary. The plane broke into four major sections; the front 40 feet (12 m) of the airplane, including the cockpit and the unoccupied first class passenger cabin, came to rest in the middle of Wallace Neel Road. The rear section of the fuselage, including the tail and the rear-mounted engines, came to rest in the carport of a house.
Of the 52 passengers on board, 37 died due to blunt force and/or fire, 14 suffered serious injuries, and one had minor injuries. Of the five crew members, both pilots suffered minor injuries, two flight attendants were seriously injured and the remaining flight attendant sustained minor injuries. No one on the ground was injured.
Investigation and response
The NTSB immediately dispatched an investigation team, which recovered the CVR and FDR from the plane's wreckage.:33 After a lengthy investigation by the NTSB, it was concluded that a microburst had been generated by the thunderstorm that was over the airport at the time of the crash. The NTSB listed these contributing factors:
- The flight crew's decision to continue an approach to an area where a microburst was likely.
- The failure of the flight crew to recognize wind shear quickly (exacerbated by an error in the wind shear alert software; the wind shear alert system should have warned them about 8–9 seconds prior to impact):12
- The failure of the flight crew to establish proper pitch and engine power that would have brought them out of the wind shear
- The lack of timely weather information by air traffic control to the crew of flight 1016
In the media
The Flight 1016 crash is discussed in the Mayday ,a.k.a. Air Crash Investigation, episode on American Airlines Flight 1420, which also crashed while landing in inclement weather. The accident was later featured in the sixth episode of the seventeenth season of the series, titled Storming Out. Flight 1016 was also the subject of an episode of The Unexplained, a Biography Channel series.
- Delta Air Lines Flight 191
- Martinair Flight 495
- Pan Am Flight 759
- American Airlines Flight 1420
- Airborne wind shear detection and alert system
- Low level windshear alert system