United Airlines Flight 859

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United Airlines Flight 859
United Douglas DC-8.jpg
A United Airlines Douglas DC-8-10, similar to the one involved.
Accident summary
Date July 11, 1961
Summary Mechanical failure combined with pilot error
Site Denver, Colorado USA
Passengers 115
Crew 7
Fatalities 18 (1 on the ground)
Injuries (non-fatal) 84
Survivors 105
Aircraft type Douglas DC-8-12
Operator United Airlines
Registration N8040U
Flight origin Omaha-Eppley Airfield, Nebraska
Destination Denver-Stapleton International Airport, Colorado

United Airlines Flight 859 was a Douglas DC-8 on a scheduled passenger service that crashed during landing at Stapleton International Airport, Denver, Colorado on July 11, 1961, killing 18 people and injuring 84.

The crash was caused by the failure of two engines on one side to generate reverse thrust, sending the aircraft out of control and rupturing a fuel tank, which then ignited. The airport fire department was found to be deficient in emergency equipment, but the fire-crews themselves were praised for their efforts.

Flight details[edit]

The airliner, registration N8040U,[1] slammed into several airport vehicles, including construction equipment, and caught fire, killing 18 (including one on the ground) and injuring 84 from a total of 122 people on board.

The aircraft had suffered a hydraulic failure while en route, and preparation was made for what was expected to be a routine landing, after the crew followed the checklist for hydraulic failure. The plane touched down normally, but when the engines' thrust levers were moved to the engines' reverse position, the reverser buckets for the engines on the left failed to deploy correctly. The buckets must be closed, to direct the engine thrust to a forward direction.[2]

That failure caused those two left-side engines to generate forward thrust, while the right-side engines generated reverse thrust. The plane immediately began to veer to the right, as a result of that asymmetrical thrust. All the tires blew out on the right main gear, after the plane left the runway and hit a new taxiway, still under construction. The nose gear collapsed, and the fuel tank on the right wing was ruptured, starting the fatal fire. The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) report also stated that a contributing factor was the failure of the first officer to monitor the reverse thrust indicator lights, when he applied reverse thrust.[3]

Carbon monoxide poisoning was the cause of death for 16 of the passengers, who were not able to evacuate quickly enough. One elderly woman broke both ankles during the evacuation, and later died from shock.[4]

Emergency response[edit]

Firefighting and rescue efforts were initiated almost immediately, but the airport fire department was understaffed and improperly equipped with the vehicles they were using from the 1940s. Their efforts were further hampered by a delay in getting assistance from the firefighting facilities at a nearby airbase, and from those in the city of Denver.

It was later found that seven months before the crash an FAA inspector had ruled that the airport fire department was deficient in emergency equipment, particularly water capacity, rate of discharge for foam, etc.

The fire crews were, however, praised on a personal level for their efforts.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "FAA Registry". Federal Aviation Administration. 
  2. ^ "Aircraft Accident Report: United Airlines Flight 859". Archived from the original on 2011-10-08. 
  3. ^ "Aircraft Accident Report: United Airlines Flight 859". Archived from the original on 2011-10-08. 
  4. ^ "Aircraft Accident Report: United Airlines Flight 859". Archived from the original on 2011-10-08. 

External links[edit]