Little Bits of History

June 1

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 1, 2017

1999: American Airlines Flight 1420 makes a terrible landing. The flight originated from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) in Texas on its way to Little Rock, Arkansas (LIT). The aircraft was a McDonnell Douglas MD-82. It was delivered to American Airlines in 1983 and had been in continuous use accumulating 49,136 flight hours. The pilot was Captain Richard Buschmann (48) who was a US Air Force Academy graduate (1972) who had reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before hiring on with American Airlines in 1979. While with the airline, he had accumulated 10,234 flight hours with about half of them flying the MD-80 series of McDonnell planes and the other half flying Boeing 727s. The First Officer was Michael Origel (35) who was with the airline for less than a year. While he had only 182 hours of flying time with the airline, he had been a pilot for the United States Navy with a total of over 4,000 hours of flying time.

Flight 1420 was scheduled to leave Texas at 8.28 PM and arrive in Arkansas at 9.41 PM. The National Weather Service’s notice of a line of thunderstorms altered those plans. At the time, policy mandated pilots to limit their duty time to 14 hours and if the plane were delayed for too long a time, a new crew would have to be found. The plane originally scheduled for the flight had not arrived in time and so this plane (N215AA) was substituted. This allowed the plane to depart DFW at 10.40 PM. At 11.04 PM, a weather advisory was updated with thunderstorms at the LIT area and Nashville International Airport was an alternate landing site. The flight crew discussed options and decided to land at LIT. They approached landing strip 22L but at 22.39 PM traffic control advised of heavy windshear and change of wind direction. A new landing strip was given.

In order to properly approach runway 4R, the plane had to circle around to line up correctly for the landing. The plane had to turn away from the airport and their weather radar only looked ahead, they lost track of the storm. They were to make a visual landing, but as they turned back, they lost sight of the runway. They were then instructed to make an instrument landing. In their rush to land as quickly as possible, they neglected to complete their airline’s pre-landing checklist. And this led to a cascade of errors.

At 11.49.32 they got their last controller message before landing. Because they had failed to set the automated systems, spoilers did not automatically deploy and the crew did not manually deploy them. The plane did not slow appropriately. They also did not have the brakes automatically controlled and the plane hurtled down the runway at too great a speed. They overshot the runway by 800 feet, collided with a structure there and crushed the nose of the plane and the left side of the fuselage. Captain Buschmann was killed in the accident as well eight passengers. Two more died in the days that followed. There were 41 passengers who were seriously injured with a total of 110 people injured out of the 145 people aboard.

I constantly make lists and itineraries and then can’t stick to any of them. – Freema Agyeman

Checklists remind us of the minimum necessary steps and make them explicit. They not only offer the possibility of verification but also instill a kind of discipline of higher performance. – Atul Gawande

Do not think because an accident hasn’t happened to you that it can’t happen. – Safety saying

Accidents are some one’s fault. Don’t let them be yours. – Gary Works Circle by Illinois Steel Company

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