Crash watch online
Crash watch online

Crash watch online. Bridge over the Potomac River (Washington).


January 13, 1982 Airplanes are unable to leave Washington airport due to snowfall. Weather conditions in Washington DC, especially at the airport, were very difficult that day. It was snowing and it was very cold. It was a rainy day, the snow was getting more and more. At 14:15 pm, the 74 passengers of Air Florida Flight 90 were supposed to be in the sky, but their plane was still parked outside the terminal. The chances of flying out of the airport were 50/50. The airport staff was busy cleaning the snow. There was no way to take off or land.


Expert: The Washington National Airport is only one lane. And they have not had a chance to clean the snow on a lane and use the other, and then change them, as in many other airports. If the band is closed - closed the entire airport.


            The captain of the 90 is Larry Whitan. The co-pilot is Roger Petit. Florida is the home state for both.


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            At 14:45 the plane was cleared of ice. By keeping ice and snow from sticking to the wings, pilots can take off as soon as the airport opens.

           An hour and a quarter, finally, the airport opens. The dispatchers face the most difficult task. More 20 aircraft await permission to take off or land. Undoubtedly, this contributed to an increase in excitement among dispatchers.


            Captain Whitan must take off after New York Air DC-9... Finally, aircraft 90 receives permission to take off. This time co-pilot Patit will be piloting the plane. Captain Whitan will keep an eye on the instruments. The engines spin quickly and the aircraft picks up enough power to accelerate on the runway. The plane cannot take off until it picks up a lift-off speed of 257 km / h. Then there is a liftoff from the ground, but almost immediately it becomes clear that the plane is not flying normally. Everything in the galley begins to rattle and make a loud noise. The whole plane starts to shake. The helm shaker automat is triggered, warning pilots of a stall. Captain Whitan encourages Patit to lower the nose of the plane, which is a key step in increasing lift. Passengers prepare for the worst. Less than a minute after takeoff, Air Florida 90 crashes to the ground. The crew began to increase the power of the engines too late. The plane hits a bridge over the Potomac River and then falls into the water.


Bridge over the Potomac River (Washington) disaster


            Of the 79 people who were on board, only 6 were able to get out of the plane and swim to the surface. The plane left a train of destruction on the bridge, on 14-th street. 4 people died in their cars. More 4 were seriously injured when Boeing 737 fell from the bridge into the river. The fate of the remaining passengers and crew members became known later. Journalists quickly find out about the crash and come to the crash site. By the time they arrive, lifeguards are already working there. There was also a police helicopter. Journalists see the first rescued passenger from the plane being loaded into an ambulance. This is Bird Hemilton, a Maryland manager. The rest of the survivors are still in the icy water. Stewardess Kayleigh Dante grabs the lifeline. Behind her is secretary Nicky Felch in a life jacket. Joe Styley is also a businessman and private pilot. Priscila Terado, another passenger, clings to him.


            By that time, almost the entire plane had disappeared into the water, except for the part that the survivors were holding on to. On the cameras of the reporters, the last surviving Arlond Williams was barely visible. He is stuck in the rubble and convinces others to swim to the rescue rope. The helicopter begins to lift the second man from the river. This is stewardess Kayleigh Dante. Soon she was taken to shore. Joe Styly, stiff as he is, tries to help the two remaining passengers, Nicky Falch and Priscile Terado.


Joe Styley: I held Priscila on one side and Nicky on the other. The cable was dropped from the helicopter. We took hold of him, and he began to drag us along the water. I lost Nicky almost immediately as my arm was not functioning. Priscila and I were in the middle of the river and began to move straight on the ice broken by the plane's impact. I bumped into these blocks of ice and eventually my ribs broke. At some point, I let go of Priscila and she remained in the water, on a block of ice.


            Joe is pulled out of the water, but Priscila is left lying on a block of ice. From the helicopter they throw a lifebuoy tied to the cable. She began to pull, but weakened she lets go of the cable. Everyone understood that she was going to sink now. She was in the water, and she was pressed into the water by a stream of air from a helicopter. And then one of the onlookers rushes to the rescue! He did not think about how cold the water was and how this could turn out for him. It was an employee of Leni Skatnik. He had the courage not to think about the consequences. A true hero! He saves the life of Priscilla. Unfortunately, her husband and child died in this disaster. At this time, the helicopter descends to Niki Felch. The rescuer lowers his hand and grabs it and drags it onto the runners. He himself without insurance, just balancing. Just amazing!

Leni Skatnik - Hero

Leni Skatnik - Hero


            It has been 45 minutes since the crash. Too long to survive in cold water. Nicky Felch was the last one pulled out of the water. Only five people survived.


            After a few hours, investigators from the national transport safety committee begin their work. The 90 crashed just over a kilometer from the runway. The place of the fall suggests that the plane did not gain altitude.


Expert: We only know that he hit the ground horizontally, that talked about the problems with the management. But we did not know exactly what caused it.


            At the airport, they collect as much information as possible.


Expert: The first thing that we have begun to consider - is the weather. Weather conditions are always one of the important factors in the beginning of the investigation of the crash.               


            Investigators learn that the 90 board was delayed more than an hour while the airport was closed. If ice and snow increased during the delay on the wings of the aircraft, they could prevent the climb.


Expert: Deicing treatment is of paramount importance. Even a small amount of ice and snow can affect the characteristics of the wing.


            Investigators are reviewing anti-icing data on that day. They were interested to find out how effective she was. And records show that protivoobledenitelnaya fluid has a lower concentration than needed. The liquid should be prepared in accordance with the temperature. If it was a lack of concentration, ice could accumulate again on the wings. Investigators are studying the temperature recorded at the time of the suspension of the airport. The liquid was how to act. Although it has been diluted it is suitable for temperatures recorded on the day of the crash.


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            Investigators need reliable evidence to figure out the reasons for the fall of Air Florida 90. However, most of it is under water. Due to weather conditions, lifting the wreckage was difficult. Parts of the crashed plane were scattered around the bottom of the river. A week later, investigators smiling luck. Black boxes side 90 raised from the bottom of the river. They do not look damaged. In 1982, the flight data recorders were recorded only some of the characteristics of operation of the aircraft. But it was enough, that would be an important clue has been found. They found that the board took 90 45 seconds to take off - on 15 seconds longer than usual.

It took a lot of time that would be dispersed. There was something with traction. It is enough to take off, but it was not enough to climb. However, flight data recorder does not give information about the engines. Neither of revolutions or modes. The investigator hopes that something will clear voice recorder. He could hear the pilots commented winter conditions during taxiing for DC-9. They discuss the removal of snow and ice from the wings of the aircraft. They know that the return for re-refining is another long delay. In this case, they would have to be the end of the queue to take off. It is this effect on the captain decision not to go to re-start cleaning with the executive. Instead, it takes the unusual decision to clean up without losing their place in the queue. It moves the plane under the exhaust stream side DC-9 before them. So they thought that they could warm the surface of his plane and clean it. It is a pity, but it was a misconception.


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      Continuing to listen to the voice recorder recording, the investigator hears something terrible. While the plane accelerates along the runway, the co-pilot says about his suspicions: “It should not be! Is not it?". But the captain convinces him that everything is all right. The co-pilot felt that they did not gain speed as it should. Investigators check whether drivers have correctly set the target value of EPR, for the take-off weight of the aircraft. If it were too low, this would explain the slow set speed and that was not sufficient thrust for climb. Careful inspection showed that there was no advantage.

To get accurate data on power engines investigator has resorted to unusual methods. He hopes to find out how much power the engines developed through analysis of sound they produce. The sound of engines was heard on the voice recorder. After careful analysis of records opened shocking data. The engine runs on providing 70% power turns. It means that The plane takes off like a half engines, rather than twoas it should be. Investigators found that the engines did not develop the necessary power, but did not know why. 


Potomac disaster 1


            One of the instruments could be the key to the answer. This is an EPR indicator that is connected to a sensor on the front of the engine. It measures the increase in air pressure passing through the engine to calculate thrust. The device informs pilots about the power sufficient to climb. If it was not working properly, pilots received incorrect values. Examining the device reveals something strange. The arrow of the device froze at the end position and shows an incredible value.


Expert:  instrument It showed that the engine delivers more power than they can.


            It is likely that he showed incorrect values ​​throughout the short flight... What caused it? Investigators began to suspect that the weather did play a role in the crash. Through a series of experiments, they found that the pressure rise sensor was blocked by ice and snow. Investigators are convinced: the pilots did not increase engine power because they iced sensor reported that enough power... When they realized their mistake, it was no longer possible to prevent the crash. The Boeing 737 is equipped with an anti-icing engine and sensor system by heating. However, the pilots, whose home state was Florida, disabled the anti-icing system during a pre-flight check.


Expert: Pilots thought of Florida. They did not think about the cold in on time. They worked out a sheet of mandatory inspections for warm weather.


            Despite all the results, the head of the investigation still had one question. The Boeing 737 is designed for takeoff with one engine running. He had to take off after gaining a certain speed, which is what happened. So there was something else besides the power of the engines.


Potomac disaster 1 device


            Investigating the maneuver of Captain Whitan during taxiing, the investigators found out that the snow and ice on the wings of the plane had melted and moved back. After that, the ice was formed again, further aggravating the situation. Ice deteriorated takeoff capabilities and, combined with low engine power, was enough to prevent the aircraft from gaining altitude..


            Why did the crew take such a risk? Inexperienced pilots might have underestimated the danger. They were from Florida and were not used to flying in blizzard conditions. The captain had 8 take-offs in similar conditions. The co-pilot has only 2. They did not understand all the nuances of the weather conditions that day. Although the captain knew that something was wrong, he did not want to stay in Washington. The collapse was due to a number of decisions taken on this particular crew.


            The Air Florida disaster was a pretext for improved safety in winter flight conditions. After this disaster, airplanes are simply prohibited from taking off if there is something on the wings. This is out of the question. Northern airports have improved de-icing equipment so that pilots can clean up right before takeoff. Following the Air Florida disaster, pilots and controllers have a better understanding of the risks of flying in winter. Unfortunately, it took a crash to pay attention to this aspect. 


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