Dr.DTW From United States of America, joined May 2000, 289 posts, RR: 1 Posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 30278 times:
It was 19 years ago today August 16, 1987, that Northwest Airlines flight 255 crashed on takeoff from DTW at 8:46PM. The MD-80 was airborne for only 14 seconds, before crashing on Middlebelt Road, near the I-94 overpass, at the north end of the airport. The aircraft was filled to capacity, with 149 passengers, and 6 crew. Amazingly, a 4 year-old girl survived the crash, with third degree burns over 30 percent of her body. 156 people were killed, including two people on the ground, who were motorists on Middlebelt Road.
At the time of the accident, it was the second worst air disaster in US history; second only to AA 191 at ORD, 8 years earlier. The fact that more people on the ground weren't killed, is a miracle. The aircraft crashed into a major intersection, and right under Interstate 94. Restuarants, lodging facilities and neighborhoods are all in very close proximity.
I grew up at this airport, and I always spotted at the parking lot right next to the departure runway, 3-Center (now 4-left). My brothers and I frequently watched aircraft departing 3/21-Center that summer, but on that night, we weren't there. I can't imagine what it would have been like, to watch such a tragedy. I was 14 years old at the time of the crash, and I remember that night like it was yesterday.
I live only 6 miles from the crash site, and drive by it every day on my to work. There is a memorial for the crash victims, just yards from the impact site. It is just adjacent to the eastbound ramp of I-94, off northbound Middlebelt Road.
I almost can't believe it's been that long. I was not living in the Detroit area at the time, but did end up living in one of the suburbs from 1996-2001, and flew out of DTW on numerous occasions. I also remember seeing the still-present burn scar on the I-94 bridge over Middlebelt.
A friend of mine, who still resides in the area, is a now-retired Wayne County, Michigan deputy sheriff. He was called to the scene that day, and told me that it was a sight he never wanted to see again.
May they all continue to rest in peace, and may the surviving families continue to be comforted.
N702ML From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 5, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 29916 times:
Just a few side notes....
IIRC, in the first few days after this horrible accident, the media was circulating a story that the cause may have been internal company sabotage to the aircraft resulting from hostility between Northwest and Republic work groups. This theory was, of course, later dismissed.
I also recall reading that the following week, a record number of Michigan lottery players bet on the number "255" in the weekly lottery drawing. The story in our local newspaper was titled: "Goulish Lottery Players Bet On Doomed Flight Number."
Not trying to be tacky 19 years later, but just posting a few of the things I recall from that time.
Jasond From Australia, joined Jul 2009, 23 posts, RR: 0 Reply 7, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 29830 times:
Much respect to you for keeping the candle burning for the victims of this tragedy. Official cause of accident appeared to be failure of the flight crew to configure the aircraft for take-off. Thats my recollection of it anyway.
Iowa744fan From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 928 posts, RR: 2 Reply 8, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 29803 times:
For those who don't recall this accident:
In a nutshell - from what I remember - the aircraft as mentioned was an MD-80 that was flying from DTW to SNA. Apparantly, the aircraft was delayed and was trying to get off the ground to beat the curfew into SNA. I think that the official ruling was pilot error as the flaps were not set correctly (if not the flaps, then something was not set correctly) and the aircraft wasn't able to get the lift that it needed. Needless to say, it crashed in the suburb of Romulus (am I spelling that correctly?) killing 156 people.
It was one of the 8 MD-80s that Northwest got from the Republic merger. In fact, Northwest got their whole fleet of DC-9s at that time from the merger (they have since purchased additional DC-9s from outside sources).
If SNA was involved in the routing of that aircraft it had to have been continuing on from PHX. I was living in PHX at the time and it was a non-stop flight from DTW to PHX with mostly Phoenix area residents on board.
Junction From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 766 posts, RR: 0 Reply 12, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 29729 times:
One other thing I can remember about this crash is it was deemed so tragic an event that even The Weather Channel covered it live. A very unusual action for that network.
Also, the A/C involved was in complete Republic Airlines livery except for the red tail. Several RC acquired MD80s kept a hybrid livery with NW for a few years after the merger.
Barney Captain From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 763 posts, RR: 14 Reply 13, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 29672 times:
Quoting Junction (Reply 10): If SNA was involved in the routing of that aircraft it had to have been continuing on from PHX. I was living in PHX at the time and it was a non-stop flight from DTW to PHX with mostly Phoenix area residents on board.
True. I was a gate agent working flights in PHX (for a different carrier) at the adjacent gate where 255 was to arrive. Most people got the word before they left home to pick up loved ones, some, did not. A very traumatic evening to say the least. The concourse was sealed off and the Delta Crown Room was used as a place of refuge for those poor souls. The media was an absolute disgrace (my apologies to those of you who may be in the media - I realize you're not all like the ones that night). One poor man came up to me sobbing. He told me that as he was getting out of his car, a reporter with a camera rolling asked who he was there to meet (his wife) and where she was coming from (DTW). The reporter then "informed" this shocked man that his wife had been killed in a plane crash. Turns out, she was on a different flight. Nice.
As I recall, there was one miracle survivor that night, a baby approx 18 months of age.
As someone else posted -thanks for keeping the candle burning
Lincoln From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 3887 posts, RR: 8 Reply 14, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 29672 times:
Quoting Iowa744fan (Reply 8): I think that the official ruling was pilot error as the flaps were not set correctly (if not the flaps, then something was not set correctly)
IIRC, the report found that the aircraft was incorrectly configured for takeoff, but a contributing factor was that there was no power (tripped circuit breaker or something) to the system that was suposed to warn the pilots that the aircarft was improperly configured.
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Spacecadet From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 3277 posts, RR: 14 Reply 18, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 29586 times:
Quoting Quickmover (Reply 15): If they had enough speed and power to get off the ground without flaps, then after 14 seconds in the air, why didn't they have enough speed to continue?
With no flaps, they made a very late liftoff with a very low rate of climb - remember, they were fully loaded. The runway they were using was fairly short, if I remember correctly (I believe it has been lengthened now), which would have been fine had they set the flaps properly but didn't leave them much room for error.
They clipped several tall light poles in a parking lot just past the end of the runway, which caused further drag on one of the wings. They then rolled uncontrollably and crashed.
If not for the light poles, they may have been able to stabilize the climb and gather enough speed to remain in the air. But don't go blaming the poles for the crash; the cause of the crash was the failure to set the flaps properly with a contributing factor being the warning system that didn't work correctly (it's been a while since I read this report; I think there was some weird issue with the warning system that caused it to fail to sound under certain circumstances. I don't think it was strictly an electrical problem, but I'm not sure if I'm remembering it right).
As for the 4 year old girl, she's all grown up now... but apparently leads a very private life and does not want to talk about the crash. (And she's perfectly entitled to that.)
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Quickmover From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 2464 posts, RR: 0 Reply 19, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 29562 times:
Quoting Spacecadet (Reply 18): With no flaps, they made a very late liftoff with a very low rate of climb - remember, they were fully loaded. The runway they were using was fairly short, if I remember correctly (I believe it has been lengthened now), which would have been fine had they set the flaps properly but didn't leave them much room for error.
I know this is a what if, but here goes. If they detected the flaps were not down say late in the take off roll, could they have set them at the end of the runway or right after take off? I know the flaps drop slowly, but would they have dropped fast enough to make a difference?
Cpharris5514 From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 170 posts, RR: 0 Reply 20, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 29552 times:
Quoting Jasond (Reply 7): Official cause of accident appeared to be failure of the flight crew to configure the aircraft for take-off. Thats my recollection of it anyway.
That's what I recall, and I've also heard that a possible reason for that (not to excuse it, just a reason) was that the flight was running somewhat late, and wanted to get to SNA before that airport's curfew for turbojets at the time (10:30pm? 11:00p?). In short, the cockpit crew may have been "looking ahead" and computing if they were going to make that curfew once they got off the ground in PHX. Probably all of us have "rushed" something, only to experience the consequences. Sadly, this one was fatal . . . times 156.
Bridogger6 From United States of America, joined Apr 2005, 710 posts, RR: 11 Reply 21, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 29524 times:
It's so weird... I was only one at the time but I had a ticket book on this flight for the DTW-PHX segment, a segment I have flown many times with NW. Anyway, my parents decided they wanted to fly out on a Wednesday instead of a Sunday evening, and paid change fees and all to take the later flight. Scary stuff!
Spacecadet From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 3277 posts, RR: 14 Reply 22, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 29499 times:
Quoting Quickmover (Reply 19): I know this is a what if, but here goes. If they detected the flaps were not down say late in the take off roll, could they have set them at the end of the runway or right after take off?
I'm no pilot but I think they could have, but it's totally hypothetical. Their problem was, because of the warning system not working, they didn't know what was going on. Unless they had spontaneously realized their mistake, they had no reason to think their takeoff settings weren't already correct. And no pilot is going to go randomly pulling levers to try to correct things that they think are correct to begin with.
If the warning system was working correctly, they would have known the flaps were incorrectly set before the takeoff roll. So it wouldn't have been an issue. Without the warning system, they would never have known the problem except by total chance even after liftoff. They'd have to have the time to stabilize the flight, then they'd go through a checklist again to see why their takeoff roll was so screwy and then they'd probably discover the error. But again, that's back to assuming those light poles weren't there, which they were.
Hypothetically, most crashes could have been prevented any number of ways. I think realizing the error and setting the flaps during the takeoff roll (assuming it's after the abort point) would probably be the least likely and least reliable way they could have done it, though.
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