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Delta 191: When Weather Brought Down a Jumbo Jet

On 2 August 1985, a Delta Air Lines Lockheed L-1011-385-1 Tristar registered N726DA and operating as Delta Flight 191, was approaching Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport runway 17L. The flight had originated at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (KFLL) near Miami in Florida and was ultimately bound for Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX) in California. Delivered to Delta Air Lines on 28 February 1979 and powered by Rolls Royce RB211-22B high bypass turbofan engines, Delta… ( More...

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Such a tragedy. The aircraft came to rest a few hundred yards from the east cargo building just off Hwy 114. Zantop International Airlines cargo facility in that building was used as a temporary morgue in the aftermath. The station manager of Zantop told me that the initial rescue / recovery after the crash was sheer bedlam due the torrential rain.
News reporters were lined up in Zantop's office to use the phone to call in their stories (pre cell phone days). The station manager noticed one gentleman - muddy & soaking wet, patiently standing in line. Turns out he was one of the few survivors, who, dazed & confused had wandered around in the field and finally made his way to the warehouse a few hundred yards away. He was waiting to call his wife to tell her he was all right.
The Zantop A/C maintenance team were assisting with the search for human remains the next day and manually opened the rear bin. Inside they discovered a live dog in a kennel that had survived.
Yes it was the phenom known as microburst, along with weather and pilot factors as mentioned in this article. But let's not forget that the air traffic controller in the DFW tower vectored them into this storm and also slowed this baby up on approach which didn't help either!
sparkie624 1
So True... that plane had a lot working against them.
In 1981, 4 years before the DL Flt 191 accident, I was sitting in the very same Zantop DFW cargo office and noticed large dark clouds to the east and south. Thinking that they would probably bring rain, I started walking the 50 yards out of the warehouse to roll up the windows on my old pickup truck in the parking lot. Just before I got to the truck, I saw huge clouds of dust a quarter mile or so across Hwy 114 headed my way. I ran the last 50 feet to my truck, rolled up the windows, and headed at a trot back toward the warehouse. The wind suddenly hit me in the back and almost blew me down. 50 feet from the warehouse I could see through the building truck side doors to the ramp side. To my surprise I saw a Beech 18 moving rapidly north tail first toward the ramp perimeter fence. As I got closer, another Beech 18, did the same thing. Just as I got into the warehouse, I saw a DC-3 moving tail first toward the fence. I thought what the heck -- and then thought "Oh s____!". We (Zantop) have a DC-8 parked parallel to the perimeter fence and perpendicular to the direction of the runaway aircraft. I got to the ramp side doors and saw the 2 Beech 18's had missed the DC-8 and lodged tail first into the chain link fence. The DC-3 was lodged under the starboard wing of the DC-8. Zantop A/C maintenance was able to dislodge the DC-3 by over servicing the starboard main gear strut and letting some air out of the DC-3 tires. Luckily, just sheet metal damage on both A/C. Needless to say, we made the 6 PM TV news, and that night's flight was canx.
When the DL Flt 191 accident happened, I was working at ATL, and I immediately thought about the 1981 DFW incident that I witnessed. I had never heard the term "microburst", but I'm almost certain that was the weather phenomenon I had seen firsthand. I believe the 3 runaway aircraft were operated by Phillips Aviation. The wind burst bounced the planes out of the chocks and as I remember the parking brakes were not set for some reason.
It's tragic that so many lives were lost because we simply did not recognize or have the technology to pinpoint this weather phenomenon. Five minutes earlier or later and Flt 191 would probably have safely landed at DFW.
I remember that tragedy well as I was working at the airport where I live, and the dispatcher from my carrier called to inform us of the incident and that dfw was closed to traffic...i also remember flying into dfw not long after the crash,and the airport had not yet fixed/painted the large round storage tanks close to the delta hanger,so you could see a partial impact area..there also were still traces of the crash in the grassy areas by the of the cable networks runs a series periodically called "why planes crash", and one of the programs covered the delta incident with real footage,explanations,interviews with survivors and of course,ntsb and faa sad..
sparkie624 1
Such a tragic loss, but I am certainly glad over the years we have learned from it... Micro Bursts can be so very dangerous. At lesat now we can detect them a lot better.


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