What Is The Deadliest Plane Crash In US History?

By Antonia Čirjak on May 3 2020 in Did You Know

The one single plane crash that is generally considered to be the deadliest happened in 1979, and that is the American Airlines Flight 191 crash. 
  • In the American Airlines Flight 191 crash, 273 people were killed, 258 passengers, 13 crew members, and two people that were on the ground.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent government investigative agency in the United States that deals with the investigation of civil transportation accidents.
  • There are multiple chilling photos of the crash taken by Michael Laughlin, a young pilot who was on the terminal with a camera in his hand.

There were several tragic plane crashes throughout the 20th century that left a mark on society. Crashes like Flight 587 in 2001, TWA Flight 800 in 1996, or the Northwest Airlines Flight 255 in 1987 were all impactful and hurtful events that should never be forgotten. However, the one single plane crash that is generally considered to be the deadliest happened in 1979, and that is the American Airlines Flight 191 crash. 

A Tragic Event

The flight was operated by American Airlines and was regularly scheduled. It was a passenger flight going from Chicago to Los Angeles. The airliner model in question was the McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10. The crash happened on May 25th, 1979, when the airplane crashed directly into the ground after taking off from runway 32R on the O’Hare International Airport. 

Every single one of the 258 passengers were killed, as well as the 13 crew members and two people on the ground, bringing the total fatality count to 273. This makes this accident the deadliest plane crash that ever happened in the United States.

How Did It Happen?

The National Transportation Safety Board reported the reason the crash happened. While the plane was beginning its takeoff, the left engine (also known as engine number one) got separated from the wing it was connected to. This made the top of the wing flip over, and it landed on the runway. As the engine got more and more separated from the aircraft itself, which severely damaged the left wing meaning it started to produce less lift than the right wing.

dailyherald.com
  This accident will forever remain ingrained in the memory of the public, largely because the majority of it was captured on film.Image credit: dailyherald.com

This created an imbalance in the aerodynamics of the airplane, which caused it to start rolling over to the left side. The plane continued to climb further into the air, but not for long. Eventually, it could not keep its height anymore, and it crashed. The airplane crashed in an open field next to a trailer park that was close to the runway. The reason why the engine separated was due to the pylon structure connecting it to the wing being faulty. It was attributed to bad maintenance procedures that were being conducted at American Airlines at the time.

Photos That Won’t Let Us Forget

During the time of the accident, the entire crew was following the protocol set by the airline, so there is no way they should be blamed for anything that occurred. One the plane hit the height of around 300 feet, it was too late to do anything because it was completely rolled over to the left side. There is a photo taken from the ground that is sure to send chills down your spine. It shows the airplane flying sideways, on its way to the ground.

The report about the cause of the accident was made less than three months after it happened. It is believed that the chance of this event happening was a “10 billion to 1 long shot”. The pressure in the air was just too strong for the engine that was not repaired as well as it should have been. This accident will forever remain ingrained in the memory of the public, largely because the majority of it was captured on film.

More in Did You Know