2 August 1985 - Delta 191

Delta Air Lines Flight 191 was an airline service from Fort Lauderdale, Florida's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, bound for Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, by way of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. On the afternoon of August 2, 1985, Delta Air Lines flight 191 crashed while on a routine approach to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, killing 8 of 11 crew members and 126 of the 152 passengers on board and one person on the ground: a total of 135 deaths. This accident is one of the few commercial air crashes in which the meteorological phenomenon known as microburst-induced windshear was a direct contributing factor.

The airplane used on that day was N726DA, a Lockheed L-1011-385-1 TriStar, a workhorse in Delta's fleet at the time. The flight was piloted by Captain Edward "Ted" Conners, First Officer Rudolph Price and Second Officer Nick Nassick.

As the aircraft flew over Louisiana, a thunderstorm formed directly in its path. The aircraft began its descent procedures over Louisiana, heading over the planned descent route. Captain Conners then recognized the forming thunderstorm and took action to change the plane's heading to avoid the turbulent weather.

At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, weather was also poor and an isolated thunderstorm developed near DFW. The Captain and copilot noticed the isolated storm ahead, but decided to proceed through it anyway, which resulted in the aircraft getting caught up in a microburst.

At about 1500 feet above ground level (460 m), First Officer Price (as heard in the cockpit voice recorder) reported seeing lightning in one of the clouds ahead.

At 800 feet (240 m) above ground level, the airspeed increased without crew intervention. Although the aircraft was supposed to land at 149 knots IAS (276 km/h), its airspeed instead increased to 173 knots IAS (320 km/h). Price tried to stabilize the aircraft's speed, but Conners had recognized the aircraft's speed increase as a sign of wind shear, and he warned Price to watch the speed. Conners told Price, "you're going to lose it all of a sudden, there it is." Suddenly, the airspeed dropped from 173 to 133 knots IAS (320 to 246 km/h), and Price pushed the throttles forward, giving temporary lift. The airspeed then suddenly dropped to 119 knots IAS (220 km/h); on the cockpit voice recording Conners can be heard saying "Hang on to the son of a bitch!" In addition to the sudden tailwind, the aircraft also experienced a downdraft of more than 30 feet per second. This downdraft would reverse itself several times over the final moments of the flight.

As Price struggled to maintain control of the aircraft through rapidly changing wind conditions, it was hit by a sudden sideward gust, causing a rapid roll to the right and an increase in the aircraft's angle of attack. Price attempted to regain control by pushing the aircraft's nose down to avoid a stall, but the severe wind conditions continued to force the airplane towards the ground. Its descent rate reached 5,000 feet per minute at 280 feet above ground level. Price pulled the aircraft's nose up forcefully just before impact as the captain called "TOGA" ("Take Off/Go Around"), reducing the airplane's descent rate to 10 feet per second at the initial touchdown.

Delta Flight 191 first struck the ground on a field about 6,300 feet north of the approach end of runway 17L and bounced back into the air. Then, while crossing State Highway 114, it came down again, with an engine striking a black 1971 Toyota Celica vehicle, killing its occupant, William Hodge Mayberry. The aircraft also struck a highway light pole near its wing root, igniting the wing fuel tank, before skidding onto the airfield in Irving, colliding with two 4-million US gallon (15,000 m³) water tanks at a speed of 220 knots, and exploding into flames. Most of the survivors of Flight 191 were located in the rear section of the aircraft, which broke free from the main fuselage before the aircraft hit the water tanks.

Delta Air Lines Flight 191 has the second highest death toll of any aviation accident involving a Lockheed L-1011 anywhere in the world after Saudia Flight 163.

Download the full NTSB report

Transcript of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR)

CAM - Cockpit area microphone
RDO - Radio transmission from accident aircraft
-1 - Voice (or position) identified as Captain
-2 - Voice (or position) identified as First Officer
-3 - Voice identified as Second officer
-? - Unidentifiable voice
APP = Dallas Approach
TWR = Dallas Tower
* - Unintelligible word
# - Expletive deleted
() - Questionable text

18.02:10 AA539 Three thousand American five thirty nine
18.02:14 CAM-? * * *
18.02:15 APP Delta one ninety one heavy, traffic ten o'clock a mile northbound twenty hundred unverified
18.02:18 RDO-1 Thank you
18.02:23 APP American five thirty nine reduce speed one seven zero, caution wake turbulence you'll be following heavy TriStar
18.02:27 AA539 One seventy on the speed American five thirty nine
18.02:35 APP Delta one ninety one heavy is six miles from the marker, turn left heading one eight zero join the localizer at or above two thousand three hundred cleared for ILS one seven left approach
18.02:43 RDO-1 Deta one niner one roger, all that appreciate it
18.02:46 DL557 Regional approach Delta five fifty seven with you
18.02:48 CAM [Sound of gear warning horn begins five times due to airspeed oscillation about one hundred and eighty knots]
18.02:49 APP Delta five fifty seven approach fly heading two seven zero, expect ILS approach one seven left
18.02:53 CAM [Sound of gear warning horn]
18.02:55 DL557 One seven zero for the left side Delta five fifty six
18.03:03 APP Delta one ninety one heavy, reduce your speed to one six zero please
18.03:06 RDO-1 Be glad to
18.03:08 CAM [Sound of gear warning horn]
18.03:09 CAM-1 One six zero
18.03:10 CAM-2 All right
18.03:11 CAM-1 Localizer and glideslope captured
18.03:12 CAM [Sound of gear warning horn]
18.03:14 APP American five thirty nine turn left two three zero
18.03:16 AA539 Two three zero American five thirty nine
18.03:16 CAM-1 One six zero is your speed
18.03:19 APP Delta five fifty seven reduce speed to one seven zero
18.03:22 DL557 One seventy Delta five fifty seven
18.03:31 APP And we're getting some variable winds out there due to a sh- shower on short out there north end of DFW
18.03:31 APP American five thirty nine turn left to two two zero
18.03:34 CAM-? Stuff is moving in * * *
18.03:35 CAM-? * *
18.03:36 CAM-? * *
18.03:40 CAM [Sound of gear warning and altitude chord]
18.03:43 CAM-1 One six zero's the speed
18.03:45 AA539 Two two zero American five thirty nine
18.03:46 APP Delta one ninety one heavy, reduce speed to one five zero, contact tower one two six five five
18.03:49 RDO-1 One two six five five, you have a nice day, we appreciate your help
18.03:52 APP (Bye)
18.03:53 RDO-? Five eighy six
18.03:58 RDO-1 Tower Delta one ninety one heavy, out here in the rain, feels good
18.04:01 TWR Delta one ninety one heay regiona tower one seven left cleared to land, wind zero nine zero at five gusts to one five
18.04:05 RDO-1 Thank you, sir
18.04:07 CAM-2 Before landing check
18.04:08 CAM-3 Landing gear
18.04:10 CAM-1 Down, three green
18.04:10 TWR American three fifty one, if you can make that next high speed there, pull up behind Delta and hold short of one seven right this frequency
18.04:11 CAM-3 Fourteen green
18.04:12 CAM-1 Thirty three, thirty three, green light
18.04:15 CAM-3 Fourteen green
18.04:15 AA351 Three fifty one
18.04:18 CAM-2 Lightning coming out of that one
18.04:19 CAM-1 What?
18.04:21 CAM-2 Lightning coming out of that one
18.04:22 CAM-1 Where?
18.04:23 CAM-2 Right ahead of us
18.04:29 RDO [Sound of open microphone]
18.04:30 CAM-3 You get good legs don't ya
18.04:30 TWR Delta ten sixty one cross one seven right without delay ground point six five after you cross
18.04:36 DL1061 Crossing seventeen right Delta ten sixty one
18.04:38 TWR Three fifty one cross one seven right ground point six five after you cross
18.04:39 CAM-2 [Garbled comment override by radio]
18.04:41 CAM-1 I don't have a DME on mine
18.04:43 CAM-2 I don't know, you haven't had it for the last five minutes
18.04:45 TWR Delta nine sixty three and American six nineteen cross one seen right ground point six five after you cross
18.04:51 AA619 American six nineteen
18.04:52 DL963 Nine six three roger
18.04:54 TWR Three fifty one did you copy to cross
18.04:55 AA351 Yes sir we're on the way American three fifty one
18.04:57 TWR Thank you
18.05:04 CAM-? Wash that off a little bit
18.05:05 CAM-1 A thousand feet
18.05:08 CAM-1 Seven sixty two in the baro
18.05:12 CAM-1 I'll call 'em for you
18.05:13 CAM-2 Aw right
18.05:14 AA178 You want American one seventy eight to turn the corner?
18.05:16 TWR Yes sir, everybody around the corner when you're number one
18.05:19 CAM-1 Watch your speed
18.05:20 CAM [Sound similar to rain begins and continues to impact]
18.05:20 TWR American one fifty six contact departure, good day
18.05:21 CAM-1 You're gonna lose it all of a sudden, there it is
18.05:22 AA156 American one fifty six, so long
18.05:26 CAM-1 Push it up, push it way up
18.05:27 CAM-1 Way up
18.05:28 CAM-3 Way up
18.05:29 CAM-1 Way up
18.05:29 CAM [Sound of engines high RPM]
18.05:30 CAM-1 That's it
18.05:35 RDO [Sound of microphone keying]
18.05:36 TWR American six twenty two cleared for takeoff
18.05:36 CAM-1 Hang on the # #
18.05:38 AA622 Cleared for takeoff American six twenty two
18.05:39 CAM-2 (What's vee ref?)
18.05:40 TWR Five eight six into position one seven right
18.05:44 GPWS Whoop whoop pull up
18.05:44 AA586 Into position and hold five eighty six
18.05:44 CAM [Garbled sound]
18.05:45 CAM-1 Toga
18.05:46 CAM-? * *
18.05:46 TWR November one five juliot fox can you make the ah we'll expedite down to the ah taxi thirty one and a right turn off the traffics a mile final
18.05:46 CAM [Sound of radio altimeters]
18.05:46 GPWS Whoop whoop pull up (sound of GPWS is distributed evenly and continously)
18.05:47 CAM-? Push it way up
18.05:48 GPWS Whoop whoop pull up
18.05:49 GPWS Whoop whoop pull up
18.05:52 CAM [Sound of noise similar to landing; sound of takeoff warning horn. The sound continues for 1.6 seconds]
18.05:53 N15JF Juliot fox roger
18.05:53 CAM-? #
18.05:55.5 CAM-? Oh # [second impact]
18.05:56 TWR Delta go around
18.05:57   End of recording