Texas International Airlines Flight 655, registration N94230, was a Convair 600 en route from Memphis, Tennessee, to Dallas, Texas via Pine Bluff, Arkansas; El Dorado, and Texarkana that crashed into Black Fork Mountain, Arkansas on the night of September 27, 1973. The 8 passengers and 3 crewmembers were killed.
While the plane was on the ground in El Dorado the crew consulted with Flight Service Station staff and another set of pilots about a line of thunderstorms 35 nm to the west. After confirming there was a 15 nm wide break in the storm the crew departed at night under visual flight rules (VFR). After departing El Dorado no contact was made with any controllers en route. When the plane was overdue at Texarkana search and rescue was notified. Despite an extensive search along the proposed route of flight no wreckage was found. A controller at the Fort Worth air traffic control center advised the searchers that he had observed an unidentified VFR target departing El Dorado to the northwest before the plane went missing. With this information the wreckage was found after 3 days of searching. There were no survivors.
The cockpit voice recorder later revealed the First Officer was flying the plane while the Captain advised him of headings and altitudes to take to navigate around the storm. The Captain deviated the plane 100 nm to the north in an attempt to go around it. The First Officer expressed concern that he did not know their position and what the terrain clearance was for the area. After the Captain ordered him to descend to 2,000 feet he consulted an en route instrument chart. He alerted the captain they were too low saying, "Minimum en route altitude here is forty-four hun.." At that point the recorder cut off as the plane impacted Black Fork Mountain.
The wreckage was found three days later.
The NTSB investigation concluded that the crew did not discuss the details of their intended route with Flight Service or activate the instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan forwarded from the airline dispatch to Flight Service. If they had been operating under instrument flight rules they would have been radar tracked or required to make position reports to air traffic control en route. Under visual flight rules they would only need to maintain contact with a controller while in controlled airspace. In this area of rural Arkansas there was no controlled airspace below 18,000 feet. Further according to Federal Aviation Regulations the airline dispatcher should have been notified the flight was proceeding VFR. The Captain also could have contacted controllers in Fort Worth to open their flight plan or receive radar vectoring in the area. From the conversation of the crew on the recorder the board concluded the flight encountered instrument weather conditions during the flight and was likely in instrument weather conditions when it crashed. The board concluded that the cause of the accident was the Captain's decision to continue flying into instrument weather at night. Also not taking advantage of the nearby navigational aids to get a fix on their position. Lastly his decision to descend despite the First Officer's concerns about position and terrain.
Download the full NTSB report
Transcript of the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR)
CAM Cockpit area microphone
RDO Transmissions from unknown source
-1 Voice identified as Captain
-2 Voice identified as First Officer
-? Voice unidentified
# Wonpertinent word
% Break in continuity
( ) Questionable text
(( )) Editorial insertion
. . . Pause
Note: All times expressed in elapsed time
TIME & SOURCE CONTENT
CAM-1 That might not be a hole there
CAM-2 We know shortly
CAM-2 It sorta looks like twenty-four miles to the end, I
Don't mind, do you?
CAM-1 I don't care, just as long as we don't go through it
CAM-2 Looks a little strange through there, looks like
something attenuating through there
CAM-2 It's shadow
CAM-1 Yeah, looks like a shadow
CAM-1 Is that better?
CAM-2 Naw, I don't care
CAM-X Suit yourself
CAM-2 Well, I don't know, looks a little light in here, this
Thing hits your eyeballs pretty hard
CAM-2 That's right
CAM-1 That's what I'm holding this thing for
CAM-2 That's all right, it doesn't hurt if she's bright
CAM-1 As long as you've got it
CAM-2 See something?
CAM-1 I think it's snow
CAM-2 I still think that's 3 shadow
CAM-2 I do, too
CAM-2 Wanna go around?
CAM-1 Yeah, why not
CAM-2 All right
CAM-1 I'd slow it up a little bit too
CAM-1 Good change
CAM-2 Whata we got, decreasing (ground pickup)
CAM-1 I did't hear you
CAM-2 The visibility is dropping
CAM-1 Raining (all over the place)
Note Two one Alpha, roger ((radio transmission heard on
RDO-1 and 2, source unknown))
CAM-1 You got something down there
CAM-2 The other one's a rain data, look at it
CAM-1 Yeah, it's probably getting ground clutter down there
CAM-1 That's ground
CAM-2 What's all this, lights, in those fields? What the # are
They, chicken farms?
CAM-2 God Almighty
CAM-2 They're planning on growing a few eggs, ain't they
CAM-1 Yep, that's what they are
CAM Sound of ambient noise increases
CAM-2 What the # have I got there, ya know?
10:18.5 I thought the end of that line was way back down
over there, now
CAM-2 #, keeps growing on us
CAM-1 No, not really
CAM-2 It'sa real cute lil'old curlycue, ain't it?
CAM-1 Yeah, ha, ha
CAM-1 There's not much to that, but we gatta stay away from
It cause we'll be vee, IFR
CAM-2 #, I can't get this # stupid radar * *
CAM-2 You got any idea where we're at?
CAM-1 Yeah, two sixteen'11 take us right to the VOR
CAM-2 Two, ah
CAM-1 Two oh nine, I got
CAM-1 I'm not concerned with that, I could care less
CAM-1 I guess you're right. That, that is just extending on
and on and on as we go along 'cause it hasn't moved in
about three or four miles in the last thirty minutes,
it seems like
CAM-1 I guess it's building up that way (now)
CAM Sound of whistling
CAM-1 What's Hot Springs?
Note Hello there Dallas, this is nine, uh ((radio transmission
Heard on RW-1 and RDO-2, source unknown))
CAM-1 What Hot Springs VOR? Is it ten zero? Is that right?
CAM-2 Yeah, yeah, uh, that's right
CAM-2 We don't want to get too far op the # # # # it gets hilly
CAM-1 Yeah, . . . stars are shining
CAM-1 Why don't you try two thousand?
CAM-1 if we get up here anywhere near Hot Springs, we get in
the # mountains
CAM-2 Uh, you reckon there's a ridge line along here somewhere?
CAM-? * *
CAM-2 Go down five hundred feet, you can see all kindsa lights
CAM-(2) Let's go ahead and try for twenty-five hundred
CAM-1 All right
CAM-1 Fred, you can quit worrying about the mountains 'cause
that'll clear everything over there
CAM-2 That's why I wanted to go to twenty-five hundred feet
CAM-2 That's the Hot Springs highway right here, I think
CAM-1 You 'bout right
CAM-2 Texarkan . . . . naw, it aint't either
CAM-2 #, Texarkana's back here
CAM-1 Texarkana's back over here, somewhere
CAM-2 This ain't no Hot Spring highway
CAM-1 Well thirty degrees . . . thirty degrees takes you right
to Texarkana doesn't it? Hot Springs . . . here we are
CAM-2 How we doin'on that # # # # ? Look how we're gainin
on the ground
CAM-1 I don't know, Fred, still we keep getting'another one
popping' up every time . . . every time
CAM-2 If we keep this up indefinitely, well be in Tulsa
CAM-1 I haven't been in Tula in years
CAM-2 ((Laugh)) ha, ha, ha
CAM-2 The last time I was with Gen Duke, he said go whichever
way you want to. I was going out of Abilene going to
Dallas, took up a heading zero one zero and flew for about
Forty-five minutes, and he said, Fred, you can't keep going
on this, on this heading. I said why. He said, #, you
gonna be in Oklahoma pretty soon. I said don't care
if I'm in Oklahoma. He said, fair enough
CAM-2 How'd I get all this # speed?
CAM-1 You're all right
CAM-2 (Pile it on) we'll keep this speed here?
CAM-1 A little while
CAM-2 There ain't no lights on the ground over there
CAM-1 Yeah, I see ém behind us
CAM-1 See stars above us
CAM-2 I got some lights on the ground
CAM-1 'here's just not many out here
CAM-2 Maybe . . . could be something 'else, coach
CAM-1 Aha, we're getting' rid of the clouds
CAM-1 We'ís in the clouds, Fred
CAM-2 Are we?
CAM-1 No, we're not
CAM-1 I can see above us
CAM-2 We got (ground) up ahead?
CAM-1 I can see the ground here
CAM-2 Yeah, I can see the ground down here, too
CAM-1 Yeah * * *
CAM-1 North is a fair heading, north
CAM-2 Now, what have we got here?
CAM-1 Naw, you're all right, I can see some lights over here
CAM-2 I'll tell ya what, coach . . .
CAM-2 That's probably Hot Spring
CAM-1 Yep, could be
CAM-1 Yeah, that might be either it or Arkadelphia
CAM-2 Well I'm getting out of the clouds here Mac, but I'm
getting right straight into it
CAM-1 Oh, looks like you're all right
CAM-2 Do you see any stars above us?
CAM-2 We're going in and outta some scud
CAM-1 Yeah, we've got a little bit here
CAM-2 I sure wish I know where the # we were
CAM-1 Well, I tell you what, we're, ah, on the two fifty . . .
Two sixty radial from, ah, Hot Springs
CAM Heavy static
CAM-2 Figure I can kick her on up here, maybe I can outrun it
CAM-1 I don't, I don't think you can get up
CAM-2 Well, I, I got the # thing pointed almost straight up to
see what we got out here
CAM-2 Paintin'ridges and everything else boss and I'm not familiar
with the terrain
CAM-2 We're staying in the clouds
CAM-1 Yeah, I'd stay down. You're right in the (some) right
in the base of the clouds
CAM-1 I tell you what, we're gonna be able to turn here in a minute
CAM-2 You wanna go through there?
CAM-2 All right
CAM-2 Good, looking good, Mac. Looking good
CAM-1 That's all right, wait a minute
CAM-2 Well, I can't even get, ah, Texarkana any more
CAM-1 I'll tell you what, Fred
CAM-2 'Kay, boss
CAM-1 Well, ah, we'll just try that, we'll try it. We're gonna
be in the rain pretty soon. It's only about two miles wide
CAM-2 You tell me where you want me to go
CAM-1 Okay, give me a heading of, ah, three forty
CAM-2 Three forty?
CAM-1 Three forty
CAM-1 Steady on
CAM-1 We got ten miles to go 'n' we're gonna turn . . .
CAM-1 To the left about, ah, 'bout fifty degrees
CAM-2 Won't me to turn, did ya say fifty?
CAM-1 Yeah, fifty left
CAM-1 On about, uh, two ninety
CAM-2 Two ninety
CAM-1 Ya got six miles to turn
CAM-1 Three miles south of turn
CAM-2 We're in it
CAM-2 We're in solid, now
CAM-1 Are we?
CAM-2 Hold it
CAM-1 Start your turn . . . standard rate
CAM-1 Level out and let me see it . . . when you hit two ninety
CAM-2 Aw, okay
CAM-2 There's your two ninety
CAM-1 Steady on
CAM-1 Should hit in about a half a mile. Should be out of it
in 'bout two miles
CAM-1 You're in it
CAM-1 Are you through it?
CAM-1 Turn thirty left
CAM-2 I can see the ground, now
CAM-2 There's thirty left
CAM-2 Naw, that's thirty-five #
CAM-1 Keep on trucking, just keep on a-trucking
ÇAM-2 Well, we must be somewhere in Oklahoma
CAM-1 Doin'all the good in the world
CAM-2 Do you lave any idea of what the frequency of the Paris
CAM Nope, don't realy give a #
CAM-1 Put, uh, about two sixty-five, heading two sixty-five
CAM-2 Heading, two sixty-five
CAM-2 I would say we # up
CAM-1 Think so?
CAM-1 Didn't we?
CAM-1 Fred, descend to two thousand
CAM-1 Two thousand, coming down
CAM-2 Here we are, we're not out of it
CAM-1 Let's truck on
CAM-1 'bout five to the right
CAM-1 Shift over a little bit if you can
CAM-1 Sure can
CAM-1 That's all right
CAM-2 Right #
CAM-1 That all right, you're doing' all the good in the world
CAM-1 I thought we'd get, I thought it was moving that way on me
Only, we just kinda turned a little bit while you was look-
ing the map
CAM-1 First time I've ever made a mistake in my life
CAM-2 I'll be #. Man, I wish I know where we were so we'd have
Some idea of the general # terrain around this # place
CAM-1 I know what it is
CAM-2 what ?
CAM-1 That the highest point out there is about twelve hundred feet
CAM-2 (That right) ?
CAM-1 The whole general area, and then we're not even where that
Is, I don't believe
CAM-2 I'll tell you what, as long as we travel northwest instead
of west, and I still can't get Paris
CAM-1 Go ahead and look at it
CAM-1 Two hundred and fifty, we're about to pass over Page VOR
CAM-2 You know where that is?
CAM-2 All right
CAM-1 About a hundred and eighty degrees to Texarkana
CAM-2 About a hundred and fifty two
CAM-2 Minimum en route altitude is forty-four hund . . .
33:42.0 Sound of impact