Flight 191 - History Channel Documentary

Member for

20 years 1 month

Posts: 920

The History Channel ran a documentary last night, one that I’m sure has been around the houses a number of times and one that is certain to be repeated. The documentary is a two-hour one-off and is entitled “The Crash of Flight 191”.

The vast majority of us on here will be familiar with the AA191 story, but this documentary goes to major lengths to explain the reasons behind the accident, and how those reasons changed as the investigation progressed.

AA191 was being operated by a DC-10 in May 1979 and was set to depart Chicago for Los Angeles on a perfectly warm and sunny holiday afternoon. On take-off roll, the left engine pylon detaches from the wing and takes a chunk of the wing with it. The DC-10 gets airborne but the aircraft quickly becomes un-controllable and within seconds of lift off, crashes into the ground killing all on board, nearly 300 people.

The DC-10 by this time had quite a notorious history in the eyes of the public and this accident, the biggest of its kind in U.S. history, did nothing to avert the bad press. The investigation quickly became a battle ground between the airline and McDonnell Douglas.

The NTSB investigator at the time delivered a press conference confirming the find of a broken bolt on the runway. It was believed this bolt broke and caused the pylon to detach. This press conference took place just days after the accident and was almost immediately identified the cause and focussed the eyes of world on McDonnell Douglas.

This was all premature however. The documentary shows as much the errors of the initial investigation as it does the reasons behind the accident. Within weeks evidence was found of maintenance practices within AA that may have been responsible for the accident. According to the programme, McD stated that the engine should be removed from the pylon before the pylon was removed from the wing in their standard maintenance procedures. However AA (and other DC-10 operators) removed the pylon with the engine still attached, which if balances weren’t completely set right, caused massive stress on the bolts and fittings.

The programme went on to explore the wing design, as when part of the wing came off, both primary and secondary hydraulics were torn apart, meaning the pilots had little chance of controlling the aircraft.

I won’t go into any more detail but if anyone wants to find out more, a browse through www.airdisaster.com should give a greater insight.

For those interested in seeing the programme, keep an eye on History Channel listings over the coming weeks, as the programme is sure to be repeated.

Fascinating, enlightening and incredibly un-nerving viewing.

Original post