American Airlines Flight 1420
American Airlines flight 1420 crashed in Little Rock, Arkansas. The crash killed 11 people, after running off the runway and impacting an approach lighting structure. The causes of the crash are still being investigated but the likely causes include the plane touching down 2000 feet passed the runway threshold, the rapidly deteriorating weather, and a fatigued flight crew.
The American Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-82 carrying 143 passengers attempted a landing in fierce winds just shy of midnight on June 2, 1999. As the flight was en-route to Little Rock the Air Traffic Control (ATC) facility at the Little Rock Airport reported to the pilots that a thunderstorm had moved into the area with strong wind gusts. Despite these reports the flight crew decided to continue on. While the plane was on final, ATC informed the crew of rapidly deteriorating weather and two wind shear alerts. The co-pilot said that they had sight of the runway the entire time they were on final; he said it was like “a bowling alley effect” (Lunsford 1) where they were able to see between the clouds. As the plane touched down things started to go wrong. Immediately after touching down the plane started hydroplaning down the runway. The crew did not feel the typical deceleration forces that are normally associated with the reverse thrusters that are used when landing. With the strong wind on the field the plane started to yaw to the right due to a strong crosswind. After the plane traveled down the remaining 5,000 feet of runway it careened down an embankment and struck an approach lighting structure. The plane then reportedly filled with thick smoke with flames shooting from the rear of the plane. The passengers struggled to get though either the emergency exits or through holes in fuselage that were torn open due to the crash. The rescue effort was also slowed due to power outages on the field. The bay doors for the rescue vehicles needed to be open manually slowing the rescue crews from getting to the plane. Overall a total of 11 people died including Captain Richard W. Bushmann, a 20-year veteran with American Airlines. 83 of the 143 passengers were injured.
The fatigue of the flight crew may have played a major role in the crash. The flight crew was just coming off a 13½ hours shift, which is just shy of the 14-hour limit that has been set in place by the FAA. The fatigue of the flight crew could have seriously hampered their decision-making ability. The pilots of the flight were informed many times of the impending weather hazards. In fact the flight crew were informed of two wind shear alerts as the plane was on final approach. These alerts alone should have indicated to the pilots to terminate the approach and to land at an alternate airport where the weather was not as severe. Due to the amount of time they were in the air that and their anticipation to land the plane may have caused them to...