Delta Air Lines Flight 191

Delta Air Lines Flight 191

CG render of N726DA
Accident summary
Date August 2, 1985
Type Pilot error/wind shear/microburst
Site Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Texas
Passengers 152
Crew 11
Injuries 28
Fatalities 137
Survivors 29
Aircraft type Lockheed L-1011-385-1 TriStar
Operator Delta Air Lines
Tail number N726DA
Flight origin Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
Stopover Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport
Destination Los Angeles International Airport

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 Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, killing 8 of 11 crew members, 126 of 152 passengers on board, and one person on the ground. Two people also died more than 30 days after the crash, bringing the total fatalities to 137. This accident is one of the few commercial airline crashes in which the meteorological phenomenon known as microburst-induced wind shear was a direct contributing factor.



A Delta Air Lines L-1011

The accident aircraft was N726DA a Lockheed L-1011-385-1 TriStar, a workhorse in Delta's fleet at the time. N726DA was only six years old, having been delivered to Delta in 1979. The flight was piloted by Captain Edward "Ted" Connors, First Officer Rudolph "Rudy" Price and Second Officer Nick Nassick.[1]


NTSB map indicating locations of passengers according to lack of injury, types of injuries, and deaths

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 Connors 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 had developed in the vicinity of the airport. The flight crew noticed the isolated storms ahead, but decided to proceed through them anyway, which resulted in the aircraft getting caught in a microburst.

At about 1,500 feet (460 m) above ground level, First Officer Price mentioned to Captain Connors that he saw lightning in one of the clouds ahead.

At about 800 feet (240 m) above ground level, the aircraft's airspeed increased significantly 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 Connors had recognized the aircraft's speed increase as a sign of wind shear, and he warned Price to watch the speed. Connors told Price, "You're going to lose it all of a sudden ... there it is." Suddenly, the aircraft's 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 Connors 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.

External audio
Cockpit Voice Recorder audio recording from

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.

The aircraft first struck the ground in a field about 6,300 feet north of the approach end of runway 17L and bounced back into the air. While crossing State Highway 114 it came down again, one of its engines striking a black 1971 Toyota Celica. The vehicle's occupant, William Hodge Mayberry, was killed instantly. 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 and exploding into flames. Most of the survivors of Flight 191 were located in the rear smoking section of the aircraft, which broke free from the main fuselage before the aircraft hit the water tanks. Authorities took most of the survivors to Parkland Memorial Hospital.[1]

Two of the passengers who initially survived the impact died more than thirty days after the accident. On the ground, an employee of an airline who assisted in rescuing survivors was hospitalized overnight for chest and arm pains.[2]

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.


Numerous public safety agencies responded to the crash including the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Department of Public Safety, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Irving Fire Department, the Irving Police Department and all available third watch personnel from the Dallas Police Department's Northwest Patrol Division and the Northeastern Sector of the Fort Worth Police Department's Patrol Division.

After a long investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board deemed the cause of the crash to be attributable to pilot error, combined with extreme weather phenomena associated with microburst-induced wind shear.[2][3]

The NTSB attributed the accident to lack of the ability to detect microbursts aboard aircraft - the radar equipment aboard aircraft at the time was unable to detect wind changes, only thunderstorms. After the investigation, NASA researchers at Langley Research Center modified a Boeing 737-200 as a testbed for an on-board Doppler weather radar. The resultant airborne wind shear detection and alert system was installed on many commercial airliners in the United States after the FAA mandated that all commercial aircraft must have on-board windshear detection systems.[4]


The crash of Delta Flight 191 was later the subject of a television movie called Fire and Rain.

The crash of Delta Flight 191 was also shown on an episode of When Weather Changed History on The Weather Channel and in the British air accident series Black Box.

"Invisible Killer" (also known as "Slammed to the Ground") of Mayday (Air Crash Investigation or Air Emergency) on Discovery Channel Canada and National Geographic dramatized the disaster, and it was also shown on another Mayday episode, American Airlines Flight 1420.

The flight number "191" has been associated with numerous crashes and incidents over the years, including the deadliest crash in United States History. It has even prompted some airlines to discontinue the use of this number. See Flight 191 (disambiguation) for more information.


In 2010 (25 years after the accident), a memorial was installed at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport's Founders Plaza.[5]


  • Don Estridge, known to the world as the father of the IBM PC, died aboard the flight along with his wife, Mary Ann,[6] two IBM summer interns, and six additional family members of IBM employees.[7]
  • The August 26, 1985 issue of Jet magazine (page 7) reported that Jean Hancock, sister of famed jazz musician Herbie Hancock, died aboard the flight as well. She was 41 years old.

See also

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External links

Coordinates: 32°55′06″N 97°01′25″W / 32.91833°N 97.02361°W / 32.91833; -97.02361

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