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September 09, 1994 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-09-09

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12 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 9, 1994
131 die in USAir crash outside Pittsburgh.

jetliner nose-dived into a ravine while
trying to land nearPittsburgh last night,
killing all 131 people on board. It was
the deadliest crash in the United States
in seven years.
Flight 427 originated in Chicago
and was to stop in Pittsburgh before
continuing to West Palm Beach, Fla.
"I looked up and there it was," said
Tom Michel, who was at a gas station
near the crash site. "It was just coming
straight down. I was screaming for
everybody to run. It looked like it was
under full power and he just went
straight in."
Air traffic controllers said they lost
contact with the plane when it was
about seven miles from the airport,
said Pat Boyle, a spokesperson for the
Allegheny County Department of
There were no indications of any
problems on the flight and a report of
an explosion before the crash could
"not be confirmed.
Michel said there was a "big
boom and the sky lit up. There was

black smoke everywhere and that
was it."
Witnesses reported a gruesome
carnage in a clearing on a heavily
wooded ravine.
"All we saw was body parts hang-
ing from the trees," said Denise
Godich, a nurse who was one of the
first at the scene. "There were people
everywhere. You could just see parts
of them."
Another eyewitness said pieces of
plane and baggage were scattered
throughout the area.
"We have done a fairly extensive
search of the area and there are no
survivors," declared Jim Eichenlaub,
the manager of Hopewell Township
and coordinator of emergency ser-
vices at the scene.
The plane's black box, which
records flight data, was recovered, he
Emergency crews put out the fire
and the search was called off about
two hours after the crash. The area
was sealed off for the night, but off-
road vehicles were spotted heading to

the crash site.
The Boeing 737 was carrying 126
passengers and a crew of five, said
Dave Shipley, a spokesperson for the
Drucella Anderson, a spokesper-
son for the Federal Aviation Admin-
istration, said the plane had 126 pas-
senger and six crew.
The plane went down shortly after
7 p.m. in a Hopewell Township field
about seven miles from the airport,
which is 20 miles northwest of Pitts-
Linda Jones said she was standing
on her porch when she saw the plane
turn to the right, turn over once or
twice, and go down behind some trees.
People gathered in airports at Chi-
cago and West Palm Beach, Fla.,
waited with concern yesterday for
word of friends and relatives after a
plane went down yesterday, killing
all 131 people on board.
There was little information re-
leased, and passengers and personnel
traded what scant information they


Kelly King of Hopewell, Pa., holds a piece of burnt rubber that she said was from a plane tire near the crash site.


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USAir grapples with
accident aftershocks

The Baltimore Sun
It was a perfect night to fly, clear
and calm, a far cry from the raging
thunderstorms that whipped through
Charlotte-Douglas (N.C.) Interna-
tional Airport just 66 days ago.
Yet mysteriously, the Boeing 737-
300 nosedived just moments from
landing in Pittsburgh, leaving those
who take scant comfort in weather-
related disasters mystified.
For USAir, it was the fifth crash
in almost exactly five years, a dismal
record even for an airline whose jets
take off 2,500 times a day at more
than 200 airports around the world
and carry nearly 54 million passen-
gers a year.
Coming just two months after the
last wreck, last night's disaster ap-
pears to be the closest crash sequence
for any commercial airline in recent
aviation history.
Three of the USAir crashes -
including last night's and the Char-
lotte crash - involved Boeing 737s.
But USAir and others were quick to
discount the likelihood that the air-
craft most frequently used by the
Arlington, Va.-based airlineis aprob-
"There's no question that the 737
is a completely safe airplane," USAir
spokesman Dave Shipley told CNN
news. "We operate a lot of them as do
a lot of airlines around the world."
Indeed, of the airline's 450 jets,
about 150 are the Boeing 300 series
that seats about 140 passengers.
Shipley also denied reports that
USAir was being investigated for
maintenance concerns about the 737.
"I have never heard that allegation."
Since 1989, the United States'
sixth largest airline has experienced
five crashes beginning with a 737
that skidded off the runway at
LaGuardia Airport in New York on
Sept.20 that year, killing two people.
On Feb. 1, 1991, a USAir jet and
a commuter plane collided on Los
Angeles airport runway; 34 people
were killed. The airline was found
not at fault in that crash.
A USAir plane crashed March
22, 1992, on takeoff in a snowstorm
at La Guardia Airport in New York.
Twenty-seven people were killed. In
both La Guardia crashes, the airline
or its pilots were blamed by the Na-

tional Transportation Safety Board.
On July 2, a USAirjetliner crashed
in a thunderstorm near the Charlotte--
Douglas International Airport in North
Carolina, killing 37 of the 57 people
on board. Windshear, a dangerous
condition that occurs when winds
suddenly shift direction, is suspected
as the cause although the NTSB has
not issued a final report.
"In one case, we've been totally
exonerated from blame," Shipley said.
"There was no thread of continuity.
All seem to be totally isolated."
Following the Charlotte crash,
USAir Chairman Seth E. Schofield
called that crash an "isolated inci-
"You have to look at each and
every incident. I think it's unfair to
characterize and put them all in the
same position," Schofield said at the
time. "I don't think anyone can put
the sequences together and say this is
a problem."
Indeed, USAir has an extremely
dense route structure, particularly
along the East Coast. It has shorter
hauls, more landings and takeoffs than
any other domestic airline.
Initial speculation overyesterday's
accident focused on the possibility of
engine problems, with reports of the
aircraft stalling out shortly before it
crashed six miles from the airport.
There was no indication immediately
last night about when the aircraft was
last inspected.
Typically, planes undergo a sched-
ule of heavy and light maintenance.
The airline has a $110 million-a-year
maintenance program, according to
airline officials.
A day after the Charlotte crash,
the airline released a report showing
maintenance was completed on sched-
ule and showed no unusual problems.
Last night's crash was the first in
more than 40 years in Pittsburgh,
whichjust opened a new airport. Pitts-
burgh is the largest of USAir's five
hubs, with 484 daily departures.
"While flying is safe, it is not as
safe as the FAA and airlines would
want people to believe," Wesley J.
Smith, co-author with Ralph Nader of
"Collision Course, the Truth About
Airline Safety." "Flying is safe, but
there are significant problems that
need to be addressed."

I 1


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