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30 Years Later. Pan-Am Flight 759 Photographer's Journal

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It was July 9, 1982 and at almost 4 p.m. on a windy and rainy Friday, a fully-loaded Pan American Boeing 727 began its final takeoff from New Orleans International Airport. Minutes later, it smashed into a Kenner neighborhood, leaving in its path a three-block area of devastation and horror. (www.wwltv.com) More...

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skuttlerats
Jeffrey Babey 2
I totally remember this sad event. I was a manager at Perkins restaurant in Burnsville, MN when we heard the news on the radio. I remember rushing home that night to see the news, it was such a sad event for those on the 727 and those on the ground that died. Doppler radar was just coming on the scene at the time and was a great break through in technology in detecting wind shear in storms. Sadly it wasn't in time to help these people.
smoki
smoki 1
Wind shear detection devices have been around for quite some time now and planes still fall out of the sky as a result of microburst windshear. Microburst phenomena were nothing new at the time of this tragedy. Their occurrence and affect were known though not necessarily expressed in the meteorological jargon as it's commonly used these days. Common sense judgement tempered with a healthy respect for the power of nature is required when dealing with convective activity in and around airports but is unfortunately sometimes lacking even by the most experienced pilots, especially them.

According to this reporter's descriptive journal regarding the ominous black cloud and heavy rain thunderstorm approaching and enveloping the area, in hindsight it probably wasn't good judgement on the part of the Pan Am crew to roll the dice as it were and risk a takeoff under such conditions. While that's easy for me to say, I wasn't in that cockpit on that fateful day and can't be certain one way or the other if I would have done any better. Weather radar was certainly available and the usual gust front could have been expected from the approaching storm. Heavy rain also has a degrading affect on airfoil performance at slow speed and high wing loading similar to that of frost. Avoidance is still the best windshear technique around.

Wind shear handling techniques used to be and I assume still are regularly covered during recurrent sim periods both for increasing and decreasing performance. This 727 obviously experienced decreasing performance as the result of the onset of a sudden tailwind gust during the takeoff. The same thing happened in the Delta (DC-10?)accident on short final at DFW a few years later. Once into the takeoff and off the ground the only thing the crew could have done and may have done to no avail was to immediately go to emergency power (firewall the throttles) and rotate to stick shaker and hold it there until a positive rate of climb was established however slight, raise the gear, continue on with the climb and clean up remaining at stick shaker as long as necessary to reach a safe altitude (1000 ft. AGL) before reducing the nose attitude, coming out of stick shaker, and accelerating. Sounds easy enough but it isn't especially with accompanying turbulence. The tendency is to over control it and get into PIO in pitch which is self defeating.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Pretty much right on Paul. FYI, the DAL at DFW was an L-1011, and that was what they apparently tried to do but were just too far in to it, being on a very short final.They were just too low when the lightning showed up according to the ATC com. What should have been a minor rain shower and no problem turned real ugly, real fast.
RogParish
Roger Parish 1
IIRC the New Orleans crash was caused by a microburst from a thunderstorm.
cgalliand
Craig G 1
I remember this.i was sitting ion my bed room when I heard the explosions. I lived 3 blocks caddie corner to the wreck. I remember running outside seeing the black smoke then the air was filled with Helicopters.
1Robertg
1Robertg 1
I Remember it well too... was in MIA working. My best friend lived on 26th st off of Williams Blvd... took 2 weeks to get a call to him to see if all was well.
cgalliand
Craig G 1
Yeah our phones were out as well for awhile. Took family members a long time to get in touch with us. I didn't live to far from 26th street. That was just a couple blocks away.
preacher1
preacher1 1
This was 3 years before flight 191 at DFW, after which Wind shear and Doppler came up on everybody's mind. I never did see the final report on it but the leading in this story seems to indicate wind shear. Anybody know for sure,before I go report digging?
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
In comment to DFW Delta Wind Shear crash, many people may not be aware that at many airports sometimes located above the tower, other times located on a separate tower is a very fast spinning bowl looking item (usually white). This is the Wind Shear Doppler Radar to detect the wind shear. It is at all major hubs now, and continuing to grow.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Oh, I know that Sparkie and while Doppler was just starting to see limited action, 191 was what really gave it a kick start for full deployment. As you say, it is everywhere now. I was just curious if wind shear had a hand in this one too. The story seemed to lead that way but never really got definite about it and I haven't dug up the report yet.
stanpiernick
STAN PIERNICK 1
I remember this day, May all of thier soles rest in peace.
sparkie624
sparkie624 1
I remember this event... Was in A&P School.

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