Local News

Charlotte Crash Among Worst Air Disasters In N.C. History

Posted January 8, 2003

— Wednesday's crash of Air Midwest Flight 5481 was one of the worst air disasters North Carolina has had to deal with as all 21 people on board died.

The commuter plane went down shortly after takeoff from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. It was the fourth-deadliest passenger air crash in North Carolina history and the third major crash in Charlotte.

The deadliest crash in North Carolina's history happened back in 1967 in Hendersonville. That's when a Cessna collided with a Piedmont Aviation 72, and all 82 people on both planes were killed.

In 1974, ironically enough on Sept. 11, an Eastern Airlines jet crashed at then-Douglas Municipal Airport in Charlotte during its approach. Seventy-one people died in that crash, in which pilot error was cited as the cause.

About 20 years later, also in Charlotte, 37 people were killed when a US Air flight clipped some trees after a failed approach. A severe thunderstorm in the area and a phenomenon known as wind shear contributed to that crash.

Closer to the Triangle was the fifth-deadliest crash in the state's history. Many people still remember the American Eagle that crashed in 1994 in Morrisville, killing 15 people.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board ruled that the captain of that 1994 flight improperly assumed that an engine had failed and wasn't trained to properly deal with the situation while trying to land the plane.

Then in Cary, in February of 1988, 12 people died in the crash of an AvAir Commuter plane being operated by American Eagle. Investigators said the crew failed to perform standard duties during a takeoff with a low cloud ceiling and low visibility.

According to NTSB records, including Wednesday's crash, there have been 227 fatal airplane crashes in North Carolina since 1962. Until Wednesday, the most recent fatal crash involved a Cessna that went down in Manteo on Christmas day.


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