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Thread: Arrow Air Flight 1285

  1. #1

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    Arrow Air Flight 1285


    Arrow Air Flight 1285 was a McDonnell Douglas DC-8-63CF jetliner, registered N950JW, which operated as an international charter flight carrying U.S. troops from Cairo, Egypt, to their home base in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, via Cologne, West Germany and Gander, Newfoundland.

    On the morning of Thursday, 12 December 1985, shortly after takeoff from Gander en route to Fort Campbell, the aircraft stalled, crashed, and burned about half a mile from the runway, killing all 248 passengers and 8 crew members on board. To date, it retains the highest death toll of any aviation accident on Canadian soil and the second-highest of any accident involving a DC-8,[1] behind the crash of Nigeria Airways Flight 2120 six years later.

    The accident was investigated by the Canadian Aviation Safety Board (CASB), which determined the probable cause of the crash was the aircraft's unexpectedly high drag and reduced lift condition, most likely due to ice contamination on the wings' leading edges and upper surfaces, as well as underestimated onboard weight.[2] A minority report stated that the accident could have been caused by an onboard explosion of unknown origin prior to impact.[3]

    Flight history
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    Flight historyEdit

    An Arrow Air DC-8-63CF, identical to the one that crashed.
    The aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas DC-8-63CF, was chartered to carry U.S. service personnel, all members of the 101st Airborne Division, United States Army, from a six-month deployment in the Sinai, where they had served in the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeeping mission, back to their base in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.[1] The DC-8 involved in the accident had been constructed in 1969, and had been leased to Arrow Air by its owner, International Air Leases.[4] The flight was made up of three legs, the first between Cairo and Cologne, the second between Cologne and Gander, and the third between Gander and Fort Campbell.[5] The aircraft departed Cairo at 2035 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and arrived at Cologne on 12 December 1985, at 0121 GMT. A new flight crew (consisting of Captain John Griffin and First Officer John Connolly, both 45, and Flight Engineer Michael "Mike" Fowler, 48) boarded the aircraft before it departed for Gander at 0250 GMT.[5] The aircraft arrived at Gander International Airport at 0904, where passengers departed the aircraft while the aircraft was refueled. Witnesses reported the flight engineer conducted an external inspection of the aircraft, after which the passengers re-boarded the aircraft.[5]

    The DC-8 began its take-off roll on runway 22 from the intersection of runway 13 at 10:15 UTC (06:45 NST). It rotated near taxiway A, 51 seconds after brake release, at an airspeed of about 167 KIAS.[5] Witnesses reported the aircraft showed difficulty gaining altitude after rotation. Airborne, the airspeed reached 172 KIAS and began to decrease again, causing the DC-8 to descend. After crossing the Trans-Canada Highway, located about 900 feet (270 m) from the departure end of runway 22, at a very low altitude, the aircraft's pitch increased and it continued to descend.[5] Witnesses driving on the highway stated that they saw a bright glow emanating from the aircraft before it struck terrain just short of Gander Lake and crashed approximately 900 feet (270 m) feet beyond the departure end of the runway.[5] The aircraft's right wing struck a tree and exploded before the rest of the aircraft pitched nose-down while rolled to the right. The aircraft then struck an unoccupied building,[6] and exploded, starting a fire which increased in severity due to the large amount of fuel on board for the final leg of the flight. All 248 passengers and eight crew aboard the aircraft perished.[1][5]

    The Canadian Aviation Safety Board (CASB) investigated the crash, and, under the signature of five of nine board members, found that during its approach toward Gander, precipitation conditions were favorable for the formation of ice on the aircraft's wings. After landing, it continued to be exposed to "freezing and frozen precipitation capable of producing roughening on the wing upper surface" in addition to the freezing temperature. They also found that prior to takeoff the aircraft had not been de-iced.[7] The Board issued the following Probable Cause statement in its final report:[1][2]

    The Canadian Aviation Safety Board was unable to determine the exact sequence of events which led to this accident. The Board believes, however, that the weight of evidence supports the conclusion that, shortly after lift-off, the aircraft experienced an increase in drag and reduction in lift which resulted in a stall at low altitude from which recovery was not possible. The most probable cause of the stall was determined to be ice contamination on the leading edge and upper surface of the wing. Other possible factors such as a loss of thrust from the number four engine and inappropriate take-off reference speeds may have compounded the effects of the contamination.

    Four members of the CASB dissented, issuing a minority opinion asserting that there was no evidence presented proving that ice had been present on leading edges such as the wings, and the minority report speculated that:[3]

    An in-flight fire that may have resulted from detonations of undetermined origin brought about catastrophic system failures.

    The one piece of evidence that could have shown which one is correct was the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR). However, this device was defective and failed to record anything. Also, the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) was an older model that only recorded 4 parameters. It was scheduled to be replaced a few weeks later.

    Willard Estey, a former Supreme Court of Canada judge, submitted a review of the CASB report in 1989, ruling that the available evidence did not support either conclusion.[8] As a result the Canadian public's confidence in the CASB was undermined. The federal government responded by creating the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.[9]


    The "Silent Witness" Arrow Air Flight 1285 memorial at Gander Lake, with a DC-8 taking off in the background

    Arrow Air Flight 1285 memorial at Ft. Campbell

    Interpretive sign at Arrow Air Flight 1285 memorial at Gander Lake

    Caskets being carried in for a memorial service at Dover AFB on 16 December 1985
    On the day of the crash, responsibility was claimed by Islamic Jihad, a wing of Hezbollah.

    The claim was dismissed by the Canadian and U.S. governments soon afterward. According to United Press International "Hours after the crash the Islamic Jihad – a Shiite Muslim extremist group – claimed it destroyed the plane to prove [its] ability to strike at the Americans anywhere." Pentagon and Canadian government officials rejected the claim, made by an anonymous caller to a French news agency in Beirut.[10]

    256 people died, including 248 U.S. servicemen and eight crew members. As of 2009, that death toll constituted the deadliest plane crash in Canada,[11] and the United States Army's single deadliest air crash in peacetime.[12]

    Of the 248 servicemen, all but 12 were members of 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), most of whom were from the 3d Battalion, 502nd Infantry; eleven were from other Forces Command units; and one was an agent from the Criminal Investigations Command (CID).[13]

    A memorial to the 256 victims at the crash site overlooks Gander Lake, and another memorial was erected at Fort Campbell. There is also a Memorial Park in Hopkinsville, KY, just north of Fort Campbell. The trees that were knocked down by the plane and fireball are still missing, and the scar from the crash is still very visible, and can be seen on the ground and in satellite pictures.

    In 1991, Les Filotas, one of the four CASB board members who dissented in the final report, published an exhaustive argument for the minority opinion that a possible in-flight explosion doomed the aircraft.[14]
    Last edited by fordfixer; 12-13-2014 at 12:10 AM.

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  2. #2
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    Interesting that you posted this. After reading about the most recent plane going in the drink and officials lamenting the missing data recorder, I began to wonder...
    Why the heck dont they just stream that info into the communications system and record it all on the ground so they dont have to go out looking for the black box at the bottom of the ocean all the time.
    Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, hear the lamentations of their women.

  3. #3

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    Makes too much sense. Or someone would hack the feed and send false data.

    Molon labe

    People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. George Orwell

    American metal pimped by asiansteel
    Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you 1. Jesus Christ, 2.The American G.I., One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.

  4. #4

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    Army to mark 30 years since crash that killed 248 soldiers

    USA Today NetworkMichelle Tan, Army Times 11:02 p.m. EST December 9, 2015


    Amy Gallo’s husband wasn’t supposed to be home from his six-month deployment for another week, but he had managed to get a seat on an earlier flight.

    “So when he called me that morning, I was blessed,” she said.

    That happy phone call would be the last time Gallo would speak to her husband.

    The plane carrying Sgt. Richard Nichols and 247 other soldiers, most of them from the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, crashed shortly after taking off from a refueling stop in Gander, Newfoundland. All 248 soldiers and the plane’s eight crew members were killed.

    It was Dec. 12, 1985, and the soldiers were on their way home from a peacekeeping deployment in the Sinai.

    The crash was the deadliest tragedy to hit the famed Screaming Eagles division in years.

    Canadian aviation officials said the cause of the crash was ice on the wings

    “How do you tell 248 family members their husbands are dead?” Gallo said. “I’ve never heard so many women yelling and screaming in my life.”

    This year marks 30 years since that dreadful day, and later this week, soldiers, veterans and surviving family members will gather on Fort Campbell, Ky., to commemorate the anniversary.

    This week’s events will be a chance to bring together veterans and family members, some of whom have not returned to Fort Campbell since the tragic crash, said Col. Brett Sylvia, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne.

    “Thirty years is a big milestone for them,” Sylvia said. “They want to have this reunion. I think they, to some degree, need to know that we still mourn with them this particular event.”

    On Friday, soldiers will host an open house. This will give veterans and family members a chance to see what it’s like to be in the Army today, Sylvia said. It also gives his soldiers a chance to connect with those who came before them, he said.

    A memorial ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday on Fort Campbell. A second memorial will take place at noon at the Fort Campbell Memorial Park in nearby Hopkinsville, Ky.

    Organizers expect about 500 veterans and family members to attend.

    Sylvia said he hopes the surviving family members and veterans know that the soldiers of today value them and their sacrifice.

    “You can ask any of these members of the community here, and they can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news about this crash. It’s part of the fabric of this community.”
    Col. Brett Sylvia, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne
    “Once you’re a member of the Strike family, you’re always a member of the Strike family,” said Sylvia, referring to 2nd Brigade’s nickname.

    In addition to the veterans and surviving family members, the plane crash profoundly impacted the 101st Airborne and its surrounding communities, and that impact is still felt today, Sylvia said.

    “You can ask any of these members of the community here, and they can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news about this crash,” he said. “It’s part of the fabric of this community.”

    For Ira Richardson, the commemoration is a chance to connect with the families of the fallen.

    “There are probably going to be people in that room who were either not born or under 5 years old in 1985, and they never knew their father, uncle or brother,” said Richardson, who was a staff officer in 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry at the time of the crash. “It is our duty to find these young people and tell them whatever we can of their relative … and pledge to be a part of their adoptive family going forward. That’s going to be my challenge.”

    Richardson was still in the Sinai when the plane crashed. The Army had chartered three flights to bring the soldiers home, and because it was so close to Christmas, he and other single soldiers had decided to let the married soldiers go home first.

    “It was always the plan that all of us bachelors would come home last, which seemed like a brilliant idea at the time,” Richardson said. “The first two flights were frontloaded with married guys. That doubled the tragedy of the crash because everybody had a family.”

    The crash and its aftermath were “just horrific,” Richardson said.

    “Survivor’s guilt either forces you to do something significant or it drives you into a hellish abyss,” he said. “Fortunately, some of us got past it. Some of our soldiers in the task force haven’t.”
    Last edited by fordfixer; 12-12-2015 at 12:47 AM.

    Molon labe

    People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. George Orwell

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    Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you 1. Jesus Christ, 2.The American G.I., One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.


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