Sunday, August 2, 2015

Delta 191: 30 Years Ago Today

For nearly two decades a debate had been raging in weather science: there was a small area of winds in some thunderstorms that flowed down then spread out near the ground with wind speeds accelerating to 50 to even 100+ mph. According to Dr. Ted Fujita, the originator of the hypothesis, they were responsible for a number of catastrophic airline crashes.

Shortly after 6pm, thirty years ago today, Delta Airlines Flight 191 crashed on approach at the north side of Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW).  One hundred thirty-seven died, including a motorist on the way to his own birthday party. Below is a diagram of the flight path (orange arrow) and the plane being forced off the path by the 100 mph microburst winds.

After Delta 191, the political and scientific winds shifted and the FAA and meteorology got to work putting the scourge of wind shear crashes behind us. The last downburst crash was USAir 1016 in Charlotte in July, 1994.

Three chapters of Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather are devoted to Delta 191: How the crash occurred, the most important trial in aviation history and how Fujita and others made air travel much safer for all of us.

1 comment:

  1. I was at Six Flags amusement park that same day, not too far south of DFW airport. We didn't have a bit of rain. When we got home, we were surprised to hear the news.

    Readers should definitely pick up Warnings. The book is a testament to unsung heroes of the type that sorely need to be acknowledged.

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