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Delta Airlines 723

By Patrick Mondout

At a little after 11:00 a.m. on July 31, 1973, Delta Air Lines Flight 723, crashed into a seawall while executing an instrument landing system (ILS) approach to runway 4R in heavy fog on the Logan International Airport, Boston, There were 83 passengers, 5 crewmembers, and a cockpit observer (on a Delta training assignment) on board the DC-9-31. All but two occupants were killed in the crash.

The two passenger survived the initial crash and were rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital. The first died within two hours. The second had third and forth degree burns and traumatic injuries to his lower extremities.

He stated that he had been seated in the last row of seats next to a window, and that when the aircraft stopped, he had been assisted in releasing his seatbelt by a passenger next to him. He said that he then had crawled through a window and away from the burning wreckage. He was found by construction workers who stayed with him until an ambulance arrived. Unfortunately he died on December 11, 1973.

Delta DC-9-32

Here is a Delta DC-9-32 similar to the one involved in this crash, as seen in Boston's Logan Field in April 1977.

Image courtesy of AirNikon. Find more of his photos at


Flight 723 was a scheduled passenger flight from Burlington, Vermont, to Logan International Airport (BOS), in Boston, Massachusetts. An unscheduled stop was made at Manchester, New Hampshire, to pick up passengers who were stranded because an earlier flight had been canceled because of weather. Flight 723 was a continuation of Flight 524, which had originated at Logan earlier the same day.

During the approach to Logan, instructions from the air traffic control (ATC) were delayed while the controller prevented a collision with two other aircraft. This put the aircraft slightly off course for a normal landing.

To complicate matters, the DC-9's "flight director" - an on-board computer - was inadvertently selected into "go around" mode, which led to misleading indications from the instruments. The weather was characterized by lowering ceilings and visibilities; sea fog of increasing density was moving across the airport from an easterly direction.

As it attempted to land in Boston, the aircraft struck a seawall about 165 feet to the right of the extended runway centerline and about 3,000 feet short of the runway displaced threshold.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the flightcrew to monitor altitude and to recognize passage of the aircraft through the approach decision height during an unstabilized precision approach conducted in rapidly changing meteorological conditions. Approach was due initially to the aircraft's passing the outer marker above the glide scope at an excessive airspeed and thereafter compounded by the flightcrew's preoccupation with the questionable information presented by the flight director system. The poor positioning of the flight for the approach was in part the result of nonstandard air traffic control services

A picture of this aircraft is here.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report.

Delta Airlines 723 at a Glance
AirlineDelta Airlines
DateJuly 31, 1973
Flight number723
Registration NumberN975NE
Crew Fatalities6 of 6
Passenger Fatalities83 of 83
Total Fatalities89 of 89

Air Safety References:
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Beaty, David. The Naked Pilot: The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents. Airlife Publishing: England, 1996.
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Faith, Nicholas. Black Box: The Air-Crash Detectives-Why Air Safety Is No Accident. Motorbooks International, 1997.
Gero, David. Aviation Disasters: The World's Major Civil Airliner Crashes Since 1950. Sutton, 2003.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 1). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1995.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 2). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1996.
Job, Macarthur. Air Disaster (Volume 3). Aerospace Publications: Fyshwick, Australia, 1999.
Krause, Shari Stamford. Aircraft Safety: Accident Investigations, Analyses & Applications. McGraw Hill, New York, 1996.
Macpherson, Malcolm. The Black Box : All-New Cockpit Voice Recorder Accounts Of In-flight Accidents. New York: William Morrow, 1998.
Macpherson, Malcolm. On a Wing and a Prayer: Interviews with Airline Disaster Survivors. Perennial, 2002.
Owen, David. Air Accident Investigation, 2nd Edition. Motorbooks International, 2002.
Stewart, Stanley. Emergency! - Crisis on the Flight Deck, 2nd Edition. Airlife Publishing, England, 2003.
Walters, James M. Aircraft Accident Analysis: Final Reports. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2000.
Wells, Alexander T. Commercial Aviation Safety, 3rd Edition. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2001.


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Airline: Delta Airlines

Location: Boston

Aircraft: Douglas DC-9-31

Date: July 31, 1973

Total Fatalities: 89 of 89

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