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TWA 514 Crashes Into Hill Near D.C.

By Patrick Mondout

At 11:10 am, December 1, 1974, Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight 514, a Boeing 727, crashed about 25 miles northwest of Dulles International Airport, Washington, D.C. The 92 occupants - 85 passengers and 7 crewmembers were killed, and the aircraft was destroyed.

The accident was a result of what the industry calls "controlled flight into terrain." That is, the aircraft had no mechanical problems - it simply was flown into the ground. The crew were flying a non-standard route in clouds and they were unaware - despite flight charts available to them - that they were at an unsafe altitude.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the probable cause of the accident was the crew's decision to descend to 1,800 feet before the aircraft had reached the approach segment where that minimum altitude applied. The crew's decision to descend was a result of inadequacies and lack of clarity in the air traffic control procedures which led to a misunderstanding on the part of the pilots and of the controllers regarding each other's responsibilities during operations in terminal areas under instrument meteorological conditions Nevertheless, the examination of the plan view of the approach chart should have disclosed to the captain that a minimum altitude of 1,800 feet was not a safe altitude.

TWA 727-231

A TWA 727-231 (N54333) similar to the one involved in this crash, as seen in June 1974 at LAX.

Image courtesy of AirNikon. Find more of his photos at Airliners.net

The NTSB said contributing factors were:

  1. The failure of the FAA to take timely action to resolve the confusion and misinterpretation of air traffic terminology although the Agency had been aware of the problem for several years.
  2. The issuance of the approach clearance when the flight was 44 miles from the airport on an unpublished route without clearly de- fined minimum altitudes.
  3. Inadequate depiction of altitude restrictions on the profile view of the approach chart for the VORIDME approach to runway 12 at Dulles International Airport.

Source: Adapted from National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report NTSB-AAR-75-16.

TWA 514 at a Glance
AirlineTWA
DateDecember 1, 1974
Flight number514
Registration NumberN54328
Crew Fatalities7 of 7
Passenger Fatalities85 of 85
Total Fatalities92 of 92

Air Safety References:
Bartelski, Jan. Disasters in the Air: Mysterious Air Disasters Explained. Airlife Publishing: England, 2001.
Beaty, David. The Naked Pilot: The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents. Airlife Publishing: England, 1996.
Cushing, Steven. Fatal Words: Communication Clashes and Aircraft Crashes University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1997.
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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Your Memories Shared!

"My husband, daughter, and I had reservations for this flight, but had to cancel them due to a change in plans. We feel very fortunate for the plan change, but I have been afraid to fly ever since. I have flown many times since 1974, but do not like to."

--Anonymous


 

DISASTER DETAILS

Airline: TWA

Location: Virginia

Aircraft: Boeing 727-231

Date: December 1, 1974

Total Fatalities: 92 of 92



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