Birds Bring Down DC-10 at New York's JFK
By Patrick Mondout
At shortly after 1 p.m. on November 12, 1975, Overseas National Airways
(ONA) Flight 032, a Douglas DC-10
crashed while attempting to take off from runway 13R at JFK Airport, New
York. Of the 139 persons on the aircraft, 2 were seriously inured and 30
were slightly injured.
The crew consisted of Captain Harry R. Davis, First Officer (F/O)
Raymond A. Carrier, and Flight Engineer (F/E) Jack A. Holland. Also in the
cockpit was ONA F/E Ben Conaster, who was filming the takeoff from the
observer seat behind the captain.
During the takeoff roll, the aircraft struck sea gulls (estimated to be
a flock of about 100 by Captain Harris) and the takeoff was rejected.
The three General Electric
(GE) CF6-50A high-bypass ratio turbofans were being feed by 235,000 pounds
of jet-A fuel. The right engine disintegrated and caught fire; several
tires and wheels disintegrated; and the aircraft did not decelerate as
expected. Near the end of the runway, Captain Harris steered the aircraft
onto a taxiway; the landing gear collapsed, and most of the aircraft was
consumed by the fire.
Captain Harry Davis
took this photo short after exiting the aircraft.
Notice the woman at the door about to jump down
the yellow/white slide. (Click the image for a
Image courtesy of Harry
After the aircraft stopped, F/E Jack Holland pulled the fire handles for
Nos.1 and 2 engines. Captain Harris closed the engine fuel shutoff levers
to these engines before he left the cockpit. The public address microphone
had become displaced during the stopping sequence, and an evacuation order
could not be given. Fortunately, the aircraft was filled with ONA
employees quite familiar with emergency evacuation procedures.
When F/O Raymond Carrier opened the right front cockpit window, he saw
fire on the right wing. By that time, another crewmember had opened the
cockpit door and black smoke could be seen in the cabin. Since there was a
group of passengers around the right front exit, the three flightcrew
members exited out the right front cockpit window and down the escape
rope. Ben Conaster escaped with his camera through the right front exit.
Although rescue crews were at the scene within a minute, the fire was
not extinguished fully for 36 hours.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable
cause of the accident was the disintegration and subsequent fire in the
No. 3 engine when it ingested a large number of sea gulls. Following the
disintegration of the engine, the aircraft failed to decelerate
- The No. 3 hydraulic system was inoperative, which caused the loss of
the No. 2 brake system and braking torque to be reduced 50 percent;
- The No. 3 engine thrust reversers were inoperative;
- At least three tires disintegrated;
- The No. 3 system spoiler panels on each wing could not deploy; and
- The runway surface was wet.
The following factors contributed to the accident:
- The bird-control program at JFK Airport did not effectively control
the bird hazard on the airport; and
- The FAA and the GE (makers of the engines) failed to consider the
effects of rotor imbalance on the abatable epoxy shroud material when
the engine was tested for certification.
Captain Davis also took
this shot. (Click the image for a larger version.)
Image courtesy of Harry
The NTSB noted that the occupiable area of the aircraft was totally
intact when the plane came to a stop. They determined the rapid and
successful egress of all the occupants may be partially attributed to the
fact that nearly all passengers were trained crewmembers and all were
airline employees with knowledge of the aircraft, evacuation procedures,
and facilities. Serious evacuation problems could have been experienced
had this been a routine passenger flight with untrained airline
The Port Authority Aeronautical Services Division (ASD) was responsible
for the control of the bird hazard at JFK Airport. Implementation of the
program rests primarily with the airport's duty supervisor and
construction supervisor. Before November 1, 1975, the number of personnel
and vehicles actively engaged in bird dispersal ranged from one to six
vehicles and up to seven personnel. Except for one individual, these
personnel were not employed exclusively for bird control duties. They were
assigned various other duties with bird control as an additional duty.
Airport personnel in Airport Operations and Construction had radio contact
with the JFK tower when on duty and would coordinate bird-dispersal
activities with the tower. Port Authority personnel indicated that all
employees of the airport were requested to observe and report bird loafing
and related activities to appropriate airport personnel.
The bird dispersal program consisted, in part, of the following mesures:
- On the day of the accident seven carbide cannons were in service
along the first 5,000 feet of runway 13R.
- One vehicle had the capability of transmitting tape recorded stress
cries of birds.
- Shotguns and bird patrols were used.
- Vegetation, rodent life, water ponds, and food sources are to be
removed from the airport.
- Efforts were made to reduce the attraction to birds presented by
dumps. The efforts were being made by the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA), the FAA, the Port Authority, and the New York City
A number of changes were mandated by the FAA following NTSB
recommendations to prevent this kind of an accident.
A photograph of this DC-10 in happier times is here.
Source: Adapted from National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)