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Southern DC-9 Crashes Near New Hope, Georgia

By Patrick Mondout

At 4:19 pm on April 4, 1977, a Southern Airways DC-9 operating as Flight 242, crashed in New Hope, Georgia. Of the 85 persons aboard Flight 242, 62 were killed, 22 were seriously injured, and 1 was slightly injured. Eight persons on the ground were killed and one person was seriously injured; one person died about 1 month later.

Flight 42 entered a severe thunderstorm between 17,000 feet and 14,000 feet near Rome, Georgia, en route from Huntsville to Atlanta. Both engines on the DC-9 were damaged and all thrust was lost. The engines could not be restarted and the flight crew was forced to make an emergency landing. Unfortunately, they could not make it to an airport and they tried to land on a freeway.



This is the actual Southern Airways DC-9 involved in this crash, as seen in Orlando in January 1976.

Image courtesy of AirNikon. Find more of his photos at


The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of this accident was the total and unique loss of thrust from both engines while the aircraft was penetrating an area of severe thunderstorms. The loss of thrust was caused by the ingestion of massive amounts of water and hail which in combination with thrust lever movement induced severe stalling in and major damage to the engine compressors.

Major contributing factors included the failure of the company's dispatching system to provide the flight crew with up-to-date severe weather information pertaining to the aircraft's intended route of flight, the captain's reliance on airborne weather radar for penetration of thunderstorm areas, and limitations in the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic control system which precluded the timely dissemination of real-time hazardous weather information to the flight crew. (Source: NTSB Report #NTSB-AAR-78-3.)


Source: National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report.

Southern Airways 242 at a Glance
AirlineSouthern Airways
DateApril 4, 1977
Flight number242
Registration NumberN1335U
Crew Fatalities2 of 4
Passenger Fatalities62 of 81
Other Fatalities9 on the ground
Total Fatalities63 of 85 + 9 on the ground

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.


Share Your Memories!

What do you remember about this crash? Were you a witness? Have you any compelling stories to share? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"Even though it has been 26 years, this month is and always will be on my mind. I was working at the same place as my husband. The last time I saw him was April 3,1977.

He left on a business trip and he brought me lunch and to say goodbye before he left. On Tuesday April 4th I took my kids to the sitter and went to work. I got off work at 4pm and went to the sitter to pick up my kids. My daughter wanted to stop at the store so we did and she went in. While she was in the store I turned on the radio and was scanning through channels and I stopped on the news. It was telling of an airplane crash in New Hope, Georgia.

Then they told the flight number flight - 242 to Atlanta. My heart stopped for a second. I knew the flight number my husband was to be on. My daughter Tammy came out of the store about that time and I hurried home to find out for sure. I turned the news on TV and they were showing pictures of the crash and I almost lost it.

Finally not knowing what to do I called the personnel manager at work. He had not heard anything. So he started trying to find out.

In the meantime, I called the motel where my husband was to be staying. The lady told me that he and his fellow workers had checked out at noon. Then I really lost it.

I called my Mom and Cliff’s (my husband) Dad. After a while, John called me and said that he found out that he was on the plane. The waiting was awful. I got numerous calls from a Southern Airlines employee. They were to call me I forget how often. They were really nice and caring.

Finally on Thursday April 6, I got the heartbreaking call that they had identified his body. I don't remember to much after that.

This was when I was 27 years old. I was really lost.

Now my children are grown and have families. I have three beautiful grand-kids. I remarried to a great guy.

But there will always be the void in my life .

Anyway I hope this wasn't too long. I could write a book on my life since that day.
[Editor's note: Thank you for sharing your story with us, Cannie. Best wishes to your and your family. -Patrick]"

--Cannie Head (cannie112 at earthlink dotnet)

"I am resident of Dallas/New Hope Ga. and many of our church's families were affected by the deaths on the ground from flight 242. Our prayers and thoughts are always with them. "




Airline: Southern Airways

Location: New Hope, Georgia

Aircraft: DC-9-31

Date: April 4, 1977

Total Fatalities: 63 of 85 + 9 on the ground

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