Category Archives: Air Florida

For yesterday, a brief remembrance of Air Florida Fight 90

Greetings, readers. I know I have blogged about this topic before, but yesterday was the 34th anniversary of the Air Florida flight 90 crash. As PALM 90 took off from Washington D.C.’s national airport (I think it is called Reagan National now), during a heavy snow storm, the flight was doomed from the word go. As the 737 rolled down the runway with its engines clogged with ice and snow, there was virtually no chance of a safe take-off. The pilots, who admittedly lived in Florida and never needed their de-icing equipment, failed to activate it before the flight. Had they done so, this tragedy, I think, would not of occurred.

I started to wonder how many family members and friends of the victims would still be alive after 34 years. For those of you who are, I’m certain that that date always brings a sting and pain to your heart. Once again, I offer my heartfelt condolences, prayers, and good thoughts.

This is the first blog entry of two today. Rebecca will have a top ten list coming up shortly. Take care, have a good day, and happy reading.

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A Morbid Facsination

For many years I have been fascinated, sometimes to a morbid extent, with tragedies. Some which I have studied via reading materials, films, and documentaries are the sinking of the Titanic, the events of 9/11, and air tragedies, including TWA 800 and Pan Am 103.

I have thought many times, why should I have such a morbid fascination with such things which involve people’s suffering? I suppose in a way that it is human nature. Every time someone is out on a window ledge, a crowd gathers around to see if that person will jump or get saved. Now I’m not a jumper watcher; my fascination has always been aircraft.

As mentioned in the last blog entry just briefly, I have been watching episodes of a show called Air Crash Investigation. It documents numerous air tragedies over the years, some with favorable outcomes, and others disastrous.

I’m not certain if it is knowledge I seek or whether I am simply trying to determine what I would do differently. How would I have prevented the crash or accident? I know for a fact that studying the Titanic documentation, the one thing I would not have done would be to put the engines into reverse, slowing down the reaction time. For those of you who have read my blog post about Air Florida Flight 90, I believe that you’ll agree that several mistakes were made causing the crash of that Boeing 737. It seemed that with that particular incident that the more I watched and learned, the angrier I became. The incident that got me the angriest, however, was Pan Am 103.

Pan Am 103 was a flight that on December 21, 1988 was heading home to New York from London, England. A bomb brought that aircraft down over Lockerbie Scotland, killing everyone on board and many on the ground. Later, I found out that Pan Am knew about a bomb threat to that specific flight, told some people, but did not give everyone the option of boarding or not boarding the flight.

TWA 800 took off from New York heading for Europe Paris, France one fateful evening and exploded at 24,000 feet. The nose section detached leaving both pieces to fall to the burning water with everyone still in the plane. No survivors. Months later it was determined that a bomb did not bring it down, but simply faulty wiring near the center gas tank of the more than 20-year-old 747.

Back to my original point of my personal morbid fascination with these stories. When watching these documentaries, I suppose I am not only seeking knowledge but the junior private investigator in me comes out. I just want to understand it from every angle – the whys, the hows, the whens, the conditions leading up to these events. Perhaps in my 20s I should have gone to work for the National Transportation Safety Board. When my health failed and my dream of being a pilot were dashed, then perhaps I could have helped to keep planes safe by working for the NTSB.

Just the other day I read an on-line article about the cruise ship which sank off the Italian coast. The captain abandoned ship and refused orders to go back to it, which I find to be a cowardly act.

Is this all just me wishing knowledge, or is it truly a morbid fascination with death and destruction and the suffering of others? I’ve asked myself that question many times. Why don’t I just watch cartoons and comedy shows? I tell myself, that’s a great idea. But I always seem to be drawn back to Air Crash Investigation or Seconds from Disaster. Over the coming weeks and months I shall think long and hard on this and if I figure it out, I shall share my conclusions.

Until next time.

In Memory of Air Florida Flight 90

Thirty years ago today a terrible air tragedy took place. Air Florida’s flight 90 took off from Washington D.C.’s National Airport at 4:01 pm. It stayed airborne for less than 30 seconds. It hit cars on a bridge, killing four people, before plunging into the Potomac River. Of the 79 passengers and crew on the plane, 74 died. I thought about this much over the years and it has weighed heavily on my mind. Several very simple things happened and if any one of them had not occurred the crash might not have taken place.

The D.C. area was in the grip of a blizzard that day, over a foot of snow was on the ground and the airport was closed most of the morning into the mid-afternoon. Once the runways were cleared, planes began taking off again. Palm 90, as it was called in the tower, was to be de-iced, pushed back, and lined up waiting for its turn to take off.

I have seen a TV movie, called Flight 90: Disaster on the Potomac, and documentaries, including Discovery Health channel’s Critical Rescue: “Heroes on the Potomac,” about this event and they all concur that three things contributed to the disaster. First, when the plane could not push back easily, the Captain applied reverse thrust to aid the tug tow tractor, as it is called, in the push back. Secondly, the wings did not appear properly de-iced, so when the plane was sitting in line for take off, extra snow was piling on top of snow and ice that was already there. Lastly, and most importantly, the engine’s anti-ice systems were not engaged.

When I learned of this, it infuriated me. I thought to myself, how can a pilot and co-pilot be sitting in a blizzard and not activate the systems that would keep the plane free of freezing precipitation. Since they were a Florida based airline, however, I suppose I can understand them being used to not using the anti-ice system.

When the jet crashed into the 14th Street Bridge and plunged into the Potomac River, it didn’t take long for heroes to emerge. Two gentlemen helped rescue the few survivors that were huddled in the freezing water. They were Lenny Skutnik and Roger Olian. Tragedies sometimes tend to bring out the best in people. They might wonder if they have the right stuff. When the time came, both men jumped into the frigid river and did their part in the rescue effort.

Two more heroes were Gene Windsor and Don Usher who performed the daring helicopter rescue. But the biggest hero of all was a man named Arland Williams, who was so tangled in the wreckage and knew he could not escape, that he kept passing the rope to other survivors so that they would have their chance to be rescued first. He made the ultimate sacrifice. To me it is fitting that the 14th Street Bridge was re-named the Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge years later.

For family members of people who died in automobiles on the bridge, and passengers and crew in the plane, my heart goes out to you. It was a tragedy that did not have to happen in my opinion but it did. I’m certain that the FAA learned something from the accident and has taken steps to prevent bad weather crashes from happening in the future.

Check out what’s coming this Friday

Good morning. : ) It’s amazing how cheerful I am at 8:00; working on two hours sleep. I have no idea why I’ve been having insomnia recently. My theory is that I nap early in the evening, and that throws my sleep cycle off.

Anyway…, news for later in the week. I will be posting this Friday about a topic which has upset me over the years, yet obsessed me enough to study it in rather great detail. This Friday, the 13th of January, marks the 30th anniversary of the Air Florida flight 90 crash into the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.

I shall open up and spill myself on to the computer page.

Until next time….