Almost 300 people are killed on this day in 1979 when an American Airlines flight crashes and explodes after losing one engine just after takeoff.
It was the beginning of Memorial Day weekend in 1979 when 277 passengers filled Flight 191 from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport bound for Los Angeles. The DC-10 jet took off normally but after rising to only 400 feet, stalled and then rolled to the left. The plane quickly plunged, crashing into Ravenswood Airport, which had been abandoned and was no longer in use.
The plane, loaded with fuel, exploded on impact, killing all 277 people on board instantly. The heat from the fire was so intense that firefighters could not approach the crash for close to an hour. The crash also caused a fire at a nearby mobile-home park and killed two bystanders on the ground. A Standard Oil gas storage facility was also nearly hit.
Following this crash, all DC-10s in the United States were impounded and grounded by judicial order because there was no immediate determination as to the cause of the crash and it was feared that it could have been caused by a problem common to the jet type. Ultimately, it was found that the left pylon, which supported the turbofan engine, came loose and took out the hydraulic lines. The left wing slats then retracted and the plane could not lift off properly. The American Airlines maintenance crew was found to be at fault–they had failed to follow the proper procedures when removing the engine and pylon during repairs and maintenance.
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