Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
American Airlines Flight 965
American Airlines Flight 965 was a flight that flew from Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport in Cali, Colombia. The plane on the flight crashed into a mountain in South America on December 20, 1995.
On that day, the flight used N651AA, a Boeing 757 (previously flown by Eastern Airlines which sold its South American routes to American in 1990), carrying 156 passengers and 8 crew members. At 9:40 PM, just five minutes before its scheduled arrival, the plane went down in the Andes, in the first fatal 757 incident in U.S. history, and at the time, the worst American air disaster since the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 seven years before. Only four passengers and a dog survived the crash.
Cali's air traffic controllers had no radar to monitor the 757's approach while the pilots using the area's radio instruments and airport's instrument approach. Cali's approach uses several radio beacons to guide pilots around the mountains and canyons that surround the city. The airplane's flight management system already had these beacons programmed in, and should have, in theory, told the pilots exactly where to turn, climb, and descend, all the way from Miami to the terminal in Cali.
Since the weather was fair, Cali's controllers asked the pilots if they wanted to fly a different, more direct approach into the airport. The pilots agreed, and were told to check back in over Tulua, north of Cali. Tulua wasn't programmed into the computer, and so they had to pull out their maps to find it. In the meantime, they extended the aircraft's spoilers to slow it down and expedite its descent.
By the time they found Tulua's coordinates, they had already passed over it. They didn't realize this until they had already programmed the waypoint into the autopilot, and noticed that the airplane was turning left in a wide semicircle. So they fed the autopilot the Cali airport's coordinates instead, putting the aircraft on a collision course with a 3,000 m mountain.
Nine seconds before the plane hit the mountain, the ground proximity warning system kicked in, and began announcing an imminent terrain collision, and sounded an alarm. The captain and first officer attempted to climb clear of the mountain, but the spoilers reduced the climb rate and the aircraft hit the mountain, near its peak.
American Airlines filed a lawsuit against Jeppesen and Honeywell, who made the navigation computer and failed to include the coordinates of Tulua. Cali's old approach system and lack of radar have both been blamed. Many pilots have blamed the lack of a flight engineer in modern cockpits, which places a greater workload on the two pilots in front. Many blamed the pilots for not studying the Cali approach before attempting to land there. Boeing has been blamed for not equipping its spoilers to automatically retract when the aircraft accelerates, a standard feature on Airbuses.
What happened to the flight number?
The flight route designation of the Miami, FL to Cali route is now Flight 921.
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