An Aborted Takeoff-Usair flight 5050

An Aborted Takeoff-Usair5050

On September 20, 1989, a day where instrument conditions prevailed, USAir flight 5050 ran off of a wet runway at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport after an aborted takeoff on its way to Charlotte, North Carolina.  The flight’s purpose was to replace the cancelled flight 1846.  Upon initiating the takeoff roll on runway 31, the airplane started to yaw to the left.  The pilot flying at the time was the First Officer.  During the takeoff roll the flight crew heard a loud bang and a rumbling noise followed.  At this time the Captain took the controls from the First Officer and initiated an aborted takeoff.  The Boeing 737-400 was unable to stop before reaching the end of the runway.  This accident left two passengers dead, three passengers with serious injuries, and twelve passengers and six crew members with minor injuries.

Due to the prevailing weather conditions at the time of departure, many flights were delayed or cancelled for several hours.  The Captain had reported to the USAir operations and was expecting to fly from LaGuardia to Norfolk, Virginia as USAir flight 1846.  The airline dispatcher decided to cancel the leg to Norfolk, and informed the Captain that the new route was to fly the aircraft without any passengers to Charlotte.  Within minutes the dispatcher then informed the Captain that the flight would not be flown empty, but instead would carry passengers to Charlotte as USAir 5050.  The Captain was not pleased with this abrupt change because the extra delays would cause both he and the First Officer to exceed crew duty time limitations before reaching their destination.

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While on the ground at the gate, the Captain decided to go talk to USAir’s ground movement control to check on how decisions on passengers and flights were made.  During this time, the First officer was preparing for the flight inside of the cockpit.  A Captain from Pan American Airways, who was traveling as a non-revenue passenger entered the cockpit of the Boeing 737 and sat in the jump seat which was located behind the captain’s seat.  The Pan American Captain said a USAir employee entered the cockpit to hand the First Officer a single sheet weather chart.  During the Captain’s absence there were several other people entering and leaving the cockpit.

Upon pushback from the gate, the passenger service representative spoke to the Captain through an open cockpit window from the jet way.  The representative wanted to board more passengers, but the Captain refused.  During the taxi, the Captain did not hold short of taxiway GOLF GOLF and was given modified taxi instructions by the ground controller.  After receiving the modified instructions the Captain briefed the First Officer the takeoff speeds as V1: 125 knots, VR: 128 knots, and V2: 139 knots.  The First Officer was the pilot flying at the time.  There was no company regulation, or federal regulation that governed who the flying pilot would be.

Approximately two minutes later the First Officer called out “stabilizer trim.”  The Captain responded by saying, “set” and proceeded to correct himself by stating, “stabilizer trim, I forgot the answer.  Set for takeoff.”  During the post accident hearing the Captain said he did not have any specific recollection of going through that procedure, however it would have been part of any normal flight.  The First Officer stated that he did not actually check the stabilizer trim settings himself while going through the checklist at the time.

The aircraft was cleared for takeoff at 23:20.  Upon receiving clearance the First Officer pressed the auto-throttle disengage button instead of the takeoff/go-around button on accident.  He later stated that he pressed the takeoff/go-around button afterwards and there was no throttle movement.  The First Officer proceeded to manually set the throttles.  The flight crew almost immediately noticed the tendency of the aircraft to turn to the left.  Approximately eighteen seconds into the takeoff roll the CVR recorded a loud bang followed by a rumbling noise.  After a series of miscommunications between the Captain and the First Officer, the Captain began the aborted takeoff procedure.  The First Officer claimed that he was unaware of the reason the Captain had decided to abort the takeoff.  Unfortunately the aircraft was unable to come to a complete stop by the end of the runway.  The Boeing 737-400 ran off the end of runway 31 at thirty four knots ground speed.  Neither the Captain nor the First Officer thought that the airplane was not going to be able to come to a complete stop before the end of the runway.

The accident occurred at night and killed two passengers out of 57.  The aircraft was completely destroyed.  The insurance agent handling the case said the total cost to replace a Boeing 737-400 in the particular configuration used by USAir would be $35,000,000.  The cost of replacing the destroyed pier and approach lights came to $150,000.

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