Seconds From Disaster - Plane Crash in the Potomac
Channel: Disaster One
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Air Florida Flight 90 was a scheduled U.S. domestic passenger flight from Washington National Airport to Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport with an intermediate stopover at Tampa International Airport. On January 13, 1982, the Boeing 737-200 registered as N62AF, crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River. The aircraft had originally been purchased by United Airlines in 1969 and flown with the registration number of N9050U. It was sold to Air Florida in 1980.
The aircraft struck the 14th Street Bridge, which carries Interstate 395 between Washington, D.C. and Arlington County, Virginia. It crushed seven occupied vehicles on the bridge and destroyed 97 feet (30 m) of guard rail before it plunged through the ice into the Potomac River. The crash occurred less than two miles (3 km) from the White House and within view of both the Jefferson Memorial and The Pentagon. The aircraft was carrying 74 passengers and five crewmembers. Four passengers and one flight attendant survived and were rescued from the crash. Another passenger, Arland D. Williams, Jr., assisted in the rescue of the survivors but drowned before he himself could be rescued. Four motorists on the bridge were killed. The survivors were rescued from the icy river by civilians and professionals. President Ronald Reagan commended these acts during his State of the Union speech a few days later.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the cause of the accident was pilot error. The pilots failed to switch on the engines' internal ice protection systems, used reverse thrust in a snowstorm prior to takeoff, tried to use the jet exhaust of a plane in front of them to melt their own ice, and failed to abort the takeoff even after detecting a power problem while taxiing and visually identifying ice and snow buildup on the wings.