All 132 people on board USAir Flight 427 died when the aircraft stalled in midair and crashed into the ground on this day, September 8, 1994, 28 years ago.
As a result of the bodies’ severe fragmentation, the crash site was deemed a biohazard and 2,000 body bags were needed.
The Boeing 737’s rudder malfunctioned as Flight 427 was approaching Pittsburgh International Airport, causing it to steer incorrectly and eventually stall.
When the plane’s engine exploded in a crash that killed everyone on board, the pilot yelled, “What the f***?”
Just 28 seconds after the initial turbulence, a plane crashed in Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania, igniting the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB’s) longest-running investigation.
Numerous lives have since been saved as a result of the changes in aviation that were brought about by that investigation.
The Pittsburgh accident, according to Jim Hall, then-chairman of the NTSB, “had a greater impact on the NTSB, the aviation industry, and more importantly, on how families of all disasters are treated worldwide.”
“Those who perished in that accident cannot be replaced by anything.
However, it is hoped that as a result of that tragedy, hundreds or even thousands of lives may have been saved throughout the existence of that plane, which is still the most well-liked aircraft in the world.
In March 1999, the NTSB came to the conclusion that the “probable cause” of the accident was rudder problems brought on by “a jam of the main rudder power control unit servo valve secondary slide.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) disagreed with the NTSB report’s technicalities and assigned more responsibility to the pilots.
It later changed its mind, though, after the Engineering Test and Evaluation Board’s special task force discovered 46 potential faults and jams in the rudder system of the Boeing 737.
Later, the FAA demanded that Boeing redesign and reinstall rudders on all 737 aircraft, as well as install backup rudder control and provide pilots with training on how to handle rudder malfunctions.
The FAA has collaborated with Boeing, the NTSB, and industry to make the 737 rudder system safer since the USAir 427 accident, according to Hall.
“It began with Boeing essentially denying for three years that a mechanical malfunction could occur on the world’s most well-known jetliner to what basically was an admission by Boeing and, more importantly, a billion-dollar correction of that flaw,” says the author.
After the Flight 427 families were ushered into an airport lounge, only informed of what had happened six hours after it had occurred, and denied access to counselors, the incident also altered how families of victims of aviation disasters are treated.
The way USAir treated the families was so appalling that in 1996, Congress passed the Disaster Family Assistance Act and then-President Bill Clinton issued an executive order.
The NTSB is now in charge of assisting families thanks to the new law.