Exactly 28 years ago, on November 22, 1994. Trans World Airways (TWA) Flight 427 collided with a Cessna 441 Conquest II, killing both occupants of the smaller aircraft. The TWA plane involved in the incident was six years old McDonnell Douglas MD-82 is registered as N954U.
Captain Rick Carr, 57, was in command of the flight, assisted by First Officer Randy Speed, 38. Also in the cockpit in the reclining seat was an off-duty TWA employee named Randy Richardson. TWA Flight 427 was operating a scheduled passenger service between St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) in Missouri and Stapleton International Airport (DEN) in Denver, Colorado.
The Cessna was a charter flight from Michigan
The Sesna The 441 Conquest II that the MD-82 encountered was owned by Superior Aviation, Inc., a charter airline based in Lansing, Michigan. The plane, carrying nine passengers, arrived in St. Louis from Ford Airport (IMT) in central Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After the passengers disembarked the plane in St. Louis, the plane was scheduled to return to Iron Mountain for another flight.
With 132 passengers on board, TWA Flight 427 was scheduled to depart St. Louis at 9:34 p.m. local time, but was pushed back from the gate 15 minutes behind schedule. Other than the delay, everything else was business as usual: the plane was instructed to taxi to runway 30R for takeoff. At 10:01 p.m., First Officer Randy Speed told the tower that TWA Flight 427 was ready for departure.
The Cessna pilot taxied to the wrong runway
Meanwhile, the Cessna arrived in St. Louis at 9:40 p.m. and dropped off passengers at the charter terminal at 9:58 p.m. The Cessna pilot then told ground control that he was ready to taxi back to the runway for the flight back to Michigan. The ground controller ordered the Cessna to taxi to runway 31 and await further instructions. Although the ground controller ordered the Cessna pilot to taxi to runway 31, the pilot did not repeat the instructions and taxied to runway 30R just as the TWA aircraft was preparing for takeoff.
TWA Flight 427 was cleared for takeoff at 10:01 p.m. and taxied to the runway at the speed of the first officer at the wheel. As the plane began to accelerate down the runway, the Cessna pilot told the controller that he was in position for takeoff. As the MD-80 reached 80 knots, Randy Richardson in the reclining seat yelled: “There’s a plane!”
Upon seeing the Cessna, both Speed and Carr applied their brakes and steered hard to the left to avoid a collision. Two or three seconds after they first saw the Cessna, they felt impact on the left side of the aircraft. The MD-82’s right wing struck the Cessna, shearing off the cockpit of the smaller aircraft. None of the MD-82 passengers and crew were injured when the wing was damaged.
Captain Carr immediately shut down the plane’s engines and called an emergency. As jet fuel was spilled all over the runway, the MD-82 had to be evacuated immediately due to the risk of fire.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the Cessna had arrived from Iron Mountain, had dropped off a passenger at the charter terminal and was preparing for the return flight. The NTSB investigation could not figure out why the Cessna pilot taxied to the wrong runway. The only reasons that could be found were:
- Pilot fatigue.
- It’s late.
- Rushing to get back to Michigan before bad weather.
Ultimately, the NTSB concluded that because the Cessna pilot landed on runway 30R, he assumed he was taking off from it as well. The NTSB also criticized the ground controller’s use of nonstandard phrases and the failure of the Cessna pilot to repeat the controller’s instructions. The NTSB also praised the MD-82 pilots for using the rudder to avoid what could have been a significant accident.
After the incident, the NTSB recommended that the pilots read the runway assignments to the controllers. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has changed its air traffic controller’s handbooks, requiring all pilots to confirm taxiing and runway assignments.
https://simpleflying.com/twa-flight-427-takeoff-collision-anniversary/ TWA Flight 427 Takeoff Collision