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Federal Express 1478

Accident Case Study




Figure: Descent profile, from NTSB Report, Figure 1.

Accident Report

  • Date: 26 July 2002
  • Time: 05:37
  • Type: Boeing 727-232F
  • Operator: Federal Express
  • Registration: N497FE
  • Fatalities: 0 of 3 crew
  • Aircraft Fate: Destroyed
  • Phase: Landing
  • Airports: (Departure) Memphis International Airport, TN (MEM/KMEM), United States of America; (Destination) Tallahassee Municipal Airport, FL (TLH/KTLH), United States of America


The pilots had initially briefed the approach to runway 27, but since winds were calm a straight in visual approach to runway 09 was attempted. The crews' statements indicate that the base leg was normal and the gear was down and flaps at 30 degrees when the plane impacted trees 3,650 feet short of the runway, generally along the runway centerline. The tops of the trees were broken about 50 feet above ground level. The plane descended through trees until impacting the ground about 1,000 feet later. It slid an additional 1,100 feet - most of it in open field - and came to rest about 1,000 feet from the runway facing in the opposite direction of travel (approximately 260 degrees). The plane struck construction vehicles that were parked on the field during the night. Burn marks on the ground indicate a fire on the plane for the last 1,000 feet or so of travel.

Probable Cause

"The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the captain’s and first officer’s failure to establish and maintain a proper glide path during the night visual approach to landing. Contributing to the accident was a combination of the captain’s and first officer’s fatigue, the captain’s and first officer’s failure to adhere to company flight procedures, the captain’s and flight engineer’s failure to monitor the approach, and the first officer’s color vision deficiency."

See Also:

Crew Resource Management

Stabilized Approach


Aviation Safety Network

NTSB Aircraft Accident Report, AAR-04/02, Collision With Trees on Final Approach, Federal Express Flight 1478, Boeing 727-232, N497FE, Tallahassee, Florida, July 26, 2002

Revision: 20131027