Photo: Aircraft wreckage, from NTSB AAR 0501, figure 2.

Eddie Sez:

This accident would make a good case study for airline hiring practices. The first officer had a track record of busted checkrides with all the red flag buzz words including a phrase that should have kept her from getting an interview in the first place: "poor airmanship." But I will leave that to others.

The primary focus of this case study is the proper use of crosswind landing techniques. The MD-10 uses a crab on approach followed by a de-crab initiated at 200 feet AGL. The copilot did that correctly but then relaxed all crosswind controls at 100 feet AGL. I suspect that as the aircraft started to weather vane and drift both pilots froze as evidenced by the fact the captain didn't say anything about the drift and the first officer did not flare. The aircraft landed hard in about a 6° crab, causing the right landing gear to collapse and destroying the airplane. The lesson is obvious: you need to actively fly the airplane during each phase of landing until it is stopped. More about crosswind landings: Normal Procedures & Techniques / Crosswind Landing.

What follows are quotes from the relevant regulatory documents, listed below, as well as my comments in blue.

Accident Report


[NTSB AAR-05/01, ¶1.7.1] MEM weather at 1225, wind from 320° at 21 knots, with gusts to 26 knots; visibility 10 sm; a broken layer of clouds at 4,500 feet; temperature 11° C [Celsius]; dew point -1° C; altimeter setting 30.09 inches Hg [mercury]; pressure altitude 180 feet; and relative humidity 46 percent. Remarks: peak wind 330° at 26 knots occurred at 1220.

[NTSB AAR-05/01, ¶2.2] Both pilots stated that the landing flare was normal, including proper alignment with the runway centerline and compensation for wind conditions below 200 feet. The captain indicated that he thought they experienced a "strong gust" of wind during the landing, and both pilots described the landing as firm but otherwise normal. However, FDR evidence and physical evidence, including tire markings on the runway, indicated that the airplane touched down with both main landing gear assemblies and the nose gear well right of the runway centerline on a heading about 5.6° left of the runway heading.

[NTSB AAR-05/01, ¶1.12.1] Examination of tire markings on runway 36R revealed that the airplane touched down on the left main landing gear first about 564 feet from the approach end of the runway and 9 feet right of the runway centerline. The tire markings showed that the right main landing gear touched down about 613 feet from the approach end of the runway and 45 feet right of the runway centerline.

[NTSB AAR-05/01, ¶1.12.2] The right main landing gear collapsed during the landing roll, and the outer cylinder fractured into six pieces.

[NTSB AAR-05/01, ¶1.12] The airplane came to rest in the grass about 155 feet right of the runway 36R centerline and 5,979 feet from the approach end of the runway. The airplane was aligned on a magnetic heading of about 070° and in a slight (about 20°) right-wing-down attitude. The right main landing gear assembly collapsed, and the airplane was supported by its nose landing gear, left main landing gear, and the lower surface of the right wing.


[NTSB AAR-05/01, ¶]

[NTSB AAR-05/01, ¶2.2]

[NTSB AAR-05/01, ¶3.1]

Probable Cause

[NTSB AAR-05/01, ¶3.2.] The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable causes of the accident were 1) the first officer's failure to properly apply crosswind landing techniques to align the airplane with the runway centerline and to properly arrest the airplane's descent rate (flare) before the airplane touched down; and 2) the captain's failure to adequately monitor the first officer's performance and command or initiate corrective action during the final approach and landing.

See Also:


NTSB Aircraft Accident Report, AAR-05/01, Federal Express Flight 647, Boeing MD-10-10F, N364FE, Memphis, Tennessee, December 18, 2003