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1990 Wayne County Airport runway collision

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Total injuries (non-fatal)  10
Passengers  40
Operator  Northwest Airlines
Total survivors  190
Registration  N3313L
Date  3 December 1990
Total fatalities  8
1990 Wayne County Airport runway collision httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu
Summary  Runway incursion in low visibility
Site  Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Michigan
Type  McDonnell Douglas DC-9-14
Flight origin  Detroit Metropolitan Airport
Destinations  Pittsburgh International Airport, Memphis International Airport, Tennessee
Similar  SANSA Flight 32, Northwest Airlines Flight 5, Madrid runway disaster, Philippine Airlines Flight 143, Alitalia Flight 404

The Wayne County Airport runway collision involved the collision of two Northwest Airlines planes in dense fog at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on December 3, 1990. It occurred when Flight 1482, a scheduled Douglas DC-9-14 operating from Detroit to Pittsburgh International Airport, taxied onto an active runway by mistake in dense fog and was hit by a departing Boeing 727 operating as Flight 299 to Memphis International Airport. One crew and seven occupants of the DC-9 were killed.



Northwest 1482 was cleared from the gate towards Runway 03C, but it missed turning onto taxiway Oscar 6 and instead entered the Outer taxiway. To correct the error they were instructed to turn right onto Taxiway Xray but they turned onto the active runway 03C. They realised the mistake and contacted air traffic for instructions who told them to leave the runway immediately, five seconds later (at 13:45 EST) the crew saw a Boeing 727 heading towards them. The Boeing 727 was operating the Northwest 299 flight to Memphis and had just been cleared for take-off. The 727 wing hit the right-hand side of the DC-9 and cut through the fuselage just below the windows until it cut off the DC-9's #2 engine. The DC-9 caught fire and was destroyed; the 727 just had a damaged wing and was later repaired.

The captain escaped from the aircraft through the left sliding window. 18 people escaped from the aircraft from the left overwing exit. 13 persons got out through the left main boarding door. 4 people jumped from the right service door. The rear jumpseat flight attendant and a passenger died from smoke inhalation in the DC-9's tailcone; the tailcone release was not activated, and later investigation determined that the tailcone release mechanism was mechanically inoperable.

Of the surviving passengers, the NTSB stated that 10 received serious injuries and 23 received minor or no injuries. The three surviving crew members received minor or no injuries. The NTSB added that it did not receive medical records for three passengers who were admitted to a burn center; for the purposes of the report, the NTSB labeled their injuries as serious. The NTSB did not receive medical records for the copilot and 6 passengers who were treated and released from area hospitals; for the purposes of the report the NTSB assumed that they received minor injuries.


The Douglas DC-9 operating Flight 1482 was registered N3313L built in 1966 and had a total of 62,253 operating hours. The DC-9 was delivered new to Delta before being sold to Northwest predecessor Southern Airways in 1973. The Boeing 727 operating Flight 299 was registered N278US and had been purchased by Northwest in 1975 with a total of 37,310 operating hours. The aircraft was repaired and flew for Northwest until 1995. N278US was flown by Kitty Hawk Aircargo before being scrapped in 2011.


The accident was investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, which determined the probable cause of the accident to be:

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was a lack of proper crew coordination, including a virtual reversal of roles by the DC-9 pilots, which led to their failure to stop taxiing their airplane and alert the ground controller of their positional uncertainty in a timely manner before and after intruding onto the active runway.

Contributing to the cause of the accident were (1) deficiencies in the air traffic control services provided by the Detroit tower, including failure of the ground controller to take timely action to alert the local controller to the possible runway incursion, inadequate visibility observations, failure to use progressive taxi instructions in low-visibility conditions, and issuance of inappropriate and confusing taxi instructions compounded by inadequate backup supervision for the level of experience of the staff on duty; (2) deficiencies in the surface markings, signage, and lighting at the airport and the failure of Federal Aviation Administration surveillance to detect or correct any of these deficiencies; and (3) failure of Northwest Airlines, Inc., to provide adequate cockpit resource management training to their line aircrews.

Contributing to the fatalities in the accident was the inoperability of the DC-9 internal tail cone release mechanism. Contributing to the number and severity of injuries was the failure of the crew of the DC-9 to properly execute the passenger evacuation.


1990 Wayne County Airport runway collision Wikipedia