Tragic Record: Remembering American Airlines Flight 191 45 Years Later

Chicago, Illinois – On May 25, 2024, will mark the 45th anniversary of the deadliest plane crash in American history, where 273 individuals lost their lives aboard American Airlines Flight 191. The tragedy in 1979 left a lasting impact on the nation, with the names of Sara Collins, David Coughlin, Mario Crucioli, Carol Ferntheil, and Laura Marquet etched into memory.

Family members and friends of the victims will gather at the Memorial Wall and Garden in Des Plaines, a suburb of Chicago, to honor the lives lost. The Memorial Wall was dedicated in 2011 as a place of remembrance for those who perished in the crash.

At 15:01, a moment of silence will be observed facing Chicago O’Hare Airport Runway 32R for 31 seconds, symbolizing the duration of the ill-fated flight. On that fateful day in 1979, the American Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 tragically crashed just 31 seconds after takeoff with 258 passengers and 13 crew members on board.

Captain Walter H. Lux, a seasoned pilot with years of experience, piloted the ill-fated flight alongside First Officer James Dillard and Flight Engineer Alfred Udovich. The tragedy unfolded as the aircraft’s left engine and strut assembly separated from the wing during takeoff, leading to a loss of control and the eventual crash into a field and trailer park just northwest of the runway.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigation revealed that a maintenance error during an engine change caused the structural failure that led to the tragic incident. The procedure used by American Airlines for engine and pylon installation lacked precision, resulting in cracks in the pylon that ultimately led to its separation from the aircraft.

The NTSB report detailed the sequence of events that culminated in the crash, emphasizing the loss of hydraulic pressure, retraction of critical slats, and the crew’s struggle to maintain control of the aircraft. The investigation shed light on the systemic failures that contributed to the disaster, highlighting the importance of stringent maintenance protocols in aviation safety.

As the anniversary approaches, the community continues to honor the memory of the lives lost in the tragedy. The Memorial Wall and Garden serve as a solemn reminder of the devastating impact of the Flight 191 crash, urging all to remember and reflect on the events that unfolded on that tragic day in 1979.