March 22 in History: USAir Flight 405 Crashes on Takeoff at LaGuardia

LaGuardia Airport
LaGuardia Airport via Doc Searls on Flickr

A formative event in aviation history, a USAir flight suffered ice on its wings and crashed just after leaving the runway on March 22, 1992.

While attempting to depart LaGuardia airport, the flight, bound for Cleveland, Ohio, encountered delays on the ground due to poor weather. The below-freezing temperatures required de-icing fluid be applied to the wings, but later testing would show that this fluid was not effective for the amount of time the plane was delayed. Upon takeoff, ice had frozen on the wings after de-icing and caused the plane to stall and crash into Flushing Bay, just off the end of the runway.

The USAir Fokker F28 Series 4000 aircraft carried 51 people on board, of which 27 were killed.

Investigations into de-icing procedures as a result of the incident showed that the de-icing fluid used at airports across the United States was only effective for 15 minutes. The Type I fluid was only to be used for de-icing planes, where Type II fluid was meant to prevent ice build-up. LaGuardia Airport policy had prohibited Type II fluid from being used because of its impact on runway friction.

The crash had implications both at LaGuardia and across the nation as the NTSB investigation ordered changes made to LaGuardia infrastructure and recommended procedures to the FAA to educate airport personnel on proper de-icing.

Learn More

Here's a very detailed article from the 1992 New York Times written a week after the accident that includes various quotes from passengers and presents the mounting fears that ice caused the crash.

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