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Accident description
Last updated: 23 July 2017
Date:Sunday 16 August 1987
Type:Silhouette image of generic MD82 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82 (MD-82)
Operator:Northwest Airlines
Registration: N312RC
C/n / msn: 48090/1040
First flight: 1981
Total airframe hrs:14928
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney JT8D-217
Crew:Fatalities: 6 / Occupants: 6
Passengers:Fatalities: 148 / Occupants: 149
Total:Fatalities: 154 / Occupants: 155
Ground casualties:Fatalities: 2
Airplane damage: Destroyed
Airplane fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:Detroit-Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, MI (DTW) (   United States of America)
Phase: Takeoff (TOF)
Nature:Domestic Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:Detroit-Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, MI (DTW/KDTW), United States of America
Destination airport:Phoenix-Sky Harbor International Airport, AZ (PHX/KPHX), United States of America
Northwest Flight 255 departed Saginaw for a flight to Detroit, Phoenix and Santa Ana, arriving at Detroit (DTW) at 19:42. Pushback for departure was accomplished at 20:34 and the crew received taxi instructions for runway 3C. During the taxi out, the captain missed the turnoff at taxiway C and new taxi instructions were given. At 20:42 Flight 255 was told to taxi into position on runway 3C and hold, followed by a takeoff clearance two minutes later. Shortly after rotation the stick shaker (stall warning) activated. The aircraft rolled left and right and the left wing struck a light pole in a car rental lot. Flight 255 continued to roll to the left, continued across the car lot, struck a light pole in a second rental car lot and struck the side wall of the roof in a 90deg left wing down attitude. The plane was still rolling to the left when it impacted the ground on a road outside the airport boundary and continued to slide along the road, striking a railroad embankment, disintegrating and bursting into flames.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The flight crew's failure to use the taxi checklist to ensure that the flaps and slats were extended for take-off. Contributing the accident was the absence of electrical power to the airplane take-off warning system which thus did not warn the flight crew that the airplane was not configured properly for take-off. The reason for the absence of electrical power could not be determined."

Accident investigation:
investigating agency: National Transport Safety Bureau (NTSB) - United States of America
status: Final
number: NTSB/AAR-88-05
released:10 May 1988
duration: 268 days (9 months)
download report: Northwest Airlines, Inc., McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82, N312RC, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Romulus, Michiga (NTSB/AAR-88-05)

Wrong takeoff configuration (flaps/trim)
Loss of control

» NTSB/AAR-88/05

Follow-up / safety actions

NTSB issued 8 Safety Recommendations

Show all AD's and Safety Recommendations


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Flight path and cvr extracts
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This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from Detroit-Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, MI to Phoenix-Sky Harbor International Airport, AZ as the crow flies is 2665 km (1666 miles).

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