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Accident description
Last updated: 28 May 2016
Date:Sunday 22 December 1996
Type:Silhouette image of generic DC86 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
McDonnell Douglas DC-8-63F
Operator:Airborne Express
Registration: N827AX
C/n / msn: 45901/293
First flight: 1967
Total airframe hrs:62800
Engines: 4 Pratt & Whitney JT3D-7 (Q)
Crew:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Passengers:Fatalities: 3 / Occupants: 3
Total:Fatalities: 6 / Occupants: 6
Airplane damage: Destroyed
Airplane fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:6,5 km (4.1 mls) W of Narrows, VA (   United States of America)
Phase: Maneuvering (MNV)
Departure airport:Greensboro/High Point-Piedmont Triad International Airport, NC (GSO/KGSO), United States of America
Destination airport:Greensboro/High Point-Piedmont Triad International Airport, NC (GSO/KGSO), United States of America
Flightnumber: 827
DC-8 N827AX had received major modifications at Triad International Maintenance Corporation (TIMCO), including a "D" check (major airplane overhaul), modification and standardization of cockpit, avionics and airplane systems, installation of a cargo handling system and engine modifications to achieve Stage III noise level requirements. A partial functional evaluation flight was conducted on December 21, 1996, but was terminated when the airplane developed a hydraulic system anomaly (low fluid quantity indication). Due to maintenance delays the aircraft departed 4 hours and 20 minutes late, at 17:40, the following day. The crew were assigned a block altitude of FL130 to FL150 with an IFR clearance back to Greensboro Airport. The planned flight duration was about 2 hours. The airplane climbed through FL90feet at 17:43 and was level at FL141 at 17:45. At 18:05, after performing several landing gear, hydraulic and engine system checks, the flight engineer told the other flight crew members that the "next thing is our stall series. The evaluation flight profile form required that the flight crew identify and record the speed at which the stick shaker activated and the speed of the stall indication. The crew slowed the aircraft down one knot at a time. At 18:08:09, the sound of rattling was heard on the CVR and, at 18:08:11, the flight engineer said "that’s a stall right there... ain’t no [stick] shaker" (at 145 knots). The crew tried to recover from the stall by selecting maximum power. The nose was brought down to gain speed. Not able to recover from the stall, the aircraft struck mountainous terrain in a 52-degree, left wing low and 26-degree, nose-down attitude about 3,400 feet msl.

PROBABLE CAUSE: " The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable causes of this accident were the inappropriate control inputs applied by the flying pilot during a stall recovery attempt, the failure of the non-flying pilot-in-command to recognize, address and correct these inappropriate control inputs, and the failure of Airborne Express to establish a formal, functional evaluation flight program that included adequate program guidelines, requirements and pilot training for performance of these flights.
Contributing to the cause of the accident were the inoperative stick shaker stall warning system and Airborne Express DC-8 flight training simulator's inadequate fidelity in reproducing the airplane's stall characteristics."

Loss of control

» Aviation Week & Space Technology 3.3.1997 (41)
» Business & Commercial Aviation Nov. 1997 (98)
» NTSB/AAR-97/05
» After Intentionally Stalling DC-8, Crew Uses Incorrect Recovery Technique, Resulting in Uncontrolled Descent and Collision with Terrain

Official accident investigation report
investigating agency: National Transport Safety Bureau (NTSB) - United States of America
report status: Final
report number: NTSB/AAR-97-05
report released:15 July 1997
duration of investigation: 205 days (7 months)
download report: Uncontrolled Flight into Terrain ABX Air (Airborne Express) Douglas DC-8-63, N827AX Narrows, Virginia December 22, 1996 (NTSB/AAR-97-05)

Follow-up / safety actions

NTSB issued 7 Safety Recommendations

Show all AD's and Safety Recommendations


photo of McDonnell Douglas DC-8-63F N929R
N929R was sold to Airborne Express and re-registered N827AX.
Add your photo of this accident or aircraft

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 Greensboro/High Point-Piedmont Triad International Airport, NC to Greensboro/High Point-Piedmont Triad International Airport, NC as the crow flies is NAN km (NAN miles).

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