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Inside The Black Box

Sep 6, 2018

At just before 3pm on May 25th, 1979. American Airlines Flight 191 begins to push back from gate K5 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The airport is busy, It is the Friday before the Memorial Day long weekend and many are travelling to be with their families or going on holiday. The aircraft chosen to fly the route. a McDonnel Douglas DC-10 is at capacity, carrying 258 passengers and 13 crew members. American 191’s destination is Los Angeles, California. In command of the aircraft is Captain Walter Lux, aged 53. A veteran pilot, with more than 22,000 hours flying experience. Supporting him is First Officer James Dillard, aged 49 who has more than 9,000 hours flight time. He will be piloting the aircraft this afternoon Finally, completing the crew is Flight Engineer Alfred Udovich, aged 56. Before the introduction of advanced electronics, a flight engineer was the third member of an airliner’s flight crew, tasked with monitoring, operating and fixing an aircraft’s systems while in flight. The DC-10 is a complex aircraft, with three engines. Two are mounted on the wings, while one is mounted on the tail of the aircraft. This configuration of aircraft, known as tri-jet was very popular with US airlines during the 1970s and 1980s, offering a compromise in size and range between larger four engine aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and smaller twin-engine aircraft such as the Airbus A300

After pushing back from Gate K5, the pilots begin their taxi to Runway 32 Right. As the crew travel across the busy airport the crew complete their final pre-flight checks on the move so they can take-off as soon as they arrive at the runway. This is known as a rolling takeoff. It is Flight Engineer Udovich who reads through the aircraft’s checklist while Captain Lux and First Officer Dillard perform the necessary checks.. At 2 minutes past 3 the aircraft is approaching the runway and Chiacgo’s Air Traffic Control gives American 191 clearance for takeoff. Captain Lux acknowledges the tower’s instruction. It is the last time anybody will hear from American Airlines 191.

This is the story of American Airlines 191 and you are listening to Inside The Black Box.


Drawing of bulkhead structure:

Drawing of engine assembly

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