Tom O'Connor Group

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Today in Transportation History: Air Florida Flight 90

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Today, January 13, 1982, adapted from Anniversaries:

According to the TV news, an extremely cold Arctic outbreak had spread across the eastern half of the United States, dropping temperatures to -25°F in Chicago and near 0°F in Atlanta. There was a major freeze in the central Florida citrus groves. At National Airport, the temperature dropped to 2°F.

There was a one-hour period during the early afternoon when the snow dropped visibility at National Airport to a sixteenth of a mile. Approximately 2-to-3 inches of snow fell during that hour. Then, the snow ended abruptly in the mid-afternoon.

The Air Florida’s scheduled departure time was delayed about 1 hour and 45 minutes because of the temporary closing of Washington National Airport. Moderate snowfall continued and the air temperature was 24 °F.

From Wikipedia:

The plane had trouble leaving the gate when the ground services tow motor could not get traction on the ice. For approximately 30 to 90 seconds, the crew attempted to back away from the gate using the reverse thrust of the engines, which proved futile. Boeing operations bulletins had warned against using reverse thrust in those kinds of conditions.

Eventually, a tug ground unit properly equipped with snow chains was used to push the aircraft back from the gate. After leaving the gate, the aircraft waited in a taxi line with many other aircraft for 49 minutes before reaching the takeoff runway. The pilot apparently decided not to return to the gate for reapplication of deicing, fearing that the flight’s departure would be even further delayed. More snow and ice accumulated on the wings during that period, and the crew were aware of that fact when they decided to make the takeoff. Heavy snow was falling during their takeoff roll at 3:59 p.m.

At 4:01 p.m. EST, it crashed into the 14th Street Bridge across the Potomac River, 0.75 nautical miles (1,390 m) from the end of the runway. The plane hit six cars and a truck on the bridge, and tore away 97 feet (30 m) of the bridge’s rail and 41 feet (12 m) of the bridge’s wall. The aircraft then plunged into the freezing Potomac River. It fell between two of the three spans of the bridge, between the I-395 northbound span (the Rochambeau Bridge) and the HOV north- and southbound spans, about 200 feet (61 m) offshore. All but the tail section quickly became submerged.

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Meanwhile, at 4:29, the subway system (Metro) suffered its first fatal crash at the Federal Triangle station.

From the description of the video above:

Air Florida Flight 90 was a scheduled U.S. domestic passenger flight from Washington National Airport to Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport with an intermediate stopover at Tampa International Airport. On January 13, 1982, the Boeing 737-200 registered as N62AF, crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River. The aircraft had originally been purchased by United Airlines in 1969 and flown with the registration number of N9050U. It was sold to Air Florida in 1980.

The aircraft struck the 14th Street Bridge, which carries Interstate 395 between Washington, D.C. and Arlington County. It crushed seven occupied vehicles on the bridge and destroyed 97 feet (30 m) of guard rail[3] before it plunged through the ice into the Potomac River. The crash occurred less than two miles (3 km) from the White House and within view of both the Jefferson Memorial and The Pentagon. The aircraft was carrying 74 passengers and five crewmembers. Four passengers and one flight attendant survived the crash. Four motorists from the bridge were killed. The survivors were rescued from the icy river by civilians and professionals. President Ronald Reagan commended these acts during his State of the Union speech a few days later.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the cause of the accident was pilot error. The pilots failed to switch on the engines’ internal ice protection systems, used reverse thrust in a snowstorm prior to takeoff, and failed to abort the takeoff even after detecting a power problem while taxiing and visually identifying ice and snow buildup on the wings.
Major real-life air disasters are depicted in this TV series. Each episode features a detailed dramatized reconstruction of the incident based on cockpit voice recorders and air traffic control transcripts, as well as eyewitnesses recounts and interviews with aviation experts. Sometimes, interviews with investigators who dealt with the disaster or even actual footage are featured. In Canada, where the series originated, the show is called ‘Mayday’. In the US it is ‘Air Emergency’. Everywhere else it is called ‘Air Crash Investigation’.

Happy New Year from the Tom O’Connor Group!

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The Tom O’Connor Group wishes you and your family a happy, healthy new year.

When it comes to celebrating the New Year it seems that everyone has their own peculiar way of doing things. Some people throw bread, others burn scarecrows, and still others fist fight for good luck.

These are the 25 strangest New Year’s traditions from around the world.

Merry Christmas from the Tom O’Connor Group!

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Merry Christmas to all our friends, families and clients

~ Tom

Pearl Harbor Day

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National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, which is observed annually in the United States on December 7, is to remember and honor the 2,403 victims who were killed in the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

On August 23, 1994, United States Congress, by Pub.L. 103–308, designated December 7 of each year as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is also referred to as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day or Pearl Harbor Day. It is a tradition to fly the Flag of the United States at half-staff until sunset in honor of dead patriots.

On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked Naval Station Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, without warning and without a declaration of war, killing 2,403 American non-combatants, and injuring 1,178 others. The attack sank two U.S. Navy battleships and damaged five others. It also damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, and one minelayer. Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged.

Thanks to Our Veterans

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The observance of Veterans Day, Nov. 11, began over a century ago.

In the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Allied nations and Germany declared an armistice – a temporary cessation of hostilities – in World War I. Commemorated as Armistice Day the next year, Nov. 11 became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938.

After World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to U.S. veterans of all wars.

We will Always Remember 9/11

My wife, Mary, originally wrote this on 9/11/01…

I, too, was stunned to hear the news this morning and continuing throughout the day.

It was just something unbelievable.  My husband and I were on a Land Rover 4X4 tour of the off-road areas of Barbados when we first got the news.

At first, when we got the very first news, around 9:30 am, I thought that it was some tale that the driver was weaving…and that there would be a punchline.  As the day wore on, more interest was on the radio than on the tour.  Some of the people in our Land Rover were from New York City and they were terrified for friends and family.

What an awful day in history this is, one of those that we’ll always remember where we were when we got the news.

Like the rest of you, I am stunned, absolutely shocked that this could happen, using our own planes, no less.  I cannot imagine the terror of the people on those planes, or in the World Trade Center…or the Pentagon.

The rest of the story:

The year of 911 my mom and my son had been with us for the first week. My son had to be back at college so on Sunday he shepherded my mom through the airport, customs and all and got her back home before he headed back to UMass/Amherst on Monday. Thank goodness they got back before the mayhem started!

On Tuesday we were out on a 4X4 from Island Safari with our favorite guide, Zario. Zario is a fun guy and and very knowledgeable about Barbados and world events. We were very happy to have him again because it was the “luck of the draw” which driver/guide we got.

I remember that morning being kind of stressed already – I was having trouble with one of my contacts and I was just grumpy.

Zario picked us up first, one of the benefits of staying at The Crane – everyone picks us first for everything and drops us off last. Then he picked up another couple from New York City who were staying at Bougainvillea.

The tour started off through the fields, down cliffs as usual. Zario had the radio on in the background. When we got to the first stop he told us that there was a “problem” in New York. That it seemed that a plane had hit a building. We thought that there was going to be a punch line somewhere. There wasn’t.

As the tour went on, the news got worse. The couple from NYC was very worried about relatives.

By the time we got to lunch and met up with the other 4x4s everyone had heard. We were in a little chattal house restaurant, the TV was on CNN and everyone was just watching in silence and horror. Usually this lunch is very festive and fun. Not a care in the world. Not today.

We left the New York people off at their hotel and went “home”. The TV was full of New York news, then Pentagon news. We know people who work at the Pentagon. The news just got worse as we went along.

We were basically stuck in Barbados.  Phones to the US didn’t work well, email was slow to non-existent, all we knew was what we got on CNN, incessantly.  My mother and son had been with us the week before and had just flown back the Saturday before.  I was so glad that they had gotten back home ok, then my son off to college.

We were supposed to fly home on the next Saturday, but if was iffy if that would happen since the airports were closed for the longest time.  We were flying into the DC area. The phone lines to the Barbados airport and to American Airlines were always busy.

Finally, we decided to give it a shot, packed up and went to the airport to see if we could fly out or not.  They could only guarantee the flight as far as Puerto Rico.

The San Juan airport was crowded with Americans trying to get home, flights being canceled due to closed airports, people sleeping all around the airport, using backpacks for pillows.  It was a very difficult time.

We did finally leave for home later that night.  This is what I wrote the next day…

I flew on American Airlines last night (9/14/2001).  We left Barbados on time but the connecting flight, originating out of Aruba was very late, and we waited for a long time in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

After that flight had arrived though, we were all sitting around, hoping they’d board the plane soon.  All of a sudden, there was cheering in the hallway.  We turned to look – our pilot and crew were marching up the hallway with a huge American flag.  He stopped and talked to us.  He explained that the copilot would hang that flag outside his window as we taxied out of Puerto Rico and into Dulles.  The flag was making the rounds of American flights all over the country and that the yellow streamers hanging down were being signed by all the American crew members.  He posed for lots of pictures (I have some I’ll post later, when my eyes are less bleary!), then, as they were going to get the plane ready, he asked us in a loud voice if we were ready to fly to Washington and everyone cheered.

Along the way, he thanked us so much for having faith and flying (like we had any choice!).  The headphones for the movie and the drinks were all free on this flight!  He also told us that there were a lot of fighter planes in the Washington to NY corridor and not to be surprised if we were intercepted by one, who would just be making sure that we were “who we said we were”.  I thought that would be kind of neat to see, but I didn’t see them.  We arrived in Dulles (Washington, DC) with a jet fighter escort.  At the time, that sounded so comforting, but it turned out that they had been there to shoot us down, if we’d made any funny moves.

Then, when we arrived at the terminal, the captain said that we were back in “the land of the free, and the home of the brave” and got some more cheers.

It was a memorable flight for someone like me, who is terrified of flying under the best of circumstances.

Us, on 9/10. Who knew?

9/14, San Juan Puerto Rico:
After the crew marched down the hallway.

The captain, letting others have a chance to fly the flag.

This young woman led us onto the plane.

MaryOUSAheart

Labor Day, 2021

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Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September celebrating the economic and social contributions of workers.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

It was first nationally recognized in 1894 to placate unionists following the Pullman Strike. With the decline in union membership, the holiday is generally viewed as a time for barbecues and the end of summer vacations – and the first long weekend for schools in Fairfax County.

Independence Day, 2021

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Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain.

Independence Day fireworks are often accompanied by patriotic songs such as the national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “God Bless America”, “America the Beautiful”, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, “This Land Is Your Land”, “Stars and Stripes Forever”, and, regionally, “Yankee Doodle” in northeastern states and “Dixie” in southern states. Some of the lyrics recall images of the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812.

A bit of audio for your listening pleasure, as played by Vladimir Horowitz…

National Flag Day

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On June 14th, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19 year old teacher at Stony Hill School, placed a 10 inch, 38- star flag in a bottle on his desk then assigned essays on the flag and its significance.

He chose this date because Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. This observance was also the beginning of Cigrand’s long years of fervent and devoted effort to bring about national recognition and observance of Flag Day.

The crowning achievement of his life came at age fifty when President Wilson, on May 30, 1916, issued a proclamation calling for a nation wide observance of Flag Day.

Then in 1949, President Truman signed an Act Of Congress designating the 14th day of June every year as National Flag Day. On June 14th, 2004, the 108th U.S. Congress voted unanimously on H.R. 662 that Flag Day originated in Ozaukee County, Waubeka Wisconsin.

Beware! The Ides of March

Everyone knows we’re supposed to beware the Ides of March and may even remember they’re from William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” but what exactly do they mean?

The Ides of March marked the day the Julius Caesar was assassinated by members of the Roman Senate in 44 B.C.E.

A soothsayer, or psychic, warned Caesar to beware the day, but Caesar doesn’t heed him.

He was then stabbed 23 times by about 60 conspirators, including his friend Marcus Brutus, as immortalised by Shakespeare’s “Et tu Brute?”

I remember learning all about this in Latin class in High School.

I remember another movie,  Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, discussing the Ides of March and someone asked why a month would need an “idea”.

We found Bill and Ted purely by accident.  We were looking at videos for rent in a grocery store and one of the bag boys (remember them?) recommended this one.

I’ve seen this several times over the years…