DCA97MA016
DCA97MA016

On December 22, 1996, at about 1810 eastern standard time (est), a Douglas DC-8-63F, N827AX, operated by Airborne Express personnel on a test flight, impacted mountainous terrain in the vicinity of Narrows, Virginia. The three flightcrew members and three maintenance/avionics technicians on board the airplane received fatal injuries. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and post crash fire. Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) prevailed for the night flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan. The local test flight operated under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, and originated from Greensboro, North Carolina at approximately 1740 est.

The airplane required a functional check flight (FCF) following major modifications and "C" check inspections at a Greensboro (GSO) Part 145 repair station. A portion of the FCF was accomplished on December 21, 1996; however, the flight was terminated at GSO due to low hydraulic quantity. Following some delay for ground maintenance activity, the FCF was resumed the following day. The airplane departed GSO about 1740 local time on a 14 CFR 91 IFR flight plan filed back to GSO. Following climbout, the flightcrew was assigned a block altitude of 13,000 to 15,000 feet mean sea level (msl). The airplane was observed on air traffic control (ATC) radar to depart the floor of the assigned altitude block at low speed. ATC inquired if the flight had an emergency, and the flightcrew responded in the affirmative and that they were descending through 8,000 feet. There was no further radio contact. Evidence from the CVR and FDR indicated that the descent was related to operations associated with the flight test profile rather than a structures or systems anomaly. The airplane descended at a higher than normal rate and struck local mountainous terrain at about 3400 feet msl.

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