Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Bookmark and Share this page

Accident Report Detail

Descent Below Visual Glidepath and Collision with Terrain Delta Air Lines Flight 554 McDonnell Douglas MD-88, N914DL

Executive Summary

About 1638 eastern daylight time, on October 19, 1996, a McDonnell Douglas MD-88, N914DL, operated by Delta Air Lines, Inc., as flight 554, struck the approach light structure and the end of the runway deck during the approach to land on runway 13 at the LaGuardia Airport, in Flushing, New York. Flight 554 was being operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, as a scheduled, domestic passenger flight from Atlanta, Georgia, to Flushing. The flight departed the William B. Hartsfield International Airport at Atlanta, Georgia, about 1441, with two flightcrew members, three flight attendants, and 58 passengers on board. Three passengers reported minor injuries; no injuries were reported by the remaining 60 occupants. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the lower fuselage, wings (including slats and flaps), main landing gear, and both engines. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the approach to runway 13; flight 554 was operating on an instrument flight rules flight plan.

The safety issues in this report focused on the possible hazards of monovision contact lenses, visual illusions encountered during the approach, non-instantaneous vertical speed information, the weather conditions encountered during the approach, the guidance in air carrier’s manuals regarding flightcrew member duties, the stabilized approach criteria in air carrier’s manuals, emergency evacuation procedures, special airport criteria and designation, and LaGuardia Airport issues/runway light spacing.

Probable Cause

​The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the inability of the captain, because of his use of monovision contact lenses, to overcome his misperception of the airplane’s position relative to the runway during the visual portion of the approach. This misperception occurred because of visual illusions produced by the approach over water in limited light conditions, the absence of visible ground features, the rain and fog, and the irregular spacing of the runway lights.

Accident Location: Flushing , NY   LaGuardia Airport
Accident Date: 10/19/1996
Accident ID: NYC97MA005

Date Adopted: 8/25/1997
NTSB Number: AAR-97-03
NTIS Number: PB97-910403