United Airlines, Inc., McDonnell- Douglas, DC-8-61, N8082U

What Happened

​​​About 1815 Pacific standard time on December 28, 1978, United Airlines, Inc., Flight 173 crashed into a wooded, populated area of suburban Portland, Oregon, during an approach to the Portland International Airport. The aircraft delayed southeast of the airport at a low altitude for about 1 hour while the flight crew coped with a landing gear malfunction and prepared the passengers for a possible emergency l​anding. The plane crashed about 6 nmi southeast of the airport. The aircraft was destroyed; there was no fire. Of the 181 passengers and 8 crewmembers aboard, 8 passengers, the flight engineer, and a flight attendant were killed and 21 passengers and 2 crewmembers were injured seriously.

What We Found

​We determined that the probable cause of the accident was the failure of the captain to monitor properly the aircraft’s fuel state and to properly respond to the low fuel state and the crewmember’s advisories regarding fuel state. This resulted in fuel exhaustion to all engines.’ inattention resulted from with a landing gear malfunction end preparations for a possible landing emergency.

​Contributing to the accident was the failure of the other two flight crewmembers either to fully comprehend the criticality of the fuel state or to successfully communicate their concern to the captain.​