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Accident Report Detail

Uncontrolled Flight Into Terrain ABX Air (Airborne Express) Douglas DC-8-63, N827AX

Executive Summary

On December 22, 1996, at 1810 eastern standard time, a Douglas DC-8-63, N827AX, operated by ABX Air Inc. (Airborne Express) impacted mountainous terrain in the vicinity of Narrows, Virginia, while on a post-modification functional evaluation flight. The three flightcrew members and three maintenance/avionics technicians on board were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by the impact and a postcrash fire. The functional evaluation flight, which originated from Piedmont Triad International Airport, Greensboro, North Carolina, was conducted on an instrument flight rules flight plan and operated under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Safety issues discussed in this report include airplane stall recovery procedures for functional evaluation flights, stall warning systems, fidelity of the ABX DC-8 flight training simulator, guidelines and limitations for conducting functional evaluation flights, and Federal Aviation Administration surveillance of air carrier functional evaluation flight programs.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable causes of this accident were the inappropriate control inputs applied by the flying pilot during a stall recovery attempt, the failure of the nonflying pilot-in-command to recognize, address, and correct these inappropriate control inputs, and the failure of ABX to establish a formal functional evaluation flight program that included adequate program guidelines, requirements and pilot training for performance of these flights. Contributing to the causes of the accident were the inoperative stick shaker stall warning system and the ABX DC-8 flight training simulator’s inadequate fidelity in reproducing the airplane’s stall characteristics.

Accident Location: Narrows , VA    
Accident Date: 12/22/1996
Accident ID: DCA97MA016

Date Adopted: 7/15/1997
NTSB Number: AAR-97-05
NTIS Number: PB97-910405