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35th anniversary of American Airlines Flight 191 crash near O’Hare

Crash American Airlines Flight 191 May 25 1979 - Firefighters spray water amid DC-10 wreckage thcrashed just after takeoff from

Crash of American Airlines Flight 191, May 25, 1979 - Firefighters spray water amid the DC-10 wreckage that crashed just after takeoff from O'Hare Airport. (Photo by Nancy Stuenkel/Sun-Times)

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Updated: May 26, 2014 10:55AM



Sunday marked the 35th anniversary of the American Airlines Flight 191 crash just outside O’Hare Airport that claimed the lives of 271 people aboard and two on the ground.

The Los Angeles-bound jet lost its left engine on takeoff, banked left and crashed on May 25, 1979. The indelible event in Chicago history remains the worst single airplane disaster on U.S. soil.

The jet crashed near Touhy Avenue and Mount Prospect Road, just south of the of now-closed Des Plaines Oasis on the Jane Addams Tollway.

The crash happened on takeoff from runway 32-Right. The DC-10 reached just 325 feet before plummeting at 3:04 p.m. Investigators ruled a maintenance shortcut at a repair shop in Tulsa, Okla., two months earlier damaged a crucial part of the pylon that held the left engine onto the wing.

McDonnell-Douglas, the aircraft’s maker, had recommended removing the pylon and the engine separately. But to save time, workers used a forklift to remove and re-attach both together, causing a crack that led to the pylon failure. When the 11,512-pound engine tore off, it ruptured key hydraulic and electrical lines, giving the pilots little chance of recovery.

DC-10s were grounded for nearly two months after the crash . Upgrades were later made to give pilots a better chance of recovering from an engine loss.



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