Western Airlines Flight 2605

Western Airlines DC-10 1 Tilt Corrected.jpg
A Western Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-10 similar to the crashed aircraft.
Accident summary
Date 31 October 1979 (1979-10-31)
Summary Pilot error, Runway confusion
Site Mexico City Int'l Airport
Mexico City, Mexico
19°26′11″N 99°04′20″W / 19°26′11″N 99°04′20″W / 19.43639; -99.07222
Passengers 75
Crew 13
Fatalities 73 (including 1 on the ground)
Injuries (non-fatal) 14
Survivors 16
Aircraft type McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10
Aircraft name Night Owl
Operator Western Airlines
Registration N903WA
Flight origin Los Angeles Int'l Airport
Los Angeles, California, United States
Destination Mexico City Int'l Airport
Mexico City, Mexico

Western Airlines Flight 2605, nicknamed the "Night Owl" [1] ( Spanish: "El Tecolote"), was an international scheduled passenger flight from Los Angeles, California, to Mexico City, Mexico. On October 31, 1979, at 5:42 a.m. CST ( UTC−06:00), the aircraft used for the flight, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10, crashed at Mexico City International Airport in fog, after landing on a runway closed for maintenance. Of the 88 people on board, 72 were killed in the crash; and one person on the ground, a maintenance worker, also died when the plane struck his vehicle. [2]

The event is the third-deadliest aviation accident to occur on Mexican soil, after the crashes of two Boeing 727s—the 1969 crash of Mexicana Flight 704 and Mexicana Flight 940 in 1986—and the seventh-deadliest accident involving a DC-10. [3] The crash of Flight 2605 was one of three fatal McDonnell Douglas DC-10 accidents in 1979, occurring just over five months after the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and less than a month before the crash of Air New Zealand Flight 901 on Mount Erebus in Antarctica.

Aircraft and occupants

The aircraft involved was a wide-body McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10, registered N903WA. [4] It was painted with Western Airlines's "DC-10 Spaceship" livery. [5] With the Spaceship layout, the aircraft had 46 first class seats, and 193 coach seats. [6] The aircraft first flew in 1973 and in six years logged a total of 24,614 flight hours. On the accident flight, the aircraft had 75 passengers and 13 crew on board. [7] Flight 2605 was piloted by Captain Charles Gilbert, First Officer Ernst Reichel, and Flight Engineer Dan Walsh. The cabin crew consisted of Flight Attendants Kathleen Miller, Rob Pond, Don Richards, Larry Roundtree, Sharon Smith, Teresa Sugano-Haley, Regina Tovar, and Eduardo Valenciana. Two Western Airlines Flight Attendants, Vicki Dzida and Jon Stockwell, were deadheading in First Class to Mexico City.