Thirty-one years ago, Delta Air Lines flight 191 was trying to land at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport during a thunderstorm.
The L-1011 jumbo jet was on approach to Runway 17L when it encountered a microburst with winds up to 84 mph that shoved the airplane to the ground. The jet first hit a car on Texas 114, killing a motorist, before crashing in a field. Of the 152 passengers, 126 died and eight of the 11 crew members were also killed.
Most of the plane disintegrated on impact, but the charred tail section sat in that field for days and photos of the tail became a widely recognized symbol of the crash. Following the crash investigation, the industry made several advances in air safety and pilot training for severe weather. Wind shear alert systems were installed across the country to help air traffic controllers detect microbursts.
Star-Telegram writer Stan Jones was the first reporter to arrive at the wreckage that evening, and described the horrific scene in a front page article that accompanied this archive photo.
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“From the north airport entrance to the crash site, the mud was ankle deep. As I came within 300 yards, and a police helicopter buzzed over my head, I realized I was not where I belonged and I was about to witness firsthand the awful carnage of a plane disaster,” Jones wrote.
In 2010, DFW Airport installed a 3-foot-tall granite plaque at Founders Plaza to honor the victims and the first responders.