Air Canada Flight 797
|June 2 1983
|23 (including 5 crew)
|McDonnell Douglas DC-9
|Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
|Lester B. Pearson International Airport
|Montreal-Dorval International Airport
On that day, the Air Canada aircraft registered C-FTLU took off from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport; it was meant to make a stop at Toronto International Airport (now Toronto Pearson International Airport) in Mississauga, Ontario. The DC-9 was bound for Dorval Airport (now Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport) near Montreal, Quebec.
Donald Cameron was the captain and Claude Ouimet, first officer. While flying over Louisville, Kentucky, an in-flight fire began in or around the rear lavatory of the McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32. The pilots heard a popping sound and discovered that the lavatory's circut breakers had tripped. On the voice recorder investigators heard 8 sounds of electrical arcing and discovered that some wire insulation had stripped away. They were unable to determine whether this had happened before or after the fire (citation needed). They think that the fire was burning behind the wall of the toilet. The plane acted as a chimney forcing the smoke up the plane. Investigators were unable to determine the cause or exact point of origin for the fire.
Cameron and Ouimet made an emergency landing at the Greater Cincinnati Airport (now Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport), located in Boone County, Kentucky near Cincinnati, Ohio. During the evacuation, the aircraft doors were opened, causing an influx of air that fuelled the fire. Less than 90 seconds after touchdown the interior of the plane ignited killing 23 of the 46 passengers. They died from smoke inhalation and a flash fire. Of the surviving passengers, 3 received serious injuries, 13 received minor injuries, and 2 were uninjured. None of the 5 crew members sustained any injuries . The 18 surviving passengers and 5 crew members left the aircraft before the interior burst into flames, killing the remaining passengers (13/115).
21 Canadians and 2 Americans died. Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. Almost all of the victims were in the forward half of the aircraft between the wings and the cockpit. Some bodies were in the aisles, and some bodies were still in the seats. Two victims were in the back of the aircraft, even though the passengers were moved forward after the fire had been detected; the disoriented passengers moved beyond the overwing exits and succumbed. The blood samples from bodies revealed high levels of cyanide, fluoride, and carbon monoxide, chemicals produced by the burning plane.  The plane had a troubled history. 76 maintenance reports had been filed in the plane's logs.
- Stan Rogers was a Canadian folk singer, known for songs like "Northwest Passage", "The Mary Ellen Carter", "Song of the Candle", and "Barrett's Privateers". He was going home on Flight 797 after attending the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. He died in the fire at the age of 33, reportedly while helping other passengers to safety.
- Also on board was George Curtis Mathes Jr., founder of the electronics company that bears his name. He died in the fire.
As a result of this accident and other incidents of in flight fires on passenger aircraft, the National Transportation Safety Board issued several recommendations to the FAA including Safety Recommendation A-83-70 which asked the FAA to expedite actions to require smoke detectors in lavatories ; Safety Recommendation A-83-71 which asked the FAA to require the installation of automatic fire extinguishers adjacent to and in lavatory waste receptacles and other related recommendations. In addition air carriers were to review fire training procedures and amend those that did not take aggressive actions to determine the source and severity of suspected cabin fires, including emergency descents for landing or ditching.
This 1983 accident is, as of 2007, Air Canada's most recent fatal accident.
Newspapers and Media criticized the action taken by the crew and said that they took to long to initiate an emergency descent. The crew vehemently deny these claims.
All of Air Canada's DC-9s have been retired. As of 2007, it uses the flight number on its Montréal-Los Angeles route.
On December 20, 1983, N994Z, operating as Ozark Air Lines Flight 650, hit a snow plow in Sioux Falls, separating the right wing from the aircraft. The wing from C-FTLU was used to replace the one separated on N994Z after the incident. The aircraft was later sold to Republic Airlines, and acquired by Northwest Airlines after the merger. As of 2006, N994Z has since been retired from the Northwest fleet.