Air Midwest Flight 5481

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Air Midwest Flight 5481
Date8 January 2003
TypeMaintenance error
SiteCharlotte, North Carolina
Aircraft typeBeechcraft 1900D
OperatorAir Midwest
Tail numberN233YV

Air Midwest Flight 5481 operating as US Airways Express Flight 5481, was a flight from Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, United States to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer, South Carolina, near the cities of Greenville and Spartanburg; on January 8, 2003 a Beechcraft 1900D operated by Air Midwest as US Airways Express under a franchise agreement used for the route crashed into a US Airways hangar and burst into flames 37 seconds after leaving Charlotte Airport.

2003-01-08 1900 Air Midwest ZV NC CLT Mechanical (elevators) 1 21 0

All 19 passengers and 2 pilots aboard died in the accident, and 1 person on the ground received minor injuries. None of the US Airways employees working in the hangar received injuries. [1]

No flight attendants were on the flight because the Beech 1900D aircraft, with 19 seats, is exempt from US Federal regulations requiring a flight attendant. Operating without a flight attendant is considered normal for these aircraft.

The subject of this crash was featured in a Mayday (Air Crash Investigation, Air Emergency) episode entitled "Dead Weight," first broadcasted in the United Kingdom on the National Geographic Channel in early 2008.

Crew and passengers

This is a list by residence [2]:

Residence Passengers Crew Total
Template:BAH 3 0 3
Template:CAN 1 0 1
Template:IND 2 0 2
Template:POR 1 0 1
Template:USA 12 2 14
Total 19 2 21

The resident of the Azores, Portugal was a U.S. citizen.[3][4]

Katie Leslie served as the pilot and Jonathan Gibbs served as the first officer; both served from the Charlotte station.[5][2][6]

Cause of the crash

At first it was believed that a fuel cap on the runway caused the crash, because 3 years earlier a Concorde aircraft crashed in Paris killing 113 people due to debris on the runway (See Air France Flight 4590). But close inspection of the fuel cap revealed no significant damage. Another possibility was that Flight 5481 encountered wake turbelence, the theory was backed-up when investigators discovered a Bombardier CRJ took off earlier on the same runway. 1 year earlier American Airlines Flight 587 crashed when it encountered turbelence killing 265 people, but the flight path of flight 5481 did not follow the CRJ.

The NTSB determined the crash to have been the result of two separate issues.

After take-off, the plane climbed steeply before stalling, despite both pilots pushing the control column forward. The aircraft's most recent service involved adjusting the elevator control cable, and was performed two nights before the crash at a repair facility located at Tri-State Airport in Huntington, West Virginia. During the investigation, it emerged that the mechanic who worked on the elevator cables had never worked on this type of aircraft. Investigation revealed that turnbuckles controlling tension on the cables to the elevators had been set incorrectly, resulting in insufficient elevator travel, leading to the pilots not having sufficient pitch control.

Although the pilots had totalled up the take-off weight of the aircraft before the flight and determined it to be within limits, the plane was actually overloaded and out of balance, due to the use of incorrect (but FAA approved) passenger weight estimates (which were over 20 pounds lighter than the actual weight of an average passenger). After checking the actual weight of baggage (retrieved from the crash site), and passengers (based on information from next-of-kin and the medical examiner), it was found that the aircraft was actually 600 pounds above its maximum allowable take-off weight, with its center of gravity 5% rear of allowable limits.

It was determined that neither problem alone would have caused the loss of control, which explains why it departed Huntington, West Virginia safely.


As a result of the weight issues discovered, the FAA planned to investigate and potentially revise estimated weight values, something that wasn't done since 1936. Air carriers now directly oversee all maintenance so that even inexperienced mechanics get the job done correctly. Air Midwest now use an average weight of 200 pounds per passenger, but the NTSB suggests that airlines use actual weights instead of average. 70% of small air carriers still use average.


External links

Coordinates: Template:Coor dms