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A Memorial Being Dedicated 25 Years After Flight 191 Crash

Delta Flight 191 crashed August 2, 1985, as it attempted to land at DFW.
Delta Flight 191 crashed August 2, 1985, as it attempted to land at DFW.

By Shelley Kofler, KERA News

Dallas, TX – Monday is the 25th anniversary of the worst air crash in the history of DFW International Airport. Airport officials plan to mark the date by dedicating a memorial to the 135 victims who died. KERA's Shelley Kofler reports the disaster lead to an education on the dangers of "wind shear," and technology that can prevent it.

The afternoon of August 2, 1985 was hot and sticky as Delta Flight 191 prepared to touch down at DFW International. The L-1011 was making a stop on its flight from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles with 152 people on board.

As the airliner neared DFW the flight crew saw a storm cloud ahead and decided to fly through it. What crew members discovered too late is that the thunderstorm would generate volatile winds that made the plane nearly impossible to control. DFW Spokesman David Magana says the crew was battling a phenomenon known as wind shear.

Magana: Wind shear is basically a massively strong downdraft of air pushing in a downward direction. Once it hits the ground it pushes at all sides

Flight 191 was some 800 feet above ground when the forceful, shifting winds caused the plane to accelerate, then abruptly slowdown. A ferocious downdraft slammed into the aircraft.

The plane crashed into a field north of the runway. It bounced back into the air, crossed State Highway 114, hit a water tank and exploded. On its decent Flight 191 struck a car killing its driver. Most of those on board- 134 -also died.

Following the tragedy the aviation community studied weather data collected by equipment on the plane. Magana says that's led to improved technology.

Magana: What the data told everyone connected is that it is not safe to fly through thunderstorms. As a result the FAA required all airlines to have on board wind shear detection equipment since 1993.

Magana says DFW now has 18 wind shear detectors at the airport. It's added two fire stations so emergency crews can better respond to a crash. The airport now has its on fire training academy.

In marking the 25th anniversary of the region's worst air disaster with a memorial DFW is also acknowledging the difficult lessons learned and how they've made flying safer.
DFW Airport will dedicate a memorial to Flight 191 victims and emergency responders Monday morning at 9:30. The dedication will be held at Founders Plaza, 1700 North Airfield Drive.