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Last updated: 8 December 2021
Date:Friday 12 September 1980
Type:Silhouette image of generic DC3 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Douglas DC-3A
Operator:Florida Commuter Airlines
Registration: N75KW
MSN: 4861
First flight: 1942
Total airframe hrs:64700
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92
Crew:Fatalities: 4 / Occupants: 4
Passengers:Fatalities: 30 / Occupants: 30
Total:Fatalities: 34 / Occupants: 34
Aircraft damage: Damaged beyond repair
Location:6,5 km (4.1 mls) SW off West End Settlement (   Bahamas)
Phase: Approach (APR)
Nature:Int'l Non Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:West Palm Beach International Airport, FL (PBI/KPBI), United States of America
Destination airport:Freeport-Grand Bahama International Airport (FPO/MYGF), Bahamas
N75KW initiated takeoff from West Palm Beach at 19:40. The crew rejected the takeoff, reported that they had no airspeed indication and taxied back to the ramp. It appeared that both pitot tubes were covered or partially covered with a mud dauber's nest. The airspeed indicator then tested ok and the flight took off from runway 09L at 20:35. The crew were cleared to climb to 5,000 feet, to intercept Bahama Route 63V (BR 63V), and to proceed on course. At 20:49:23 Miami center cleared N75KW for the approach to Freeport and to cross the Halbi intersection at 4,000 feet. Around 20:57 Freeport approach control cleared the flight to descend to 1,400 feet for a VOR approach to land on runway 24 at Freeport, which was acknowledged. This was the last radio contact with the flight.
The DC-3 descended into the sea in low ceilings, low visibility with moderate turbulence and thunderstorm activity.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: "Unable to determine the probable cause of this accident from the available evidence. Although the Board has been unable to determine the probable cause with any degree of precision, the following factors may have contributed:
1) Flight into known thunderstorm activities and turbulence;
2) Pre-existing discrepancies in the pitot/static system of the aircraft and their effect on the reliability of the flight instruments;
3) Lack of operational control exercised by the airline's management."

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: NTSB
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 189 days (6 months)
Accident number: NTSB/AAR-81-5
Download report: Final report

Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) - Water

» NTSB Safety Recommendations A-81-35
» NTSB-AAR-80-05

Follow-up / safety actions

NTSB issued 1 Safety Recommendation

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This map shows the airport of departure and the intended destination of the flight. The line between the airports does not display the exact flight path.
Distance from West Palm Beach International Airport, FL to Freeport-Grand Bahama International Airport as the crow flies is 139 km (87 miles).
Accident location: Approximate; accuracy within a few kilometers.

This information is not presented as the Flight Safety Foundation or the Aviation Safety Network’s opinion as to the cause of the accident. It is preliminary and is based on the facts as they are known at this time.
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Douglas DC-3

  • ca 13.000 built
  • 4367th loss
  • 1719th fatal accident
  • 18th worst accident (at the time)
  • 19th worst accident (currently)
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