Wind Shear Accident Was Catalyst for Technology
Gray Creech of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center can remember August 2, 1985, as if it was yesterday. On that day 25 years ago the public affairs specialist was a young U.S. Air Force airman heading home on leave to North Carolina, flying out of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. "I was just minding my own business, sitting at the end of the runway aboard the second airplane lined up to take off," said Creech. "I had a window seat and was looking out the window when I noticed some really, really black thunder clouds at our end of the runway. Then I saw orange, extremely bright orange, light. My brain didn't register what I was seeing."

What Creech saw was Delta Flight 191 as it crashed on landing. "It was like a slow motion thing. There was the initial fireball, but then as the airplane rolled over, breaking apart and slowing down, the fire caught up with it and enveloped it," added Creech. "It all came to a halt directly even with my window, across the other side of the runway in the grass. As soon as the movement stopped, the rain hit. It was like a wall of rain and the fire quickly became a smoke ball, black and white smoke mixed."

"I remember our pilot coming over the intercom and saying something to the effect ladies and gentlemen, there has been a tragedy and I'm sorry, but we can't return to the terminal and let anyone deplane," said Creech. "Of course that was the last thing any of us wanted to hear, because anybody who saw that wasn't wanting to stay on their plane and go flying. I know I didn't." One hundred and thirty four people of the 163 on board the Delta Lockheed L-1011 and one person on the ground died that day, in part because of a powerful thunderstorm microburst-induced wind shear, a rare but potentially deadly downdraft.

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