WASHINGTON -- Ten years after a jet headed to sunny Florida crashed in a heavy snowstorm just one mile from the Washington Monument, icy weather remains a worry for aviation regulators.
Air Florida Flight 90 slammed into the Potomac River Jan. 13, 1982, seconds after takeoff from a snow-clogged National Airport, killing 78 people -- including four on the ground -- and triggering changes in the way airlines deal with ice on the wings and other cold weather-related problems.
'It doesn't take much ice to spoil the air flow,' says Alan Pollock, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board. 'You get up in the air and you have no lift and you come right back down.'
The government had rulebooks rewritten in the wake of the Air Florida crash to require more frequent deicing of wings.
'But the crew still plays an important part in de-icing,' says Pollock, whose accident-investigating agency got the Federal Aviation Administration to warn jet crews to look more carefully for signs of ice.
Among the new requirements included visual inspections of the wing surfaces before takeoff, especially if more than 20 minutes has elapsed since the wings were last deiced.
The NTSB found that the crew of Air Florida Flight 90 took off in snow despite ice on the wings, failed to use engine deicing devices, and chose to attempt the takeoff despite signs of trouble on gauges in the cockpit.
'I don't want to die,' flight attendant Kelly Duncan remembered thinking as the 737 came back down, and she said she had a vague sense of 'floating through white.'
Another flight attendant, Marilyn Nichols, did not survive the crash. Nichols had learned just a few weeks before that she was pregnant.
The crash also killed John Ventura, a Clearwater, Fla., businessman who was shot down in combat in World War II.
Passenger Patricia Felch testified 'there were people who were screaming' as the plane crashed into the river. Felch remembered using her teeth to open the plastic bag containing her life vest.
For most Americans, the Air Florida disaster will be remembered for the heroic efforts of ordinary citizens and rescue workers.
Martin 'Lenny' Skutnick of Lorton, Va., who was headed home, plunged into the river to grab Priscilla Tirado, when helicopter pilots were unable to pluck her from the water. Skutnick swam to her and pulled her out.
Donald Usher and M.E. 'Gene' Windsor, pilots for the U.S. Park Service, were credited with saving five of six survivors who were thrown free of the twisted wreckage.
A six man, Arland D. Williams of Atlanta, repeatedly passed a rescue ring dropped by the Park Service helicopter to others in the river. By the time the pilots returned for the sixth man, he had disappeared.
Williams is the only crash victim whose death was listed as drowning. The 14th Street Bridge was renamed in his memory.
A television movie was made about the crash, focusing on the rescue efforts.
Many in Washington will vividly remember the day. The same snowstorm that contributed to the crash closed government offices early, jamming commuters onto subway trains.
And that contributed to the city's only fatal subway train wreck. Three people were crushed to death when a packed subway car derailed and crumpled against a concrete abutment minutes after the Air Florida crash.
Air Florida itself did not survive the crash. Its fortunes fell from that day until the airline was sold, and its employees transferred to Midway Airlines.
Ten years later, Midway itself is out of business.
The 78 victims included four motorists killed when the plane struck the 14th Street bridge. At the time, it was the first fatal crash involving a major U.S. carrier in more than 26 months.
Within two weeks, a World Airways DC-10 from Oakland, Calif., carrying 198 passengers and 12 crew, skidded off a runway into icy Boston Harbor at Logan International Airport, killing two people.NEWLN: