American Airlines 767 catches fire at Chicago's O'Hare, revives memories of '79 disaster

The fiery scene at O'Hare Friday rekindled memories of the deadliest plane disaster in American history, which occurred there 37 years ago.

By Doug G. Ware

CHICAGO, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- A fire on the tarmac drew a large emergency response at O'Hare International Airport on Friday.

Flames started in one of the engines of American Airlines Flight 383, a Boeing 767 headed for Miami, as it was attempting to take off around 2:30 p.m. CDT.


The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane blew a tire on its takeoff roll. The pilots aborted the attempt, stopped the plane and evacuated the passengers through the safety chutes while still on the runway.

Officials said the pilots, though, aborted the takeoff due to an engine malfunction -- not the blown tire.

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Thick, black smoke billowed from the aircraft as passengers and crew members looked on from a grassy area next to the runway.

Firefighters had extinguished the flames by 3 p.m. None of the 170 people on board the plane were believed to be injured, officials said.

"Emergency. Aircraft down at O'Hare," the Chicago Fire Dept. tweeted a short time after the incident.

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Officials shut down the runway the plane was stopped on, as well as two others nearby.

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During the incident, the FAA barred all incoming flights to O'Hare and delayed others from leaving for at least 30 minutes.

The sight of flames and heavy black smoke at the airport revived memories of the deadliest plane crash in U.S. aviation history, which occurred at O'Hare nearly 38 years ago.

On May 25, 1979, American Airlines Flight 191 crashed on the outskirts of the airport after the DC-10's left engine completely separated from the plane on its takeoff roll -- also ripping away part of the left wing. The stricken jetliner managed to get airborne but crashed into a field immediately northeast of the airport less than a minute later.

All 271 people on board and two on the ground were killed. The disaster became notable for two things -- enduring for decades as the United States' deadliest plane crash, and a famous photograph of the jetliner flying on its side taken by a witness just seconds before impact.

An investigation later concluded that the engine separated from the plane due to negligent maintenance. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate Friday's incident.


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