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10 Final Recordings of Airline Crashes

by GeraintJ
fact checked by Alex Hanton

When a plane crashes we can often recover the black box to determine what happened. This box keeps a recording of any talk in the cockpit. Here we present the recordings of the final moments of 10 crashes as found on the black box. Due to the nature of the recording method, some of the audio is very difficult to hear, so listen very carefully. Some content may disturb. This list is courtesy of


LAPA Flight 3142
LAPA Flight 3142

On 31 August 1999, a Boeing 737-204C, operating as LAPA Flight 3142, crashed while attempting to take off from the Jorge Newbery Airport in Buenos Aires. The crash resulted in 65 fatalities, 17 people severely injured and several people with minor injuries, making it one of the deadliest accidents in the history of Argentinian aviation.

As the aircraft started its take-off run, a warning sounded in the cockpit, indicating that the aircraft was not correctly configured for the maneuver. The crew continued the run, not realizing that the flaps were not at the required take-off position, and were instead fully retracted, thus preventing the aircraft from lifting off. The jet overshot the runway, breaking through the airport’s perimeter fence, crossed a road, hitting an automobile, and finally collided with road-construction machinery and a highway median. Fuel spilling over the hot engines, and gas leaking from a damaged gas regulation station, resulted in a fire that totally destroyed the aircraft.


Flying Tiger Line Flight 66

On 19 February 1989, a Boeing 747-249F, operating as Flying Tiger Flight 66, was flying an non-directional beacon (NDB) approach to Runway 33 at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, Kuala Lumpur, after having flown half an hour from Singapore Changi Airport. In descent, the flight was cleared to “Kayell”, with a morse code of “KL”, which four separate points on the ground were commonly called by Malaysian ATC, albeit with different frequencies. Two separate radio beacons were identically coded “KL”, as well as the VOR abbreviation (Kuala Lumpur shortened to “KL”). The airport was also sometimes referred to as “KL” by local ATC (instead of the full “Kuala Lumpur”). The crew was unsure of which point they were cleared to.

ATC then radioed to the flight, “Tiger 66, descend two four zero zero [2,400 ft]. Cleared for NDB approach runway three three.” The captain of Tiger 66, who heard “descend to four zero zero” replied with, “Okay, four zero zero” (meaning 400 ft above sea level, which was 2,000 ft too low). Subsequent warnings triggered by the onboard Ground Proximity Warning System were cancelled as false alarms, and the aircraft hit a hillside 600 ft above sea level, killing all four people on board. The proper radio call from ATC, instead of “descend two four zero zero”, should have been “descend and maintain two thousand four hundred feet”.


Adam Air 574
Plane Crash, Recording from d Blackbox, Adam Air flight 574

On 1 January 2007, a Boeing 737-4Q8, operating as Adam Air Flight 574 (KI-574), was flying a scheduled domestic passenger flight between the Indonesian cities of Surabaya (SUB) and Manado (MDC). The plane was ultimately determined to have crashed into the ocean, from which some smaller pieces of wreckage have been recovered. The flight recorders (“black boxes”) were retrieved from the ocean on 28 August, 2007, while salvage efforts for some larger pieces of wreckage continued. All 102 people on board died.

A full national investigation was immediately launched into the disaster, uncovering multiple maintenance issues concerning the airline as a whole, including a large number concerning the aircraft. Another possibility, proposed by the families of some of the deceased, is that the crash was due to a faulty rudder valve, known to have caused previous accidents and incidents on Boeing 737’s. Debris location has indicated that the plane likely struck the ocean intact. The final report, released on 25 March 2008, concluded that the pilots lost control of the aircraft after they became preoccupied with troubleshooting the inertial reference system, and inadvertently disconnected the autopilot. Offical Crash Report.


VASP Flight 168
Cockpit Voice Recorder – VASP Flight 168 Crash

On 8 June, 1982, a Boeing 727-212A, operating as VASP Flight 168, was flying a scheduled passenger flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Fortaleza. The flight departed Rio on its way to Fortaleza. As the flight approached its destination, it was cleared to descend from its cruising altitude of FL330 (approx. 33,000 feet Mean sea level) to 5,000 feet. Flying at night, with the lights of the city of Fortaleza in front, the Boeing 727 descended through its 5,000 feet clearance limit, and kept on descending until it crashed into a mountainside at 2,500 feet, killing all 137 on board.

Investigation revealed that the captain, possibly disoriented due to bright lights from the city ahead, continued the descent well below the 5,000 feet clearance limit, despite being warned twice by the altitude alert system, as well as by the co-pilot, of the terrain ahead. As the Boeing kept descending, it struck a wooded mountainside at 2,500 feet and crashed


Air Florida Flight 90

On 13 January, 1982, a Boeing 737, operating as Air Florida Flight 90, was a scheduled U.S. domestic passenger flight from Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C. to Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with a stopover at Tampa International Airport, in Tampa, Florida. The aircraft crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River, killing all but 4 passengers and a single flight attendant.

The aircraft carried 74 passengers and five crew members, when it crashed during the failed takeoff attempt. When the aircraft struck the 14th Street Bridge, which carries Interstate Highway 395 between Washington, D.C., and Arlington County, Virginia. It crushed seven occupied vehicles on the bridge, and destroyed 97 feet (30 m) of guard rail, before it plunged through the ice into the Potomac River. The crash occurred less than two miles (3 km) from the White House, and within view of both the Jefferson Memorial and The Pentagon.


Delta Airlines Flight 191
Delta Airlines flight 191 crash, Cockpit Voice Recording and transcript

On 2 August 1985, a Lockheed L-1011-385-1 TriStar, operating as Delta Air Lines flight 191, crashed while on a routine approach to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, killing 8 of 11 crew members and 126 of the 152 passengers on board, and one person on the ground: a total of 135 deaths. This accident is one of the few commercial air crashes in which the meteorological phenomenon known as microburst-induced wind shear was a direct contributing factor.


Northwest Airlines Flight 255
Alarming Silence | Northwest Airlines Flight 255

On 16 August, 1987, a McDonnell Douglas MD-82, operating as Northwest Airlines Flight 255, crashed after takeoff from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, killing all of the crew and passengers except for a 4-year-old girl, Cecelia Cichan, who sustained serious injuries. Flight 255 made its takeoff roll on Runway 3C at approximately 8:45PM EDT, with Capt. Maus at the controls. The plane lifted off the runway at 170 knots (195 mph), and soon began to roll from side to side at a height of just under 50 feet above the ground. The MD-82 went into a stall mode, and rolled 40 degrees to the left, when it struck a light pole near the end of the runway, severing 18 feet of its left wing, and igniting jet fuel stored in the wing. It then rolled 90 degrees to the right, and its right wing tore through the roof of an Avis rental car building. The plane, now uncontrolled, crashed inverted onto Middlebelt Road and hit vehicles just north of the intersection of Wick Rd. The aircraft then broke apart and burst into flames as it hit a railroad overpass, and the overpass of eastbound Interstate 94.


United Airlines Flight 232
The Impossible Landing – United Airlines Flight 232

On July 19, 1989, a Douglas DC-10, operating as United Airlines Flight 232, was a scheduled flight from Stapleton International Airport, in Denver, Colorado, to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. During flight the plane suffered an uncontained failure of its number 2 engine. Shrapnel was hurled from the engine with enough force to penetrate the hydraulic lines of all three of the aircraft’s hydraulic systems. The hydraulic fluid from each system rapidly leaked from the aircraft, resulting in the inability of the crew to move the flight control surfaces. Only the thrust levers for the two remaining engines remained workable, so the crew had limited control by using only thrust modulation (symmetric thrust for pitch, differential thrust for yaw/roll). The aircraft was forced to attempt an emergency landing at Sioux City, Iowa. The plane broke up on landing, killing 111 of its 285 passengers and one of the 11 crew members.


Japan Airlines Flight 123
Uncontrollable | Japan Air Lines Flight 123

On 12 August 1985, a Boeing 747-SR46, operating as Japan Airlines Flight 123, was a Japan Airlines domestic flight from Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) to Osaka International Airport (Itami). The aircraft suffered mechanical failures 12 minutes into the flight, and 32 minutes later crashed into two ridges of Mount Takamagahara in Ueno, Gunma Prefecture, 100 kilometers from Tokyo. The crash site was on Osutaka Ridge, near Mount Osutaka. All 15 crew members and 505 out of 509 passengers died, resulting in a total of 520 deaths and 4 survivors. The official cause of the crash according to the report published by Japan’s, then, Aircraft Accidents Investigation Commission is as follows:

The aircraft was involved in a tailstrike incident at Osaka International Airport, on 2 June, 1978, which damaged the aircraft’s rear pressure bulkhead.

The subsequent repair of the bulkhead did not conform to Boeing’s approved repair methods. The Boeing technicians fixing the aircraft used two separate doubler plates, one with two rows of rivets and one with only one row, while their procedure calls for one continuous doubler plate with three rows of rivets to reinforce the damaged bulkhead. This reduced the part’s resistance to metal fatigue by 70%. According to the FAA, the one “doubler plate” which was specified for the job (the FAA calls it a “splice plate” – essentially a patch) was cut into two pieces parallel to the stress crack it was intended to reinforce, “to make it fit”. This negated the effectiveness of two of the rows of rivets. During the investigation Boeing calculated that this incorrect installation would fail after approximately 10,000 pressurizations; the aircraft accomplished 12,318 take-offs between the installation of the new plate and the final accident.

When the bulkhead gave way, the resulting explosive decompression ruptured the lines of all four hydraulic systems. With the aircraft’s flight controls disabled, the aircraft became uncontrollable.


Delta Airlines Flight 1141
Cockpit Voice Recorder – Delta Airlines Flight 1141 Crash

On 31 August 1988, a Boeing 727, operating as Delta Air Lines Flight 1141, was a commercial airline flight that flew from Jackson, Mississippi, to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City, Utah. The aircraft crashed after takeoff from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

Two cabin crew members (out of four) and twelve of the 101 passengers on board lost their lives: a total of 14 deaths. One passenger, who sat in 29C and had exited the aircraft through the aft break in the left side of the fuselage, attempted to re-enter the aircraft, received burn wounds, and died 11 days later. FAA regulations require a sterile cockpit before takeoff. This means there is to be no conversation outside of talk pertaining to the plane and pending flight. (For example, reviewing Pre-Takeoff checklists.) The CVR tapes recorded extensive talk about the CVR itself, and how, on Continental Airlines Flight 1713, crew discussions were recorded about the dating habits of the flight attendants.

fact checked by Alex Hanton