At 1619 Eastern Standard Time on 4 April 1977, a Southern Airways, Inc, DC-9, Flight 242, crashed in New Hope, Georgia. After losing both engines in flight, it had attempted an emergency landing on a highway.
Of the 85 persons aboard Flight 242, 62 were killed, 22 were seriously injured, and 1 was slightly injured. Eight persons on the ground were killed and one person was seriously injured. The person injured on the ground died about 1 month later and one of the passengers died two months after the crash from burn injuries.
Flight 242 entered a severe thunderstorm between 17,000 feet and 14,000 feet near Rome, Georgia, en route from Huntsville to Atlanta. Both engines were damaged and all thrust was lost. The engines could not be restarted and the flightcrew was forced to make an emergency landing.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of this accident was the total and unique loss of thrust from both engines while the aircraft was penetrating an area of severe thunderstorms. The loss of thrust was caused by the ingestion of massive amounts of water and hail which in combination with thrust lever movement induced severe stalling in and major damage to the engine compressors.
Major contributing factors included the failure of Southern Airway's dispatching system to provide the flightcrew with up-to-date severe weather information pertaining to the aircraft's intended route of flight, the captain's reliance on airborne weather radar for penetration of thunderstorm areas, and limitations in the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic control system which precluded the timely dissemination of real-time hazardous weather information to the flightcrew.
*modified from NTSB report.
SEVENTY-TWO PEOPLE DIED WHEN SOUTHERN AIRWAYS FLIGHT 242
CRASHED 20 YEARS AGO IN THE SMALL COMMUNITY OF NEW HOPE
Sunday, April 13, 1997 Associated Press
Survivors of the Southern Airways Flight 242 crash that killed 72 people 20 years ago returned Saturday to this hamlet to thank the townsfolk who rescued them from the plane's fiery remains.
``I've always wanted to come back to this site, but I could never bring myself to do it,'' said Catherine Cooper, one of two flight attendants on the flight from Huntsville, Ala., to Atlanta. ``I've learned things today I didn't know about. Each one of us had our own accident.''
The Southern DC-9, carrying 81 passengers and four crew members, lost both its engines in a storm on April 4, 1977. The plane crashed while attempting to land on a state highway in northwest Georgia.
Among those killed were the pilot, copilot and eight people on the ground.
Some of the 21 survivors and relatives of victims who attended the reunion hoped it would put lingering pain and questions to rest.
``How do you tell 10- and 8-year-old girls that their daddy was killed and some survived,'' said Regina Thompson of Muscle Shoals, Ala., who lost her first husband, Bobby Cameron, on the flight. ``It was so hard on them growing up. He missed their first dates, their first proms, their wedding days and the birth of his grandchildren.''
A crowd of about 100 people reunited at Paulding Hospital in nearby Dallas to hear speeches by those on board Flight 242 and those who came to its rescue.
A bus took them north a few miles to New Hope where they laid flowers at the crash site. Some people carried single carnations while others brought bouquets of irises, lilies and daisies -- favorites of those who died.
New Hope Volunteer Fire Chief John Clayton recalled how the pilot, William McKenzie, made a perfect landing dead center in New Hope -- then a community of 30 homes. But the two-lane road was too narrow for the DC-9, and its wings sheared off gasoline pumps, the elementary school's chain-link fence and pine trees, leaving the plane in flames.
``We had no stretchers, we had no equipment,'' Clayton said of those who rushed to help those trapped by fire and twisted metal. ``We took our pocketknives and cut seat belts off people who were still strapped in.''
Townspeople pulled doors off hinges to make stretchers and tore their curtains and sheets to make blankets and bandages for the injured, Clayton said.
Passenger Jerry Causey said he panicked in the seconds after the crash when he realized he was alive and on fire. He escaped with burns over half his body, the scars still noticeable today.
The crash changed his life, he said. He left his job installing computer software systems and earned a doctorate in psychology. He is now a counselor at Calhoun Community College in Huntsville, Ala., and says he focuses on helping people instead of pursuing a career.
``I saw a lot of horrible things, but I don't want to talk about that,'' he said. ``The last 20 years have been great for me. It was a tragedy, but there were some good things that came out of it. It changed my life for the better.''
The other flight attendant on Flight 242, Sandy Purl, said she needed years of therapy to soothe the emotional wounds from the crash. She now works with airlines in training liaison officers who work with the families of crash victims and survivors.
``Nobody should have to go through that alone,'' she said of such tragedies. ``I can't fix all of it, but if I can make it better for one person, I'll walk through it with them again.''
William Wade MacKenzie, Pilot
Lyman Keele Jr, First Officer
Catherine Lemoine, Senior Stewardess
Sandy Purl Ward, Stewardess
In June, Frank Hulse and Ike Jones buy a controlling interest in Southern Airways of Georgia, a fixed-base operator and flight school that becomes the corporate predecessor of Southern Airways, Inc.
1942 - 1944
Southern Airways applies for CAB certification to establish a local service air carrier in eight southeastern states.
On 10 June 10, Southern Airways' first scheduled flight takes to the skies. Southern Flight 1, with Capt. George Bradford at the controls, offers DC3 service from Atlanta to Memphis, with intermediate stops in Gadsden, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Columbus, Miss. Southern Airways begins operations with 39 employees and headquarters in Atlanta.
On 31 July, Southern Airways retires its last DC3. Capt. L.V. Andrews pilots the last flight from Dothan, Ala., to Memphis.
Southern takes delivery of its first DC9 jets.
On 14 November, in Southern's only other fatal crash, a chartered Southern DC-9 crashes near Huntington, WV, killing all 81 aboard. Most of passengers were members of the Marshall University football team.
At the time of the New Hope crash, Southern is one of the nation's seven major regional airlines, a category made up of moderate-sized carriers smaller than the trunk airlines but larger than the commuter airlines.
In its last year of operation as an independent entity, Southern Airways serves 50 cities in 17 states and the Cayman Islands with 4,500 employees and major hubs in Atlanta and Memphis.
On 1 July, North Central Airlines and Southern Airways merge. The combined company is called Republic Airlines, Inc., and is headquartered in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The combined route systems of the two companies meet at eleven cities, but do not overlap on a single route.
on 1 October, Republic Airlines pays $38.5 million to complete the acquisition of Hughes Airwest. The acquisition adds 53 cities to the Republic system, primarily in the western and southwestern U.S., making the airline a truly national carrier serving almost 200 cities -- more than any other U.S. airline. Republic's employee ranks swell from 8,982 to 14,709.
In its last year as an independent entity, Republic employs 15,100 people serving a national network with a fleet of 168 DC9's, 727's, 757's and Convair 580's.
On 23 January, Northwest announces an agreement with Republic Airlines for Northwest to acquire Republic for $884 million.
On 1 October, Northwest completes the acquisition of Republic Airlines. Northwest's work force expands overnight from less than 17,000 to more than 33,000. Northwest becomes the dominant hub airline at Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Memphis. The following new destinations are added to the Northwest route system: Toronto, Nashville, New Orleans, Grand Cayman, Greenville/Spartanburg, Baltimore, Green Bay, Houston, Cincinnati and Birmingham.
|Walter H Amick|
|Marvin Oscar Berglin|
|Glenn F Bradley|
|Edward R Brock|
|T Bobby Cameron|
|Jerry W Causey|
|Calvin H Childress|
| Frederick Lang Clemens |
|Edwin N Cobb|
|Gordon Burnett Coley|
|Lee S Collier|
|Wesley R Corrick|
|Richard William Darby|
|Boyden E Davis Jr|
|Cliffton Charles Durham|
|Robert M Furniss Jr|
|Harry C Gordon|
|William F Goubeaud Jr|
|Earle C Griffin Jr|
|William Victor Gudaitis|
|Herman Galey Hamby|
|William C Haverkamp Jr|
|Charlene Yvonne Havisto|
|Horace Kevin Hay|
|L Joseph Heckl|
|Leo F Horner|
|Phillip Anthony Inzina|
|Earl D Johnson|
|Bevil J "Pete" Kilgore|
|Leland C Lavender|
|Jeffrey C Magnell|
|Thomas Monroe Mazingo|
|Alton V Mobley|
|Dr Irwin E Perlin|
|William J Perryman|
|James L Phillips Jr|
|Ivan Drexel Potts Jr|
|James A Power|
|Robert F Reams|
|William Michael Reeves|
|Kelsie Aubra Rogers|
|Edward F Rosler|
|Robert Michael "Mike" Sanders|
|Ronald Thomas Seaman|
|Amy L Sebastian|
|Phillip Randy Sherrill|
|Romie L Smith|
|David Anthony Twist|
|Milford Duwayne Waldrep|
|John "Buster" Walker|
|George Duncan Wilkinson|
|Michael Lewis Williams|
|James W Williamson|
Frederick Lang Clemens - Private, US Army
Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky - September 1976
Born in 1958 in Denville, New Jersey.
PV2 Clemens had graduated that morning from training in nuclear weapons maintenance at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. He was heading home for a few days leave at his parent's house in Wilmington, Delaware while enroute to his first duty assignment at Fort Ord, California.
He was traveling together with classmates PVT Lee Collier and PVT Amy Sebastian who were also making connecting flights in Atlanta, Georgia.
From an NTSB Interview:
"The occupant of seat 19-C [Frederick Clemens] recalled that there was turbulence soon after takeoff and the flight then became smooth before they went into a storm. There was turbulence again and flashes of lightning followed by the cabin lights going off. A flight attendant announced a loss of "main power." About 20 seconds later the cabin lights came be on. He then recalled that the right engine "popped a couple of times, gave a final thud, and went out." About 15 seconds later the left engine went out after making the same kind of noises. The engines went out after they had passed through the hail. He felt no decompression.
Initially no one was seated in the row behind him; prior to the accident a man [John Tielking] moved from the seat l9-A to 20-C. A man [Don Foster] was seated at 18-A who later moved to 18-B. A man [Lee Collier] was in seat 19-D and a woman [Amy Sebastian] in 19E. A man [James Phillips] was in seat 20-B.
He believed that they were out of the hail about 4 minutes before the crash. The aircraft made a steep left bank and he could see the flaps were all the way down and he could see the ground. After the initial impact and while the aircraft was still moving he saw fire errupt at about seat 19-B. He described the cabin as disintegrating around him until the final jolt when the aircraft came to rest. He was ejected from the cabin without his seat and onto the ground not far from house #5 [The Poole's Residence]."
PV2 Clemens was evacuated to Paulding Hospital from the site along with several others in a New Hope school bus. He was initially treated by a local pharmacist, Gregg Wehunt, and prepared for transfer to Grady Hospital. He spent one week in the burn unit at Grady before being moved to the hospital at Fort McPherson. He flew home on 18 April for two weeks of convalescent leave and on 2 May finally completed his journey to Fort Ord.
In ambulance enroute to Grady Hospital - 4 April 1977
Many thanks to those who have assisted me in constructing this list, especially Kelli Thrasher for her info on the Muscle Shoals-area passengers. I would appreciate corrections to these names and further biographical contributions on each passenger from those who knew them. I would especially like to hear from survivors or family members and friends with whom I have not yet been in contact.
If you plan to contact anyone on this list or their relatives, please consider checking with me first on their willingness to be approached.