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The Sky is Falling: Delta Air Lines Flight 191 Crash

The Sky is Falling: Delta Air Lines Flight 191 Crash

By Dan Valle (dan.valle@noaa.gov)

On August 2, 1985, Delta Air Lines Flight 191 crashed at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) around 6:05 PM CDT, killing approximately 137 people  in the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that wind shear associated with a microburst from a thunderstorm was the cause of the accident.

This crash was the third accident in the United States since 1975 claiming more than 100 lives that involved a microburst. In the aftermath, several research projects revealed new information about how microbursts form and they can be forecast and detected. 

Several years later, the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar, or TDWR, emerged. Located at airports where wind shear is common, these radars can provide one-minute updates, helping provide greater lead time for microbursts and low level wind shear.

Implemented in 2001, the Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS) combined the TDWR, NEXRAD, aircraft observations, lightning data, low level wind shear alert system and Air Surveillance Radar to forecast weather conditions 30 to 60 minutes into the future. The ITWS is capable of detecting low level wind shear associated with microbursts as well as forecasting the position of shear boundaries such as gust fronts. 


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