Aviation Accidents

Northwest Airlines Flight 255

Northwest Airlines Flight 255 was a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82 that crashed shortly after takeoff from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on August 16, 1987, at about 8:46 p.m. EDT (00:46 UTC August 17). It killed all six crew members and 148 passengers and two people on the ground. The sole survivor was 4-year-old Cecelia Cichan, who sustained serious injuries.

The crash was caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • The aircraft’s left wing flaps were not extended to the proper takeoff setting.
  • The aircraft’s ground spoilers were not deployed after takeoff.
  • The aircraft was not properly configured for takeoff.
Source Map: https://www.europa.uk.com/global-1000-atlas/map/?pid=20695

As a result of the crash, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued several safety recommendations, including:

  • Requiring pilots to perform a checklist before takeoff to ensure that the aircraft is properly configured.
  • Requiring pilots to deploy the ground spoilers after takeoff.
  • Requiring airlines to provide more training to pilots on takeoff procedures.

The crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 was the second-deadliest aviation accident in the United States at the time, and it remains the deadliest aviation accident to have a sole survivor.


  • Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Airlines_Flight_255
  • 35 years later: Flight 255 crashes after takeoff from Detroit Metro Airport: https://www.clickondetroit.com/features/2022/08/16/35-years-later-flight-255-crashes-after-takeoff-from-detroit-metro-airport/
  • McDonnell Douglas DC-9 | Federal Aviation Administration: https://www.faa.gov/lessons_learned/transport_airplane/accidents/N312RC
  • Northwest Airlines Flight 255 – Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Airlines_Flight_255

Image source: By National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) – http://lessonslearned.faa.gov/ll_main.cfm?TabID=2&LLID=69&LLTypeID=2, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29252474
featured image: https://www.clickondetroit.com/all-about-michigan/2019/08/15/32-years-ago-northwest-flight-255-crashes-after-takeoff-from-detroit-metro-airport/