Computer-Related Incidents with Commercial Aircraft

The FedEx MD11 Accident on Landing at Newark

30 July 1997

Synopsis A FedEx MD11 bounced on landing at Newark, lost an engine and wing, flipped over onto its back and burned. There were no injuries. The first landing induced a vertical acceleration of +1.67g and horizontal acceleration of 0.2g to the right. The aircraft bounced about 7 feet off the runway, stayed airborne about 3 seconds, pitched down and landed again, inducing vertical +1.7g and horizontal 0.4 right. According to Aviation Week, "investigators are assessing whether the pitchdown was a result of pilot input or a failure of the aircraft's flight controls." At that point, the right nacelle touched, the engine subsequently broke free and the right wing failed at the root and separated. Because the FDR's wiring was cut approximately five seconds before the end of the flight, investigators are also trying to recover data from the non-volatile memory of the vertical-acceleration tracking system, and also from the non-volatile memory of the full-authority digital engine controls (FADECs). Aviation Week's Safety Resource Center has an excellent page, SafeNews: FedEx MD-11 Crash, giving detailed information on the accident and the investigation.