A Continental Express commuter plane crashes in Texas near Houston, killing 14 people, on this day in 1991. The accident was caused by poor communication by the maintenance crew during a shift change.
The Brazilian-made Embraer 120 aircraft was scheduled for maintenance the afternoon before its scheduled 7 a.m. flight on September 11. Short of workers, an inspector was drafted to assist the afternoon maintenance crew. The inspector worked on putting the screws on the plane’s horizontal stabilizer but did not finish the job. When his shift was over, he told the foreman about the remaining screws but did not write it down, as proper procedure required. The foreman failed to tell the workers on the late-night shift about the unfinished work; they saw the horizontal stabilizer in its correct position and did not notice that all the screws were not properly in place.
The Embraer 120 took off on time as Continental Express Flight 2574 with 14 people on board. It broke up in the air over Eagle Lake, Texas, killing everyone on board. A subsequent investigation by the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) clearly identified the direct cause of the crash though there was some disagreement about the underlying cause. The majority of the board held the maintenance technicians culpable for not following proper procedure. The NTSB’s Dr. Jon Lauber, however, blamed the corporate culture of Continental Express for the disaster. Lauber felt that Continental Express placed far more emphasis on getting airplanes to take off on time than on correctly following safety procedures.