Photo of an Air Cananda - DC9
Photo of an Air Cananda - DC9
Copyright Mickey 'AirNikon' Bednar
used with permission by The Pima Air & Space Museum
Accident Perspectives:
Airplane Life Cycle
  • Operational
Accident Threat CategoriesGroupings
  • Cabin Safety / Hazardous Cargo
  • Crew Resource Management
  • Uncontrolled Fire / Smoke


Accident Common Themes
  • Organizational Lapses
  • Human Error

Air Canada Flight 797, McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 (S/N 47196), C-FTLU

Location: Cincinnati International Airport, Covington, Kentucky

Date: June 2, 1983

While cruising at 33000 feet, at approximately 1903 eastern daylight time (EDT), the cabin crew informed the captain of a fire in the aft lavatory. At approximately 1908 the captain contacted Air Traffic Control (ATC) and declared an emergency. The flight crew made an emergency descent, and ATC vectored the aircraft to the Greater Cincinnati International Airport (Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, CVG). At 1920, the aircraft landed on runway 27L. When the airplane stopped, the occupants began evacuating the aircraft while fire department personnel moved into place and began fire fighting operations. About 60 to 90 seconds after the exits were opened, a flash fire enveloped the interior of the aircraft. Twenty-three of the 41 passengers were unable to exit the aircraft and died in the fire. An investigation revealed that three flush motor circuit breakers had tripped about 11 minutes before smoke was detected. The captain misconstrued reports that the fire was abating when he received conflicting fire progress reports from the cabin crew. Subsequently, he landed at CVG rather than at Standiford Field (Louisville International Airport, SDF) which would have allowed him to land three to five minutes sooner. Wet towels and breathing through clothing aided survival.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the most probable causes of the accident were:

  • A fire of undetermined origin
  • An underestimate of fire severity
  • Misleading fire progress information provided to the captain

The time taken to evaluate the nature of the fire and to decide to initiate an emergency descent contributed to the severity of the accident.

NSTB report