Roselawn, IN Commuter Plane Crashes, Oct 1994
The full plane had taken off nearly an hour late because of heavy traffic at Chicago O'Hare Airport, and was kept in a holding pattern, said American Eagle spokesman Tim Smith. Neither the airline nor airport officials said how long the plane had been waiting to land.
After being cleared for landing, the plane began a descent from 10,000 to 8,000 feet, then disappeared from radar, Smith said.
At the time, winds were gusting to 49 mph in Gary, the closest reporting station, and about 2 inches of rain fell Monday near the crash site, the National Weather Service said.
Witnesses said there was driving rain when the plane went down.
"It sounded like (the pilot) had it full throttle, like a stunt pilot, like he was going to try to bring it up," said Bob Hilton, who was working under the hood of his truck.
"It came down, almost straight down, not at an angle -- just straight down," said Larry Midkiff, who saw the crash as he was driving along a highway. "It didn't lok like it had a left wing on it. It just looked like a black streak coming down."
American Eagle would not speculate on the cause of the crash.
Bob Spitler, director of operations for Indianapolis International Airport, said weather in northwest Indiana at the time of the crash was "moderate" and visibility was about 2 1/2 miles.
"Those don't appear to be horrible conditions," said Spitler, who also is a private pilot. "It's not a nice clear day but it's certainly the kind of thing that any pilot would typically fly right into. Those kind of conditions are not at all unusual. Pilots fly into those conditions every day."
The plane was a American Eagle Super ATR, a high-wing, twin-engine propjet that began service in March. The pilot had been with the airline seven years and the co-pilot five years. The crew was based in Chicago.
Frightened friends and relatives in Indianapolis and Chicago waited for word on whether their loved ones were on board. JoAnn Hankins, a cashier a a book and candy store in Indianapolis International Airport, said some of the passengers had been worried about the flight before they boarded.
"There were about three or four people in here and they said they were afraid to fly this small plane," Hankins said. "And I said, 'You'll be fine, you'll be fine.' It makes me real sad."
It was the third major plane crash this year. There were no major crashes last year, it had been seven years since there were three major crashes in one year.
A USAir jet crashed Sept. 8 on approach to Pittsburgh, killing all 132 aboard. On July 2, a USAir jetliner crashed in North Carolina in a thunderstorm, killing 37 people.
Before that, the last major crash had been March 22, 1992, when a United Airlines jetliner crashed while taking off in a snowstorm at La Guardia Airport in New York, killing 27 people.
American Eagle canceled plans to celebrate its 10th anniversary today. It has planned to unveil a specially decorated airplane at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Four commuter airlines operate under the name American Eagle; Executive Airlines, Flagship Airlines, Simmons Airlines and Wings West. The Eagle carriers are sisters of American Airlines and have the same corporate parent, Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR Corp.
The fleet has 279 twin-engine, turboprop aircraft carrying 19 to 64 passengers.