Pinckneyville, IL Commuter Plane Crashes Into Pond, Oct 1983


Pinckneyville, Ill. (AP) -- An Air Illinois plane apparently suffered mechanical failure and tried to made a forced landing in a lightning storm before crashing into a pond, killing all 10 people aboard, police and airline officials said today.
State police spokesman MELVIN KERSTEN said the flight manifest showed seven passengers and three crew members aboard Flight 710 on its daily flight from Chicago to Carbondale when it crashed about 9:15 p.m. Tuesday about 25 miles from its destination.
The British-made, twin-engine Hawker Siddeley 748 plunged to earth near a farm and strip mine in southern Illinois' Perry County about five miles northeast of Pinckneyville
Heavy rains were reported in the area just before the accident. State Police Lt. JOHN RICHTER said the crash site was spread over a-half to three-quarters of a mile, with part of the plane resting in a large pond.
RICHTER said police had sealed off the area for investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Civil Aeronautics Board.
Air Illinois spokeswoman ALICE MITCHELL said the company believed the crash was due to mechanical failure, possibly from lightning. The crew was experienced, she said, with both the pilot and co-pilot having logged more than 5,000 hours of flying time.
MS. MITCHELL said Air Illinois officials believed the plane may have tried to make a forced landing in a field, but ran up a ridge and became airborne once again, when it lost a wing. The wingless fuselage ended up in a pond.
Paramedics said the plane apparently "hit a hill and then some woods and shattered," according to spokeswoman JEANNIE STEWART at Pinckneyville Community Hospital.
JOHN FISHER, 78, who owns land at the crash site, said he and his wife heard the aircraft circle over their property a couple of times before they heard the crash. The FISHERS said they heard no indication of engine trouble before the crash.
The crash was first reported to state police by residents a few minutes after 9 p.m. Tuesday.
The company had made the final payment on the 10-year-old plane at noon Tuesday, company officials said.
The accident was the first fatal crash in Air Illinois 14-year history, MS. MITCHELL said.
She identified the dead crew as Capt. LESTER R. SMITH, 32, Carbondale, the pilot; First Officer FRANK S. TUDOR, 28, of DeSoto, the co-pilot; and BARBARA J. HUFFMAN, 29, of Murphysboro, a flight attendant.
SMITH had more than 2,000 hours of experience in the plane and more than 6,300 hours in total flight time.
TUDOR had accumulated 1,700 hours in the plane and a total 5,113 flight hours.
HUFFMAN was the senior flight attendant for the airline.
The passengers were identified as JEROME LORENZ, no age available, of Carbondale, the director of Southern Illinois University's Rehabilitation Institute; RICHARD BAKER, no age, of Carbondale, a professor in the rehabilitation institute; JEROME BROWN, no age, of Homewood; JUDY CHANTOS, no age of Springfield; JONATHAN CHANTOS, 2, of Springfield.

Indiana Gazette Pennsylvania 1983-10-12



I was a FO at the time of the crash. The reason the captain did not return to his origin was for one reason: Money, he felt if he could make Carbondale and land he would get a big Atta Boy. Air Illinois operated on a shoestring budget, any way they could save a buck they did. I would say it was one of the worst experiences I have ever endured working for that airline.

Location of the accident

There are maps included in the NTSB Accident Report AAR85-03 which you may find at http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Pages/aviation.aspx. You will have to go back many web pages to find the reports from 1985 due to a recent (and less user friendly) re-organization of the NTSB web site.

Location of Air Illinois crash of 1983

Hello. I was wondering if you could provide some information on how to find the crash site all these years later? My sister, Regina Polk, died in the crash and I would like to make a trip to IL to try to find the location. I know it may be on private property and the look of the area has probably changed significantly. But I would still like to make a visit. Any info would be helpful. Thank you.

Anonymous. We must know each

Anonymous. We must know each other. My dad was a pilot at air Illinois at at the same time too. We are either sibblings or old friends. This is the first time I've read about this in detail. Very sad for so many even now after so many years. I don't fly anymore because of this crash.

air illinois crash

Hi Cindy,
One of my best friends was Captain Les Smith. We grew up together, attended SIU and shared a strong bond.
I have been to the crash site. It was a life changing expereince for me in many ways.
If you get a chance please e-amil me. I would love to tlak to you.
Jeffrey Jarvis


Indeed there was a pond, photos I have of a nacelle and main gear assembly being pulled out of it verify that. Also, the aerial photos I obtained by 'borrowing' the NTSB's photos of the accident scene verifies this. The aircraft was traveling at over 200 kts, gear and flaps up, they had no reliable altitude information as the weather was changing rapidly (pressure dropping). Once they lost radios due to insufficient battery power, they couldn't communicate of obtain the baro setting. It was dark, foggy, and rainy. They were so low to the ground just before the accident, banked the wings sharply left to avoid a tree that came up looming in the darkness. The left wingtip caught the barbed wire cattle fence and glanced the ground. That started a cartwheel which broke up the aircraft. Having so many cycles on the fuselage (pressurization cycles), the aircraft shattered like glass, sending bodies through the air at over 200 mph. One of those bodies (I won't reveal the name) smashed into that camper. Others were torn apart as they shot through the trees along with aircraft debris. There were three perpendicular tree lines that bodies and debris filtered through. That pond lies between them. I flew with this crew just a few months before on a field trip to St. Louis. I took the very last known photo of the cockpit and provided it to the NTSB as it was the most reliable source for how that aircraft had been modified and outfitted over the years. I'll still never understand the ego some pilots have yet today that sets up accidents like these. It's a sure shame that his ego not only took his own life but took 9 other innocent people with him. There is absolutely NO excuse for not returning to Springfield after losing the gen on take-off. Certainly after realizing the remaining generator's contactor was damaged and wouldn't allow IT to come back on-line....what the heck was he thinking!??????

You're Wrong!!

My Grandparent's owned that property! There was a pond with a small boat tied up to the shore that my cousins and I used to take out to look at frogs and turtles! You better get your information straight before you start making statements that you have no clue about what you're talking about! We had a Fisher family reunion today in honor of my Grandparents and we had several discussions about it. We were all there! My Grandparents sold their camper because it had body parts all over it. There were severed hands and feet hanging from the trees and we found human bones in the woods for years after that! So piss off you ass!

there was a pond on this

there was a pond on this land. this was my grandparents land. the pond was built in the 60s. it was about 10 feet deep in the middle. part of the plane was removed from the pond.

my grand parents owned this

my grand parents owned this land. there is a pond.

Air Illinois Alumni

What a sad day this was. I was a station agent at Air Illinois while in college. I kew these crews well. Very sad. I wonder if there is anyone interested in starting an "Air Illinois Alumni" website or such. Anyway just a thought.