Worst Tri-City Air Disaster? 17 Died at Richland Airport in 1978
The recent non-injury crash at the Pasco Airport made us think back in history to 1978. Fortunately, the airplane that had some sort of malfunction with the landing gear at Pasco did not cause any injuries. But February 10th, 1978 was deadly at Richland.
Columbia Airlines Beechcraft plane goes down on takeoff, killing 17
The Richland Airport was originally known as Atomic Energy Field, commissioned by the government in 1943. It began to have a series of smaller commuter airline flights in the 1970s. It was transferred to the Port of Benton in 1961. Below is a picture of the plane after the crash.
We have been trying to pinpoint when commercial air travel stopped at Richland, even some modern travel searches claim flights but the airport is listed as PSC, which is the FAA code for Pasco, the Tri-Cities Airport.
February 10th, 1978 deadliest day in aviation history in our area
A twin-engine Beechcraft 99 airliner had landed in Richland around 3:25 PM, it was Flight 18 from Seattle on Columbia Pacific Airlines, which was a smaller carrier. It was to return to Seattle, with 15 passengers.
The plane left Richland, and according to the international Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives, around 4:48 PM the airplane lifted off the runway. However, at an altitude of about 3-400 feet, the plane began a steep climb, wobbled, then turned left and crashed nose-first at a 45-degree angle. This image, from the BAAA, shows an aerial view of the wreckage.
The BAAA reports by way of FAA and National Transportation Safety Administration records, the fuel from the ruptured tanks exploded after impact, destroying the plane within 7 minutes. Both the 2 flight crew and the 15 passengers were killed.
The NTSB said in its report pilot-crew errors likely caused the pitch up and stall, and a malfunctioning stabilizer trim distracted them from making the proper moves to prevent the stall and crash. The NTSB also blamed inadequate training and certain inadaquate warning check procedures. The exact fate of Columbia Pacific is a little murky, but it's believed the airline faded into bankruptcy due to lawsuits filed over the persons who died in the crash.