All passengers survived when a Continental Airlines plane burst into flames after it skidded off the runway and hit an embankment.

Flight Details

Continental Airlines was going to operate a flight from Denver to Houston on December 20th. The plane skidded across the taxiway and crashed in a deep ravine as it was about to take off. The aircraft was still moving at a high rate of speed when the power went out.

The pilot of Flight 1404 was 50-year-old Captain DavidButler. He had a total of 13,100 hours in his log. Chad Levang was the first officer and he had about 8,000 flight hours.

Strong and gusty winds out of the west prevailed at the time of the accident. An instrument flight rules flight plan was being used to operate the flight. The captain pushed back as ice and snow were visible on the ramp. The captain decided to de-select the anti-ice systems after the runway appeared to be free of snow and ice.

The pilots were told that the wind was from 270 to 27 knots. The controllers wind report was higher than the wind reported in the ATIS. As the wind was still within Continental's guidelines of 33 knots, the captain started the takeoff roll and as the aircraft began to accelerate for takeoff, it suddenly yawed to the left. The captain tried to keep the aircraft in line with the runway centerline by using a full right rudder, but it didn't work and the plane went off the runway. There is a field between runways 34R and 34L.

Aerial photograph showing the tire skid marks. Image: NTSB

The captain tried to deploy the thrust reversers as the plane came to a stop. The aircraft hit a steep ridge after he failed to do so and plummeted back into the ground. The right engine caught fire as it plunged.

The aircraft came to rest near a firehouse after stopping several hundred yards off the runway. Most of the right side of the aircraft was on fire when the firefighters arrived and passengers were evacuated from the left side of the plane. The aircraft was evacuated within 90 seconds despite a fire that melted overhead bins and caused windows to melt.

Aerial photograph of the tire tracks and ground scars. Image: NTSB

Injuries and Aircraft Damage

The captain and five passengers were seriously injured, the first officer and 38 passengers received minor injuries, and one of the cabin crew members and 67 passengers left the scene uninjured.

The plane was badly damaged. As seen in the footage, the fuselage was broken into two sections as it lay on the ground. There was significant fire damage to the right side of the plane, the most extensive of which was in the center section. There were parts of the plane that were damaged by the fire. There was a fire on the right side of the plane.

Image via Wikipedia

The main landing gear assembly separated from the airframe after the accident. The nose landing gear was folded and hit the lower part of the plane. The wings were largely undamaged and attached to the airframe. There was a separation between the left engine and the left wing.

Image via Wikipedia

NTSB Investigation and Findings

The on-site investigation at Denver International Airport was launched by the National Transportation Safety Board.

A thorough investigation of the meteorological conditions at the time of the incident revealed that there were strong westerly winds and intermittent wind gusts as high as 45 knots that crossed the aircraft's path during the takeoff ground roll.

The flight's distance traveled was 1404.

The main landing gear was on the runway.

The nose gear was showing rubber on the runway.

The plane left the runway at a distance of 2, 650 feet.

The distance traveled from the runway to the stop point was 2000 feet.