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On This Day In 1994, The Unthinkable Happened In Pittsburgh

Some moments live with us forever. Moments that bring a community, a nation, together in sorrow. Most people who lived in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s likely remember exactly where they were when the local media broke into the evening television programming, sometime after 7 p.m. on September 8, 1994. The unthinkable happened: USAir Flight 427 crashed in Hopewell Township, killing all 132 aboard.

U.S. Flight 427 would dominate headlines for weeks as family and friends of the crash victims, as well as the community of Pittsburgh, mourned. Family members began the healing process together, creating the Flight 427 Air Disaster Support League after being stonewalled when asking for information about the crash and after struggling to claim their family member’s personal belongings. The support group held its final formal gathering in 2014, the 20th anniversary of the crash.

The crash set off the longest investigation in aviation history to determine what had caused the plane’s catastrophic failure. Five years after the crash of Flight 427, in 1999, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed its findings. The rudder had jammed. As a result, the NTSB recommended redesigning the rudder and adding a backup system to give pilots a chance at recovery during a rudder jam. Click play above to see the FAA’s USAir 427 Trial Graphics that illustrates what brought Flight 427 down.

One of the lasting legacies of the victims, and of those they left behind, is the way families of plane crash victims are treated after such a tragedy. President Bill Clinton signed the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act into law in 1996. As a result, the National Transportation Safety Board created an office to act as advocates for victims and their families after an air disaster. Click play above to view WTAE’s 20th anniversary coverage of the crash.

Today, on September 8, 2016, we remember the evening 22 years ago when the unthinkable happened in Pittsburgh.