Nevada June 23, 2018
The Terrifying, Deadly Plane Crash In Nevada That Will Never Be Forgotten
It happened 33 years ago, but Reno locals still remember the deadly crash that occurred one fateful January night. The plane crash was one of the most horrific accidents to occur in Nevada’s history and it will never be forgotten by those who were affected. If you were in Nevada during the 1980s, it’s likely you remember hearing about the crash. After all, it was a truly awful tragedy that resulted in the deaths of everybody on board except for one sole survivor.
On January 21, 1985, Galaxy Airlines Flight 203 was supposed to depart from what was then known as Reno-Cannon International Airport (it's now Reno-Tahoe International Airport) and arrive safely at Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport in Minnesota. Unfortunately, this was a flight that was fated for tragedy.
That night, the aircraft for Flight 203 (pictured below when it was operated by American Airlines) was supposed to take 64 football fans back to Minneapolis. They had traveled together on a charter flight to Reno to watch the Superbowl at Caesars Tahoe just days before, and they were now on their way home.
The plane took off at precisely 1:04 am only to crash 1.5-miles from the end of the runway. There were 71 people including the crew aboard the flight. Three survived the initial impact but two succumbed to their injuries days later, leaving just one survivor.
Below you can see just how close the airplane was to the airport when it crashed. The red pinpoint marks the crash site and the airport is located just above.
The cause of the crash was ultimately decided to be pilot error, although several factors contributed to the crash itself.
Soon after takeoff, the crew noticed a strange vibration coming from the plane. The cause of the vibration was later discovered to be from an air start access door that was not properly closed. It was ruled later that the vibration wasn't a threat to the aircraft's safe operation. However, the crew was not aware of this and tried to figure out what was causing the vibration. The pilot reacted by reducing power to all four engines. This signifies he probably believed the vibration was coming from one of the engines. The plane then started a right-hand turn in order to return to the airport. The aircraft went into an "aerodynamic stall" due to the reduced power to the engines and ultimately crashed into a field.
The crash killed 68 people on impact and two people in the following days. The one survivor, George Lamson Jr., was 17 years old at the time. He was thrown from the aircraft upon impact and landed upright in his seat away from crash.
A memorial called Galaxy Grove can be found at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park in Reno. It was dedicated in 1986 and lists the names of the passengers and crew of the fated flight.
The original plaque can be seen below, but it was stolen in 2013 (probably to be sold as scrap metal). A new plaque was dedicated in 2015 to commemorate the 30 year anniversary of the crash and can be viewed in the park to this day.
Galaxy Airlines would ultimately go out of business the year following the crash, in 1986. The reason for the airline ceasing operations was "deficient operations and maintenance procedures" and because it was "financially unfit". The crash that took place that early morning on January 21st was one of the most horrific accidents to occur on Nevada's soil, and it will never be forgotten.
Do you remember when this terrible plane crash occurred? This was an awful tragedy that can’t be forgotten. Nevada is unfortunately no stranger to disasters. Do you remember when
one of the worst disasters in U.S. history occurred right here in Nevada?