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Aeromexico 498 Accident

58 passengers and six crewmembers boarded Aeromexico Airlines flight 498 early in the morning of August 31, 1986. The plane was headed for Los Angeles, California from Tijuana, Mexico. The DC-9 was close to landing at LAX when a Piper Archer, a smaller plane, was taking off from Torrance Municipal Airport. There was a family of three members in the smaller plane. This fateful day and those two planes have resulted in FAA airplane equipment requirement changes that will save lives.

The day was crystal clear and visibility was estimated to be around 16-17 miles near the LA basin. Both planes should have clearly seen each other and should have known there was a problem. The smaller Archer was climbing east as the larger commercial DC-9 was descending. At 6,500 feet the two planes collided mid-air. A piece of the larger plane cut into the cockpit of the Archer. Then the DC-9 airplane pivoted onto its back and dropped in an inverted position into a nearby neighborhood. The Archer fell in a small schoolyard less than a quarter a mile away from the big plane’s crash site. The two crash sites were strewn with people, clothes, luggage, and plane parts.

Every single person on both of the planes and an additional 15 people on the ground were killed in the Aeromexico 498 crash. It is not known why the pilot of the Archer had wandered into LAX airspace. Additionally, Aeromexico 498 destroyed 18 homes in the neighborhood as it plowed into the ground. It was determined that the Archer was flying via VFR and it had not been given permission to enter LAX airspace. The air traffic controller was busy handling another near crash when the accident happened. He was not negligent; he was merely busy averting another horrific disaster. Additionally, the Archer had never reported its altitude to any air controller.

FAA laws and equipment requirements concerning airplanes have changed due to this horrible and tragic crash. Any plane that flies within 30 nm (nautical miles) of a central airport that holds a TCA/Class B airspace certification must have as equipment an altitude encoding transponder. The Archer airplane had been equipped with a device that did not report his altitude via its radar response. This piece of valuable equipment required by the FAA, the encoding transponder, will prevent such airplane accidents as the Aeromexico 498 from happening again.