Accident McDonnell Douglas DC-8-63CF N950JW, Thursday 12 December 1985
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Date:Thursday 12 December 1985
Type:Silhouette image of generic DC86 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
McDonnell Douglas DC-8-63CF
Owner/operator:Arrow Air
Registration: N950JW
MSN: 46058/433
Year of manufacture:1969
Total airframe hrs:50861 hours
Engine model:Pratt & Whitney JT3D-7
Fatalities:Fatalities: 256 / Occupants: 256
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed, written off
Location:1 km SW of Gander Airport, NL (YQX) -   Canada
Phase: Initial climb
Nature:Passenger - Non-Scheduled/charter/Air Taxi
Departure airport:Gander Airport, NL (YQX/CYQX)
Destination airport:Hopkinsville-Fort Campbell AAF, KY (HOP/KHOP)
Confidence Rating: Accident investigation report completed and information captured
On 11 December 1985 at 20:35 GMT, Arrow Air Flight MF1285R, a Douglas DC-8-63, departed Cairo, Egypt on an international charter flight to Fort Campbell, USA via Köln, Germany, and Gander. The flight had been chartered by the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) to transport troops, their personal effects, and some military equipment to and from peacekeeping duties in the Sinai Desert. All 248 passengers were members of 101st Airborne Division (United States Army), based in Fort Campbell. The flight arrived at Köln at 01:21 were a complete crew change took place. The DC-8 departed for Gander at 02:50 GMT, where it arrived at 05:34 local time. Passengers were deplaned, the aircraft was refuelled, trash and waste water were removed, and catering supplies were boarded. The flight engineer conducted an external inspection of portions of the aircraft and the passengers then reboarded. Following engine start-up, the aircraft was taxied via taxiway "D" and runway 13 to runway 22 for departure. Takeoff on runway 22 was begun from the intersection of runway 13 at 06:45. The aircraft proceeded down the runway and rotated in the vicinity of taxiway "A", 51 seconds after brake release at an airspeed of about 167 KIAS. The aircraft gained little altitude after rotation, the speed reached 172 KIAS and began to decrease again, causing the DC-8 to descend. The airplane crossed the Trans-Canada Highway at a very low altitude. The pitch angle increased, but the aircraft continued to descend until it struck downsloping terrain approximately 3,000 feet beyond the departure end of the runway. The DC-8 broke up and burst into flames.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The Canadian Aviation Safety Board was unable to determine the exact sequence of events which led to this accident. The Board believes, however, that the weight of evidence supports the conclusion that, shortly after lift-off, the aircraft experienced an increase in drag and reduction in lift which resulted in a stall at low altitude from which recovery was not possible. The most probable cause of the stall was determined to be ice contamination on the leading edge and upper surface of the wing. Other possible factors such as a loss of thrust from the number four engine and inappropriate take-off reference speeds may have compounded the effects of the contamination."

Four members of the CASB filed a dissenting opinion with a different probable cause: "An in-flight fire that may have resulted from detonations of undetermined origin brought about catastrophic system failures."


Aviation Week & Space Technology 19.12.88 (107), 20.3.89 (267), 27.3.89 (33)3.4.89 (67), 3.7.89 (66-67) ,31.7.89 (29), 1.7.1991 (29)
Flight International 21-28 December 1985 (2)
ICAO Adrep Summary 1/89 (29)
Gander: the untold story


  • 3rd worst accident in 1985
  • 2nd worst accident of this aircraft type
  • worst accident of this aircraft type at the time



photo (c) U.S. DoD; Gander Airport, NL (YQX); 16 December 1985; (publicdomain)

photo (c) U.S. DoD; Gander Airport, NL (YQX); 16 December 1985; (publicdomain)

photo (c) CASB

photo (c) CASB; Gander Airport, NL (YQX); 12 December 1985

photo (c) Scott Cook; Gander, NF; 13 August 2017

photo (c) Scott Cook; Gander, NF; 13 August 2017

photo (c) Lukas Lusser; Miami International Airport, FL (MIA); 04 May 1985

photo (c) Wernher Krutein; Zürich-Kloten Airport (ZRH/LSZH); April 1984

Revision history:


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