American Airlines Flight 965 Crashes into Mountain

American Airlines Flight 965, a Boeing 757 registered N651AA, was a scheduled flight from Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida to Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport in Cali, Colombia, which crashed into a mountain in Buga, Colombia on December 20, 1995, killing 152 passengers and 8 crew members. The crash was the first U.S.-owned 757 accident and the highest death toll of any accident in Colombia. It is also the the highest death toll of any accident involving a Boeing 757 at that time. It was the deadliest air disaster involving a U.S. carrier since the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 seven years before. Four passengers survived the crash.

At 2142 eastern standard time (est), on December 20, 1995, American Airlines Flight 965 (AA965), a Boeing 757-223, N651AA, on a regularly scheduled passenger flight from Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida, U.S.A., to Alfonso Bonilla Aragon International Airport (SKCL), in Cali, Colombia, operating under instrument flight rules (IFR), crashed into mountainous terrain during a descent from cruise altitude in visual meteorological conditions (VMC). The accident site was near the town of Buga, 33 miles northeast of the Cali VOR (CLO). The airplane impacted at about 8,900 feet mean sea level (msl), near the summit of El Deluvio and approximately 10 miles east of Airway W3. Of the 155 passengers, 2 flightcrew members, and 6 cabincrew members on board, 4 passengers survived the accident.

On the previous flight under a different crew, the airplane arrived at MIA from Guayaquil, Equador, at 1438, on December 20, 1996. The Guayaquil to MIA flightcrew reported that there were no significant maintenance or operations-related discrepancies on the airplane. The captain and first officer of AA965 (MIA to SKCL) arrived at the airline's MIA operations office about 1 hour before the proposed departure time of 1640. The operations base manager later stated that both the captain and first officer were in his office about 40 minutes before the required check-in time, and appeared to be in good spirits.

AS THEY PREPARED TO LAND A JET packed with 167 people in Cali, Colombia, on the night of Dec. 20, pilot Nicholas Tafuri and copilot Don Williams seemed distracted. They idly discussed flight attendants' work schedules. They apparently skipped routine safety procedures, even failing to discuss their approach plans. As American Airlines Flight 965 flew down the dark, mountainous corridor within 70 miles of the airport, air-traffic controllers instructed the men to head toward a navigational beacon at Tulua before turning toward Cali. But the pilots misunderstood and kept flying ...