40th Anniversary Memorial Service for AA Flight 191 (more)

A brief video from the 40th Anniversary Memorial Service for AA Flight 191


This from Drew Smith:

Part of the area where Flight 191 crashed had several Quonset huts from the former Orchard Field (where O’Hare gets its “ORD” from). In one of those huts was Andy’s Auto Repair. In Des Plaines, my father operated Lee’s Brake and Clutch, an auto parts and machine shop. Andy was a loyal customer. I had made deliveries to Andy working for my father. Earlier in that fateful day my father had made a delivery to Andy. Speed ahead to 2009, the year my father died. I was cleaning out the shop when my brother asked if I knew what this was about showing me the attached invoice hanging on the wall on a small clipboard, the type we use for those deliveries. It brought back memories of that day.

I had taken in the crash as a high school senior preparing to graduate. I had completed the High School District 214 Fire Cadet program conducted by the Mount Prospect FD. Back then you could buff or fan a fire with your own gear and find work to do. Not this time. Once the main fire was out there wasn’t much left.

The area of the crash was in the Elk Grove Township Fire Protection District and they had just went into operation as a FD in January of the same year, not even six months in operation.  I was passing DPFD Station 3 (now 63) and saw the header. 61, 71, and 81 were all still in quarters. I thought it might be a tank farm fire as there had been a couple of them in the late 1970s. I turned onto Mount Prospect Road and started heading towards the header. Soon the rigs from Station 3 were passing me.  As I got closer I still didn’t know what had happened but I knew it wasn’t a tank farm fire. I pulled up near the Chicago PD’s K-9 facility on Touhy Ave. adjacent to the crash site. I parked on the opposite side of the road and saw probably the most smoke I’ve ever seen, but not for long.  

To this day, I vividly remember seeing the ARFF rigs (back then they were called CFR – Crash Fire Rescue) from O’Hare coming closer at a good pace. They barely slowed and drove into the tall chain link and barbed wire fence surrounding the K-9 facility and started to discharge their agent. When the smoke began to clear it was a scorched earth, Quonset huts and vehicles in that area reduced to a heap, and other than a few large components of the aircraft not much else. Nearly all of the fuselage was gone. I will refrain from describing the human remains that were present.

I have the original invoice stored with my many keepsakes. I’ll never know why my dad kept it hanging there all those years.

Strangely, there was another Flight 191 crash at DFW in 1985. In that incident 27 of the 164 souls on board lived.

Repair receipt from 5-25-79, the day of the American Airlines Flight 191 crash

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  • #1 by FFPM571 on May 27, 2019 - 9:29 PM

    The small airport was actually Ravenswood Airport. Orchard Field was where the Military side of O’hare was originally

  • #2 by harry on May 27, 2019 - 6:13 PM

    this is one of my fears everytime I board a plane and to think it is a very routine thing done everyday all all year

  • #3 by Bill Post on May 27, 2019 - 4:11 PM

    On the day of the crash of Flight 191, I happened to be passing O’Hare at the moment the crash occurred. I was on my way back from picking up my Bearcat scanner from a specialized repair service in an industrial park a few blocks southwest of Irving Park and Mannheim Roads. I was on a northbound route 330 Mannheim Road bus heading to the terminals where I would transfer to a O’Hare /Jefferson Park bus. The elevated train didn’t go to O’Hare at that time so you needed to take that bus route to connect to the CTA at the Jefferson Park terminal.

    When I was at the airport in between buses, I decided to take a walk thru the terminals before getting on the bus. After boarding the bus and still on airport property, I noticed a large plume of black smoke rising from what appeared to be the northwest corner of the airport. At the same time I saw emergency lights out on the field and ARFF units speeding in the direction of the smoke. The ARFF units were painted red at the time as it was prior to the FAA mandated lime green. When I saw the smoke, I initially thought it was burning tires.

    When the bus headed east on the expressway, I saw Chicago FD apparatus heading west from the city. After arriving at the Jefferson Park terminal, I walked over to Engine 108’s old house at 4835 N Lipps which was only a block south. There were two change of quarter units there. Truck 7 from the west side was on a change to Truck 23, and Battalion 21 from Engine 28’s house on a change to Battalion 22. In 1979 the fire department still had seven divisions and 28 battalions. That was before they were renumbered in 1982. The men on the change of quarters had the television on and everyone was watching the coverage of the crash. It occurred to me that while I was walking through the terminals, I could have been among some of the people who were there to board flight 191.

    Even though many things have happened since then, such as the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, I can only hope that something like that will never happen again.

  • #4 by John on May 26, 2019 - 9:35 PM

    Took a little digging,but the auto shop owner was a guy named Andrew Green,one of the 2 victims on the ground. I’ll bet that’s why it was kept all these years.

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