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All 166 on Jet Die in Mexican Crash : Mexicana 727, En Route to L.A., Hits Mountain West of Capital and Burns

April 01, 1986|MICHAEL SEILER | Times Staff Writer

The scene at Los Angeles International Airport, where the flight had been scheduled to arrive at 12:10 p.m., was quieter, and no one appeared to be waiting for passengers from the downed plane.

One woman, at first near hysterics, was calmed after airline officials told her that her brother was on an earlier plane.

Easter week vacationers scheduled to return here on the flight from Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan were shifted to a substitute Mexicana plane, which arrived at LAX in mid-afternoon.

The 727 that crashed was a Model 200, a "stretched" version of the familiar three-engine craft, which can carry a maximum of 189 passengers. Tom Cole, a spokesman for Boeing in Seattle, said the plane was delivered to Mexicana in May, 1981.

Best-Selling Jetliner

More than 1,800 727s have been manufactured since 1963, making it the best-selling commercial aircraft of modern times, according to John Wheeler, another Boeing representative.

The 727 has the second-best safety record in commercial airline history (after the Boeing 737), Wheeler said. The 727 has no history of structural problems that might lead to depressurization of the cabin, aviation authorities here agreed.

Cole said Boeing officials and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigators were preparing to fly to Mexico City to assist Mexican authorities in their investigation.

Mexican travel officials said last week was one of their busiest in history, with airlines, railroads and highways jammed. Although many Mexicans had returned home by last weekend, others stayed on vacation, since schools throughout the nation remain closed this week.

The crash was the first major accident involving a Mexicana flight in 17 years. In September, 1969, a Mexicana 727, flying to Mexico City from Chicago, crashed just before landing, killing 40.

The worst crash in Mexico, before Monday's disaster, occurred June 4, 1969, when a Mexicana 727 hit a mountain near Monterrey, killing 79.

The Mexican government took over majority ownership of the once privately controlled Mexicana in 1982, after a period of strikes and economic setbacks for the airline, which operates 45 jets on routes between Mexico, the United States, Central America and Cuba.

Mexico's other major airline, government-owned Aeromexico, suffered several crashes in the 1970s and early 1980s, the worst of which killed 32 near Chihuahua in 1981.

In 1979, a Western Airlines DC-10 crashed while landing in Mexico City; 75 people died.

Today's crash was the second in Mexico this year. A DC-3 belonging to Aero California, a Mexican-owned regional carrier, crashed near Los Mochis on the mainland coast of the Gulf of California last January, killing all 21 people aboard.

Times staff writer Julio Moran in Los Angeles and bureau assistant Steve Weingarten in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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