The FLIGHT was crewed by 43-year-old Captain Kevin Hunt and 39-year-old First Officer David McClelland. Captain Hunt was a veteran British Midland pilot who had been with the airline since 1966 and had approximately 13,200 hours of flying experience. First Officer McClelland joined British Midland in 1988 and had accrued roughly 3,300 total FLIGHT hours. Between them, the pilots had close to 1,000 hours in the Boeing 737 cockpit, only 76 of which were logged in Boeing 737-400 series aircraft.
The aircraft was a British Midland-operated Boeing 737-4Y0, registration G-OBME, on a scheduled FLIGHT from London Heathrow Airport to Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland, having already flown from Heathrow to Belfast and back that day. The plane was new, having accumulated 521 airframe hours since it first went into Service in 15 October 1988. Initial breaking news reports from the BBC erroneously reported that the aircraft involved was a Douglas DC-9.
The Kegworth air disaster occurred when a Boeing 737-400 crashed on to the embankment of the M1 motorway near Kegworth, Leicestershire, England, while attempting to make an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport on 8 January 1989.
Alan Webb, the Chief Fire Officer at East Midlands Airport, was awarded an MBE in the 1990 New Year Honours list for the co-ordination of his team in the rescue efforts that followed the crash.
The crash was featured in a 1991 documentary of Taking Liberties named 'Fatal Error'
Evaluation of the injuries sustained led to considerable improvements in aircraft safety and emergency instructions for passengers. These were derived from a research programme funded by the CAA and carried out by teams from the University of Nottingham and Hawtal Whiting Structures (a consultancy company). The study between medical staff and Engineers used analytical "occupant kinematics" techniques to assess the effectiveness of the brace position. A new notice to operators revising the brace position was issued in October 1993.
Graham Pearson, a man who assisted Kegworth survivors, sued the airline and was awarded £57,000 in damages in 1998.
It was also featured in the 2011 Discovery Channel documentary Aircrash Confidential.
After the initial blade fracture, Captain Kevin Hunt had disengaged the plane's autopilot. When Hunt asked First Officer David McClelland which engine was malfunctioning, McClelland replied: "It's the left.... It's the right one". In previous versions of the 737, the left air conditioning pack, fed with compressor bleed air from the left (number 1) engine, supplied air to the FLIGHT deck, while the right air conditioning pack, fed from the right (number 2) engine supplied air to the cabin. On the 737-400 this division of air is blurred; the left pack feeds the FLIGHT deck but also feeds the aft cabin zone, while the right feeds the forward cabin. The pilots had been used to the older version of the aircraft and did not realise that this aircraft (which had only been flown by British Midland for 520 hours over a two-month period) was different. The captain later claimed that his perception of smoke as coming forward from the cabin led them to assume the fault was in the right engine. The pilots throttled back the working right engine instead of the malfunctioning left engine. They had no way of visually checking the engines from the cockpit, and the cabin crew — who did not hear the commander refer to the right hand engine in his cabin address — did not inform them that smoke and flames had been seen from the left engine.
The research into this accident led to the formation of the International Board for Research into Aircraft Crash Events (IBRACE) on 21 November 2016. IBRACE is a joint cooperation between experts in the field for the purpose of producing an internationally agreed, evidence-based set of impact bracing positions for passengers and (eventually) cabin crew members in a variety of seating configurations. These will be submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) through its Cabin Safety Group (ICSG).